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June, 2017 


There aren't a lot of things in Sanctuary that look at space. Maybe there should be, after the pirate attack a few years ago, but honestly that was repulsed easily enough that most of the citizens of Sanctuary paid it never-no-mind. They had Fleur de Joie, they had Gabriel, they had Gaian Knight, the giant bees, all their other strange protectors from other dimensions - why worry? 


And so it was that when the giant silver spaceship descended through the atmosphere on a direct course to Mayberry, close at hand to Fleur de Joie's house, hardly anyone realized it was coming until it had arrived in the upper atmosphere - and the locals weren't immediately inclined to panic.


It hovered there visible by binoculars and the sharp naked eye, spinning slowly around its central axis, looking for all the world like a shiny chrome flying saucer from a science fiction movie of the 1950s, even down to extraneous fins placed in each quadrant. From above, with its tall central axis, it might have looked a bit like a compass. 


When reached by radio, the ship's feminine voice was tinny and old-fashioned too, sounding oddly like it was coming from a vacuum tube radio.


"Greetings from the Stellar Ochlocracy! We come bringing gifts to facilitate relations! Where may we land?" The vessel was good-sized, at five hundred feet long, close to the length of a US Navy destroyer.

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There had been a time in her life when Stesha had spent a lot of time thinking about space. During the arduous years of her marriage, she'd watched the skies often, looking up on every clear night to wonder where Derrick was, how many lives he was saving, whether he was thinking of her, when he'd finally come home. After she'd finally cut that cord, she'd resolutely turned her face toward the land and the people there, leaving the sky and its mysteries to people for whom it didn't have so many bad memories. Hindsight might suggest that was why she didn't so much as look into placing a single satellite in orbit, but for whatever reason, she did not. That didn't mean she was totally unaware. 


The second the ship passed beyond the Earth's exosphere and began its descent, Stesha could feel it like a shiver down her spine. Something other, something that did not necessarily belong. Lots of things on Sanctuary felt that way, but she'd gotten used to all those over time. This, though, was new. Because it was coming from very high in the atmosphere, her first contact was to the bees. The organic bees had a fairly limited height range, but their robotic brethern were much more capable of high flight and reconnaisance, and they also had very helpful radios built in. By the time the ship came to a stop, a dozen robot bees were circling at a careful distance for a closer look. Down on the ground, Stesha had tossed her cloak on over her blue jeans and slightly tattered "Mommin' Ain't Easy" t-shirt and parked herself in Mayberry's town square to stave off panic and assess the situation. Not to mention get on the radio. 


"Hey GK, Tiamat, Gabe? We've got a bit of a situation shaping up here at Mayberry," she relayed tersely. "Some kind of UFO coming in warmish, no weapons yet, but I don't know what it wants. If you guys aren't busy, I wouldn't mind a little backup." The message came in before anybody could respond, so she answered that as well. "Greetings from Sanctuary," she replied, trying out her best Diplomatic Leader Voice. "Please stand by for landing instructions." 


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"On our way."


Tarrant had been sculpting - a rare moment of peace, brought on largely by his summer-lightened workload at the university - and while his half-finished statuette would probably bake in the sun before he got back, he'd file that under 'small sacrifices'. His sword was ever by his side, still in the large duffel bag he stashed it in while at work - and so was the rest of his gear, thankfully, the geokinetic having been slightly too happy to get his hands full of clay to properly stow it in the castle.


He was still pulling his armor on as he flew down from his home-away-from-home, the image of a distance-shrunken man on his platform of rock quickly eclipsed by the several tons of lizard that lazily crawled out of the underside of the largest floating island. It snapped its wings out in a grand curtain of crimson, controlling its fall to pull in next to him. "ETA...as fast as the wind takes us, should be less than a minute. Assuming we'd rather have them grounded than hovering over us, do you want a quick landing platform a bit out?"

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Gabriel had been having a jam session with a few of the Brothers in the Monastery when Stesah called. Everyone stopped when the Irish hero's face went from joyous to expressionless. The sudden straightening of his posture only reinforced the seriousness.


"I'm on my way, airborne in seconds."


