*Tic-tak tic-tak tic-tak*
Everyone has their little distractions.
*Tic-tak tic-tak tic-tak*
Some count tiles. Others play with their hands, a bracelet – or a ring. It’s called a “self-soothing gesture”, if you’re interested in the psychology of it.
*Tic-tak tic-tak tic-tak*
Sr. Senator Mateus Carvalho Araujo was a “fidgeter” – mainly, he needed something to occupy his hands when he was nervous, anxious, or just plain bored.
*Tic-tak tic-tak tic-tak*
Of all the things he could use – hard light fidget-dodecahedrons not withstanding – he had in his hand a metal small soccer ball, no bigger than a ping-pong ball, which was his toy. His father bought it for him when he was very young, for some FIFA tournament – the paint had long been worn away by his hands, and the ball had enough dents in it from decades of abuse that you’d only know it was a soccer ball and not a misshapen aluminum lump if you took the time to really study it.
*Tic-tak tic-tak tic-*
“Mateo, for fuck’s sake.” Growled Sr. Senator Nicholas Hermansson, rapping his knuckles against the metal conference room table. “Please?”
Mateo stopped tapping the ball against the corner of the table and instead rolled the ball in his fingers, tossing it from hand to hand. “Mmm. Sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Sr. Senator Yao Wei murmured, flipping through an extremely trashy tabloid. “I still don’t really believe what you’re telling me, but the fact that you’re calling it even after the South China Sea incident-”
“Even? Hon’, this shit is going to sink all of us.” Sr. Senator Constance Washington said, her southern drawl coming out thick with cigarette smoke and heat. “-Me most of all. Can you fuckin’ imagine it? ‘Native Atlantan Senator approves normalization of Karnakian relations’-”
“Yer’ damn right you are, Mattie.” Constance interjected, a cigarette held tightly between two pointing fingers. “Stone Mountain is still a fuckin’ quarantine zone, we’re on the cusp of the 30th anniversary of the Fox’s rebuilding, and you drop this on my lap?!”
“Again, sorry.” Mateo said, paying more attention to the ball than to his colleague.
“Don’t be so sour, Connie.” Yao said, flipping a page to find out what batboy has been up to. “Mateo’s been in your corner for reparations every year-”
“Yeah, an’ that’s why I’m here, but I don’t have to like it.”
“I know. The session will be called, you’ve looked through the report-”
“Heads are going to ROLL at the OIH.” Constance said, taking another drag. “That’s what you get for cutting corners, I say.”
“Mmm, but you know there’s something up; they spun up two hundred thousand data models-”
“With their processing power” Yao said, licking her finger to turn another page, “That’s not something to sneeze at in terms of resources.”
Nicholas leaned back in his chair, bouncing the back in idle thought. “Still. A full data-analysis on our home media, algos and simos on Human affinity. Combine that with a head’s up on an Emergency Session with no forewarning, no chance to build a consensus, and a vote that would be legally binding? Who the hell is your mole, Mateo?”
“A Karnakian. One of their lead senators.” Mateo said, matter-of-factly. Nicholas leaned forward, studying his friend’s face hard.
“Bullshit**.** Mateo, there’s no way – this is a psyop!”
Mateo sighed at the exhuming of his friends’ old spook. “Look, just because you spent the first half of your career shutting down Russian Propaganda-”
“They’re everywhere” Nicholas hissed, driving his index finger down on the table. “They’re just now feathery and way too chipper-”
“Aaaaah!” Yao cried, causing everyone to turn to her. Looking up from the tabloid with a panicked expression, she quickly crumpled the paper. “Batboy! He’s on the dark side of the moon-”
“Fer Fuck’s sake.” Constance said, but by then the spell was broken – the four friends went from paranoia and anger to a more comfortable atmosphere.
“So. The plan, again?” Nicholas said, rolling his shoulders.
“We go in an’ act stupid. They’ll hem an’ haw, want to build on our home soil – which again points to my ‘habitable worlds are rare’ theory-”
“It’s not that.” Mateo sighed, bouncing the ball on his thigh
“Right, well, we vote against that cause I wanna be able to go back t’ earth-side without bein’ lynched – which theoretically we have the votes to stall that-”
“We do.” Mateo murmured
“-I fuckin’ hope we do. And then you’re gon’ do something and our eyes’ll be opened an’ we’ll all have us a come-to-Jesus moment.”
“For the most part, yep.”
“…I hate you when you’re like this, Mattie.”
“Love you too, Connie.”
“Well.” Yao said, smoothing her tabloid out again. “At least if things go south we have a better chance – the TDF actually exists, for one.”
“Mmm. But they never give us any updates.” Constance said, stubbing out her now-dead cigarette. “All we know is what the public knows-”
“Well I did pick up something interesting.” Yao smiled, mischeviously. “Apparently they lost contact with the Hubble a day ago-”
“What?!” Mateo blinked, suddenly sitting upright. “Shit, I forgot to turn off that killswitch-”
Mateo’s panic was interrupted by the door suddenly flying open, a very flustered intern panting at the door.
“S-Senators! Th-there’s an emergen-”
“Mmm” They replied, standing up and putting their things together in no real hurry. Cups were drained and recycled, air was filtered and circulated, roombas were unleashed, clothing was smoothed out – each senator taking their time in getting prepared.
“Some – hah – someone…got to you first?”
“Mnn?” They replied, just as noncommittal as before, filing out past the unnamed intern.
“I-it’s, they’re holding it at-”
“кто вас послал? что ты знаешь?”
“Here, hon.” Constance said, patting her mostly-empty softpack into his uniform shirt pocket. “Take a break.”
The intern, whose 15 seconds of fame was now up, just sighed and slumped against the wall.
It was meeting room 7-E, if you were curious.
The reason why it was meeting room 7-E was because 7-E is equidistant from everyone (so it’s just as much of a pain to get there), it’s held deep within the station (so you can shield it from everything), it was large enough to hold a handful of each race comfortably (so you can have your secret meetings in peace) and, most importantly, was only 20m away from one of the best dive concession stands on the nexus.
Don’t judge. When you’re 2,250KM above the surface of the earth even The Varsity’s food looks damn good.
“[…and finally, we greet Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn. The 5th Emergency Session of the Four United Races is now active. All exits are now locked until the state of emergency is lifted. All electronic transmission devices are suppressed. Internal recording devices are now on, with IFF markers active. Each representative has full authority to speak on behalf of their species, and in this time of emergency, their word is law. I, Matron Ti’Shek’qc, speaker for this session, do hereby relinquish my initial duty of announcement to allow general discourse to begin.]”
The multi-hued Karnakian dipped her head slightly, pointedly maintaining eye contact with Mateo as she sat down across from him.
Each Species was arranged around the four corners of the room on a raised dais; each dais had workstations tailored to that particular species’ physiology included on it, as well as tables, chairs, and various refreshments. As size so often also meant status (and because the Humans weren’t as… large as their counterparts) they were given a few more pieces of furniture to fill out their section.
The couches and mini-fridges made sense. The foosball table was pushing it.
Regardless, the podium for each species was at the prominent corner, putting the speaker much closer to their adversaries and allies than the rest of the team. A Dorarizin, Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn, cleared his throat, and the three assembled species silently voted to give him the floor.
“[First, Thank you Matron Ti’Shek’qc for opening this emergency session. I’ll get right down to the marrow – our topic of conversation today is the [Humans], [Humanity] in space, and how [Earth] views their allies.]”
Mateo licked his lips and shuffled his papers as Constance Washington stared daggers at the Dorarizin. “And whatcould we have done as a people to warrant an emergency session?” she verbally jabbed, tapping the podium with her knuckles for each point made. “Our military is earth-bound, senate propaganda paints all of you in a positive light, our civilians are spread out amongst your people-”
“[It has to do with these [memes], and how they degrade us.]” Strsk’ressn interrupted, tightening his coils around himself. “[One of your people on our ship was distributing propaganda-]”
“An’ how in the blue hell are we supposed t’ monitor the thoughts an’ actions of everybody?! Not to mention we’ve adopted universal freedom of speech, so-”
“[This was state-sponsored degradation propaganda, Senator [Constance].]” Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn said, pulling up a broken copy of the edited Jornissian movie on every podium’s screen. “[This came from your [OIH], and has been independently verified by another [Human] miner named [Bill].” As he spoke, a second screen overlaid on the first, showing an unreasonably comfortable man showing captioned pictures with Dorarizins in various poses and with various glowing minds.
The reason Mateo and the rest of his skeleton crew voted to have Constance lead was not because of any long-standing tradition, or even because she drew the short straw on this one. It was simply due to the fact that as an older black woman she had (1) raised 3 children and constantly prodded one husband, (2) risen through the politics of her local baptist church to be a deacon (which arguably is more difficult to do than normal politics), and (3) had an impeccable bullshit detector. Couple that with the fact that she did not give a single fuck as to who she was sassing, and would happily tell you – and give you – a backhand if you needed it, and she was a force to be reckoned with. Often times, you’d get a backhand even if you didn’t need it; she was into preventative maintenance like that.
In other words, she was the perfect front man.
“How dare you insinuate that our cultural artifacts are some sort of long-standing ploy to disparage our allies!” Constance yelled, drawing herself up to her full towering height of 5’9”. “The very fact that you would call an emergency session to talk about this – this utter bullshit speaks ill of all of you, and I have half a mind to withdraw from this session in protest!”
