USS Traveller
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Snake Charmer

Posted on Thu Jun 25th, 2020 @ 2:17am by The Narrator

Mission: S2:1: Good Will Gunboat Tour
Location: Recreation Deck
Timeline: MD26 12.15

The scene looked like something out of a Chinese tapestry from antiquity. A dragon, long and serpentine, holding court with various worthies and scholars on a grassy knoll under the stars. In actuality, the grassy knoll was holographic, as was most of the USS Traveller's RecDeck, allowing it to be an infinitely mutable environment suitably for anyone. This corner, in its current guise, was just a pleasant place to hold an informal interview.

The dragon, on the other hand, was much more real. The Casstaulli was three meters from snout to tail, with six limbs spaced evenly along it's body. The lower two were smaller, evolved to aid in mobility, whilst the top pair were dextrous and ideal for the use of tools. A snakehead, with a hood like that of a cobra, looked down on the assembled Starfleet anthropologist who had accreted around him when they had heard of a new species and culture as yet undocumented.

Like the Nagga's of ancient mythology, a mix of humanoid and non-mammalian traits, Mazarian sat in what passed for a cross-legged style, coiled up on the lower third of his tail.

"Ahh, you must be Counsellor Savin. Captain Remas comm'd me to say you would be joining me, I must say I looked forward to meeting a new face," Mazarain said, gesturing to one of the open mats arrayed on the floor near him. "Please, have a seat. I hope you do not mind that I changed the ceiling above to show the home stars I grew up under. Now that we can see them with our own eyes, they are...far brighter for being so close to them. I honestly did not imagine I would ever see them again."

Nalya watched the dragon-like creature. It was easy to assume that the creature was an oriental-style dragon. But as she focused on details she began to see small things that gave Mazarian its own features differing from how she imagined a dragon. She moved in closer sensually, her eyes slipping curiously over the creature. When offered a place to seat, Nalya nodded slightly.

Nalya approached and sat on the mats as close as she could to the Mazarian, and then crossed her legs.
“Thank you. Yes, I am Counsellor Savin, nice to meet you.” She gave the creature a soft smile. “How should I address you? And what is a typical way to greet your people? Do you have any specific protocol for that?” She asked curiously.

"I think you would find our traditional greeting to be most unpleasant, given you cannot speak on both an inhale and an exhalation," Mazarian smiled, a very human gesture "Though in my time among your people, I have seen many mannerisms that are commonplace among my people. The offering of a limb in greeting, to show that one is not armed or hiding ill intent. A simple greeting, informal, is what I prefer."

He chuckled.

"Though back home, I might suppose I'll have to fall back into the role of a noble of the First Ring. There are five such rings, each larger than the one above it. I am Mazarian, of Clade Highcrest, of the First Ring, and High Noble of the Brass Court. Highness is my traditional title, and I answer directly to the Arch Duchess herself," Mazarian frown, his amber and gold scales wrinkling slightly as he did so. "And here I had gotten so used to only spending a few seconds saying my name, now I'll have to order for refreshments before I do so. As for protocol, I think you'll find we will be breaking new ground. For you will be the first warp-capable advanced species, apart from our selves, we have met not chained by Myriad occupation. it shall be...interesting, as it were."

Nalya listened slightly smiling. She shook the offered hand and slightly tilted her head curiously as she was noting all the facts she was hearing in her head.

"So, Highness, you are a servant only to the Arch Duchess? In what way? As a diplomat? Are you related to her? Do you have others, who serve you? Hmm... though maybe 'serve' is not the correct word here." She smiled apologetically. "I draw parallels from known me history and cultures I learned about, Highness."

"All chosen to travel with the Myriad are elevated to such a station so that they serve the will and direction of the office of the Arch Duchess without prior commitment. And please, call me Mazarian. Allow me the small pleasure of informality among the people who, if the fates are kind, will be the spark that sets the chains of my people's bondage on fire," he asked.

