First Contact Procedures, broadly, were meant to do three specific things:
(1) To ensure the safety and security of your home species
(2) To determine the intentions and capabilities of the discovered species
(3) To begin peaceful communications in a slow, deliberate way
And since First Contact Procedures were the part of the book that you scribbled notes over, that was basically the sum total of every mariner’s knowledge of them. To The Three Stones’ credit, it only took them 6 hours to gather their wits about them, and another 2 hours to find a serviceable copy of that particular chapter in their handbook, but once it was put in the Matron’s talons the bridge moved like a well oiled machine.
Step One: Ensure the safety and security of your home species
“|Engineering is go. Routing connection to Shepherd.|”
Step One was to scatter a subset of drones and skip them outside of the system; of the ones that survived, ping one of them at random to connect to your home sectors.
“|Good. Ah, EM Lord-|” Matriarch Tr’Nkwi said, the sound of soft metal pages being turned over and back again filling the pauses between conversation.
“|Nothing coming in. No additional gravity wells, but I’m certain there’s a passive detection sink-|”
“|Alright, keep your eyes open for re-enforcements. Navigation-|”
“|All telemetry set, ma’am. We’re clear for 4 vectors, plus a slow road to the target-|”
“|Nothing, ma’am, but we’re shielded an-|”
Step one was very important – the most important, really, which is why it’s step one. You make sure to let your people know where the potential enemy is, without letting the enemy know where your people are.
With an innocent ping the Engineering lead interrupted the conversation. “|Connection through drone 12 established with Shepherd …Krri’ik’ti. Shepherd on screen.|”
Without any ceremony the visage of a grayed, aged Karnakian popped up on the monitor wall, a small bemused smile on his face.
“|Well, greetings and blessings to you, Matriarch Tr’Nkwi of The Three Stones. Let me guess – Run out of fuel? Or are your survey holds full already?|”
“|Shepherd Krri’ik’ti, blessings and greetings to you as well – no, nothing so simple. Are we – any movement?|”
“|Nothing|” EM Lord Itick’’t said, continuously scanning the skies.
Shepherd Krri’ik’ti frowned. “|-Ah. Pirates, I take it. Well, we’-|”
“|Shepherd Krri’ik’ti, forgive me for my bluntness – it’s first contact.|”
To his credit, Shepherd Krri’ik’ti paused for only a moment before looking somewhere offscreen, a flurry of undefined sound beginning to pick up behind him. “|And we’re…|”
“|Yes sir – as you-|”
“|Yes… I see. Incredible. You’ve been hailed?|”
“|No sir. Nothing.|”
Step Two: Determine the intentions and capabilities of the discovered species
“|I’ve passed this along straight to the Diarch’s offices; it’s an auspicious day, certainly, but they do border our space…|” Krri’ik’ti murmured, looking over the data. “|No hails, no warp signatures – we’re certain they’re not masking in corvettes with their other planets’ gravity wells?|”
“|We’re -|” Tr’Nkwi spared only a glance at EM Lord Itick’’t before looking back. “|- certain. Nothing. I have some of our crew studying previous first contacts, but-|”
“|Hm? Ah. My… colleague here suggests they could be farming culture, like the M’brujj. Did you verify that with- you did? Ok-|”
“|I’m sorry, the what?|”
“|The M’brujj – the sect and practice have fallen out of favor, but, a long time ago…sorry, the AI is still pulling the data into a heuristic thesis analysis, but they would apparently set up colonies on far-distant worlds, give them enough technology to be self-sustaining and have a certain standard of living, a way to communicate with the core worlds… and then just leave them there for a couple millenia.|”
“|Mmm. Pseudo-isolation would create unique cultures – actually this makes some sense – cut off from interstellar trade for so long, locals would be forced to innovate. After a few thousand years they’ve either made their own starships and come back into the fold, or they’re reclaimed by the Diarchy as a whole. Notes are exchanged and everybody benefits.|”
“|That would explain why we haven’t been hailed; They probably don’t have an active array.|” EM Lord Itick’’t interrupted, continuing to scan. “|Without an active array, the only direction you can beam is right back home.|”
“|So… they’re a stranded colony until they figure out what our intentions are.|” Mused Tr’Nkwi, studying the blue-green orb projected on-sreen. “|Stranded at least, until the core worlds check back in with their colony.|”
“|They probably thought they were alone.|” Mused Shepherd Krri’ik’ti, looking over the expanding data thesis. “|That would explain why they broadcast on all spectrums; nobody else is around to hear, so why worry? And what stupid band of pirates would attack an entire colony world?|”
“|So, what are we looking at here in terms of capabilities?|”
