THE STORY SO FAR:
There are aliens, and a galactic senate. All in all, pretty good sapients – post-scarcity societies seem to be benevolent. Who knew? Humans are a thing, and a particular human is on a particular thing that we would call a “spaceship”. She happens to be surrounded by snakelike xenos, and there are shenanigans afoot/aslither. Sorry, trying to be inclusive here.
It was an open secret that the races that comprised the Galactic Senate – the Jornissians, the Dorarizin, the Humans and the Karnak – kept secrets from each other. Traditionally, this would be a cause for war or some sort of political sanctions, but once you’ve achieved nanofactories, quantum cold fusion power and tesseract space travel, the entire cosmos opens up to you. At that point, why fight over this garden planet when a mere 800 light-years away there’s another one? That’s bigger and has two moons? Why fight over resources when a single dead system could be strip-mined for more raw materials than your species could use in a thousand years? Why fight over border disputes? Space is massive – in essence, war becomes a pointless and quite dickish endeavor.
Secrets on the Galactic scale were more… mundane, all things considered. If you know a few ‘magic’ tricks and can wow a couple species, you might get booked on a 10-system tour. If the secrets to your set get out, suddenly you’re just the-human-with-the-cards-that-waves-them-around. If you’ve put down claim on a phenomenal planet with breathtaking vistas, you better file a copyright that view – or else the VR parlors will be sending out recording drones within the year. And Food? Well.
Who would’ve guessed that within 20 years after the accidental invasion of Earth, The Aunt Jemima factory complex would rival the NSA Headquarter’s security detail?
Point being, most secrets were mundane and assumed to be mundane – for thousands of years, this had always been the case, and the rest of the races had no reason to assume that anything would change, let alone on the induction and (relatively) slow uplift of a fellow sapient species.
So when Caroline was continuing to freak out over possible, theoretical injustices she had delivered to her crewmates – maybe she took THE CAPTAIN’S favorite heat rock one day? Maybe her table manners are atrocious? Wait, no — [Hsan] and [Eshhsan] were secretly a couple! It all makes sense now! – she turned to one of Humanity’s “secrets” to ease her fears and put her large, unblinking, omnivorous, venemous, titanically-strong crewmates mentally back in their place.
She turned to dank fucking memes.
Ssharnak was living in a world of Firsts. First one of his clutch to be promoted (take that, Ashhs’ssk!), First time a really cute girl talked to him without someone else prompting them to, First time one of his plans had paid off in any real measurable way, and now the First time that his plan had completely gone off the rails and into uncharted territory.
The entire Secret [Human] Cinema, Bar and Lounge (Floor 1A) was silent, staring attentively at the screen before them.
“<But…wait. What? Is t- that’s art.>” Ssharnak mumbled, tilting his head at the screen.
“<Why. What does it even mean? Why is it of us?>” Ashhs’ssk complained, tapping the picture. “<My translator’s kicking this back to me as a misspelling of comfortable. And what is that he’s wearing? That is a he, right?>”
“<I don’t know, the hood is right but the ridge is wrong and what is going on with that scale pattern?! Just.”> Ssharnak replied, tilting his head a full 90 degrees, as if the change in perspective would provide an answer.
“<I don’t need this right now. He’s a very pretty uh… he.>” Eshhsan slurred, one eye staring intently at the ‘meme’ and the other eye staring intently at the wall.
“<Hasras, you need to get him to medical.>” Ashhs’ssk quipped, eyes not moving from the screen as a new picture replaced the old one.
“<And miss this?>” The red-and-yellow man replied, pointing at the screen. “<Hells no. I’ll make a call, get him picked up – I am not missing this.>”
Ssharnak merely grunted in reply, his head continuing to pivot past 90 degrees.
In retrospect, this would prove to be the wrong thing to do.
You know how when something new and exciting is happening – that electric feel in the air of change? That same feeling that draws the informed, the uninformed and the downright curious in like a moth to the flame?