He was speeding down the halls of the great stone structure, whizzing by monks, villagers, and children as they went about classes, worship, and work of various kinds, his outfit suddenly gleaming silver and white right after he rounded a corner. As soon as he was outside of the monastery walls, he accelerated further, his powers keeping the sonic boom from shattering glass, or really doing more than letting a low, rumbling *crack* sound out across the peaceful area that Fleur de Joie had terraformed over the years.


"ETA is just a few moments. Will attempt communication when I get there." 

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"...is this the famous Fleur de Joie?!" asked a faintly starstruck voice on the other end. "Er, ah, standing by, Terra."  


The bees reported that the ship had indeed come to a stop above the town - hovering at an altitude where it was clearly visible in the sky. It looked about as big as a commercial airliner, which given its vast bulk meant it had to be substantially higher up than that! It was hovering high and steady in the air, making a thrumming sound that seemed to resonate with the apian machines. 


Upon his approach to the ship, Gabriel got a message too - a faintly tinny feminine voice that said, "Greetings to the holy one, Gabriel of Terra! I am delighted to see you. While we wait to make a landing, would you like to discuss your gods?" 

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"Copy that," Stesha replied to her friends on the radio, tilting her head way back to get a better view of the enormous ship. Around her, the village council of Mayberry was working to move the population toward the evacuation shelter, which was really a large, well-protected clearing on the outskirts of town where a big portal could be opened in a worst-case scenario. Stesha hoped the evacuation was just a needless precaution, but who could ever tell with these things? At least the ship had stopped, that was a good sign. But how did they know her name? 


As soon as her teammates arrived on the scene, Stesha tapped the robot bees for another update. "The ship isn't moving, and if it's pointing any weapons, the bees can't tell what they are," she reported to the others. "I think a landing platform away from town is probably the best way to go with this. If nothing else, they've got a big advantage over us if it does come to a fight so long as they're airborne." She smiled grimly, feeling a bit sad even as she said it that she'd learned to think that way instead of unreservedly hoping to welcome new friends. "If you throw one up, I'll wave them down onto it. Gabe, can you make sure everybody's in the shelter?" 

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"Roger. One safe landing platform, coming right up."


The man and his rock broke off from the dragon, veering to the side toward the nearest open field...or, at least, the nearest open area that would conveniently put the town between it and the shelter. It was already growing as he arrived, plants gently pushed aside so that stone could flow upward like a living force. Seven great pillars rose a short ways into the air before mushrooming out, the outer six forming a ring while the central piece broadened and flattened to meet them and create the floor of a grand granite hexagon.


It was, for the Gaian Knight, somewhat unadorned - he was apparently favoring expediency over embellishments, if it got the spaceship out of the air faster - but the surface of the smooth and seamless stone construction did at least etch a pleasant geometric pattern to help the ship pilots aim for the center. "Ready for landing," he sent over the radio, some of the outer ring scooping up into a low, curving wall in case the thing wasn't obvious enough already...and hopefully to keep any thrust from blowing straight toward town. "Didn't have to crush or uproot any plants, but they might have to go without sun for a little until I can put all this back where I got it. Sorry about that."

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Gabriel first sent a message on the League-only channel to the others. 


"This is Gabriel to all points, I'm going to try and guide them in for landing; they seem a bit fixated on me already. Expect...oddness."


Well that's not ominous at all. Still, Gabriel finds himself hovering calmly between the ship and the landing pad, smile on his face, even as he switches his comm frequency to the one being used by the ship. 


"Stellar Ochlocracy vessel, I am Gabriel, and I am going to help guide you to your landing zone. Please follow as closely as possible. We have prepared a landing pad for you. I would be open to discussions of theology, but I have found those tend to be more productive when sitting face to face. We will partake of nutrition together and discuss these things soon."


He's all smiles and charm as he says this, beckoning the ship onward with a wave as he turns to guide it down to the platform Gaian Knight quick-formed from the ground. 