“|Mmm. Mostly-unified species, most likely. From what you’ve shown us… a middling colony. Plenty of population centers, farms – probably just another colony copy of their core worlds. AI’s giving it a 94% chance within acceptable deviations.|”
“|Alright. So what’s next?|”
“|Well. According to my never-before-opened copy-|” Shepherd Krri’ik’ti chuckled, holding up a pristine, ancient manual, “|-we’re to form an Armada through the Crusade. That’ll be… checking the deployment maps here – with the jump data you’ve given us, say, another 3 days?|”
Step Three: Begin peaceful communications in a slow, deliberate way
“|I see. Shepherd, I don’t like sitting still-|”
“|Oh, no no. This glory falls upon you – we can’t… no one would want a strange ship sitting still in their system for days. You’re to make first contact; exchange gifts, pleasantries, show them we mean no harm. Probably once you let them know you’re just a simple survey vessel they’ll welcome you with open arms.|”
Matriarch Tr’Nkwi laughed mirthlessly. “|And if they don’t?|”
The greying Shepherd looked flatly at the Matriarch. “|Well from what we’ve deduced they have no in-system fleet, so it’s not like they can stop you from leaving. And if they do…|”
The Shepherd’s stare grew noticeably colder. “|That’s what the Armada is for.|”
“|So. Take the most obvious route to their primary colony world, maintain communication silence until we show up – does your EM Lord agree?|”
“|I don’t like it, but I agree. The last thing we need is this species to backtrack our signals…|” EM Lord Itick’’t grumped, tapping a few more things into his console.
“|I don’t understand – I thought we were communicating securely – Engineering?|”
“|Ah – Ma’am. If they figure out where we’re beaming to, they could jump a fleet to that endpoint without us ever knowing – the drones are skipped out randomly. From there, it’s as simple as waiting for us to pick the wrong drone to update central on…assuming they don’t just dismantle the thing and backtrack us from there.|”
“|We’re masked by this giant lord’s-|” Itick’’t gestured to the gas giant idly as he continued to work “|- majesty, so this far out our communications have a wider variance; we’re harder to track and we’ll obviously know if we’re being tracked, what with a ship warping in and hailing us.|”
“|I see. And we’re certain that reinforcements will be here in 3 days? I just-|”
“|I’ve already received a processed order from the Diarch’s altars, with their personal seals. You will be getting an Armada of ships in that system in the next 3 days, and neither the silence of the dead or the void will stop them.|”
“|A…alright. Then with your leave, Shepherd, we’ll…|” Matriarch Tr’Nkwi looked down at her manual before hesitatingly looking at her Engineering lead. “|…remote detonate the drones and maintain communications silence until the fleet arrives.|”
“|Aye, Ma’am.|” Engineering lead Strri’rii said, tapping a few buttons on his console.
“|Good luck, Matriarch. You have full authority of the Holy Diarchy behind you; fear nothing and stride forth.|”
“|Yes.|” The greyed administrator said, his smile becoming somehow bittersweet. “|Until we meet again, you have full authority. Enjoy that while it lasts.|”
“|. . . Yes, Shepherd.|” Matriarch Tr’Nkwi said, and bowed her head. The crew slowly followed suit, and in that silence deep in the void of space the only means of communications that The Three Stones had with their home, detonated.
Silence fell on the bridge once more, and in silence Trra’ira Piloted their ship towards an intercept vector to parts unknown.
“|~~~~*!|” Tk’il’a continued to trill through the tape that clenched his jaw shut.
– – – – –
Throughout Mankind’s history, there have been a plethora of bad people, bad ideas, and bad speeches.
Sometimes the three of them form a venn diagram of crap and somehow take off, and then you get Disco.
Sometimes just one of the three finds a home in a person, and they change the world forever. Lookin’ at you, inventor of the Interrobang.
But sometimes good people with good ideas can articulate them in terrible, terrible ways. Anyone remember that one guy who screamed during a US Political campaign and that just ended his career? Those were innocent times. There’s JFK’s “I am a doughnut” speech too. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum you have Marie Antoinette, or Idi Amin; terrible people saying terrible things.
President Carter was neither terribly good, nor terribly bad. He was pragmatic; he made deals, he kept the government running – something his predecessor couldn’t say – and he stuck to his morals, but wasn’t so inflexible as to make progress impossible. All in all, he was a decent President who would go down in history as the man who led the country through The Great Upheaval, as it would be known in the more academic circles, or “That giant clusterfuck” as it would be known to everyone else.