This is the feeling that caused the medical team to delay long enough in pulling Eshhsan out from under the table to send an automated warning flag to both their superiors and to security and maintenance, who both dispatched a team to investigate whether an unknown environmental hazard (or mutiny) had caused the med team’s delay.
This is the feeling that caused neither of those teams to respond in during their scheduled check-in, sending up not only more severe alerts to the head of Navigation, Maintenance, Security and Medical, but also to THE CAPTAIN as well.
And it was that feeling that caused THE CAPTAIN to forget to turn off her dead-man’s switch, causing their otherwise-innocent supply and rescue ship to pop onto the screens of Jornissian High Command as a possible Mutiny, en-route to one of their more populated core worlds. At a significantly higher speed than c. With all gem-tier officers not reporting to their stations.
Jornissian High Command felt this was enough of an issue to humbly request one of their defense fleets to scramble, immediately if possible – and if they’d be so kind as to throw out some warp-nets to stop the rogue ship before it plowed into something in-system, that would be great, too.
Admiral Var’Shrak agreed, and prepared.
Caroline, however, feeling slightly better, decided to click on “subtitled Jornissian movies”, completely unaware that everything outside of her comfy little blanket cocoon was going to shit.
“<That’s the defense of Malshak-V, one of our people’s greatest triumphs.>” THE CAPTAIN murmured, coiled in the center of the room. She had plenty of space to do so – once THE CAPTAIN showed up, plasma pistol waving in one hand and combat drone control menacing in the other, screaming about mutineers and pirates – well, everyone kinda just made space.
And to be fair, it was a good movie about a good war, if there ever is such a thing. Federalist troops, outgunned and outnumbered, defending the last bastion of planetary civilization against a pirate queen who would have been a tinpot empress. Holding just long enough for the civilians to escape and for reinforcements to arrive, it’s one of the best feel-good armed service propaganda stories ever put to media.
As to why when every one of the Jornissians was shot, the [Human] word [oof] would pop out of their mouths as they died, she could not say. Nor could THE CAPTAIN understand why there was text superimposed over various buildings – [hidey hole] and [best ledge] weren’t translating too well, but [tanning roof] seemed to be a portmanteau of some sort combining the human word for damaging sun exposure to their skin and…. a roof. And why would a ledge be the best ledge – that’s where the fiercest fighting was occurring.
“<What is this word: [Heckin’].>” THE CAPTAIN asked the room. No one could reply. “<There, again. [Heckin’]. My matrix can’t pull context from this – it’s used in too many varied and obtuse ways. Who works with [Caroline]?>”
Ssharnak, Ashhs’ssk and Hsan all look at each other, nodding in silent agreement. “<Eshhsan, Ma’am.>” they reply as one.
“<Don’t make me review the security footage.>”
Hsan sighs. “<Aye, Ma’am. Everyone in engineering works with [Caroline], and she’s made plenty of friends throughout the rest of the crew – if we grunts don’t know her, we at least know of her.>”
“<That’s better. Has she ever used this word before, in conversation or writing?>”
“<I can only speak for myself, Ma’am>” Hsan begins, settling into the at-ease pose of subordinates trying to shift blame from themselves to someone else. “<But, there was one time in reference to a [Heckin’] good [boop].>”
THE CAPTAIN turned towards Hsan, movie forgotten for a moment. “<A good what?>”
He sighs. “<A [Heckin’] good [boop] – she then placed a finger on my snout and, uh, smiled.>” Hsan seemed to recall a fond memory, but only for a moment. “<This was, I believe, near the beginning of our tour – maybe a day, two days in. Other than that, no Ma’am, nothing that I can recall.>”
THE CAPTAIN analyzed Hsan, unblinking, for a few moments, before turning back towards the movie with a frown. “<…the matrix we gifted them should have the common and slang words for our anatomy in part of their basic packages. So why is it not kicking back an additional translation back to our datab->”
THE CAPTAIN never got to finish her sentence, as four things immediately happened: