Ambassador Ylyne walked swiftly down the corridor of the scout base on the third moon of Jekta One--a single-planet system three sectors from Solaris. She was wearing the traditional formal dress of Talented ambassadors; a gray sleeveless gown belted with a blue jeweled buckle, with long pieces of blue silk sewn to the sides of the gown and looped over her arms. A small energy weapon was attached to the belt--the Kitarens had long since given up protesting the fact that the Talents never went anywhere unarmed, even on missions of dimplomacy. It was a tradition born of their long fight for survival on their homeworld, Solaris Three, a planet the Talents referred to as Terra. Why the Talents should go to the trouble of naming an individual planet in place of the much simpler numbers had always been a mystery to their Kitaren associates.
Ylyne finally reached her destination--the formal meeting chamber at the end of the corridor. There was only one other person waiting for her upon her arrival; the Kitaren ambassador Bevac. He stood when she entered and bowed his head in the formal Kitaren greeting to someone of equal rank. She returned the greeting, and then he spoke.
"Ambassador Ylyne. I am glad that you chose to respond so promptly to my message." She didn't like the way he made it sound as if she had been obligated to make the journey all the way from Earth. In fact, she had been tempted to wait a few days, just to show him that, contrary to his arrogant thinking, she was not under his authority. From her as-yet-limited experience with Kitarens, she had gotten the impression that they took it for granted that they were better than any other race they encountered and that any member of those other races had to do what any Kitaren told them to. Well, the Talents were one race that were not going to be intimidated by the Kitarens, and Ylyne had every intention of showing Ambassador Bevac that she wasn't afraid to stand up to him. This was actually her first meeting with Bevac since she had been appointed Ambassador a few weeks before, but she was fully confident of her capability to handle any situation.
"Ambassador Bevac, I must confess that I see no reason for this meeting. The agreement between our two races has long been finalized--in exchange for a great portion of our technology, the Kitaren government has agreed to leave Earth out of their conquest for more worlds to add to their empire. All negotiations are over; we have nothing left to discuss."
"I am afraid, my dear Ambassador," answered Bevac, "that you are quite mistaken."
"Explain yourself, then."
"Ambassador Ylyne, my government has made it my duty to inform you that, exactly two days ago, the agreement which you have spoken of was declared null."
There was silence a moment as Bevac let this sink in. Ylyne's eyes slowly widened in shock, and her irises turned black and then red as her anger began to flare. "How is this, Ambassador Bevac?" she asked in a tight voice. "Do you mean to tell me that, even after we gave you the enourmous amounts of technology that you agreed would be adequate to leave my homeworld alone, you still intend to attack it?"
"I believe that would sum it up, yes."
"Do you realize what you are doing?!"
"I am afraid, my dear Ambassador, that, after studying reports of your planet, we have concluded that there is simply no way any offer of yours would make it worth our while to ignore it. There is an abundance of minerals, animal life, water, and other natural resources. We need planets such as Solaris Three--badly. However, you did indeed pay us well in technology that has proved very useful to us--and for that, we will in turn offer you something that will be worth the price you paid--and more."
"Will you, now? You would give us something that could repay us for our home? Our planet?"
"More than that, Ambassador Ylyne. We will give you your planet itself."
Ylyne stared. What did he mean by that? "I believe, Ambassador Bevac, that our homeworld is already in our possesion--and we certainly do not intend to give it up easily."
"Do not take me for a fool, Ambassador! I know your history. Your homeworld is anything BUT in your possesion. As long as your race can remember, you have been hunted. Born of human parents, and yet shunned by humans because your unique abilities, you have been forced to hide yourselves, even to the point where they have no knowledge of your existence. And now, when they have forgotten you, these naive, these primitive humans, are filling the world which you hold dear--the world that is yours as much as theirs. And you, the Talents, are being slowly but surely left with two options: hide amoung the humans and never let them hear of your abilities. Live like them. Speak in their languages. Let your society progress at their sluggish pace. Or--leave your home. But you will choose neither. You have not the will to survive--not enough to force you to sacrifice either of these things which you value so much. And so...and so, instead, you will continue to try to live as you have been--in secret, in the now-few places that no humans will go. And as these places become fewer and fewer, sooner or later the humans WILL learn of your existence. And they will root you out. And they will kill you all--as they almost did, many millenia ago. Don't pretend it isn't true, Ambassador Ylyne. You know it is. You know that it will happen. And still--you would do anything, anything, to preserve this planet, and with it, the race that will eventually spell doom for you."
