Chapter one: A Rude Awakening

The following is an excerpt from the second book of Honorius Blackstone’s memoirs, Lessons from Experience. While the compilation is highly biased, they do demonstrate why he had such a Pro-Azharati stance and generally, what happened. His footnotes have been left in place, and supplemented with endnotes.

I awoke in a room full of beeping.

“Wha-?” I began.

“Amata heng.” I heard.

“Where am I?” I answered.

“Alanati gl kazih. Laktrga devrza lalanati.[1]” I heard the voice reply. Great, an automated system. In a language I didn’t have the greatest command of.

“Azharati.” I said.

“I am the bane sal latati, or basil. How may I help you?[2]” So the machine was called the automated healing system. Lovely. I was kind of glad the people in charge of my health didn’t have an imagination, because the cultural differences would be bad enough as it was.

“You can start by telling me where I am.”

“You are in the occupational field hospital for the Latites Tif system.” I knew that they had some kind of belief that this system might be a crossroads in hyperspace, but calling it, literally, crossroads, let the reality of the past few weeks come crashing back in. “I have summoned the provisional governor. Do you want me to walk you through all of the medical procedures performed on you?”

“Not right now, thank you.”

“Very well. If you have any questions about your new prosthetics, please do not hesitate to ask.”

It was at that moment that I realized I had several cybernetic implants- more specifically, a hand and an eye. I closed my remaining real eye, and immediately, holographic text appeared on my field of vision. It was something I could see right through. I couldn’t read it- I knew how to speak Azharati, but not how to read it.

“Basil?” I asked.

“Yes?”

“Can I opt for auditory notifications from the eye?”

“Connecting… Synched. Would you like a tutorial?”

“Yes please.”

“Note the golden ring around your vision.” I did so. “Focus on the ring.” I did so. “Now twist it to the right.” I suddenly zoomed out. “Now twist to the left.” I suddenly found myself staring at a specific patch of the ceiling above me, examining it in greater detail than anyone would want to[3]. “Now flex the ring out.” My vision renormalized. This was awesome. “Note the items with a holographic arrow above them.” I did. “Choose one, and focus on it.” I did, and suddenly holographic text was displayed across my vision.

“Uh… Basil, I’m gonna need you to read me that text.”

“The nursing call button. Summons a nurse to attend to any needs your basil unit is unable to meet. Would you like to set auditory readouts as default?”

“Yes please.”

“Flex the golden ring inwards.” A menu of tools appeared. “Choose the text.” I focused and a lot more text appeared, in bullet points. “Choose the second option.” I did. “Choose the highlighted option.” I did so, and immediately, I heard “Thank you for choosing an auditory readout option as default.” That was surprisingly hassle-free. Maybe having no imagination meant that user interface designers were better at their jobs.

The door opened.

It was the man I’d seen last night, or no, how long ago was it?

Regardless, he was on foot this time. And instead of his armor, he wore a robe- black, with gold trim. A pair of armored figures followed him; bodyguards, probably. That just contributed to my theory that he was some sort of bigwig rather than strictly a military man.

He sat down on a chair near the bed. “How are your new prosthetics treating you?” he asked, surprisingly in eridanian.

“Quite well” I answered.

He switched back to Azharati after that. “I learned that single sentence from my brother.” He said. “And am I correct in assuming that you know that language as well as Azharati?”

“Yes, governor.”

“Excellent” he scratched his cheek. “I need you to work with my brother and his guard in helping to translate. And to establish a translation program.”

“Of course, governor.”

“Go with him” he gestured at a guard behind him. I tried to sit up, but found to my surprise that it was already moving.

[1] Language I do not recognize. Please choose a language.

[2] Yeah, I’m just going to stop translating.

[3] Not that it’s disgusting, just that it’s boring.

On part two

So, I’ve been rather busy with school for a while, and will continue to be for about the next week.

From what I have done about part two, I should be able to start posting about a week after that.

In the meantime, have some worldbuilding tidbits about the Azharati empire and Azharatis:

The fragments of their language you’ve heard are in Classical Azharati. That’s their academic language because, shockingly, when you have 24 planets that can only communicate by a physical messenger, maintaining a common language is… difficult. So it’s roughly their equivalent to Latin or Greek. Ordinary Azharatis mostly speak languages derived from it- the most popular is called Axa(the x is pronounced as in English, the rest in their language), with a few other language families providing a smaller but still significant portion of the total. There might be a few fragments of some other languages in part two, but certainly not in the next update. Axa will, for the most part, be treated as if it’s any of the other languages spoken in this universe- bet you didn’t even realize the conversation was supposed to be in futuristic-speak, did you?

The disease that Dante was struggling with when he’s first introduced? That’s something built into Azharati physiques; in a time of great stress they can, with difficulty, make the conscious decision to order their body to destroy itself by running a fever until they die. This is favored by Azharati men; women who commit suicide are supposed to do it by opening their veins in a bathtub. This will become relevant later on in part two.

Speaking of Azharati women, the birth rate is strongly in their favor. If not most then a significant plurality of Azharatis practice polygyny. This causes some understandable tensions with the locals.

As for the stuff about them being created by beings they don’t understand? If you stick with it long enough, you’ll eventually get to meet them. No, they’re not transcendental beings, and they’re not humans. I’m not certain when, exactly, but don’t expect it in part two. Maybe late in part three, but that’s a very accelerated estimate. That’s all I’ll say for now.

