Ta'alu'uol set a datacard on Y'ya'er's desk. "Here's the data you wanted. Qa'at'e said it was marked classified, so you'll have to use the code she gave you yesterday to read it." Ta'alu'uol turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Y'ya'er picked up the card and put it into the reader. Just as she was about to punch in the necessary code, a deep rumble filled the air, and the room darkened somewhat. Y'ya'er looked up from the card, thinking that there was a problem with the power supply. The lights in her office were shining just brightly as ever, but when she turned to look out the window, it was the sky outside that was dark. Y'ya'er frowned and took the card out of the reader. "Ta'alu'uol?" she called out.
Ta'alu'uol came back in with an expectant look on his face. "Need something?" Y'ya'er pointed out the window. Ta'alu'uol turned to face the window, and narrowed his eyes in confusion. The rumbling became stronger.
"Open a link to the Ministry of Science," said Y'ya'er calmly. "I want to know what's going on." She turned and began to walk out the door. "Oh," she said, stopping suddenly. "Route their response to my remote link." Y'ya'er continued out the door and made her way through the maze of corridors which formed the Central Office of the Diplomatic Corps. When she finally reached the lobby of the building and exited, she was not surprised to learn that 20 or 30 other people had had the same ideas, and were milling around outside. From this location, Y'ya'er could see that something was blocking the sun. It reminded her of an eclipse, but on a much smaller scale, since the sun was not entirely blocked. Slowly, the sky brightened as the object moved out of the path of the sun. Everyone was silent as they waited to see what would happen next. Y'ya'er was disturbed. She hurried back to her office, annoyed that she hadn't yet received a reply from the Ministry of Science.
As Y'ya'er approached her office, the door burst open and Ta'alu'uol came rushing out. "Y'ya'er, you're back." he said in a relieved voice. "The information from the Ministry of Science was too sensitive to go over public links, so they've requested that you go to their headquarters immediately."
Y'ya'er regarded him levelly. "Have a shuttle waiting for me downstairs." Ta'alu'uol hurried back into the office to make the travel arrangements as Y'ya'er turned and headed back downstairs.
* * * * *
After a short ride in the solar powered shuttle, Y'ya'er arrived at the Ministry of Science. She was moderately surprised to observe that two armed guards were posted at the door of the building. The guards let her pass into the building only after checking her authorization; a procedure almost unknown at the Ministry of Science. Just inside the door of the building, a guard was waiting to escort her to the appropriate office. After navigating the long, winding corridors characteristic of government buildings, the guard stopped at a door marked "Minister of Scientific Protocol: E'vi'irn Jy'a'yn." The guard stood to one side and motioned for Y'ya'er to enter.
"We have a … situation on our hands," said E'vi'irn, without taking the time for a greeting. "One which could determine the fate of every person on the planet." Not giving Y'ya'er time to respond, she continued. "Every schoolchild on Homeworld knows the story of the coming of our species to this planet."
Y'ya'er remembered. The teachers had drilled it into their heads year after year. All of the children despised the H'srik history lessons they received; the same dry, boring lessons every year. There was a civil war on the old Homeworld between the Traditionalist majority and the Progressive minority. Finally, the Progressives decided to leave and seek another home. The ancestors of today's H'srik found this planet, which was already inhabited by another race, who the H'srik call the A'ome'en. Fortunately for the predecessors of today's H'srik, the A'ome'en decided to let the H'srik live here.
For 500 years, the two races coexisted relatively peacefully and shared advancements in science and technology. At the time of the landing, the A'ome'en had already depleted many planetary resources and done great damage to the ecosystem of the planet. During the 500 years of coexistence, the A'ome'en spent much of the money they had allotted to scientific research on the improvement of their space travel technology. Eventually, they created a new technology which could 'bend' the laws of relativity in such a way that they could travel faster than light. The A'ome'en established many colonies on planets which were more pristine in other star systems. No one was quite sure why so many decided to leave. Perhaps they found a cleaner, newer world appealing. Perhaps they decided they would prefer to explore new territory, rather than staying on Homeworld. Whatever the reason, eventually, most A'ome'en had gone to live on the colonies. The few who were still on Homeworld, now a planetary minority, decided to follow them rather than live as a minority on their own planet. The last transport of A'ome'en left Homeworld more than 2000 years ago.
Y'ya'er snapped out of her daydreaming. "So what is happening now?"
E'vi'irn gave Y'ya'er a disapproving glance. "The object in the sky is the A'ome'en. A group of them have returned, and they want their planet back."
"What do you mean, they want it back? They want to coexist again, right?"
