“War Journal, Ninth of Retwain. I have been summoned to a banquet in the capital city as an official representative of Litin Prime. This will be my first official event, although I am not looking forward to it. I have given Lieutenant Deniv the night off to explore Edinburgh.
I wonder what will break first.
My heart or my patience.
End of entry.”
Despite Deniv’s insistence, Draliv had refused to bring him along.
He wasn’t sure why.
He just knew he didn’t want the young man to see how ugly their new jobs were.
The banquet, such as it was, had been an invite-only event, the wording of it making it seem like it was required without actually saying it. Although it had mentioned formal attire, he didn’t own any suits.
He had to wear his dress uniform, a black and purple number that hugged his aging body. He made sure his medals and campaign markers were visible as well as his rank pins. Although many would not recognise them as such, he felt like the warrior he used to be.
There was no limousine or driven car, he had to use the small two-man hover car provided by the Terran government. It was a generic vehicle, with controls that were easy to use no matter what race one might be, or what language one spoke.
The yellow vehicle tore through the sky, the wind blasting through his hair. The cold air of this massive island was cooling and felt good as he drove. The car’s navigation computer showed him a path across the building-encrusted landmass, passing high over several cities, including places called Manchester and Birmingham.
London wasn’t much different than what he had seen before.
The entire journey down had been composed of flying over varying degrees and styles of skyscrapers. The computer had occasionally noted that there were ancient buildings, places of interest that he ignored.
The people of this planet were too keen on building over its own history.
It irked him somewhat.
The sky was thick with traffic as he entered London’s airspace. He was directed to a building overlooking the River Thames, just downstream from the ancient Houses of Parliament. The building was a large hotel, the name BATTERSEA ROYAL emblazoned on the front in big neon letters.
A valet took the starter key and gave him a small card ticket in return.
He entered the lobby and followed the signs to the Reykjavik Room.
It was busy.
The invitation had been for a banquet in honour of all the ambassadors and representatives of non-aligned worlds currently treating with Terra. He knew this to be false, as he could see a member of the Alliance Fleet, as well as several Navy officers conversing in the corner.
The current Terran Prime Minister was talking enthusiastically with several representatives Draliv had never seen, their races unfamiliar to him.
Not that that was much of a surprise.
His knowledge of the universe outside of Litin’s little corner was limited, purposely so as to concentrate on the War. Now, though, he was seeing dozens of different races, mostly humanoid with the occasional cephalopod or feline. There was even something that looked like a giant lizard sat at one of the tables, its tail flickering about as if searching for something.
The room was high, floating chandeliers twinkling in the light, the walls and furnishings unremarkable, and the carpets plush and expensive.
He felt lost among this sea of diplomats and politicians.
Although he desperately wanted to seek out the military types, he was sure that he would be beneath their notice. He was the former commander of a backwater world’s military after all, despite winning against the Grag.
So he poured himself a drink of something called beer and stood to one side.
He still had not heard from his own government since landing on Terra. He was getting worried that he had been sent out here to rot, far from home.
Are they so scared of me that they send me out here? Do they actually think that the Terrans give a crunch about a tiny insignificant planet like Litin Prime? Draliv didn’t think so; he had never wanted political power, never even hinted at wanting it. He was a soldier, nothing more.
He stood alone with his drink, sipping it occasionally.
Nobody seemed in a hurry to head towards him, nor was he to they.
“Bored out of your skull?” a voice said from behind him. Someone stepped up next to him; a Terran wearing the olive-green of their Army. Draliv had yet to understand all of their rank markings, but didn’t want to insult the human by making a mistake.
“It wasn’t that long ago that I was a soldier, fighting for my people.”
The human, short and stout, nodded.
“I know what you mean.”
“If I may ask; the Terran government has a plethora of diplomats, why are you and the other military personnel here?” Draliv nodded towards the huddle of Navy officers, all looking bored and not wanting to be there.
“You and your counterparts are representative of a new wave of worlds with new opportunities for Terra.”
Draliv looked at the Terran curiously.
The Terran looked at him with a hint of sadness in his eyes.
“You name it, Terra wants it.”
Draliv frowned. “The Terran Consortium has endless resources. Are you suggesting they want something from my planet? Something that we may not be willing to give up?”
“You didn’t hear it from me,” the Terran soldier added. He sauntered off, not mingling with the crowd, nor even interacting with the Navy officers.