 

Update

So, that last one was the end of part one. At the moment, there are no immediate plans for part two, but they’re in the pipeline. Currently, I’m working on worldbuilding more than part two, but rest assured, it will come. Eventually.

For now, I’ll probably post a few updates to the “musings and background information” section. Posts for the story will be a while in the making.

Chapter seven: The end of some middle

The following passage is an excerpt from the memoirs of Honorius Blackstone, Lessons from Experience. As they were published shortly before his first standing for election to Polemarch, they show significant bias and were intended largely to promote an image of him as a competent, capable diplomat. As such, they focus significantly on the second Eta Cassiopeiae crisis and his role in it. While they do have a bias, they are mostly factually accurate and paint the most complete picture we have of the early years of the second Eta Cassiopiae crisis. The footnotes were of his own devising; his writing style frequently used tangents and was generally prone to requiring them. This appears to be an attempt to appeal to a mass audience, as his personal correspondences do not show the same degree of divergence, and a tangential, omniscient writing style was the literary fashion at the time. Endnotes are added in order to clarify things that would have been general knowledge at the time of writing.

It was dark, and oh so cold. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, could barely hear I was shivering so bad. The insides of my bones hurt, but my extremities were numb. Suddenly, one felt warmth, but as a phantom. I was being dragged through the cold, dark water by something. I was afraid, so afraid I couldn’t move. It seemed like the longest time, and then came the light. So bright it broke me out of my torpor, throwing up one of my arms to shield my eyes. Then I heard shouting joyfully. He’s alive, he’s alive.

I awoke with a start. I’d only had that dream[1] once before, and it was the night before the transition back to realspace that had given my uncle an aneurism. The memory brought tears to my eyes; his death was still raw.

I suddenly shuddered; as if on cue, there was booming in the distance, and crashing through me the vibrations woke everyone up. Dante was expected; he’d been following me along like a puppy recently. Rosecrant was also there, for some reason.

“I needed to sleep, and everywhere else was taken.” He explained. Walking over to the intercom panel, he continued “I’ll try to figure out what that was.”

“It was orbital bombardment.” Dante offered up.

“How can you tell?”

“I’ve been in a sim of it and it’s standard procedure before a planetary invasion.”

“The Eridanian embassy was hit. You’re ambassador now.” Rosecrant spoke up.

The silence that followed was shocked.

For the next several days, the bombardment continued. Any new data we got was sporadic, at best. Dante and I spent most of it sleeping, at least when we could. General Spottiswood had some lunatic scheme to use Dante as a hostage. Rosecrant was busy running around as his aid, directing fortifications and such. I was valuable because I spoke Azharati, but I had no illusions; I’d get a lasgun shot to the head if I didn’t help him carry out his Illiad fantasies.

The bombardment rested for a few days. Information streamed in from the hills: the few remaining observation posts tried to do a count, but lost track. There just weren’t enough of them. They estimated a hundred and twenty or so, and there were more jumping in every day. The rebels hadn’t slowed down their attacks in district nine. A few generals wanted to fire off the remaining orbital defenses, but everyone acknowledged it would have minimal effectiveness, if that. There weren’t enough observation posts to target them effectively. Spottiswood was always meeting someone, scheming, planning. Something, anything to let him win. He was definitely delusional at this point. He thought he could draw them into a land war, exhaust them with a guerrilla campaign while forcing them to focus on a series of grinding sieges. Rosecrant told me everyone knew it wouldn’t work, but were too afraid to say it. That’s fair; I was too.

The bombardment started back up again. We estimated they had a hundred fifty, a hundred sixty ships at that point. After a few days, it slacked off once more.

The dropships descended en masse. A few got shot down by anti-air defenses, but most of those had already been destroyed.

Reconnaissance reported tanks, eight-legged walking things, and thousands upon thousands of armored humanoids looking a bit like Dante. Not exactly; they had dark hair instead of blond.[2] They advanced into the capital, ignoring all the checkpoints and minor forts except for enough troops to keep them bottled up. Those places reported that every man had a lasgun, that their crew served anti-personnel weapons were incredibly nasty, and that the walking things had bigger teeth than the tanks. By nightfall they were besieging the planetary CIC.

They just sat there. They didn’t even jam the radio. Looking back, that was probably intentional. They were attacking the checkpoints and outposts and minor fortifications all night. We kept hearing panicky reports over the radio to the backdrop of “Mneti”. I translated their warcry[3].

The next day, they cut off the radio. The jamming ended at nighfall, and they took some more outposts while we listened. I finally went to sleep at around midnight. Dante and Rosecrant had been put in a small room; Rosecrant was supposed to kill him if he got the order. Of course, we all know how that turned out.

I awoke at two in the morning to the sounds of laser fire. The explosions it causes in anything it hits is unmistakable. It’s like popcorn popping, directly against your eardrum. It really isn’t any quieter than a firearm[4].

At two forty five the shooting started dying down, and I was unceremoniously bundled out of bed, still in my boxer shorts[5], and into the hallway outside my bedroom by an eager young officer in full dress uniform.

“You’re going to go negotiate with them.” He said matter-of-factly. I looked down at my underwear, then up at him, somewhat puzzled.