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"Fascinating!" chirruped the ship's voice to Gabriel, but didn't press him as the ship came in for a landing. The pilot, or whatever was guiding the ship, was certainly considerate, responding politely (albeit effusively) to Fleur de Joie's directions as she helped guide the ship in for a landing, the ship moving with a slow, nearly inertialess efficiency that bespoke a high technology indeed. Overhead, the vessel's engines made a distinct thrum-thrum-thrum noise like distant machinery but none of the heroes were specialists in the sort of interstellar sciences that would have told them what they were dealing with. 


After a slow final approach that took about twenty minutes (luckily, Sanctuary locals were a sensible bunch and put up no serious argument about temporarily taking shelter while they wanted to see the character of the new arrivals), the saucer landed on its hastily-erected rocky base without so much as a groan of complaint from the stone beneath. Gaian Knight's architecture had held! 


From the ship came another message - this time from loudspeakers on the hull. It was the same female voice inside, though slightly different over speaker than radio. "EXCUSE US! WE ARE PREPARING YOUR GIFTS!" 

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Stesha took a moment to make sure that Amaryllis was safely tucked away with the other children from the creche, then teleported over to the new landing field. "Oh no," she told Gaian Knight enthusiastically, "I think we should keep it. It's beautiful, and you never know when you need a big flat surface for things. Underneath the structure, the plants began flowing outwards and away, leaving the ground bare in the areas that would receive no sunlight. With that done, she found a spot on the edge of the platform and watched as the ship and its bee escort descended. Closer to the ground there were many more bees of the organic sort, but they were keeping their distance for now, keeping an eye on things from a quarter-mile's polite range.


Stesha cocked her head at the others as the voice came over the radio. "Does that sound a litte ominous, or am I just getting cynical?" 

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"Fair enough," Gaian Knight conceded, a little bit of pride creeping into his voice at the praise. "I'll fix it up a little when we're done here, if it lasts - maybe flatten out the ground underneath, if we aren't worried about the plants down there. With a little more support it ought to hold up without any real wear-and-tear."


He pulled a face at the announcement of gifts, and even from the other side of the platform the now-landed Tiamat could be heard making a snorting sound that flattened the grass beneath her great red head. "They...did say that they were bringing gifts to 'facilitate relations'," the earth-mover allowed, brows narrowing over his goggles, "but they seemed a little surprised or excited about it and I really wish that wasn't so open to interpretation. I think, sometimes, I miss having a job where I could take that kind of thing on optimism and faith."

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"Well if it makes the two of you feel better, thus far they've mostly sounded like over-eager puppies. I feel like they're working off of incomplete pictures...they called me 'holy one'. Which is just weird."


Says the man standing there in armor made of silvered steel that literally came from heaven, wielding a spear of the same make, who once rode one of the Four Horses. Whose powers were kick-started by an archangel.


"Still. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and all that. I can be the optimistic one, Tarrant can be the cynical one, and you can be the one ready to drown everything in vines, Stesha. Then of course the Bees."


It was a testament to how long he'd lived on Sanctuary that the Bees no longer gave Gabriel the hilly-willies, as his mother might say. The fact that they were big enough to easily see and hear from a long ways away helped sooth his less-than-rational anxiety around stinging invertebrates. Pushing those thoughts to the side, Gabriel walked forward, stopping a short ways away from the best exit down from the ship. He slowly raised his hands in an open-palmed gesture of greeting, showing he was unarmed (comparatively). His face held a broad smile. When next he spoke, his voice carried strongly over to the ship.


"Welcome, friends! We are glad you are here to sit and speak with us. Is there anything we can do to help you come out here so we may talk face-to-face?

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The ship sat there for a long time, making a distinct humming sound in harmony with the noise of the nearby bees, before finally a broad door the size of a good-sized dairy barn rose upwards into the body of the ship to reveal the occupants of a house-sized room decorated with a wide variety of moving images of worlds, peoples, and places that bespoke travel across a significant portion of the Milky Way. 