“[Senator [Constance], you can’t be so blind to the evidence-]”
“Oh I know this cold-blooded dipshit did not just tell me I am dumb to my face-” Constance said, whipping around to glare at Strsk’ressn, causing him to stiffen up slightly before launching into a counter-argument, followed shortly by the Dorarizin, with the Karnakian delegation just trying to keep the peace.
Just as planned.
“[Then we have NO OPTION LEFT TO US-]” roared Strsk’ressn, slamming his fist into the podium before him. “[We MUST crush this nest before it hatches! I have put forward a motion that would allow civilian [Humans] to integrate peacefully with their Galactic allies-]” he hissed, pointedly attempting to stare down Senator Constance, who by now had already taken off her earrings and heels. “[-by providing them the ability to do so on their native soil!]”
“You’re advocating invasion, you littl-”
“[I agree]” Interjected Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn, the rumble of his throat loud like thunder. “[The only way for us to make sure that there is no bad blood as we share technology with you is to make sure tribalism is stopped early. I second Senator Strsk’ressns’ motion, with the additional addendums that a permanent group of vetted, safe citizens be allowed to live in peace on the planet [Earth], and that this motion is backed by the full propaganda arm of [Humanity]’s [OIH] in the spirit of integration. I motion to put this to a vote.]”
With impressive aggression a little indicator light blinked on Mankind’s terminal, demanding a vote.
“FUCK ALL Y’ALL.” Senator Constance said, adding in a few very spicy hand gestures. “TAG ME OUT.”
Senator Constance spun on her heel and walked back to the rec area, high-fiving Mateo on her way over. Mateo stopped only to pick up his bag and a steaming cup of pick-me-up.
“Mmm, sorry. There’s only a slight chance this is just coffee.” Senator Mateus Carvalho Araujo said, placing a warm mug on the indicator light.
“[It’s not.]” Sniffed Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn, frowning. “[And we have put forth a motion to-]”
“Yep, yeah, we vote no.”
“[…]” The assembled species looked pointedly at each other – Matron Ti’Shek’qc giving a noncommital shrug as she poked her indicator along with Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn and Senator Strsk’ressn.
“[We vote for the measure-]”
“[We vote for the measure-]”
“[We vote no as well.]”
“[Then we’re agr-WHAT?!]” Roared Strsk’ressn, rounding on the now extremely smug Karnakian, who simply nodded at Mateo as yet another verbal tirade began. Mateo raised his coffee in a silent salute, a tired smile spread across his face.
As the Dorarizin and Jornissian delegations began to tear into the Karnakians – figuratively, not literally mind you – Senator Mateus fished out from his messenger bag a certain device. This device was passed around to the three other Senior Senators, and three happy little beeps added to the cacophony of noise. Wordlessly, Senator Mateus typed in a second motion and broadcast it to the surrounding podiums.
“[-and you can forget about cohabitation on any binary stars, once we ge-]”
The sudden silence was deafening as each species looked at their screens.
Humanity hereby petitions for increased aid in re: extra-terran colonization, industrialization infrastructure for a sovereign space fleet and R&D into cultural dissemination practices.
Humanity hereby petitions for normalized relations with the Karnakian Theocracy, and the lifting of all punitive measures in re: Destruction & Invasion of Earth, and the cessation of any punitive measures in re: The 5th Emergency Session of the Four United Races.
Humanity hereby petitions for suppression and destruction of all information regarding recordings, findings and decisions of The 5th Emergency Session of the Four United Races, and a coordinated propaganda campaign in regards to this petition and the previous two petitions.
“I mean, I can’t really do the second one in here, but I figure it would be good to have it on record.” Mateo said into his mug, taking a deep drought.
“[What has gotten into you, Twitchy-thumper? Has the tiny-chompers’ representative gone mad?]” Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn said, smirking.
“I’m- wait.” Senator Nicolas said, shaking his head. “What, repeat that. Just. What?”
“[What do you mean, shadowpouncer? I asked if the tiny-chompers’ have lost their minds.]”
“[The warmcuddles haven’t lost their minds, Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn.]” Strsk’ress said, rolling his jaw. “[We’ve simply been out-maneuvered by-]”
“What the fuck is a tiny chomper?!” Senator Nicholas said, turning to Yao Wei. She shrugged, tapping her earpiece. “Hell if I know – you tell me what a warmcuddle is first.”
Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn blinked and Strsk’ress’s jaw went slack, as behind them their associated attaches began to furiously delete everything – all to the musical tune of Matron Ti’Shek’qc’s laughter.
