In which Melan reveals the measure of threat to the Human race.
Melan stood away from the table as the others took their seats.
Jones stood beside Melan like she was guarding him, but she had removed her helmet and set it aside.
Cepheid stood opposite Melan. He stepped forward and placed a disc on an empty seat. A black metal pole rose from it, stopping after about extending a meter. Light flickered from the top of the pole, and a hologram of Melan appeared as if he was sitting in the chair himself.
Chairs shuffled. People gasped. Jones smiled. “That’s what I said.”
Melan said, “I’m sorry for the lack of warning or preparation regarding my appearance. I would like to get to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible, thus I will answer the most pressing questions on your mind. I am indeed in the armored suit you see in the corner of the room. I do indeed vaguely resemble a young orangutan. No, we are not in any way related, save by parallel evolution due to similar environments.”
Castaneda raised her hand.
Melan said, “No, there were no dinosaurs on our planet. Our evolution was a much longer and slower process than on your Earth. And no, I cannot read your mind. Tuele can, but not at this range.”
The Humans all looked at each other.
“There will be more questions after I finish. They will not be about me or my people.” Melan looked from person to person. “Now, I will begin.”
Melan leaned closer over the table and folded his long fingers. “The device you uncovered was a beacon. It sent out a test pulse when you discovered it. We were close enough by coincidence to pick it up on our sensors.
“We thought we could retrieve the device and secure it before it activated. We were wrong. The device sent out it’s homing signal through it’s sub-space waves.”
Strathmore said, “Who put it there?”
Melan said, “A race of mechanical beings that no longer exists. They predicted intelligence evolving from your planet millions of years ago. They set up thousands of such beacons in places where they predicted intelligent life might one day explore. That you were able to get to Europa was an indication you were ready.”
Redbeard said, “Ready for what?”
Landover kept staring at the hologram while the rest cast furtive glances at each other. He finally said, “You mentioned they were an extinct race. What happened to them?”
The holographic Melan turned to Landover. “They were eventually stopped. A gamma-ray burst destroyed their home-world and disrupted their master network. After that, their drones hibernated while the master probes tried to reconnect. They eventually split into different species of mechanical life, and began to war amongst each other. In the meantime, intelligent biological life was able to get a foothold in the galaxy and enter the war.”
The room was silent once again with the weight of unasked questions. Melan said, “Keep in mind this is an extremely abbreviated and incomplete history. It’s only relevant as to the source of the signal.”
Castaneda said, “So who else is out there?”
Melan said, “There are several races who are considered to be the dominant species in the galaxy. All other intelligences answer to them. And they are the ones who will, if they haven’t already, receive the signal.
Redbeard said, “I take it they aren’t all as accommodating as you.”
“No,” Melan said, “they are not. The ones you have to worry about are as follows- ” A second image appeared on the table in front of Melan. Two reptilian humanoid creatures, male and female, with the mouths of alligators and a long tails. “The Charem De. They are more mammal than reptile- do not be fooled by their appearance. They have no empathy for other intelligent species, and have been known to enslave them, and in many cases have no problems with actually eating them. They would use your population as slaves, using them, selling them off to less developed species, and for food. Not because they need it, but because it’s pleasurable for them.”
The image was replaced with a blob of gray goop. “I am forced to use my own language in some cases, as it is considered one of the official languages used in summits. This race has no name it gives itself. We call it Ixuul. Intelligent colonies of bacteria. A hive mind. They infested a vising ship thousands of years ago, and since have been spreading across the galaxy, absorbing and stripping each planet of its life and resources. They have been contained, but are not technically forbidden from consuming unprotected worlds, such as your own.”
Redbeard said, “Unprotected? Why are we unprotected?”
Melan replied, “You never asked.” He put a hand up to stave off the next question. “You would have to make a formal request from your global diplomatic institution, which you don’t seem to have. The request would then go through the bureaucracy and consideration for special protection status, which would take fifty years. Until then…”
Castaneda said, “What? Until then, what?”
Landover said, “What about you? Why are you warning us about this?”
Melan sighed. “There was, and still is, argument about this. But we felt that you deserved to know what you stumbled upon when you unearthed the artifact.”
Strathmore said, “So how many other threats do we have to worry about?”
Melan said, “The races of beings that can travel farthest the fastest are the ones who have control. In the galaxy, speed is equal to influence.
“The aforementioned two races, the Keyaniim, and the Samnarathi keep all other intelligences safely contained.” Melan waved his hand, and a new image appeared on the table. There were too beings. One was a human-like figure in a red cloak, differentiated only by his oversized eyes. Next to him was a taller creature, covered with a cowl. A single yellow light barely shone beneath the hood. It was slender, and hinted at hovering.
“These beings, and their machine masters, are the oldest race we have encountered, and certainly the most advanced. They keep to themselves, letting the minor races deal with the maintenance of their empire.”
Castaneda said, “What would these relatively handsome fellows want with Earth?”
Melan said, “They would probably put an outpost there, and give the planet to some favored race or individual as a reward for loyalty. There is no telling what would become of your planet or your people. It’s possible you would be extinguished like pests.”
Landover leaned back in his chair. “So what you’re saying is, that basically we do whatever the Keyaniim want, or we’re on our own- which is a death sentence.”
Melan’s thick tongue ran across his broad upper teeth. “I’m afraid that’s what it looks like. But I have to be honest with you, Admiral. I don’t know what we want with you yet. I’m not sure any of the Keyaniim know what to do yet. The prevailing attitude is to simply let things progress as they would as if we had not been here. It would be educational to see what would happen depending on who would arrive first.”
Landover moved his hand in a circle as if trying to draw out more from Melan. “Yet…”
“Yet, there are some of us who feel a moral obligation to claim your world for our own purposes. That however, puts us at risk, and we are a risk-averse people.”
The Humans at the table stared at each other in silence, not knowing what to say.