“Ambassador Draliv?” It was Markeros. “I could have driven to this event, or you could have had your aide do it.”
Draliv frowned at him.
“I’m not an invalid, Markeros. I’m quite capable of driving a simple hover-car from one side of an island to another.”
Markeros bristled at the indignation. “Yes, sir, but there are protocols to consider.”
“Markeros, have you ever served in a muddy trench?”
The young Terran shook his head, a little something like shame filling his cheeks.
“No, General,” he answered, his head hanging low. “I’m not sure any Terran has for centuries.”
“I thought not,” growled Draliv. “I’m an old warhorse, or so my government would have me believe. I’m not above driving myself to a banquet where people like me are uncomfortable and out of place.”
“Yes, sir,” Markeros replied automatically.
“All I’m saying, is allow me some dignity, yes?”
Markeros smiled and nodded. He was about to ask the young Terran what exactly was happening at this do when shouting echoed across the room. The doors were swung open, and several Terrans barged into the hall. Several of them carried signs declaring TERRA FOR TERRANS and ALIENS OUT.
“Great, the Terra Defence League,” muttered Markeros.
“A bunch of civilian idiots who want Terra to only be inhabited by Terrans. A pretty racist and outdated view that hasn’t seen the light of day here for millennia. I don’t believe in it myself, General.”
The TDL’s members carried on shouting for the aliens to get off their planet, but the other Terrans seemed to be paying them no real attention, other than embarrassment. The security guards, all private, barred their way, waving them back out of the doors.
“You can’t stop us!” one of them shouted. “We have a right to protest!”
“This is a private function!” Markeros suddenly bellowed, marching forward. Clearly, the TDL were winding his sense of honour up no end. “Therefore you are not even allowed in the building! Frak off back to your homes, or you’ll be arrested.”
Draliv had to suppress a smile.
It seemed, no matter what planet you were from, or what race, the military still used… colourful language.
The TDL were ushered out, still shouting out their creed, but the crowd were unsettled. Several left in one group, followed by individuals, one at a time.
Draliv sighed, his ambassadorial career currently non-existent.
Maybe if he told his government about this incident, they might see fit to cut ties to Terra.
Markeros apologised profusely.
“It’s alright, Markeros,” said Draliv, trying to calm the young man down. “Honestly, it didn’t bother me.”
That was a lie, he knew, but he wasn’t about to say it out loud, not even to Deniv. The fact was, it did bother him. Why was there such a minority of Terrans that wanted aliens off this planet? Humans were, after all, spread across two galaxies, interacting with other races on an hourly basis. There were dozens of different alien races serving in their militaries. How could there be some that were against it all?
He shook his head and left without another word, leaving Markeros befuddled and highly annoyed.
He waited for the valet to bring the car back around to the main entrance.
Voices were murmuring nearby.
When Draliv looked round, the three members of the Terra Defence League were standing there glaring at him. He could see it in their faces that they wanted to do harm to him. To make an example of the alien scum.
They weren’t trained, nor experienced.
Despite his age, he was still capable of damage.
The first swung his sign down at him like an axe, the wide piece of material acting like an air brake, slowing the makeshift weapon. Draliv caught it on his forearm before driving his fist into the owner’s stomach.
The assailant let out a “woof” of noise as the air left his lungs and stumbled away.
The second, the leader, took a wild swing that missed Draliv’s head by inches. He stamped down on the back of the Terran’s knee, crumpling his leg and twisting him around to expose the back of his neck.
Draliv jabbed him in the meat of his shoulder, pinching the nerve and rendering him unconscious. The third moved faster than he had thought possible, the sign swinging towards his head.
The wood of the pole connected with his forehead.
Draliv grunted and stumbled back.
Where were the hotel’s security? Why weren’t they getting involved?
Stars flashed before his eyes, and he struggled to maintain his balance.
Dammit, I’m an old fool for thinking I could take these men.
The attacker followed up with a whack to his side, a rib snapping. His old injuries slowed him, and the third hit came quicker than he thought possible for an untrained youth.
“Stay off of our planet, alien bastard,” the Terran spat. He kicked Draliv’s chest before he could defend himself. Draliv coughed up blood.
Another hit didn’t land.
The Terrans ran off when the valet returned with Draliv’s car.
Draliv stayed conscious for long enough to see the valet come running out, worry on his face.
I’m done for.