He immediately realized what I was concerned about. “Oh. Here.” He handed me the tunic from his dress uniform. Another soldier stepped forwards, and strapped a semtex cumber bund around my waist. Then he let me put the jacket on. I must have looked ridiculous, but I had bigger problems. “The cumber bund is a bomb. If you attempt to defect, it will be detonated remotely. You are to attempt to negotiate them into withdrawing. Tell them we have Dante as a hostage.” I didn’t think expecting me to succeed was a particularly sane thing to do at this point, but I also noticed the soldier with a lasgun and the fact that there was a bomb strapped to me, so I just nodded.

I was frog-marched a long while, attracting funny stares the entire way, until I turned a corner and there was a barricade, soldiers manning it with everything up to crew served weapons. I walked forwards with my hands in the air. “I come to negotiate.” I called out in Azharati.

“Then come closer. Let us see each other.” Answered a voice.

The civility of the response shocked me. I decided on a more casual approach, so I stuck my hands in my pockets and found a hole in my left one. I quickly burrowed through it, and discovered that I could reach the detonator. I dedicated myself to disarming it; at the time, I didn’t know how stupid that was, but I knew that the only way to survive was to get away from the bomb and defect.

As I crossed the barricade, an enormous dog[6] surged forwards, with a man riding on top of it. “Hello. I am Flta Marik deFlta deLinnane hetiti tand.”

“Are you perhaps related to Dante Marik deFlta d’Ampati hetiti sempad ie tand?” It was dark, but I could see the family resemblance.

“We are brothers- I the elder. Am I to take from your remark that you have Dante somewhere?”

“Yes. I do know where he is, but, before I tell you, I need assurances for my safety.”

“Reasonable. I’ll take you with us, and Dante will say what to do with you.”

“Reasonable.” I said. I’d managed to pry the detonator away from the semtex by now, but there was still a bit of explosive on it. I was scraping it off.

“Are you reaching for a gun?” Asked a soldier suddenly. I noticed that his lasgun was quite a bit more compact than anything we[7] could produce.

“No. There’s a bomb strapped to me, and I’m trying to disarm it so they can’t blow me up.”

“Get it off him.” Flta said.

A soldier moved forwards, drawing a knife, and inserted it up my back, trying to cut through the ring of semtex. I heard a gunshot, and by some instinct jerked the detonator out to the side, and shouted “First door on the left. The commander thinks you won’t look there.”

The detonator blew. I collapsed. I felt my hand just disappear, my forearm and the left side of my face burn. I dimly heard laser fire and gunshots, but most of what I heard was screams I didn’t initially realize came from me.

The gunfire started dying down, and I heard an explosion in the distance. Dimly, I heard “He told the truth.”

Someone sprayed fire extinguisher over me, and I passed out.

[1] It was a memory of a time I’d gotten lost in a sea cave as a child. The thing that rescued me had been a local fisherman’s newfoundland. Afterwards, my parents gave him the dog’s weight in gold.

[2] Incidentally, this is when I first heard elf used as a slur.

[3] It means “kill”

[4] Well, at least in theory. The fact that the source of the noise is farther away from you if you’re firing it does make it quite a bit quieter. If you’re near where it hits, though, you’ll be too deaf to hear the snap of electrical contact the discharge makes.

[5] And nothing over them.

[6] It was easily the size of a bear.

[7] Obviously, I refer to the industries of the people from whence I come.

Chapter six: the time is come

The following is an excerpt from the diary of Aleister Rosecrant, a Cygnian-ethnicity officer who was a personal confidant for then-president for life Alexander Spottiswood, military dictator of Eta Cassiopiae. He came from an established military family, and was, at the time, a captain in the army. Several family members would have been serving in district nine, at the time in revolt due to its ethnically Eridanian minority feeling oppressed, which they undoubtedly were. While Rosecrant may not be viewed in a particularly good light by many modern readers, it is important to keep an open mind, as, on the whole, his diary contains good reasons for his decisions, including a general disgust with the starways league, and is a good source of information besides. It should go without saying that I do not endorse his viewpoints or actions.

I have not edited the contents besides translation, and clarification will be provided with footnotes.

Wednesday, January twelfth

Today, another ship of a type very like the one that brought Danda[1] jumped into the system. It broadcast a message that he helpfully translated for us. I’ll reproduce the translation:

“Hello. I see that you have Danda. You will give him back to me or I will kill you all for sure.”

Spottiswood ordered him to translate the message “go eat your own shit”. It’s “Cavaita baaceh de rniti.”

Danda was debriefed extensively after that, but he kept with the same lunatic story.

Thursday, January thirteenth

I got Danda to sit down with me and explain his theory in more depth. I’ll transcribe his ramblings- insane, but we could all do with some comic relief with terrorists everywhere- below.

“I am Danda Marik deFlta d’Ampati hetiti sempad ie tand, a lower ranking prince of the Marik family, the presidential family of the Azharati empire. The Azharati Empire spans fourteen and eight worlds. Our legends tell us that the makers placed us on our homeworld after making it fit for us, stocking it with much fine game and plants to eat. We were also changed by our makers. The makers may have been the gods, or they may have been- what is the word, saints but like spirits?-“

“Angels?” I offered.

“Djinn?” said Honorius.

