It’s time for government red tape!
Now it’s time for political intrigue! Maybe.
Let’s see how the duke
boys species are gonna get outta this one
Brazil always speaks first.
Now, this is really one of those cute little facts that end up becoming standard practice, and then codified into law: Brazil always speaks first.
You see, way back when the UN was less of the governing body it is today and more of a debate and “we really should be doing X instead of waging war, guis” club, Brazil spoke first at the General Assembly each year. It spoke at the General Assembly each year not because it won a particularly high-stakes game of poker (no matter what Senior Senator Antonio Silva insists) but because back then nobody wanted to speak first. Each country was deferring to someone else – for various reasons – until the ambassador from Brazil slammed down 5 highballs of caipirinha and just went for it. He did that every year until his liver failed, but by that time it became the norm for the Brazilian ambassador to speak first. That random act of initiative then turned into the norm, which has since been codified into law.
So, of course, when the world needed to unify, they turned to the one nation’s ambassador who they could expect would treat the office with it’s due gravitas and respect it deserved. The fact that he was a coke addict was absolutely not an issue, and so humanity’s first el presidente was elected, mainly because again – Brazil just went for it.
Sr. Senator Mateus Carvalho Araujo, or “Mateo” as he was known to pretty much the entire human crew on Zephyr Nexus 01, was not el presidente. He was, however, the favored intern for El Presidente at the time, and so had the dubious honor of being Mankind’s first voluntold/‘elected’ senator. Unlike his patron Mateo actually got into politics in order to benefit the world, and so over the course of 20 grueling years rose to the high demands of his venerated office.
Mateo was also having another exhausting day.
The Senate wasn’t exactly one gigantic body where everyone sat in a room – or stood awkwardly on disk-shaped platforms dangling over a thousand-foot drop – and talked things out before having a vote and then partying on the taxpayer’s dime. Instead, there were many “senates” depending on the scope and topic being covered. You want to discuss trade negotiations? Well then you’d go to this sub-senate that’s specifically tailored to intergalactic trade and work the governmental machine there. You have an issue around refugee movement through your border? That’s sub-senate room AA-3112 that you’re looking for, though they meet only once a month. You want to talk to the people who manage the schedule and what’s generally to be discussed across all the governing bodies? Well then you need to talk to the Senior Senate, but they never take appointments. Ever.
It might sound like a gigantic bureaucratic mess that exists solely to self-propagate it’s own top-heaviness, but…
Well. I mean, it does allow subject matter experts to directly weigh in on legislation, and it’s not like the senators didn’t talk to each other in-between sessions or rely on separate resources.
The average citizen’s overall attitude was “eh. It could be worse. At least we’re not anarcho-capitalists.”
However, none of this was going to help Mateo get through his day. His office – and the office of most of his support team and fellow senators – still followed the 10+hrs/day, 5+days/wk work schedule of the old-school Wall Street firms; demands happen all over the planet at all times of the day – and that’s not counting support for ex-solar humans as well – and so his office needed to stay responsive and up to speed at all times. Most other member species did this by having staff that measured in the hundreds of thousands.
Mateo did this with borderline illegal amounts of caffeine.
The subconscious twitch shaking his left eye had nothing to do with his caffeine intake, either. No, it very much had everything to do with the Karnakian Senior Senator that decided to walk into his human-scaled office and take a seat on his Italian leather couch.
The fact that she did this while Mateo was in the middle of a meeting didn’t seem to phase her. Nor did the fact that she sat down in between the two people he was meeting with seem to bother her at all – in fact, it did quite the opposite.
“S…so…we’ll…discuss the reallocation of funds for destroying the Three Gorges Dam and the subsequent environmental re-stabilization of that particular part of the Chinese Territory once we finish dismantling the Hoover Dam – which should be finished sometime aro-can you please stop that.” Snapped Dr. Wagner, flinging his arm up to bat away at the enveloping feather-shroud that threatened to cover his vision.
“I mean, it’s – her feathers are pretty soft.” Ventured Dr.Liu, resting her hands in her lap – more to keep her paperwork steady as opposed to any sort of demure body language as a Karnakian ‘wing’ wrapped around her shoulders.
“[I am here to help!]” Chirped Senior Senator, Beacon-of-Light, Follower of the 9th path Bretheren-Sister-Matron Ti’Shek’qc, shimmying slightly in place to expand her torso’s….fluff.
“If that’s the case why did you barge into my private meeting?” Mateo complained, not for the first time. “We’re trying to figure out how to best allocate this year’s environmental resource stipend, and we have a very full schedule.”
“[Well, I have something here that will be very helpful, but I can’t wait 5 of your months before we have our initial official conversation. So, I figured I would stop by and have a – you call them social calls? A social call.]” Ti’Shek’qc said, her crested feathers rippling in a nod to herself. “[And we are being sociable, yes?]”
Mateo inhaled sharply, paused, and then sighed. He drummed his fingers against his desk before leaning back, continuing the motion of both nervous/stress tics.