He would also go down in history as the man who gave the worst speech of all time. He didn’t know it at the time, of course; Standing at the dais with papers in-hand, he was expecting to go through a simple speech of reassurance to the populous, to raise their eyes to the skies with wonder, to ignite the fire of passion that lies dormant in the hearts of his fellow man.
What he did not mean to do was react to the news that whispered into his earpiece mid-speech that the Anomaly has moved and is coming here with the outburst, “What do you mean it’s coming here?”
This was followed up by about 15 seconds of silence.
President Carter licked his lips. “Alright… so firstly: Nobody panic.”
This was followed up by about 15 minutes of frantic questioning, phone calls, police sirens and the mobilization of the greatest Military machine mankind had ever known.
– – – – – –
“|I don’t like it.|”
Matriarch Tr’Nkwi leaned over her station, sighing heavily. “|You haven’t liked anything about this. You don’t need to keep reminding us.|”
“|No, it’s… It doesn’t make any sense.|”
“|It’s an alien mind – our best bet is to move slowly and deliberately – Pilot?|”
“|We’ll be in orbit of the binary planet system within the next 4 hours.|” Trra’ira said, smoothly steering the ship forward.
“|It’s more – wait. We’re…|”
“|Itick’’t I will rip out your tongue if you keep drifting off in mid-conversation-|”
“|Apologies Matriarch. I think we’re getting hailed. It’s just so difficult to determine – they’re not really using any specific EM band-|”
“|Well, put it up on screen-|”
Itick’’t frowned and did as he was ordered – and on screen were multiple, multiple scenes of carnage. Cities alight, aliens in the streets and thoroughfares – dressed in strange garb, doing strange things – others in uniform, firing onto the crowd-
“|Well that’s a riot.|” Security Chief Ri’tiki said, staring intently at the blue-clad soldiers on-screen.
“|Then we should hurry – finding out you’re not alone in the universe, this is probably traumatic for them-|”
“|Aye. That’s also…|” Ri’tiki trailed off as one of the points of view panned up, a few obviously militarized flying machines hovering overhead, while a few other aliens in fatigues spoke behind flagg’d backdrops. “|…interesting. Multiple classes of soldiers, possibly?|”
“|What do you think is happening? Are they militant – or is it more they’re trying to keep order?|”
“|Well-|” Ri’tiki scratched his cheek, pulling loose a few errant feathers. “|-we’re well within range of GIM bombardment, but we’ve detected no lock-ons or Maser fire or anything else, if my EM Lord and Pilot’s lack of screaming is anything to go by.|”
“|So more to keep order, you think?|”
“|I’d venture so. Keep order, fortify your most precious assets, let the guest call from the gate first. For all we know, their core belief system could demand they be alone in the universe, so there’s no telling what we’ve done to them.|”
“|Unfortunate… We should stay in orbit once we-|”
“|Ma’am, I don’t mean to interrupt-|”
“|Yes you do, Itick’’t. What is it?|”
Wordlessly the EM Lord put the planet back on screen – and zoomed in dramatically, past debris and archaic abandoned satellites, to…
“|What is that?|”
“|It’s a… I’m almost certain, it’s a space station, Ma’am.|”
“|That. That’s a Space station? Are you certain it’s not a passive relay-|”
“|Aye… ma’am. I’ve scanned and pinged it on every frequency that would make sense – it’s got no internal power. I’m almost certain it’s 100% solar powered-|”
Dumbfounded silence settled on the bridge crew yet again.
“|…it’s not solar as backup-|”
“|No, Ma’am. There’s no indication of any sort of internal power structure.|”
The bridge crew – and the whole of the viewing gallery – sat there, puzzling over this new oddity.
“|I…if I may?|” a small, quiet voice piped up. It was so quiet and so soft that normally it wouldn’t have been noticed, but as the muffled trill of Tk’il’a had long-since become omnipresent background noise it stood out like a sore thumb.
Matriarch Tr’Nkwi turned her head and looked up at Junior engineer Ch’tki’ea, motioning with her hand to continue.
“|A-ah, um. What if… what if this isn’t a colony world? What if it’s their home?|”
Engineering lead Strri’rii snorted, crossing his arms. “|Really? The odds of that are so far outside of the deviation standards that it would… that would………|” he trailed off in silence as his mind began to work overdrive, sharing a now-terrified glance with his crewmates.
That would explain the lack of technology.
That would explain the lack of hailing.
That would explain the fact that there’s no orbital defenses.
That would explain everything.
Pilot Trra’ira swallowed dryly as he moved into orbit above a panicking, burning, roiling, primitive world.