“That last one. They may have been Djinn or Angels or even, according to some accounts, none of them but beings influenced by them. Regardless, archeology shows us that it happened thirty thousand years ago. Since then, we spread out, finding more planets and terraforming them. When we went through hyperspace, we discovered the- what is that thing where two streets meet, and there is a major town there?”

“Crossroads.” Honorius said.

“We discovered crossroads in hyperspace. Crossroads to make us travel faster. This system appears to be a class zero, and that’s why I was here to investigate it. They’ll know I’m here, and so they’ll send in a bigger punishment fleet.” Danda finished.

“I’m sorry, but what are crossroads?” I asked.

“Crossroads are places where the shape of hyperspace is different in a way that lets us travel from there faster than travel to there could ever take. Some are only traveling to certain systems, but two are to more than three, and those are class one’s. Class two’s are two or three- we have one of those. Class three’s are to one. We have two of those. Class zero is to all of them. That is why we send a fleet. I am the sixteenth son- expendable. But this system is not. Their punishment fleet comes to conquer.”

I managed to keep from laughing throughout all this. I started up again afterwards though.

Tuesday, February eighth

Today, forty-two ships jumped in system. They were like the ones that delivered that message. Still are, I think. They seem to just be hanging out around the edges of the system. Honorius offered up the use of his ships as messengers, but Spottiswood wants to use them to attack- it’s madness, they outnumber us two to one. We should stay holed up here- use our defender’s advantage. Still, at least he knows better than to launch an attack without the five ships Honorius brought.

Friday, February eleventh

I haven’t had time to journal in the past couple of days. There are now fifty-six ships- they’ve been jumping in in ones and twos. Even the largest private entities can’t afford this many ships- I’m nervous. It looks like Danda might not be crazy or lying after all.

At this point journal entries grow increasingly sporadic. They are often undated; I have translated them and copied over them in order to show a general impression of that time.

Seven more jumped in system.

***

Another five

***

Two more.

***

I don’t know what day it is. I’ve been sleeping whenever I can, but the planetary orbital guard headquarters is a temporary CIC for the defense. Honorius already sent some of his ships to be messengers- one to Epsilon Eridani and one to Earth. Maybe the starways league will agree to help us. Ships have been jumping in in threes and fours. There are eighty of them now, I think. The rest of Honorius’ ships will stand and fight with us- that’s why he’s in the CIC right now.

***

The final assault came. We got reamed. They control orbit utterly- they lost five ships, we lost our entire fleet. But another three jumped in, so they have seventy-eight ships now. Our orbital infrastructure got thrashed too. Still, the biggest space station is still extant- they boarded it. Honorius is sleeping- the others are debating who has to tell him that the orbiting hospital treating his uncle got nuked. We are awaiting the orbital bombardment and final assault. I never guessed it could be so tense. I’m going to sleep now.

[1] His spelling of Dante. It has been preserved unlike the doggerel spelling elsewhere in order to reinforce for the reader that the official Romanization for Azharati was not extant at this time and we therefore are often uncertain as to the exact verbage exchanged- most attempted to approximate the phonetic spelling of their home language, but Azharati is sufficiently different to require a revamping. The Romanization developed by Sigebati and Honorius Blackstone will be used for all other instances of Azharati. This includes the rest of his name.

Pronouncing the alien language

So, there are a few snippets of an alien language sprinkled about in my last post. I thought I’d give [an abreviated term for the 1-3 people who actually read this] a pronunciation guide. Grammar will not be put up because it’s not finished yet.

P: pronounced as in hop, not as in pot. Pronounced like b when it doesn’t start a word.

T: as in at, not as in tau, or for those with actual knowledge of ancient Greek, like the attic tau. Sounds like d when it doesn’t start a word.

K: as in back, not as in capture. Pronounced like g when inside a word.

B: as in the hindi bh. There is no English analogue.

D: as in the hindi dh. No English analogue.

G: as in the hindi gh. No English counterpart.

R: No English counterpart. Sounds like the Spanish r.

L: Like the l in like.

M, N, NG: Exactly like in English. Since English has two pronunciations of ng, it’s like in hung.

ZH: Like the s in vision.

H: Like the ch in loch, or the Spanish j- no, it doesn’t sound like the English h. It can sometimes sound like the modern Greek gamma, but it’s dialectical there.

C: Unlike either pronunciation in chupicabra. The sound is not found in English. Sounds like the Hebrew chet. Never sounds like the French r.

F: Like the f in fun. You thought I’d use a different word starting with f there, didn’t you? It can sometimes sound like v, but it’s dialectical.

V: Like the English th, and not like in Thomas.

S: Like English or like in German, depending on the dialect. Never like in Klingon.

Those of you who are into conlangs(so none of you?) may be asking yourselves this “He put all of the letters up there capitalized, but in the story most are uncapitalized. Is it like Klingon where that matters?”. The answer to that question is no. Those of you who are into trying to pronounce things you read on the internet(stay away from Lovecraft fansites), may be asking yourselves this “Where are the vowels?”. The answer is that they’re below.

A: As in father, or the second one in sasquatch. Never as in sofa.

E: As in the a in sofa. Never as in get, or make, or the a in make, or the i in in, or any other possibility that can be listed.

I: As in machine. Never as in sit.

AI: Like the word eye.

Chapter five: The Plot Thickens.