“[You Traitor! You updated their com-]”
“[It was our mistake to begin with, so it is our prerogative to make it right!]” Ti’Shek’qc chirped and bobbed, her feathers standing out in what could only be described as maximum smug. “[It is not the fault of the little-needs-protecting, now is it?]”
“Litt-what. What?” Nicolas continued to parrot, his brain desperately trying to make connections in the conspiracy-shed out back that had become his mind. “Wh. WHAT.”
“[Look, it’s not our fault-]”
“Then tell me-” mused Mateo, swirling his drink before taking another sip, “exactly whose fault it is anyway? As far as I can tell, you’ve had these interesting names for us since, what, ever?” He looked at the almost spherical ball of smug that was Ti’Shek’qc, who nodded in agreement.
“[I-it’s- look, we meant nothing by it, twitchy-thumper.]”
“Mmm, I’ve heard that one before.”
“[It’s not our fault – it’s your fault!]” hissed Strsk’ress, somehow seeming to lunge at the human delegation while, in fact, retreating into what could only be called a ‘Jornissian-ball’ of coils on his dais. “[How could you expect us to notcall you warmcuddles?!]”
“Oh, I don’t know, common Human decency, a respect for your fellow sapient-”
“[To be fair, you did make it easy.]” chirped Ti’Shek’qc. “[You can’t really blame our scouts for what they did-]”
“Yeah, explain yourself, speaking of, what the fuck.” Yao Wei said, reverting back to a 1st-year english level of speaking as her brain tried to furiously parse the new words coming into her comms.
“[Well, ok. What’s your home world’s name?]” ventured Ti’Shek’qc.
“[Dirt. You’re Dirtlings.]”
“Well, no – ok, I see. Terra, then.”
“[Which also means dirt.]” halfheartedly rumbled Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn, who by now had rested his jaw on the edge of his podium. “[And you call your moon, moon.]”
“W-well, hey-” Mateo said, plunking down his ‘coffee’ mug. “That’s not fair-”
“[You call all other orbiting bodies moons, sometimes, but your moon is moon.]”
“[Your sun is named sun, which is a star. Other stars can also be suns, but your sun is Sun.]” added Strsk’ress, as more and more of him disappeared into himself. “[It’s like you point at a thing, name it, and then just go along with your entire species’ existence-]”
“[And don’t forget the little-needs-protecting religions-]”
“Now y’all motherfuckers leave baby Jesus out of this-” Constance began, before Ti’Shek’qc trilled over her. “[And what is the name of your deity?]”
“[Who is also?]” ventured Ti’Shek’qc, smiling wide.
“[So what is your God’s name, then?]”
“…God. God is God – don’t you fucking smug at me-” Growled Constance, lifting up her heel to make the 15m toss across the pit.
“[And what even is the Placebo effect?!]” cried Strsk’ress, turning in on himself in embarassed rage. “[You warmcuddles just really wish hard enough and your body kinda makes it happen?!]”
“That we don’t know about.” Shrugged Yao. “But it’s kinda cool.”
“[You literally hope hard enough and it works – just like every single feel-good hatchling story, nippysnoof. That makes no sense.]”
“[Ooh, or lookit-teeth. What even is that?]” ventured Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn to the open air.
“Lookit-teeth?” Nicholas said. “What?”
“[That thing you do when you get tired, protect-from-russians.]” Ti’Shek’qc said, slowly deflating. “[You know, with the open mouth-]”
“You mean yawning?”
“[Yeah! Are you trying to intimidate me? Are you trying to show us your strength? No. Nope. You just want to sleep.]” waved Vresh-Nrelgeh-of-Arzgrn exasperatedly. “[And you expect us to take you seriously-]”
“We Humans are a proud and noble people – we are not cute-” Nicholas roared, earning him a trio of sighs.
“[We vote for the measures-]”
“[We vote for the measures-]”
“[I happily and will always remember this day as I vote for the measures-]”
“Well then.” Sighed Mateo as he upturned his empty cup of mostly-not-coffee. “Good stuff, glad we had this meeting. I’ll expect a triple-resource budget allocation on my desk tomorrow morning, then?”
“<What is that?>”
“<Hmm?>” Str’kzssi said, looking up from her terminal at the main screen. On it, [Earth] sat in space, suspended on nothing, as she always had since time began. Everything was as it should be, except for a small, angry red dot.
“<That, that glowing re-AAAH!>”
There was a sudden flash of red light that flooded their optical sensors, and then…. Nothing.
“<By Sotek, what in the frozen hell wa- AAAH!>”
Another sudden flash of red, and then, nothing.
“<Well that’s annoying. Can we filter out whatever it is that’s doing that?>”
“<N->” flash “<-negative, Captain. We’re on standby as the surrogate Orbital Defense Fleet, so we must keep all spectrums>” flash “<-open.>”
“<Well that’s annoying.>”