The Span Of Empire – Snippet 44

The Span Of Empire – Snippet 44

Chapter 23

It had been six days since the fleet had emerged in the system from their last jump. Dannet had congregated the fleet well to the galactic north of the star, above the system’s ecliptic. There they had waited while the Lleix, especially the Terralore elian, finished learning the language of the natives–or languages, rather. According to Lim, there was evidence of at least five different languages in use. One of them seemed to be dominant, however. The majority of the transmissions from the two inner planets were in that tongue, as well as all the transmissions from the outer reaches.

It was a situation much like Terra before the conquest, Caitlin mused. Many more than five languages then, true, but even then English had been the dominant tongue, despite the arguments of the French and the Chinese to the contrary. The conquest and occupation had simply sealed that position, as the Jao only learned one human language, and refused to speak to anyone who wasn’t conversational in it. Hopefully they would avoid that position of hubris here, but they had to start with something, so language #1 it was.

Caitlin looked at where the three Lleix sat together in her conference room. “Okay, tell me what you’ve got.” She sat back and let the Lleix take over the command meeting.

“We have detected at least five different primary languages in the broadcasts from the home planet we have listened to,” Pyr began, “as well as several dialects of at least two of them. Only one of those languages is in use in the other system locations, so we have focused on interpreting that one. All the names we will use are from the primary language.” He looked Caitlin’s direction.

“Understood,” she said, and waved a hand.

“The system primary is called Khûr,” Pyr continued.

His pronunciation of the word had a very nasal timbre. “Khûr,” Caitlin said, trying to reproduce it. “Okay, I’m going to have to practice that one. Go on.”

“The name means Holy Light in the primary language,” Garhet picked up the thread, “and that colors almost everything else we have been able to learn about the people.”

Lim spoke next. “It’s not clear if they consider their star to be a god, or if they only consider it to be a monumental sign of divine favor. There hasn’t been that much background available in the broadcasts. But they call themselves the Khûrûsh, which translates to People of the Holy Light.”

The nasal sound hit twice in that word. “Khûrûsh,” Caitlin whispered to herself, trying to push the sound through her nose to get the proper nasal tone to the u’s. Such an interesting sounding name, for the first independently contacted extraterrestrial race in human history.

“The home planet is Khûr-shi, which translates to Khûr’s home.” The sensor reports had established that the planet was a bit smaller than Earth, but occupied a similar location in its system that Earth did in the human solar system, albeit it was the second planet out instead of the third because the system didn’t have a Mercury analog. Multiple continents, blue water oceans, ice-caps, slight axial tilt; not an exact duplicate of Earth, but very similar. The fleet techs didn’t have an exact read on the atmosphere yet, but what they could determine was also a close match to Earth’s. Jao, Lleix, and humans could probably walk around without needing air masks.

“The major moon is named Khûr-liyo, which means Khur’s little sister. The minor moon or planetoid is named Khûr-io, which we think means something like Khûr’s dog or Khûr’s wolf. It definitely a reference to an aggressive animal of some kind, but we haven’t seen a picture yet of what it could be like.” From the sensor reports they knew that Khûr-liyo was approximately 2600 kilometers in diameter, which made it not quite three-fourths of the diameter of Earth’s Luna. This meant it was less than half the volume of Luna, and presumably less than half the mass. Khûr-shi would have noticeable tides, the science guys had reported, but not as strong as those of Earth. Khûr-io, on the other hand, was too small and too far out to have much of an effect on the surface of Khûr-shi.

Caitlin reminded herself that the Lleix were speaking from only six days of listening to old-fashioned radio and television broadcasts, and they’d only deciphered the video output three days ago. It was a miracle they had come up with what they had. “So what are the people like?”

“Scientifically and technologically, they appear to be somewhat beyond pre-conquest Terra,” Garhet said, “but we see nothing that indicates that they have any form of interstellar travel yet.”

Tully stirred in his seat down the table from Caitlin. “Are all their signals in the clear?” When Garhet looked to him and raised his aureole, Tully expanded, “Do they encode any of their signals, or is everything open for everyone to listen to and read?”

“Some three per-cent of what we have listened to in the last six days has been coded. Multiple systems have been used.” Garhet spread his hands. “Some we have deciphered. They appeared to be used by commercial interests. Others still resist our efforts, and those we suspect belong to governmental organizations.”