"Do you think your people will be open and friendly in contact with us? Or the specter of Myriad will overshadow our meeting?" She added after a brief pause.

"I think they will gladly make merry at the prospect," Mazarian said. "My people are, as far we are aware, the only advance civilisation that has been able to fool the Myriad for this long. We hide our selves in floating cities within the clouds of the gas giant around which our home moon orbits. A token population remains on the moon, unaware of us, perpetuating the myth that we are but simple people. For centuries this ploy has worked, and my people have sent selected members of our society out to be the consorts and companions of the Myriad, to better seek knowledge and aid. Given you are the first success prior to the arrival of the Benefactor."

Nalya had an impression that Mezarian was playing her somehow. Telling their species' most secret secret to her, person he met for the first time? It seemed odd. She tried to look through the veil of emotions surrounding the alien in front of her to try to gauge how truthful he was.
"Who or what is the Benefactor? Is it a person?"

"Myth and a person might be a better descriptor. Long before my birth, and long before the Myriad arrived in our system, we were visited by a being we called the Benefactor. At this point in time, we had advanced to the point of travelling our own star system, seeking resources, advancing our science. So when a ship drifted into our system from interstellar space and decelerated into orbit of our home, we were...alarmed, at first. What alarmed us more was the message that ship carried. It warned us of the Myriad, their plans for us, and advised us on ways to hide and obfuscate our technology to their sensors. With the aid of the Benefactor, we were able to hide all of our society and evidence of our exploration within 80 years," Mazarian explained. "In the end the Benefactor hid as well, for it knew the Myriad would chase it across the stars as they had done so before. For a century we hid, awaiting their arrival or the return of the Benefactor. Alas, the Myriad arrived and the rest is a shameful pattern played out across the entirety of Messier 4."

At the core of what Mazarian was saying, there was a truth to it. It burned with the conviction of a faith, but shrouded in the compromises and promises made to ensure that success. There was a level of determination within Mazarian that made it clear he did not broach failure of any kind.

"You can perhaps now see why we sent so many of us out with the Myriad in hopes of finding someone like yourself, a group willing to aid or at least help us. I am sure once we have reached the cloud cities and make your introduction to the Arch Duchess, there will be much our two species can share so both might prosper."

Nalya nodded slightly and looking at Mezarian decided to touch on another subject. So far, he seemed to be truthful and while it helped ease some of her concerns she remained cautious.
"What about the egg with our Chief Engineering Officer, Mezarian? Is this a common thing for your people to do that before the first official contact?" She asked curiously gently shifting in her position.

"Ahh. Yes, that happy little complication," Mazarian said slowly, as though teasing the blade of a sword from the meat of one limb. He looked to the others gathered along with Savin. "Might, perhaps, I have a moment of private contemplation with this one?"

The blue-collared scientists from the anthropology department of the Traveller nodded acceptance, and rose. All to a one gave Nayla a hard glare, for she had made enemies of academics who not only nursed their grudges but grew them in peer-reviewed manure.

Nalya held the gaze, giving scientists a friendly smile. She could understand scientists’ emotions but she was not accepting their selfishness behind it. Though it was not her place to point them there were more important things here at play.

"I have been travelling for a long time with Abboarx, the name of the Myriad I partnered with. And I am young, veiril member of my species. I sought available comfort in another who shared my tastes," Mazarain said slowly, and diplomatically. "I did not intend for there to be so lasting a connection as a by-blow, interspecies compatibility notwithstanding. Nor the fact I have a promise made to another from my home. A foolish thing, given the length of time one such as I might spend in the company of a Myriad on their travels."

"So... are you telling me that was a mistake? A fling of youth?" Nalya asked warmly. There was no judgement in her voice. Just curiosity. "Do you think this will help us establishing contacts or the opposite?"

