“War Journal, Twelfth of Retwain.
I’ve managed to secure a meeting with a representative of the Terran Parliament. I haven’t been informed of who this representative will be, but I’m fairly certain that, given my experience so far here on Terra, probably will not be someone particularly important.
I will endeavour to present my government’s wishes to the Terrans as strongly as I am able.
End of entry.”
Draliv hadn’t realised the significance of where he was being shown to, despite Markeros’ insistence that this was a good thing. He was escorted by a member of the Terra Police Department in full uniform to a big black door with the metal number 10 nailed to it.
“Welcome to Ten Downing Street, General,” the officer said. He knocked on the door with a closed fist, and stepped back. The door creaked open, and he was beckoned in by a manservant.
The office he was shown featured armoured doors and was filled with a massive library of hardcopy books. Soft furniture was sprawled around, seemingly random, but even an old soldier like Draliv knew when something looked like it had been placed somewhere on purpose.
He had a sinking feeling that something bad was about to happen.
There was a man sat at the big mahogany desk, surrounded by digipads and hardcopy pieces of paper. Holographic busts hovered around the room, all showing this man’s predecessors in varying forms, flickering through several faces since there had been so many.
Draliv recognised him.
This was Conrad Joknass.
The Prime Minister of the Terran Consortium.
He’d expected some assistant or an aide to a minor MP, not the most powerful man in the Nineteen Galaxies.
Draliv’s paranoia, however, was working overtime.
Why was he being seen by the PM himself? Why not just a message, or an ambassador, or even someone like Markeros? Something was wrong, and he suddenly felt like he had a set of crosshairs on his forehead.
Prime Minister Joknass was apparently handsome for a Terran, with short hair, a tall slim build and sculpted cheeks. His dark eyes were penetrating, if such a thing was possible, and they had a cold calculating stare to them.
Joknass stood up from his desk and came around.
He had a grim look on his face, and Draliv was sure it was nothing good for Litin Prime.
The Terran premier held out a hand and Draliv shook it warily.
“Greetings General Draliv. It is an honour to meet the Hero of the Grag War.”
Draliv frowned. How would he know?
During the War, there had been rumours that the Grag were receiving outside help, but nothing could ever be proven, and it was put down to hearsay and frontline scuttlebutt. The Prime Minister’s words were an indication that perhaps those rumours had been true.
“I didn’t think Terra would be much interested in a little backwater like Litin Prime to know who I am and what I did.”
The premier shrugged.
“I like to know a little about all the worlds that send ambassadors to us. After all, you never know who might walk into my office.”
Draliv felt like there was a big cosmic joke being had at his expense.
The Prime Minister was being careful with his every movement, every expression. Draliv wouldn’t have been surprised if the man had had some sort of training in that regards. You never knew with Terrans.
“And what can the Office of the Prime Minister do for the ambassador from Litin Prime?”
“I had requested a meeting with a member of your government in regards to my planet forming an alliance with the Consortium. I hadn’t realised that it was such a high priority on your agenda?”
The Prime Minister gave him a sad smile.
Draliv knew something was up.
Joknass sat on the edge of his desk like he was posing for some grand painting of him. He didn’t offer Draliv a seat, suspecting that the alien ambassador wouldn’t accept it anyway. He was right.
“I’m afraid that the Terran Parliament cannot, in good conscience, accept Litin Prime into the Consortium. Nor can we sign any real treaty, not officially anyway.”
Draliv was stunned; he had been under the impression that Terra was desperate for allies. Although not joining the Consortium was one of the stipulations his government had given him, it was still a shock to hear it.
“May I ask why?” he said levelly.
“We have signed a treaty with the Grag, and are in the process of accepting them into the Consortium.”
“WHAT?!” Draliv couldn’t help himself.
Joknass looked embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, general, but this has been in the works for several years.”
Draliv glared at him.
“You mean those rumours we heard whilst we were being slaughtered by the Grag’s invading force were true?! They really were getting outside help? From the Terrans?!” Joknass started to say something, but Draliv cut him off. “The Grag invaded our world, slaughtered women and children, and brutally tortured and executed any who defied them. We fought them back and defeated them to their own world, making sure they couldn’t do it again. Millions of our people died to achieve that, and you are jumping into bed with them and not us?!”
The doors opened and two Police officers ran in, worry on their faces, weapons up and ready. They had been in instantly, hearing Draliv’s shouting and preparing for the worst.
The Prime Minister waved them back.
They looked at each other, nodded, and then retreated to the anteroom.
“You Terrans claim to be a beacon of justice and decency throughout the universe, but you’re nothing more than the rest of those you claim to abhor. I’ll be taking this back to my government, and believe me they won’t be happy.”
Draliv marched towards the door.
He stopped, wanting to say something more, something that might get through.
“Terra has lost its way, Prime Minister.”
Draliv left, furious anger on his face.
The Prime Minister slumped against his desk and sighed.
“Shit, he’s right.”
* * *
Draliv was still in a foul mood when he returned to the hotel.
Deniv didn’t say much; he knew better than to add more aggro to the burden of the Hero of the Grag War. He didn’t need to be a veteran or psychic to know that it was nothing good that had him in such a mood.
“Get me a line to the homeworld, I don’t care how you do it.”
“They already contacted us, sir.”
He nodded to the screen on the wall where the comms tablet was hooked up.
On it was the craggy-faced head of Litin Prime’s government head, Primary Praliv. There were more worry lines and wrinkles than Draliv remembered from the last time they had spoken in person.
“Primary; I wasn’t expecting you yourself to be the one contacting me.”
There was a time when Praliv would have taken offence at such a brazen comment. That had been back when they had both been rival candidate-officers joining Litin Prime’s Military School. Both were now much older and less prone to hot-headed anger.
“General; I understand you’ve been experiencing difficulties?”
“That’s an understatement, sir.”
There was something to Praliv’s face, something that was deeply troubling him. Draliv, however, knew better than to ask straight out.
“Make your report, General. How goes your negotiations?”
“They’re non-existent, sir.”
“The Terrans, they’ve… They’ve made a deal; a treaty apparently.”
“With who?” There was that something in his face again. As if he knew some detail he didn’t want to.
Praliv didn’t look surprised, his face unchanging.
“We detected one of the Terrans’ great dreadnaughts enter orbit of the Grag homeworld two days ago and then left six hours later. Now we know why. Before you start making your complaints, there’s more.”
Praliv sighed, rubbed his eyes. The picture fuzzed for a second, static filling much of the screen. He had been crying, Draliv could see that now, the rawness around his old eyes, the weary resignation in his posture.
“Four hours after the Terrans left the Grag, we detected a fleet of Grag warships leave orbit on a course for here. I’m sorry, Draliv, but everything we fought for during the War seems to be for nought. They are only days away now. Stay on Terra, ask for asylum; we can’t withstand another invasion, especially if the Grag have had outside help from the Terrans. You and Lieutenant Deniv; disappear, join the Terran Army or something. But don’t try and come home; you’ll be killed along with the rest of-”
The picture suddenly went blank.
“What the frag was that?”
It had looked like interference.
Draliv couldn’t speak.
He couldn’t breathe.
Deniv sobbed, his head in his hands.