“You do realize my office is sovereign Terran territory, correct? Barging in, unannounced, unwelcomed, kinda echoes…”
He let the implication fall over the room, and for her part the Karnakian had the good sense to lose her chipper attitude. “[Yes, this is a good point, however, since this is a social call that would mean I’ve been invited-]”
“To a private discus-”
“You’re not going to leave until you have a private meeting with me, are you.” Mateo said, not so much asking a question as coming to a realization, interrupting Dr. Wagner in the process.
Ti’Shek’qc smiled to herself and began to silently fuss over her immaculate feathers, preening simply to drag out the silence. Mateo had been in the business long enough to notice a few tells – some would forever be beyond him – but he knew enough to know she was smug.
Mateo hated it when xenos were smug.
“Alright. It better be good.” Mateo capitulated, crossing his arms as he leaned back in his chair.
Ti’Shek’qc sat comfortably on the couch, saying nothing, causing Mateo to frown for a totally different set of reasons.
“Listen, I may not be strong enough to move you but I will have you leave this off-”
“Dr. Wagner, Dr. Liu, thank you both very much for your time. Your combined efforts into the revitalization of our biosphere will not have gone unnoticed – I’ll wholeheartedly push for an additional 80,000 tons of material and the subsequent materiel to continue healing our planet.”
Dr. Liu jumped at the sudden dismissal and shimmied herself out of the Karnakian’s fluffy grasp, rising to her feet. “Senator, are you serious?! The acidification of the Pacific is a far more-”
“Thank you, both of you. Please inform my assistant outside that my schedule is to be cleared for the day.”
Dr. Liu and Dr. Wagner shared a look with each other – well, with each other and a very smugKarnakian, before silently grabbing their documents, files, examples and other bric-a-brac and leaving. The silence began after the door was shut a little too hard, leaving the two Senior Senators staring at each other from across a mahogany desk.
Mateo shifted in his chair.
Ti’Shek’qc settled a little more comfortably on Mateo’s couch, the cracking protest of wood causing both of them to flinch.
“[Mmm, you should have a room-integrated nanofabricator for this kind of-]”
“Bah.” Mateo waved his hand dismissively. “It fixes things down to the molecule, but it misses… I don’t know. The repairs just seem too perfect.”
“[Well, striving for perfection in all things brings us closer to The Great One.]”
“Ah. Well. Speaking about striving – what is going on? Apparently you need to talk to me about something that’s time-critical and off the books, so spill it.”
“[A report was given to my office, as well as the offices of the [Dorarizin] and the [Jornissian] [Human]-relations offices.]”
“So you’re here to deliver my copy?”
“[No. You’ll never get this report. At least, you’re not ever supposed to.]”
“Aaah. The ol’ Sao Paulo Paycheck. Alright, what’s your price?”
“[Normalized relations between [Humans] and Karnakians, the removal of the service prohibition across all employment sectors, standardized trade terms in line with the rest of the Senate species and 20TB of banned media – of my choice.]”
Mateo, for the first time in many, many days, began to laugh. It started as a chuckle, but as Ti’Shek’qc continued it ended up as Superlative Laughter – the very highest form of laughter, as all learned people know. He continued to laugh after she finished, and for quite a few minutes after; dying down at first, but only to redouble once he realized that she was serious.
Ti’Shek’qc huffed and tapped her feet against the ground while her counterpart continued. After an indeterminable amount of time the laughter finally died down, Mateo – now red-faced – wiping the tears from his eyes.
“Good GOD did I need that! Honestly, I’ll get you a banned movie just for that – hoo – that joke. Well done! But, but seriously – what did you want for that report?”
“[Exactly everything I said.]” Ti’Shek’qc replied.
“I can’t do that-”
“[You’re the lead Senator for [Humanity], you can pull some strings-]”
“Your people invaded Earth, and those who survived are still alive. Hell, my dad told me about when you guys wrecked Sao Luis as you swept down through South America from the Caribbean-]”
“Bullshit. Atlanta might have been an accident, but the rest-”
“[Regardless, we’re asking you because tomorrow there’s going to be an emergency Senate vote based off of this report.]”
“Alright, so how does that tie into Mankind?”
“[We know about the [meme]s.”
Without betraying a single thing Mateo leaned forward, resting his forearms on his desk, clasping his hands together. “I speak on behalf of the Human Senate Offices as well as the United Nations in saying that we have no idea-”
“[The ones manufactured by the OIH.]”
“-and those rogue elements who have betrayed the trust of us all will be rooted out and tried for their crimes-”
“[We know why you’ve made them as well.]” Ti’Shek’qc said, softly. It was enough – Mateo stopped talking immediately, his mouth opening and closing a few times as his brain tried to come up with something to say.
It was having a hard time between “say something bullshittery to buy yourself time” and “Oh god the dinosaur knows and I’m all alone with it”, but muscle memory kicked in – his right hand shot down and punched into a false side under his desk, flipping a switch that was installed for only the most dire of needs.
Somewhere, out in high earth orbit, the Hubble began to glow an ominous red.
“[A-are you ok? It sounded like you punched-]”
“FINE. F-fine. We’re fine. We’re all going to be fine. Fine. Wh. What do you want?”
Ti’Shek’qc sighed, running her claws against her teeth in a plaintive gesture for her species. “[Everything I said. We… we are truly sorry for doing that to you – to you, your people, your world. The Holy Diarchy has been trying to find a way to make amends, but. Well.]”
“So this report.” Mateo said, speaking loud enough for the recording equipment to pick up. “Why is it worth… so much?”
“[Because tomorrow the Senate will hold an emergency vote, feign being upset and in the spirit of aiding your species request that they have more access to [Earth] in an attempt to normalize [Human]-Xenospecies relations.]”
“B-but that’s forbidden under the Icelandic Treaties. You can’t step foot on Terran soil.”
“[No, we very much can, which is why I’m here. You don’t have the military to stop us and you don’t have the votes. Three races-]”
“-got the report, right. Right. So it’ll be unanimous across the board with one dissenting vote, and then you invade earth properly this time.” He growled, his fists clenched impotently on his desk.
Ti’Shek’qc grimaced. “[N-no. They’d just want access to major cities, free travel – it’s all outlined. Maybe a few semi-permanent residents, but other than that nothing else.]”
“It might as well be an invasion. Hell, our population is already draining due to …well.” Mateo waved his hand at the general direction of earth through the wall. “So. So why are you here, then? Isn’t this what you want? More access to us? More culture to mine? More people to take?”
“[’A fat szikli is only pregnant with poison’. It is what we want, yes, but not how we want it. We’d never be truly welcome, we’d never be friends, we’d never sit at the table as brothers if we force ourselves upon you. We are willing to…give you the report, as well as additional information that will allow you to . . . Change the direction of the debate.]”
“. . . But that does me no good if we’re still a minority position-”
“[We will be voting against the measure – I, I have already seen to it, regardless of what happens here in this room.]”
There was another long pause as Mateo studied his colleague and counterpart, the stress of the past few minutes working it’s way through and out of the man.
“[…the ‘information’ that I would give you to change the discourse would also, most likely, change everything.]”
“[Ah. No tasting the porridge before it’s baked. I need you to pull those strings.]”
“Well Fuck.” Mateo breathed, running his hands over his face and through his hair. “Either commit political suicide or allow the Earth to be invaded through bureaucracy? What options do I really have here?!”
“[I don’t know, but to whomever is listening in – it really is good information, and we really are on your side.]”
“Wh – you kn-”
“[I felt it click on.]”
“It’s a completely digital switch-”
Ti’Shek’qc shrugged, exasperatedly. “[I’m just saying, I felt it click on! That’s all! It’s also quite staticky, if that word translates.]”
“I just. Fine. Fuck it, fine. You got me in your corner-” The Karnakian smiled wide, and for the first time in many weeks a human didn’t reflexively flinch at the sight. Mateo, in fact, was leaned over the desk, finger pointed harshly at his co-conspirator. “But this intel better be the best fucking thing I’ve ever seen. What is it?”
Ti’Shek’qc slipped her hand into her vest’s front pocket, pulling out both a data chip and a small mechanical tool. She placed the chip – a rectangle about an inch high and 5 inches square, made out of a network of glowing crystals and nth-dimensional circuitry – onto his desk. “[That’s The Report and all correlated evidence, including quantum-time stamps, interviews – everything.]”
Without skipping a beat Mateo stood up with the chip and walked over to his door. As soon as he approached it two men in vantablack suits opened the door, and the chip traded hands. No greetings, no words were spoken – Mateo spun on his heel and the door clicked shut unceremoniously behind him.
“Alright. My boys will look it over- and what the hell is that for?”
“[It’s an implant modification device. What it does is-]”
“No, I mean, I know what it is – I had my ‘bead installed like everyone else. I mean, what is it for?”
“[It is for giving you the second piece of evidence. I am going to update your translator to a more… correct version. Then I want you to ask me to tell you everything I know about [Human]s.]”
“…You’ve fucked with our translators. Do you realize wh-”
“[It is not making them in error, [Mateo]. Simply, the translators omit certain key phrases that might give you more context for your debate tomorrow.]”
“….fine. Fuck it.” Senator Mateus Carvalho Araujo dropped his head on his desk with a hollow-sounding thunk. “Just do it.”
“[Already done.]” Ti’Shek’qc said, the little device in her hand giving out a happy beep. “[Though I suggest not updating everyone’s communication device – it would cause problems. You and the rest of your team, however, I think would be appropriate.]”
“My team? Right, right. Alright.” Mateo said, rubbing his ear to get the ringing to stop. “So tell me about Humanity.”
And Ti’Shek’qc did, using only the textbook definitions, the commonly-known history, and the OIH-approved culture artifacts that were provided. And as she did these innocent things, Mateo stared at her, his jaw slack. He said nothing, only his face betraying a look of more and more confusion, shock, and disbelief. Slowly he reached down and opened a bottom drawer to his desk and pulled out a bottle of scotch – 25 year, for what it’s worth – and uncorked it.
He drank the whole thing without a glass in sight.