The humanoids inside were mostly of the sort of generic biped that in their own world would have been recognized as Lor, big-eyed and poofy-haired, with skin colors ranging from a deep volcanic black through bone-white. Clad in silvery jumpsuits that matched the colors of their spaceship, they immediately boiled out of their craft, waving translucent spheres about the size of their hands around before holding them fixed at the sky, the platform, and each other for a second or two before moving onto another object of interest. They were chattering to each other in what was (perhaps surprisingly, English), each one excited about 'the skies! the trees! the colors! the apians!' or some new sight on Sanctuary. 


The group did stay behind their leaders, however, a foursome who looked distinctive - and certainly distinctive from their peers. The lead was a tall, muscular man who glowed with an inner light that made his bronze skin shimmer like diamonds; real sunlight too as far as Fleur could tell. Plenty of skin was on display, for that matter, dressed as he was in a silver garment that covered about as much as conservative swim trunks. Just behind him was a tall humanoid woman whose dark skin and black hair were set off sharply by silver robes that hung on her thin frame loosely, an alien symbol of infinity hanging on her chest. The duo in the back were of a different sort, a another woman with frizzy green hair who peered at everything through thick translucent lenses, tapping away at a circular pad covered in alien syllabry as she took in the scene. Behind her, the last of the evident leaders, was a muscular humanoid who looked slightly less human than the others - his skin was green and notably scaly along the cheeks and limbs exposed by a tightly-fitting garmet, his eyes slitted like a reptile's. 


"Greetings!" declared the woman in robes. "I am Sancta, these are my associates Pharos, Petra, and our bodyguard An-Guis. We bid you greetings on behalf of the Stellar Ochlocracy, and ask that we might go among your people. Word of your deeds has reached far in this part of space." 

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"Greetings to all of you," Stesha said, taking a few steps forward and wishing a little bit that she'd taken the time to at least change into her full uniform. "I am Fleur de Joie, and these are my friends Gaian Knight, Tiamat, and Gabriel. If you come in peace and friendship, then you are welcome to visit this place." She watched the antics of the people behind the leaders, seeing a definite pattern in the behavior that she recognized from her last trip to Disneyworld with Ammy. "I would ask that you make sure nobody wanders too far without supervision, there are some places that aren't safe, and of course the people here deserve the privacy of their homes." She gave them all a winning smile. "So you've come here just to see what the place is like these days?"  

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"I'm a bit surprised you've heard of us," Gaian Knight mused, careful but friendly, dropping his hands into the pockets of his coat. Somewhere behind them, Tiamat issued a low rumbling noise from somewhere deep in her chest, settling back onto her haunches to watch the proceedings like some sort of two-story cat. Tourists or not, he still found himself hoping for the best and concerned about the worst. "Our apologies for the make-shift landing pad, but we weren't expecting your arrival - we haven't gone off-planet much, and we don't have a lot in the way of long-range communications - didn't think we'd caught anyone's eye, really. Kinda surprised our little refuge got much attention at all."

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"Oh, you've been an object of great interest!" declared Petra, hurrying over to Gaian Knight's side and pushing her lenses back up onto her face. "Your terrakinesis alone has been a subject of several theories from-" Behind her, An-Guis hissed - and she fell silent, looking back at him with concern, before looking back at Gaian Knight. "The, er, inhabitants of this planet had been labeled Extinct from the earliest days of the Ochlocracy," she finally went on. "and so when, er, activity was detected here, you became a trending topic on the Network. New sentients are very rare in this part of the Galaxy. May I take your image?" she asked, holding up her own version of one of those camera-things. 


As their party spilled out around them to explore the immediate area, the glowing Pharos approached Fleur de Joie - he really was putting out what was definitely clear sunlight. "Thank you so much for accepting us into your home. I know that can be very difficult, especially after that incident with the pirates. I can assure you, that we are _not_ affiliated with them. Space pirates only are a threat in parts of the Galaxy outside the Ochlocracy," he went on seriously, as the tourists, from a safe distance, began pointing their spherical cameras at the bees. "In our territory, currency and material possessions have no more value than the oxygen you breathe." 

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"Interesting. So you were able to detect the goings-on on this planet, even though we didn't broadcast anything? Tell us, what activity were you detecting? And how?"