The following passage is an excerpt from the memoirs of Honorius Blackstone, Lessons from Experience. As they were published shortly before his first standing for election to Polemarch, they show significant bias and were intended largely to promote an image of him as a competent, capable diplomat. As such, they focus significantly on the second Eta Cassiopeiae crisis and his role in it. While they do have a bias, they are mostly factually accurate and paint the most complete picture we have of the early years of the second Eta Cassiopiae crisis. The footnotes were of his own devising; his writing style frequently used tangents and was generally prone to requiring them. This appears to be an attempt to appeal to a mass audience, as his personal correspondences do not show the same degree of divergence, and a tangential, omniscient writing style was the literary fashion at the time. Endnotes are added in order to clarify things that would have been general knowledge at the time of writing.

I first met Sigebati before he had that name. He was then known as Dante[1], and he’d just arrived on planet, a prisoner, put under guard in the planetary government’s headquarters[2]. My position in the embassy required that I spend a lot of time there- most of my working time, to be honest, and there wasn’t any real reason. I was technically the deputy ambassador, but in practice that made me an underutilized errand boy with diplomatic immunity and a position in the chain of command. So, a day after Dante was brought in, I decided to go see him.

His cell was old. The entire building was almost two hundred years[3] old, and we were in the oldest portion. It had bars instead of glass, but the original wooden floors had been set in concrete. Likewise, the torches had been replaces with light bulbs. I stopped to speak to the guard nearest to his cell.

“So, is he biochemically close enough that whatever he has could be contagious to us?”

“He’s human. The DNA checks out, although there are some differences.” The guard continued watching him shudder and mumble on the floor. “But whatever it is, the doctor they sent in there says it’s not contagious. He thinks it’s his body’s response to stress. I say that’s bull- he’d have died transitioning to hyperspace if that were true.”

I looked at the form. “I’ll order lunch. Could be real food would do him some good after the gravy-covered cardboard they’ve been feeding him.”

The guard chuckled. “Get some for me too.” He opened the door, keeping his gun trained on the figure while I walked in. I placed my order of food from the wardroom[4] on my cellphone and closed the door behind us.

“Hello.” I said. The figure stirred, moaning, and struggled to position himself against a wall. Made of stone- we were in an old part of the building.

He was dirty and unkempt, and even sick had a vaguely creepy beauty about him. My first thought, and I’ll be honest here, was ‘elf’. That was, of course, before it became a slur. His hair was a light blond, and seemed like it would curl naturally if it was any longer. His face was incredibly symmetrical, and had a bone structure that just seemed perfect, but there was something arrogant about his features. They were much finer than most humans could have achieved, almost delicate looking, but at the same time there was a relatively heavy growth of stubble that made it look incongruous. I could tell that if he stood up, I would tower over him, and I’m no giant myself. Despite his fine bone structure, he didn’t look effeminate or weak- there was something about his musculature which, while not obviously developed, shouted out that even in his weakened state he could take me. His skin looked grey, and I think it was the complexion that made him look sick, mostly. At the time, his slit pupils were dilated enough that I didn’t notice it due to the lack of light, and I didn’t notice his ears were pointed until after I left that first time, somehow. Despite his general elfishness, however, his stubble and brown eyes gave off a salt of the earth type vibe, and his complexion was then too changed by what he had for the appearance to lean overly solidly one way or another.

I repeated myself, in a calm tone of voice one might use for a dog you don’t know, and then the guard interrupted.

“Good luck with that. We haven’t gotten him to speak any language we recognize.”

Then lunch arrived. I’d ordered soup upon seeing how obviously sick he was, so I gave him a bowl, one for myself, and one for the guard.

I held up the plastic spoon and said “Spoon” clearly and slowly, then opened the Styrofoam bowl and dipped some out. I pointed to the bowl of the spoon and said “soup”. Then I ate it. I gestured for the prisoner to do the same with his bowl, but Dante didn’t trust me yet. He gestured for me to switch with him, so I did.

The next day, he was looking much better when I returned. I got into rather a habit of visiting him. His Eridanian was coming along nicely, and then he started teaching me some of his language. It was complicated, but I picked it up. I got that his name was Dante, and he got that my name was Honorius. We were beginning to be able to understand each other, even if he couldn’t pronounce everything I taught him.

He began to wait for me, and he made an incredibly rapid recovery once I started visiting. Pretty early on I made arrangements for him to get a bath, and so discovered that his grey complexion was mostly dirt. At this point it was the elf appearance that really made a showing, now that he was better groomed, and he seemed every inch an athletically-inclined aristocrat.

We were able to communicate, after a fashion, in a combination of Eridanian, his language, and hand gestures. Soon enough I took him up to the food court they kept around the building[5], and discovered how much he ate when I taught him how to talk about sizes. I had no idea where he put it all, but the shear amount he ate was impressive. The doctor was happy- he’d been concerned about Dante’s weight loss.

At that point, he wasn’t really a prisoner anymore, they just kept him in a cell because there was nowhere better to put him. Where could he go, really? There were only a handful of people who could communicate with him and he seemed to have an attachment to a couple of them. Aleister Rosecrant[6] started joining us, and picked up on his language remarkably quickly. He learned to start cursing in it fast, and soon enough those words became trendy within certain circles.

Dante was smart, almost scarily so. He learned how to interact with the locals incredibly quickly- even though he couldn’t pronounce their language properly, had some difficulty with vowels and h’s- and even started using body language that made sense to them- what he’d started with was, on some level, primal and animalistic. He could probably have started competing with the local teenagers for crappy menial jobs if he’d wanted. He became a bit of a fixture. No one knew who he was, but no one was surprised when a local soccer team- junior high league, I believe- asked to use him as their mascot. Their explanation of the concept was confusing, to say the least. He did eventually say yes.

What he was we still had no idea. His explanations of what he was sounded like a conspiracy theorist’s ramblings[7][i]. One of the delusional ones, not one that’s taking advantage of gullibility. It’s one thing to claim to know of aliens, or to have lived among them, but actually being one, and one of their head honchos at that, was the stuff of psych wards. Besides, it was too easy to forget he wasn’t human- the doctor who’d declared him human had gotten overruled by an academic who ran genetic tests. One of the few civilian government bigshots introduced a bill increasing the minimum punishment for human genetic tampering and called it the Dante bill, because that’s what he seemed to be.

Dante was an intriguing person, but it was mostly cultural differences. Everyone laughed at his assertions that his relatives would arrive and kill everyone for imprisoning him until a ship very like the one that he had arrived in jumped in-system, and broadcasted something.

“Ama heng dav. Devrtah na amarih anrniti Danteng ting. Velnah anrniti ting kelanati siepl mnetirihsem sirniti tif ri.”

Dante told them what it meant. Something along the lines of threatening to kill them all if he wasn’t returned. He even translated their reply for them. Something about va manger la merde[ii].

Everyone took him more seriously after that, although he was still seen as a nut. Most people thought it was a cult.

[1] Pronounced DhandƏ

[2] The military government worked out of an ancient fortress. It was generally considered the most secure area on the planet. Such an important prisoner would have been held there, plus the fact that he wasn’t actually dangerous, and he was mostly kept as a status symbol.

[3] For reference, the planet had only been inhabited for two hundred and seventeen.

[4] The wardroom catering was introduced to allow meetings to happen over lunch, but kept in place and broadened because it made money.

[5] Again, money. Franchise owners considered it prime real estate because, well, the largest office building in the world with a cafeteria notorious for the horribleness of its food generates a lot of customers.

[6] Don’t judge. He didn’t seem evil at the time, just really angry. And who could blame him? It seemed like it would do him some good.

[7] And were. The local conspiracy radio stations ranted quite frequently that the alien empire would come back to rescue their own and kill us all. He made a pretty penny from guest appearances on them.

[i] It was a common conspiracy at the time that there was a larger, alien empire that had contacted man in the ancient past and would contact them again in the fullness of time. It died out for the reasons that immediately spring to a modern viewer’s mind.

[ii] Books at the time commonly printed profanities in classical French because children learned classical
English in school but classical French would have been taught in college as a part of an education. As such, most respectable sorts would have understood it, but children wouldn’t. The translator decided to preserve this feature by putting it in classical English; for those who do not speak it, it means “Go eat shit.”.

 

Chapter four: Exposition

The following is an excerpt from a book on his experiences during the Eta Cassiopiae conflict by Nathaniel Mandrake. This book is the main reason that Cassiopiaean ethnic tensions were considered the second Eta Cassiopiae crisis; they had certainly not reached the level of the first. Moreover, this book would also establish Mandrake firmly in the realm of big-name journalists, while simultaneously gaining the trust of the Eridanian militias. It should be noted that Mandrake was acting on his own to procure it, as communications from earth to Eta Cassiopiae took much longer than the other way, and that this article was published in several publications rather than just one. Apart from translation, it has not been edited in any way- footnotes have been added for clarification purposes.

At a distance, Thomas Frick somehow manages to look dignified. It wasn’t until I got a formal interview with him, I had known intellectually that he was still shy of twenty, but upon meeting him I suddenly noticed it- acne still dots his cheeks, ragged tufts of fluff sprout from his face, and his hair has clearly been died grey. Everything about him adds credence to the idea that he’s just a rabble-rouser- a photogenic face for the ENC, someone who can give speeches but not much else. Oh, he has his followers, but one gets the general impression that his bosses keep him on a short leash. When he invited me on a ride along with “his” troops, I got the general impression his bosses hadn’t given him permission. Nevertheless, I went with him. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The fighters went in broad daylight, driving the pickup trucks that are omnipresent in Sabak, the city that was the main playground of what some are calling the second Eta Cassiopiae crisis[1]. No one batted an eye- dirty, scratched pickup trucks with dozens of men in the truck bed are common in Sabak, even more inconspicuous than the motorcycles omnipresent on every colony world would be. The weapons remained hidden, of course, so they were just assumed to be day laborers on their way to a job site. I rode in the cab of one of them.

A couple of blocks from the house that was their target, the trucks stopped, the men got out, and they all grabbed weapons. Everything ranging from AK-47’s-those things had been in use so long no one was sure who invented them- and shotguns up to the stolen assault rifles, lasguns, and grenade launchers that still had brand names on them. I followed the group, about thirty fighters, and then they opened fire on a house with guards in front. They screamed war cries and charged up. The door’s lock was shot out by one of the shotguns, and then they kicked it open and the next guy walked in spraying bullets from his AK. Others poured in, a human mass firing at even the barest hint of movement. I followed behind, the expensive house being utterly trashed by projectiles fire. One man fired a grenade launcher through a wall at a noise; the backblast killed him and several of the men next to him, but looking through the hole, a small group of people- some soldiers, some clearly servants- were dead or dying. Someone jumped through it and finished off the dying men. He didn’t seem to distinguish between soldiers and civilians. There was blood everywhere. I ran out the door again and vomited over the poor man’s flower beds.

“Who are you targeting?” I asked. Frick himself answered.

“We’re going after Simon Rosecrant. He’s a local officer, a colonel. There’s a boy in there he’s kidnapped. He had his troops kill his parents.” Frick spoke from his wheelchair at the base of the steps leading up to the garden, now ruined by his men’s bootprints. “The boy was used for… unseemly purposes. We aim to end the misery, and if possible, to punish Rosecrant.”

My confusion as to how he knew must have been on my face, for he answered next. “A housekeeper told us.”

There was the sound of gunfire from inside the house, then the sound of screaming, although my ears were still recovering from being next to all the explosions earlier. The sound of a lasgun going off was next, followed by a much louder sound. Lasguns don’t burn clean holes in things; they blast large chunks out of them. More gunfire followed that up. Then the building fell ominously silent.

Finally, a group of men came down with a kid, a boy, with them. One carried the lasgun, two had shotguns, and the rest were carrying AK’s. The one with the lasgun stepped forwards.

“We ran into a pair of guards. I blew up the cover, they shot them to pieces. This is the young lad here.” He gestured at the little boy they had with them. He looked six at most. At least, he could still be in diapers. “He was hiding. Came with us when we ordered him to, though.” The poor kid was crying.

“Don’t cry. We won’t hurt you. We’re here to help you.” Suddenly I saw why Frick had such a position of influence; he was dangerously persuasive to someone who didn’t know better. He sounded like the boys favorite grandmother, almost- for a moment, I genuinely didn’t believe that he could hurt anyone. “Say, what’s your name?”

“John.” The poor kid’s voice broke through his sobbing.

“Well, Johnny, I think we can take you to a better place. It is ok if I call you Johnny, isn’t it?” The curly haired head with tears all over the front half of it nodded. I would have- Frick seriously sounded like he cared for the kid. “But first, you need to tell us what the man who kept you in that house did to you. Was there anything he did- perhaps with your private parts- that you didn’t like?”

The tears had started to die down at the sound of Frick’s voice, but now they started up again. “Yes” He said “I didn’t like what he did to me at all. He… he..”

“Shh. I can see that the topic is distressing for you. Just one more question.” Frick leaned forwards, for all the world seeming like he wanted the best for the child he regarded with some disgust. “Just nod your head. No need to speak. Did what he did involve your private parts?”

The curly headed boy nodded.

Frick straightened up. “Thank you.” Turning to the men he spoke. “There is a price for collaboration. Given his age, it would be forgivable, but there is little point. He will be unable to live a normal life. So, give him the mercy of taking the price from him.” At the boy he said something else. I think it was “Go with them. They’ll take you to a better place.” But I was too shocked from hearing what he’d just ordered to really remember.

I think that Johnny asked “Will there be other children there?” and that Frick responded with an enthusiastic “You betcha”, but I’m not sure. I just remember being shocked as poor Johnny was led off, and then turning to Frick.

“How could you lie to him like that?” I practically yelled.

“None of that was a lie. Oblivion is better than living with what he’s been through[2].”

“Have you never heard of therapists?!”

“What therapists? We’re terrorists, if you haven’t noticed.”

“The government will provide therapy for-“

“Better to die than be a collaborator even once over, much less twice. It is a mercy for me to kill him before he realizes he was a collaborator.”

I waited until I got back to my hotel room to vomit.

I now saw why Frick was kept on a short leash. I’d heard of rape victims being executed as collaborators, but assumed that, like the suicide bombings, it was done by a few isolated groups of crazies. Nope, their mainstream did that. Even if they were children.

I saw the rescue mission[3] announcement on TV the next day, and at the time thought nothing of it. I wouldn’t realize how wrong that was until much later.

Sabak may have been the main playground, but it wasn’t the only one. There was guerrilla fighting in the jungles around it, and most of the other cities had at least occasional bombings. District IX has more to it than one city, and some context might be useful here, in the first chapter.

District nine is the northernmost district in the southernmost continent on Eta Cassiopiae. It’s well within the tropics, and the subtropical deserts to the south of it are the largest on the planet. It’s actually closer to the equatorial continent to the north than to the temperate parts of its own. For that reason, many of its settlers were Cygnian. The Eridanians arrived later, mostly coming as a source of cheap labor. There was little to no miscegenation, and when the starways league demanded Eta Cassiopiae unify as a condition of membership[4], the first Eta Cassiopiae crisis came into being, mostly over district nine, a chunk of the Eridanian-majority southern continent with a Cygnian majority. The agreement was to consider district nine to be an independent district, but one that would be under the auspices of the Cygnian part of the planet. However, like most underprivileged groups, the Eridanians in district IX bred faster than the Cygnians, who in turn complained about it even as their birthrate fell. Paranoid populism was a common political position, and district IX became increasingly bad for Eridanians, as they had to buy houses in specific neighborhoods, found themselves with higher tax rates, and had their right to vote increasingly curtailed. Still, they became the majority in due time, but the Cygnian now-minority clutched onto power like a drowning man grabs a plank. Finally, the Eridanians got tired of it. Protests broke out, and violence was a common response. Anti-Eridanian militias were everywhere, and the government armed them. More than once, the planetary government, or the government of the Cygnian parts of the planet, gave them a slap on the wrist for it. Violence became a common tactic on both sides, with guerrilla fighters in the jungles and terrorists in the cities, but the ENC, the largest organization in the movement, refused to condone violence until after Frick’s debacle at the steel mill. Even then, they didn’t allow the more extreme forms, like suicide bombings, until much later. Until that time, it was in the jungles that the most brutal fighting could be found, and it is to the jungles that I head next.