Ylyne knew. He was speaking the truth--the truth that had always been obvious to her, but that she had never dared to admit to herself, or to anyone. He was confronting her with the fact that her race would, sooner or later, die. But there was no way to stop it. No way at all. "And your point, Ambassador Bevac? What if we are wiped out? Will the Kitaren empire move to save us? I think not. What buisness is it of yours? And," she added, as she began to guess where all this was leading, "do not think that you can tempt us to simply let you conquer our world. Slavery is no better than a life of being hunted. If you know us as well as you say you do," her voice rose as she spoke, and she looked him in the eye as she delivered her last line, "you know that we would rather die than bow our necks before the yoke of the Kitaren Empire."
Bevac looked a little odd for a moment. She guessed he was not used to one of another race being so bold. But then he laughed. "No, my dear Ambassador." She grit her teeth at the way he kept refering to her. "I said that we could give you your planet, and I meant it. Other than it's resources, we have no need of it. It has no strategic position, it is not near any other planets of value."
"And your point, Ambassador?"
Bevac leaned forward and looked her right in the eye. "Join us, Ambassador Ylyne. We can take Solaris Three away from those petty humans and give it to you. Just think of it--you would be free to live without fear! You could rule the world that has always been yours! Never having to worry that the humans would discover you; never being hunted again! And in exchange, you would simply trade us the surplus of your planet's resources." He stood up from his chair. "And, most of all, you would survive. Do you understand what this means?! I am giving you the oppurtunity to save your people! You would never be hunted again!"
Ylyne went white to the lips. Her eyes turned black, then blue, then yellow. She looked at Bevac as if he had struck her. For a long, long moment, a battle raged inside her head. She could do this--all it would take was a simple 'yes!' She could save her people--could give them the one thing they had always wanted! A home. It was so simple! And it was right within her grasp. She had only to reach out and take it... But...but there was always the price it would cost. Could she pay that price? Was it worth it? To build their own happiness on the backs of others...wasn't that what the Kitarens had always done? The very reason that the Talents so despised the Kitarens? In the future, would some other race would despise the Talents as they now despised the Kitarens? On the other hand, what did it matter? Her people had a right to live, a right to be able to live in freedom on the world that was their home, without fear. It was their right, their birthright! And faugh on anyone who would take that right away from them! Here she was, making excuses for her defense of the race that had taken away that right, that would spell doom for her and all her people! But had they really meant to take away that right? After all, her people had seen to it that the humans had almost comepletely forgotten about the existense of the Talents. If they continued to spread throughout the earth, it wasn't really because they were trying to drive the Talents out! It was only because they wanted to find room for their own inexplicably skyrocketing population! Even when they HAD hunted the Talents, centuries before, was it really animosity...or just fear? Of course it was fear. It was not the humans fault that the Talents were dying--at least, they could be in no way responsible for their actions. All the same, though. The Talents still had to deal with the reality that they were dying out--would very soon be faced with the choice to leave their home, forsake their heritage, or die. It didn't matter whose fault it was; they were still dying! And she could stop it! Why in all the heavens' name didn't she take this oppurtunity. Because. Because it was wrong, and she knew it. It was, plain and simply, wrong. Her people just couldn't build a society on the backs of innocents. And even if she took this offer, she knew there would come a day when everyone would look back and say that it would have been better to die than have taken this offer. As the many of the Kitarens did. For their empire had started in a very similar way--and now, this was where they stood. She could not--allow that mistake to be made twice. She could never bear to see her people become the mosters the Kitarens were.
She stood up to face Ambassador Bevac. "And what of the blood?" she asked him in a shaking voice.
He stared at her. "I am afraid I do not understand you."
"The blood of the humans! The race on whose backs we would build this home that you are offering us!" her voice rose as she spoke. "They may have hunted us--they may be killing us! But it is only out of fear! That is why we have never fought back! What you suggest would be to betray everything we have ever valued! If we were to accept this offer, then yes, it is true, we would survive. But all generations to come would look back on us NOT as the saviors of our race, but as heartless killers who would spill the blood of innocents to save our own wretched hides!"
He stared at her. She almost smiled grimly--no one had ever stood up to him like this. He had no idea what to do. In a voice shaking with emotion, she delivered her final words. "To you, that may be acceptable. But we will never, never be like you!" Abruptly, she turned and walked to the door. Just before exiting, she looked back at him. "We will fight you, Ambassador. You are wrong--we ARE survivors. We have made it this far, and we will never, never give up. So we will fight you...and we will win. Or die." Then she turned and walked away, without looking back. Never, never looking back.
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