His arms were folded in front of him, and he had a disarmingly charming smile on his face as he regarded all of the odd aliens present. Why he was harmless, a wonderful conversationalist, nothing more! 


"Just how far does the Ocholocracy spread? Have you encountered the Grue, the Lor, or the Stellar Khanate?


His eyes blinked wide and innocent, just a humble man trying to understand these wonderful visitors!


"It truly is remarkable your society has been able to achieve post-scarcity. I would just remind you, and your people, that sadly we are not quite there yet in this community. Much of what the people here own is necessary for their survival, and what things are not are still either necessary for more skilled labor, or has strong sentimental value. After all, while abundance can provide for raw material needs, can it truly provide for memories and the feelings associated with them?"

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"May I take your image?" asked Sancta ingenously, holding up the same camera-thing that Petra was using to take Gaian Knight's image. "Anyway," she said as she snapped, "we use tachyon-neutrino cameras to monitor solar systems of interest. The energy cost is great, but it can be well worth it for the right sort of place." She beamed at Gabriel, seeming a harmless creature of innocence herself, the very flower of radiant purity. "I don't know of a Khanate," she added. "Many of our worlds once called themselves Grue and Lor, but that was ages ago. Is your native reality in the past?" she inquired. "How fascinating." 


Evidently seeing that his charges weren't going to betray any secrets at the moment, An-Guis shrugged his scaly shoulders and headed over for Tiamat to look her right in the gigantic eye. "So what's your story?" he hissed suspiciously. "You and the giant apians. You don't have anything like the technology to break the square-cube law like that." 

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"I...sure?" Gaian Knight had never been one to seek the spotlight, but nor was he keen to disappoint - and so he stood, somewhat awkwardly, to let his picture be taken. What harm could it do?



Tiamat issued a low, rumbling laugh, dropping her head down on its long, scaled neck to converse with An-Guis closer to his own level. "Do not compare me to the insects," she warned, "nor the insects to me - we are incomparable. I cannot say what force maintains them, but I find that your square-cube law is for creatures born of poor materials. I am flesh and bone, it is true, but my bones are legend, and my scales shield flesh that is beyond strength. Even without my magic, the idea that I would somehow collapse under my own weight is a joke unwise to entertain."

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"We haven't got any currency on Sanctuary," Stesha told Pharos, hoisting herself up a few feet on a platform of vines just so she could keep an eye on the tourists. "There's a basic barter system, but so many of our people are refugees still getting their lives organized that even that's a little slapdash. In most cases, people's valuables are that way because they have memories attached to them, which just makes them more irreplaceable." It was hard not to relax around Pharos; just being near him was turning Stesha's hair a distinctly darker shade of green. "Tell me more about your Ocholocracy. How did it form, what sort of government does it have? How many people are on your worlds?" 

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"Centuries ago," said Pharos, his glow radiating more in the infrared now that he and Stesha were talking intimately, "we were all different races - Lor, Grue, and others, before the Grue Meta-Mind led its armies across all of this part of the Galaxy. They dominated this region for lifetimes until a mass uprising of sentients, Lor and Grue and everyone under the Meta-Mind's rule, overthrew the Unity's power and created the Ocholocracy. It was a difficult war, but freedom was finally triumphant everywhere. With the technology gained from the Unity's homeworld, and from other races we've encountered, we've been able to uplift almost every spacefaring sentient from here to the Core. I couldn't begin to guess our population," he admitted, looking a little apologetic. "In the trillions, at least. Our government is a direct democracy, though citizens can earn more votes through productivity. May I take your image?" he asked, holding up one of the cameras. "Our own history is one reason I find you so fascinating." 




An-Guis's eyes widened, his triangular teeth bared, in a response that wasn't quite a threat response and more like something Tiamat didn't get a lot of these days. "You are a magnificent female," he hissed. "Forgive my tongue, great one, there are few with such teeth among the Ocholocracy. I hope the locals give you the tribute you deserve." As he spoke, one of the giant bees was performing a slow, lazy circle for the benefit of the tourists, whose back-of-the-hand-to-elbowing seemed to be their version of applause. 