"No. They want us to leave." Ignoring Y'ya'er's surprise, E'vi'irn continued. "I want you to negotiate with them. Make them understand that since we have invested thousands of years developing this planet, and lived here for even longer, we have just as much a right to be here as they do. The ship has made contact, and we have arranged a meeting between you and one of their representatives. You will meet with their negotiator in 3 hours, on their ship. They are sending a shuttle to pick you up."
* * * * *
The shuttle landed softly, kicking up only a small cloud of dust. The sky darkened, calling to mind the events of the afternoon, as the setting sun slipped slowly below the horizon. The shuttle was quite different from anything the H'srik had. It had a boxy shape, the lines were far more angular than those on the sleek H'srik vehicles. When the hatch opened and Y'ya'er caught her first glimpse of an A'ome'eni in real life, she tried hard not to stare. It took great effort to tear her eyes away from the A'ome'eni's smooth, hairless skin and large snout. Its hands had short, stubby fingers, and the A'ome'eni was much smaller than most H'srik. Y'ya'er had to duck to avoid hitting her head on the ceiling of the shuttle as she sat down, but the pilot had plenty of room. She strapped herself in, and after a short ride, they docked at the main ship, which reminded her of a large version of the shuttle. The pilot escorted her inside, and introduced her to the A'ome'en negotiator, who turned out to be a male, though Y'ya'er couldn't tell the difference. Y'ya'er could not pronounce his name correctly in the A'ome'en language, but in the H'srik language, it came out roughly to Ma'ark Vi'iku'un'ya.
Vi'iku'un'ya lead Y'ya'er into a room which was decorated with traditional H'srik décor. Y'ya'er didn't have the heart to tell him that those kinds of furnishings hadn't been used for more than 1500 years. Interestingly enough, in spite of the traditional H'srik decorations, the seats were definitely A'ome'en. Y'ya'er sat down across the table from Vi'iku'un'ya. There was a moment of silence, then Y'ya'er took a deep breath and began to speak.
In a reasonable tone of voice, she began. "First of all, why have you suddenly returned and demanded this planet back? We've lived here for 2000 years since your race left. After your ancestors polluted the planet and depleted its resources, we cleaned up your mess. Now this planet is clean. It is no longer your place to try to push us off. As soon as your last transport left with no plans of return, you gave up your claim to this world."
"Let me explain," said Vi'iku'un'ya in a condescending tone of voice. "This is our planet. Our race evolved here. You were just…visitors. Who happened to take care of the planet for a while during our absence. And we thank you for that. Now that we're back, it is you who have no real claim here."
"Of course we do," retorted Y'ya'er, incensed. "After your ancestors decided they didn't want to live here anymore, you forfeited your claim to this planet. This is our only home, and your race has colonies everywhere. Why did you return?"
"Well," explained Vi'iku'un'ya patronizingly, "Beginning around 20 years ago, a group of young people decided that our species needed to get back to its roots. There was a war, which you may have heard of, that caused some relatively serious damage to some of our outposts. That's when we decided to launch a mission back to…what do you call our planet? Homeworld? And establish settlements here once more. We didn't realize that your race would still be here." Vi'iku'un'ya gave a sugary grin.
The A'ome'en were lying. If they had just decided on a whim that they would like the planet back, and had not planned this for years, someone like Vi'iku'un'ya would not be speaking her language fluently. Obviously they had realized that the H'srik would still be here, otherwise they would not have taken the time to learn the difficult H'srik language, which would be useless on an A'ome'en colony. Y'ya'er did not take kindly to being lied to.
"So why did you really come?"
"That is why we really came," said Vi'iku'un'ya. "In addition to the need for uranium dicarbide. You see, when we left, it was relatively useless to us. Although it has an extremely high melting point, it is also incredibly radioactive. To put it to good use, we needed it to be more stable. Now, we have the technology to stabilize it, and we want to use it for heat-resistant shielding on our ships. Uranium dicarbide isn't found on any of our colonies, and it's relatively plentiful here."
"You're trying to get rid of us to mine our planet?" questioned Y'ya'er.
"Well…yes. You might say that."
She decided to try something else. "You may have settlers come and live with our people, just as we once came to live with yours. They can mine the uranium in specific areas. We know from history that our races can coexist peacefully."
Vi'iku'un'ya shook his head. "No, no, I'm afraid that just wouldn't do. We need the whole planet. Remember, this began as our planet, not yours." Now he was being even more condescending than before.
Y'ya'er frowned. She did not like to be treated like a child. "And what if we decide not to give in to your demands?"
Vi'iku'un'ya's grin took on a more sinister quality. "That's not an option. You will leave this planet, whether you like it or not. The only question is, how you will leave."
Y'ya'er knew that the H'srik only had one choice. "Can I go back and talk to my superiors? We need to decide the best way to do this."
