Arbitrator Cajemaa subtly, or at least she hoped she was subtle, inhaled through her mouth as she smiled to the group of Kentari and Lukari scientists and engineers in front of her. Many of her colleagues, she could tell, were doing the same. All of that perfumed, fragrant nonsense the Lukari pump into their air, she thought to herself. I may never get used to that, though I’ve certainly smelled worse on New Kentar, particularly at ground level.
She bowed in greeting to the assembled team, thankful that the Lukari and Kentari people did not practice the hand-shaking greetings that members from the Federation attempted to use when they first visited her home world. Such familiarity was frowned upon back on New Kentar.
One Lukari stepped forward; Otaan, she presumed. She had heard that he was her Lukari equivalent – Kentari matters would be brought to her attention and Lukari matters to his. They were going to be acting as parents to a very diverse and agitated multitude of children. She just hoped that he would be a calming influence instead of a rousing one. Otaan looked up at her; he was squat for a Lukari. “Greetings, Arbitrator. Thank you for joining us aboard our ship.” If he was ill at ease in her presence, he didn’t let it show. “I am Administrator Otaan, and these are my lead engineers and scientists for this joint venture.” He said each of their names, his voice clear and even in tone.
“Welcome to all of you. Allow me to introduce my team as well.” Cajemaa presented her team and announced which Lukari and which Kentari would be working closest together. She could already sense the tensions that were forming between the pairs.
Otaan gestured to his computers. “We will be reaching the site in two cycles. We’d be pleased to share with your team, Arbitrator, some of our hospitality. We have some rooms that you can use to… freshen up. If the teams wish to start discussing their shared duties, they can. Let’s reconvene when we reach Dranuur.” A slight smile and a nod of his counterpart’s head ended the conversation.
Otaan was the last to arrive on the Kentari bridge. Even with indicators everywhere, he found the Kentari design aesthetic to be overly complicated and confusing. He hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come. Still, he could tell there were advantages to Kentari design. He, like some of the other Lukari, had noticed the attention to detail and durability in their systems. Now, if they could only do something about their life support technology – particularly the air quality regulators. Such sub-par engineering would not be acceptable on a Lukari vessel!
The Kentari Arbitrator gestured for him to join her. “Welcome to the bridge, Administrator. I thought you would all want to be here for this.” In other words, the Kentari were about to show off. On the view screen was an M-Class planet and a lot of terms and numbers. One line caught Otaan’s eye: ‘Hostile Bacteria – 82.3%’. “As you can see, we’ve arrived at our destination. We’ve already launched some probes down to the surface, and the results of various readings are on the screen. And yes, that’s not an error. There are actually only a few issues that make this planet uninhabitable for us, so we’ll just need to tweak a few systems.” She typed a few commands into her console. “Our joint biosphere engineering teams have already sent down a protomatter device similar to the one Captain Kuumaarke used on our moon.” She gestured to the console. “Administrator, would you like to do the honors?”
Otaan shrugged and stepped forward. What a peculiar attempt at diplomacy, he thought to himself. Planetary engineering with protomatter has been a part of our culture for quite some time. School children are familiar with it. Why choose me, when a Kentari would be more excited by the honor? Still, the effort had been made, and he was not about to snub the Kentari delegation on their own bridge.
“Most kind of you, Arbitrator.” He walked over to the console and pressed the button. On the screen, a number of small blips appeared on the planet below. But more visibly, the numbers started shifting. Water levels were rising, plant life was improving, and most importantly, the hostile bacteria count was dropping down to 0. Members of the Kentari delegation looked on with amazement, while his Lukari comrades looked to him for a response.
“Wonderful. A testimony to what our cultures can accomplish together,” he said, putting his best diplomat’s smile on. “Truly amazing. So - when do we land and start construction?”
“There are still a few tests we’ll want to run to find an optimal location for the initial colonial structures and production facilities. Can’t be too careful.” Cajemaa smiled. So unlike a Kentari, Otaan thought. They’re usually the first to break the soil and strike the tree. What a curious development!
Otaan got into step with Cajemaa as they carried more crates to the site. Cajemaa nodded to him, “Administrator.”
“Arbitor.” He took a deep breath, enjoying the planet’s fresh air. “I met our head of security just now.”
Cajemma couldn’t help but laugh. “Yes, he’s an acquired taste, even among our own people, but he’s good at what he does. He comes highly recommended. I’m told that he has kept the peace among the various teams down here... more or less.”
Otaan shook his head. “Yes, well… the teams are not getting along as well as I had hoped, though at least our base construction team seems to be somewhat amiable towards each other. Perhaps the others will take a few cues from them.” He genuinely wanted to see this colony succeed. His superiors personally imparted on him the importance of this project. They also reminded him of the risks. Cajemaa’s voice broke him out of his thoughts. “Sorry?”
Cajemaa frowned and repeated herself. “I said that I had heard that the Alliance was sending delegates to assist with the colony as well. Had you heard anything about that?”
“Not much.” He had heard the same rumor. He wasn’t entirely pleased that there was outside interference in this Lukari-Kentari experiment, but he hoped that they could, at the very least, act as impartial moderators. “Hopefully they will work well with us. All I know is that we are taking point on the design of this base. It’s a Kentari-Lukari joint operation, first and foremost. I don’t believe either of our delegations will appreciate another incident like the one that took place on New Kentar.”
Cajemaa frowned. “You’re referring, of course, to the disruption caused by the Lukari and their mighty Alliance allies, strong-arming the Kentari government with their superior technology and weapons.”
Otaan winced. That was not how he wanted this discussion to go. “That is a somewhat… incomplete interpretation of those events. Captain Kuumaarke and the Alliance forces did all they could to safeguard New Kentar in the face of Tzenkethi aggression – at some points while under fire from renegade Kentari military forces! And last I checked, our forces saved your people from extinction and despotic villainy.” He realized a moment too late that he misspoke.
“Despotic villainy? Typical Lukari, pushing your views on us as objective fact. If you don’t curb this superiority complex of yours, there will be no peace on this planet. I promise you that!”
“Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean- wait, what superiority complex? I’ve been trying to make this work from the start!”
“Oh really? Without providing even rudimentary access to your advanced protomatter matrix? Or trying to pretend everything was normal while you couldn’t even stand the scent of us? Oh yes, we all noticed. Looking down your noses at our “crude and overly militant” technology? You’ve all been judging us the entire time! We may not be purely in the right for all this, but we’re making the effort to try this here. Maybe you can climb down from your lofty pedestal and do the same!”
Otaan was shocked. He hadn’t seen this side of Cajemaa in all the time they spent working together thus far. And he knew she was right. “Alright.” He put down his box, took off his left glove, and extended his hand. Maybe there was something to that strange Earth tradition Kuumaarke had told him about.
“Let’s start over. I’m Otaan. I’m here because I believe in this venture, and I want to see us succeed as a joint people. Shall we shake hands on it?” He smiled at the confused look on the Kentari’s face before she clasped his hand and shook it rather firmly, as an Earther would. She had the grip of a metalworker, not a diplomat. He tried not to wince.
“I’m Cajemaa,” she said in response. “I too want to make this work, and I realize it’s going to take a lot of work from everyone here, regardless of what planet they were born on. We should get back to that.”
As Otaan nodded in agreement, she smiled and offered him some hand sanitizer.
“Oh, and Otaan? Let’s never do that hand-shaking thing again, please.”
“Agreed. That’s a practice best left to the Earthers. Wonderful people, if not a little too familiar.”
Ryon “Melange” Levitt
Staff Content Designer