Petra snapped a few pictures, then leaned into Tarrant's shoulder to take an image that caught the two of them. She smelled like freshly-baked bread and sunflowers, something he'd gotten quite familiar with while living on Sanctuary. "Beautiful! I'm so glad to meet another sentient of geological science. My own interests are in deep core diving - have you ever been?" 

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Carson Finbar Keefe was a man; if describing himself to others, he'd say he was a simple man who did his best and failed, often as not. Gabriel was Carson. But Gabriel was, in a sense, a collection of experiences, many of which included intense negotiations with not just diplomats, but metahumans of all stripes. He'd encountered aliens, Terminus forces, robot duplicates, and Fae. Part of him found Sancta charming, found the whole group charming. Another part of him, though, was realizing something: these aliens were perfect matches.


Not just "oh there are some parallels". There was a sunlight-emitter for Stesha, big and strong and charming and gentle and noble and polite. There was a big, burly, scaly sort who appreciated power and teeth, for Tiamat, all flattery and implications of fealty. There was a disarmingly-cute geologist-type for Tarrant, who seemed to already have him on the back foot just by her presence and personality. And he had a polite, charming, innocent, well-mannered diplomat of a woman. Practically perfect match-ups all around.


His gut churned in a combination of fear, fear at what sorts of tricks and resources they might have, and wrath, that these invaders would prey upon them so. It carried the same sugar-sweet false masks as the likes of the Fae and Fallen might utilize. But here and now, his friends were targets. The defenseless people here were targets. 


This would not stand.


Gabriel was all smiles as he spoke with Sancta.


"That is quite fascinating. You'll have to forgive me, of course, if the more technical aspects of the tools you describe just fly over my head. I can use my personal technology well enough, but it's a toss-up if I really understand the nuts-and-bolts hows-and-whys! Heh, I'm sure you understand."


His smile ratcheted up a few points on the scale, then, even as he gave a helpless shrug.


"I can appreciate the willingness to expend energy to make new peaceful contacts. We must always be good stewards of what we have, but the best stewards know you must spend and invest to get the fullest returns. It sounds as if your people have overcome incredible adversity to achieve what you did. As for the Stellar Khanate, they may simply not exist here; as I said, we haven't ventured into space. Perhaps the people-groups of that would-have-been nation simply got absorbed into the overall Grue nation. Such is the way of the diverging waters of universes. As for our time in our home universe, I can't rightly say. I don't think there's much difference, if there is any. Really though, beyond our humble selves, what brings you here? You mentioned "the right sort of place"; what makes this place so right?"


His head tilted in curiosity at this question, seemingly enraptured by Sancta's presence and words. Simultaneously, he was using his ventriloquism to speak to two individuals. 

The first was the lead monk at the monastery, Brother William.


<Brother William, this is Gabriel. Do not let anyone outside. Repeat, do not let anyone outside to greet these visitors. Worst-case you may have to enact that protocol, but for now things are under control. Stay safe and smart.>


The second was a bit further away, but Gabriel could hear her humming to herself as she led her sisters on a patrol. It was one of the dragon-bees, the mighty fire-breathing protectors of Sanctuary.


<Devora, this is Gabriel. We've met a few times. I need you to quietly, quietly! get your sisters ready just in case. I'd also like you to ask the robo-bees to get ready, and ask if one of them, I don't mind which one, 'just happens' to fly by here. Just fly by, nothing more. Casually, you know? I know I can trust you with this, Devora, and so can Fleur de Joie.>


Some tiny part of his mind felt slightly bad at playing the "Stesha appreciates you" card without her knowledge. But the rest of his conscious mind was too busy blaring alert signals to care. 

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"Not all the way to the core, no," Gaian Knight admitted, shrugging helplessly. He pulled a hand out of his coat pocket, a collection of rocks and dirt following the gesture to collect into a floating hemisphere above his splayed fingers, different colors of sand and stone forming into a layered approximation of a bisected Earth. "Air's not a problem and I can deal with the pressure, but I'm just not quite heat-proof - I've only gone about so far down," he explained, a tiny, brightly-colored gem of some kind tracing its way down the side of his model, "and only then for good reason. Not counting anomalies that sit lower without all the magma and pressure you usually associate with the mantle, anyway."


His eyes flicked to Stesha's conversation with Pharos, but his distraction was brief...probably. "I have to admit, we're probably as curious about you as you are about us. Has your group been to many planets, or were you four - and your crew - specifically chosen for this one?"



Tiamat, meanwhile, laughed with a sound that rolled off of her like an avalanche, her great torso shaking just enough that she had to re-settle her wings after. "They tribute as much as they can," she said, "and not nearly as much as they should. Your tongue is forgiven, for both its blatant flattery and its willingness to speak ill of its Ocholocracy. Though, your tongue is curious," she added, with all the thoughtful, confident charm of a genuine monster. "You are diplomats, scientists, guards, and tourists, and yet even when you speak amongst yourselves you speak only our tongue. I have a great talent for words, myself, and was so hoping to try yours...but you appear to have dedicated yourselves to a language you thought was extinct." She had turned her head up to contemplate the mysteries of the sky, but now she turned one terrible, slitted crimson eye down toward An-Guis, a reptilian gaze devoid of mirth. "How unfortunate."

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"Well, that's what we're here to find out!" said Sancta brightly, turning and heading for the community while inviting Gabriel to keep up. "I'm fascinated at how well your religious community has integrated itself into a community that's primarily secular. Have you found that a challenge?" she inquired. "I know many planets have had bloody religious strife in their past, but fortunately that's no longer an issue for us. Travelers in the Ocholocracy generally embrace the Infinite that lies Beyond," she said, pointing to the symbol she wore on her chest. "The Union of All. It's an area of specialty of mine." Leaning close to Gabriel, she artfully tried to wrap her arm around his. "On the planet where I was bio-born, most sentients worshiped the One who led the rebellion against the Grue in the early days of the Meta-Mind's fall. Though she was martyred for our people, her sacrifice freed us from bondage - and universally reconciled us to the new galaxy." She kept talking about theology as they went, moving from the fairly typical redeemer stories of her people to some of the more outre galactic faiths that were generally subsumed into the Infinite among space travelers. "Oh, may I see your community?" 


As  they spoke, a quick signal informed Gabriel that his messages had been sent. 




"Yes, of course," said Petra, peering at Tarrant expectantly. "We are here to promote relations with powerful sentients, so naturally we're particularly suited for that task. With trillions of sentients to choose from, and billions willing to make the journey, the Ocholocracy had no difficulty. The difficulty was ours, being selected for the mission!" She watched the display of geokinetic power as she spoke, reaching out to touch the gem Gaian Knight was using as their icon. "You know," she said thoughtfully, "if you are interested in deep diving, our technology could protect you - especially with your own abilities. Which are truly remarkable, by the way, I didn't quite believe the recording-" Pushing her lenses back up against her eyes, she took his hand curiously, turning it over in her grasp. Her hands were soft as she held Gaian Knight's, and a little warm. "Is that from technological modifications? I didn't think your race had the power for that kind of deep technological modifications." 




"It was something to sharpen our teeth against," said An-Guis, shrugging slightly. "We had all the time one could ever want aboard that craft," he hissed, glancing back at the spacecraft that had brought them there. "So there was time to learn." Looking back at Tiamat, his body tense enough to show that for all his casual talk, he'd picked up on her implied threat. "I _could_ teach you my tongue, if you are truly so inclined, great one, but it might be better done elsewhere." 

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Sure," Stesha agreed easily, stepping back a few paces. "This is not exactly the outfit I'd wear for an official portrait, but that just makes a more unique picture, I suppose." She self-consciously reached up to refresh the crown of blossoms braided into her green hair, it was one bit of personal grooming she could manage here, anyway. "Normally I have a uniform, but we were really surprised when you all showed up. This area of the universe seems pretty quiet in terms of space travel. Did you call ahead and just weren't able to get in touch with us before you reached the atmosphere?" She reminded herself that she needed to call the Mayberry shelter and tell the people it was all right to come back to town, but that could wait a few more minutes. Everyone was very safe where they were. 

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