"I...do not know," Mazarian said with all due honesty. "It is a first, for both our civilisations. I can only hope that this is overshadowed by the fact we bring beings like yourselves before the Arch Duchess. I cannot think a child will derail such an achievement, not with so much as stake."

"How much do you know about the mother of the child? What is expected of her? Do you have rituals that she should be aware of? Like marriage? What is expected of the child?" Nalya kept asking. "Are you willing to stay with the child? With the mother?"

"That is a great deal to ask all at once!" Mazarian said, a strained expression of cordial politeness embossed on his scaled features. "It is something I have noticed with your species, you place an inordinate amount of importance on children. Of course their importance to the perpetuation of the species is without question, but the Casstaulli view is much different. Think of it like this, which is worse: the death of an infant hatchling, or an elder? One has potential, whereas the other has the sum total of their life experiences. A child is important and is raised properly within its Clade, but the paternal connection is shared among the entire clade. It is a responsibility among the entirity of the many scales of my people. As for the mother...well...I mean you have met Chief Engineer Zatra?"

"Briefly. And based on that, I wouldn't consider her as a mother of my children." Nalya leaned forward playfully. "That is why I ask also, because now all the questions are intended to catch up. You see, we, as the Federation, are relishing in meeting new species, exploring the galaxy, and learning new things. We are aware that there are infinite variations of cultures and laws, and that applies to children, relationships and so on. The process of knowing Casstaulli could take its course in an unobstructed way, but because we have now a child in the mix, we have to account for that. You say that my species places inordinate amount of importance on children. That might be the truth, especially in case of the females. But then you have Zatra, who is a different species. Now the first contact between the Casstaulli and the Federation, has this little complication, and I wonder what else is there."

"It is something to consider. There is much we can provide your Federation, and in return, you can aid us. The Myriad are a blight, a weed that chokes the life from any civilisation it touches. We were blessed by the arrival and warning of the Benefactor. But I am not privy to what might be asked, and what might be offered in exchange, by the Arch Duchess. I must, in that respect, be pragmatic. I am the sole success, if we are able to meet my people. All our hopes rest on you," Mazarian smiled. "You can understand, I do not mean to place pressure upon you."

"Do you have any words of wisdom for the meeting with Arch Duchess?" Nalya asked. "Will you be present at the meeting?"

"I will be present. As far as words of wisdom, enter into such a meeting knowing we have survived this long by remaining hidden. We have always planned to appear, but only in the presence of others who might aid us. Your Federation might be asked to give a great deal, but in return, we can provide much. As I have said," Mazarian conceded. "We as a people have been preparing for this day for centuries of time. It will be something of an understatement to say we have high expectations."

"What is the protocol for such meeting? For example, are we to bring gifts? Are there any taboos?" Nalya sighed. She wished she had deeper training in the first contact, or even better an experience. But she guessed this was going to be learning on the fly experience. Seems like something very much natural since she joined the Traveller.

"The protocol would be to place envoy and the Arch Duchess on the same level of society, to speak as equals to within the limits of their roles. That is only protocol, as this is the only meeting to have taken place. It must be held thusly because we come from such disparate places: so we must stand as equals. As for gifts...some form of assurance of your abilities, and in return a sample of what we can provide. We have not been idle in our time in hiding, and our technocrats are without peer if I am to be modest." Mazarian said.

Nalya nodded slightly, thinking fro a moment.
"Is there anything you would like to know?" She asked.

"I would adore knowing of your world, of your people," Mazarian said. "I know little of the Federation. Captain Remas has been a delightful conversationalist, but he is an outsider to your civilisation as I grasp it. You, I think, were raised within it."

"The Federation is not one planet. It is hundreds of worlds. Tens of different species." Nalya said. "I wouldn't even know where to begin. This is why we value diversity and cooperation."

"But you work for an organisation and a militant arm of that organisation that operates under the aegis of the whole. You might not serve an Arch Duchess, but you do serve a singular point," Mazarian said, leaning forward. "I have more questions."

Malya smiled.

 

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