Vi'iku'un'ya smiled triumphantly. "Of course. We'll meet back here tomorrow afternoon."
* * * * *
Upon her return to the surface, Y'ya'er met with E'vi'irn again and reported on the situation. "In short," said Y'ya'er, "They will not accept a compromise. They demand that we move our entire race elsewhere and allow them to take the planet. We cannot allow the A'ome'en to have their way."
E'vi'irn smiled cunningly. "The Ministry of Science has anticipated the possibility that this would happen, ever since our telescopes detected the approach of the ship three months ago. Scientists have been working day and night to create the solution to all of our problems. We will never have to worry about the A'ome'en threatening us again."
"Just what are you planning on doing?" inquired Y'ya'er.
E'vi'irn got out of her chair and activated a scanner next to a box. After the scanner verified her identity, the box clicked open. E'vi'irn removed a small capsule and proudly presented it to Y'ya'er. "This capsule," she said, "Contains a slow acting virus which only affects the A'ome'en. The virus should have a 100% mortality rate and be extremely contagious. Unfortunately, we can't be sure of this because obviously, we haven't had a chance to test it. Because of our genetic structure, we are not susceptible. When you meet with Vi'iku'un'ya on the ship again, drop this capsule. After the A'ome'en leave, we will remotely activate it. In a single action, we will eliminate the A'ome'en threat forever."
Y'ya'er was shocked. "You mean...you would eliminate their entire race? How can we lower ourselves to this level? How could I live with myself after performing such an action? I cannot be a part of this plot."
E'vi'irn regarded Y'ya'er sternly. "You will do this, or you will be tried as a traitor to the H'srik race. You know what the penalty is for treason."
Y'ya'er opened her mouth to respond and realized that it was futile to try to argue.
E'vi'irn held out the capsule to Y'ya'er, saying "You know your duty to our planet."
* * * * *
The next afternoon, Y'ya'er returned to the A'ome'en ship. Once more, she sat in the room with the H'srik decorations across the table from Vi'iku'un'ya. "Vi'iku'un'ya," she asked him. "You are leader of this ship, are you not?"
Vi'iku'un'ya smiled smugly. "Yes. I am captain of all 20 members of this ship's crew. Most of our ship is automated, you know, so that's why the crew is so small."
Y'ya'er disliked his pretentious tone of voice. Unfortunately, she had no choice but to deal with it. "We are prepared to surrender our planet to you," she said sadly. "As long as you provide us transport elsewhere. However, you must first join us on-planet to sign a formal treaty with the terms of our agreement."
Vi'iku'un'ya's eyes took on a predatory gleam. "Certainly, we'll sign your treaty," he said in the voice one uses when indulging a child.
As they got up and left the room, Vi'iku'un'ya didn't notice the small pellet Y'ya'er dropped to the floor.
* * * * *
The signing of the treaty was to be performed in the largest hall in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many important officials in the H'srik government, as well as many ordinary H'srik citizens, attended. About 2 hours into the gathering, the occupants of the hall heard a loud explosion that caused the ground to tremble. Everyone except Y'ya'er rushed outside to see what had happened, but Y'ya'er stayed where she was and smiled vengefully. The people outside began shouting that the A'ome'en ship had exploded. Vi'iku'un'ya came running back into the building.
"What have you done?" he cried out.
"I have destroyed your ship," replied Y'ya'er coolly. " I suggest you thank me."
"What are you talking about?" demanded Vi'iku'un'ya.
"Be optimistic," she replied. "You lost your crew, and you will live out the rest of your days as the sole A'ome'en on Homeworld, but your race will survive."
Vi'iku'un'ya's powerful façade crumbled. "I'm…I'm…the only human on Earth…the only human…."
E'vi'irn ran into the building. She took no notice of the moaning Vi'iku'un'ya. Instead, she directed her attention to Y'ya'er. "Y'ya'er!! What have you done!? They will return! Do you understand that? They will return, and they'll want to know what happened to their ship! Do you understand what I'm saying? They will destroy us! Our whole people will suffer because of your actions! Y'ya'er, you're insane! You'll pay for what you've done." E'vi'irn called out to the guards standing at the door leading outside. "Guards! Seize this woman." E'vi'irn glared at Y'ya'er. "Charge her with treason."
The guards hurried into the building and grabbed Y'ya'er roughly, hauling her away. Y'ya'er called back behind her, "You can use your terrorist tactics if you want, but it won't help. I've sent a message to the A'ome'en. They know about the virus. Perhaps when they return, you'll have found a better solution."
This page and all the graphics on it are created by Erin Piateski, unless otherwise noted.
Questions, comments? E-mail me at home or at school.