“Or military,” Fleet Commander Dannet added. Garhet nodded in acquiescence to the statement, but said nothing further. The point had been made that this civilization was not an elysium. With that dark thought in her mind, Caitlin motioned for the briefing to continue.

Pyr touched a control on his com pad, and a hologram sprang into being above the table, slowly rotating to give everyone a chance to view the figure. “This is a representative member of the species.”

“It’s a damn fox,” Caitlin heard Tully mutter. She had to admit that the face was definitely vulpine, and the russet colored fur and mane just reinforced the perception of a vertical fox; with one slight change from the Terran model–it had six limbs. The hologram blinked to another image, this one of a different Khûrûsh, caught as if in the act of running on all six limbs.

“What they look like doesn’t matter,” Caitlin said. “What is their society like?”

Lim took over. “Very structured, very controlled.”

Caitlin raised her eyebrows when nothing more was said. “Can you give me more than that?”

The Lleix were silent for a moment, then Lim said with what appeared to be reluctance, “They are much more authoritarian than Jao, or even Lleix.” Caitlin pursed her lips and almost whistled, stopping when she remembered the Lleix phobia. “Out of human history, there are strong parallels with pre-Meiji Japan.”

Caitlin sat back, absorbing that.

“Jeez,” Tully muttered. “Shogun, and all that? That could be a pain.”

“Not necessarily,” Caitlin responded. “One great advantage to a hierarchy is if you make solid contact with the top rank, you’re in all the way.”

“Yeah, and if the top rank doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, what happens then?” Tully said with a grimace. “We really don’t want to set off an interstellar World War II here.”

A few of the Jao’s angles slipped to versions of bewildered, but most of them understood the reference. The Terralore elian Lleix knew recent human history better than the humans did, of course, so they understood both the reference and the thrust of the comment. They said nothing.

Caitlin thought for a moment, considering everything that had been said, then tapped the table and said, “Okay, here’s how we’re going to do it . . .”

****

A day later the Lexington’s command deck was operating like a well-oiled machine. Jao and humans alike knew their jobs, and did them well. Caitlin looked around as she joined Wrot and Fleet Commander Dannet in the open space in front of Lieutenant Vaughan’s console.

“Sensors report that they are still lashing us with radar, Fleet Commander,” Lieutenant Vaughan reported from his workstation. The one that Caitlin usually sat at had been given to Pyr the Lleix, with Garhet standing beside him. Lim had returned to Ban Chao.

The natives had not taken long to notice the arrival of the fleet seven days earlier. By the time the last of the Lexington class ships had emerged from the photosphere of Khûr, the first radar signals had begun to reach them, emitted from Khûr-liyo and various spacecraft scattered around the system. It had never let up. There had been no attempt to contact them; no spacecraft sent their way; simply the radar.

Dannet made no comment, and gave no useless orders such as “Keep me posted,” or “Let me know if anything changes.” Being Jao, she took it for granted that such would be the case. And with the Lexington’s crew trained to the high level it occupied, it would be the case. So the fleet commander looked to Caitlin, and said, “All is ready, Director.”

 

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Comments

11 Responses to The Span Of Empire – Snippet 44

  1. VernonNemitz says:

    For some decades I’ve figured that the most likely way humans would get involved in an interstellar war would be to meet some aliens who claimed to be “made in God’s Image”, and therefore all others must submit to them. And since plenty of humans suffer from the same egotism, and the aliens will almost certainly look physically different from humans….

    • David says:

      Lester del Rey did a very classic story sort of along those lines back in the 1950’s as part of Ballantine Books’ Star SF series, entitled “For We Are A Jealous People”, if I remember correctly. Very well done story that still makes me uncomfortable forty years after reading it.

      • cka2nd says:

        “For I Am A Jealous People,” available in the 1978 anthology, “The Best of Lester Del Rey.” It looks like it was adapted by John Jakes into some kind of play – radio, TV or stage – in 1972.

        • David says:

          That’s the one. Lester was probably better known for being an editor than a writer, but when he was on, he was very very good.

  2. John Roth says:

    Well, we’re past the sample chapters. Interesting.

  3. Jeff Ehlers says:

    I had a few amusing thoughts about Warcraft upon hearing the “Holy Light” thing.

    That aside, I can’t help but wonder just how xenophobic this culture is.

  4. sensei says:

    I’m wondering if the fact that the fleet emerged from the sacred sun will have any effect on its reception. It might be positive – “They are messengers from Khur,” or it could be negative – “They have profaned holy Khur.”

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