[1] To this day historians are unsure of who he’s referring to, as this article appears to be the first time that term appeared in print. It is likely that there is an older use of the term that has since been lost.

[2] Given his ideology, it is doubtful that Frick believed in an afterlife, although historians are uncertain as to whether he had religious beliefs.

[3] Yes, the one discussed in the previous chapter.

[4] Eta Cassiopiae technically had the option of not joining the starways league. However, nonmembership would have prevented them from trade with outside parties.

Copyright and license.

The copyright is held by Tyler Schrakamp at the date of publication.

In terms of use:

Don’t copy it. Just link to here.

Quotes are fine, as long as proper attribution is given.

For derivative works:

Derivative works (aka “fanfiction”, although I am under no illusions as to the likelihood of someone writing fanfiction for this):

A disclaimer(including a link to the story, or access information if in a paper medium) must be given.

An invocation to something must begin the work, similar to the invocation to the muse in ancient epics. I don’t care what it’s to; just include one.

Please, try to keep derivative works as non-disturbing as possible. That shall be held under a “reasonable man” interpretation.

No monetary gain may be had from derivative works without permission specifically given from the person of Tyler Schrakamp.

Chapter three: Interlude

The following is an excerpt from the diary of Aleister Rosecrant, a Cygnian-ethnicity officer who was a personal confidant for then-president for life Alexander Spottiswood, military dictator of Eta Cassiopiae. He came from an established military family, and was, at the time, a captain in the army. Several family members would have been serving in district nine, at the time in revolt due to its ethnically Eridanian majority feeling oppressed, which they undoubtedly were. While Rosecrant may not be viewed in a particularly good light by many modern readers, it is important to keep an open mind, as, on the whole, his diary contains good reasons for his decisions, including a general disgust with the starways league, and is a good source of information besides. It should go without saying that I do not endorse his viewpoints or actions.

I have not edited the contents besides translation, and clarification will be provided with footnotes.

Monday, august nineteenth.

I had an awful day today. There were two important things in it, but only the first was bad. The first one that I talk about here, not the first chronologically. The one I’m talking about first had to do with my cousin. He adopted a war orphan as his son, because his troops had accidentally shot the boy’s mother. The ENC bastards came along and killed him. They pushed a shotgun up his orifice and fired. Multiple times. They left a note calling him a collaborator for getting adopted by a military officer without trying to slit his throat, then implied that my cousin had reasons for keeping him that made what they did a favor to him. I hate them. God, it felt good to write that down. I’ve been in a haze since finding out. Those damned Eridanians[1] need to be taught the value of not killing people to make a political point.[2]

I feel much better now. The second thing that happened today was a ship, a very mysterious ship, making a hard burn transition into realspace in-system[3]. Our scans don’t show it to be anything like our ships, or ships from Cygnus or Eridani or Earth. Its transponder follows a totally different format, as well. General Spottiswood was hesitant about sending rescuers there at first, but when Honorius Blackstone[4] offered to send one of his ships to rescue it, he had no choice but to send a rescue party. I like him, mostly. It seems like the Eridanian Eridanians are better than our Eridanians. No one knows who they are, but a couple of ships have since been detached. Maybe they’re pirates, or smugglers[5]. Whomever they are, I’m certain it will be a big deal[6].

[1] Capitalization not present in the original.

[2] The paragraph break was not found in the original, but it is likely that a gap in time occurred between the writing of that sentence and of writing the next one. This part of the manuscript contains not-insignificant numbers of tear stains.

[3] Hard burn transitions are a characteristic of certain types of hyperdrives in use in this period, in which a hyperdrive making a transition deep within a gravity well was designed to provide a smoother transition by “burning out”, thus saving the crew’s lives at the cost of a functional hyperdrive. While not stated, it is likely that this transition occurred around Eta Cassiopiae III, a gas giant, based on government documents from this period recording military vessel’s dispatchment there on a rescue mission. The significance of this mission is, of course, immediately obvious to the modern student, and is exactly what the modern reader thinks it is.

[4] At this point, Honorius Blackstone had been deputized by the Eridanian ambassador to Cassiopiae. This also explains his decision to enforce the Starways league’s rules on conduct in war before the issues in district IX boiled over into a war zone; many scholars believe that he was asked, off the record, to do so by the ambassador, who wanted to have a fleet at his service.

[5] Neither were particularly common at the time, or at least not more so than today. However, the idea of piracy being profitable had not yet been discredited.

[6] He did not, of course, know how right he was.