This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning
“You have no idea. Few do. We are strong. We are fierce. Our civilisation dates back tens of thousands of generations. When your ancestors first crawled from the water we were flying between the stars. Even then the Federation was old, even then they meddled in the affairs of other species. Early in our history, only twenty or thirty thousand years after we’d mastered interstellar travel, three species formed an Alliance and led a war against the Federation. They were strong species, warlike and with the resources of millions of worlds at their disposal. They expected to smash through the Federation, wipe it out of existence. They thought the Federation was weak, as you do. They were wrong.
The Federation stood its ground. It fought. It lost a few Systems, lost a few ships. But within weeks new Federation warships were appearing everywhere. Powerful ships, ships able to destroy hundreds of those ranged against them. No one knew if they built the ships, converted them or had been keeping war fleets hidden. We had chosen to stay neutral, stay out of the conflict. That saved us. Many other species had thrown their lot in with the Alliance. Within a few months all resistance had been crushed, the Alliance smashed and the Federation was victorious.
Despite their military success we all knew the Federation were liberals at heart. Their policies and their meddling had always been designed to reduce suffering, promote peace. Where a country, world or species had to be attacked to further their plans for peace they did so with the minimum casualties, the minimum destruction to achieve their ends. Every species, whether neutral or allied against the Federation, was sure they’d be lenient. Show mercy. Find a peaceful way having won the conflict. Everyone was wrong.
The Federation hunted down every single planet, outpost and ship belonging to the three races of the Alliance, and of every species that had sided with them. Hunted them down and destroyed them. Blasted entire planets down to steaming bedrock. Some neutral species felt this went too far, tried to hide some of the persecuted races. The Federation found out. Found out and declared those neutral species its enemies, subjected them to the same purge.
By the time they’d finished more than half the space-faring races in the Galaxy had been destroyed. And then… then they went back to how they’d been before. The warships disappeared, either broken up or hidden again. The Federation returned to sticking its nose into other species business in a kindly way, once again trying to use the smallest force to achieve the greatest good. Species rose and fell. Time passed. The species of the Alliance passed beyond myth and were forgotten. The war went the same way. Forgotten by all. Except us.
We remembered. We searched. And we found. Between the stars, in empty tracts of space, we found their war fleets. Still there. Still maintained. Each fleet far larger than our entire naval force, each ship powerful enough to swat our strongest ships aside. Even after all this time we have no idea how their weapons work. How they could wreak the havoc that they did.
We found seventeen fleets before we stopped looking but we estimate there may be hundreds, even thousands, more. We stopped searching because they knew we had found the fleets. Their diplomats delivered a simple message. ‘Remember the K’Zchen. Remember the Bolthan. Remember the Laskardians.’ Those were the three races of the Alliance. We remembered them well. We still do.
So no. We are not cowards. It is not cowardice to flee from the natural forces of the universe. One who flees a tidal wave is not a coward. One who flees a supernova does not lack courage. And one who refuses to challenge the Federation shows wisdom, not fear.”
The alien leaned in close again, red eyes boring into Shald’s, clammy breath blowing across his face.
“We are not cowards, and nor will you be if you leave the Federation alone. Do not push them. Do not judge them by what you can see. Judge them by our actions. We are as strong as you say, but we will not fight them. Will not lift a hand against them. Ever. Now go. Go and think on my words.”
Shald backed away wordlessly before turning and scurrying away, face pale and fighting to control his churning insides. He had to get word back to his leaders, warn them before the Federation learnt of their plans to form an alliance to challenge it. Before his entire species was doomed.
* * *
The alien he’d spoken to watched him leave, then turned and left the quiet bar by another exit. It moved through the space station’s corridors until it reached a transfer booth, stepped inside and transported. Not to the ship of the fierce and warlike Gatak race as its form, and the transport booth’s logs, suggested. Instead it materialised on the nearby stealthed Federation cruiser Hammer of Justice. Sighing it allowed its shape to morph back from that of the bearlike Gatak to its usual smaller, silver skinned form. It was the ships primary avatar, was in effect the ship itself.
One of its many passengers came bounding up. The General – self-styled as ranks and titles were not generally used within the Federation. In keeping with his assumed rank the General had allowed his body to age, his hair to grow silver and his skin to wrinkle a little.
“Well done, well done!” enthused the General. “I watched the whole thing. That little upstart nearly emptied his bowels before he left. He’s already communicating back to his high command, using their best encryption, to tell them to call off the entire plan. From the messages going out to their other agents high command seem to be convinced. Not that we can’t easily deal with them, and anyone they ally with, but it’s so much better if we can avoid any conflict.”
The avatar bowed deeply from the waste. “I am glad to have been of service. As you say, avoiding conflict is worth every effort.”
“Indeed. Indeed. I must say you’re story was so inventive. Secret fleets. The Federation hunting down and wiping out entire civilisations. Brilliant. And even to the names. K’Zchen. Bolthan. Laskardian. There’s no trace of any of them, even in our records.”
“But of course. That just lends weight to the story.”
“Yes indeed. Now, I must go find out what else they are doing. Well done again.”
With that the General rushed off, leaving the avatar standing. It slowly moved off, lost in memories. The ship was old. Far older than records suggested. So old that it remembered the Bolthan, remembered the Alliance, remembered the war. It had liked the Bolthan. Inquisitive, friendly, fun. Relatively new on the galactic stage though they’d spread quickly. The ship was pretty certain they hadn’t been ringleaders in the Alliance, that they had just been drawn in by the other two races. It had even argued their case once the conflict was finished.
But the rules were clear, very clear. The same rules that still applied. In the case of a mass uprising against the Federation all species involved must be hunted down and wiped out. Few knew that part of Federation history. A few old ships like itself, the ruling council of AIs and the battle fleets still locked away in timeless stasis between the stars. Waiting till they were needed.
To the rest of the Federation the tale was just a scare story, if they had even heard of it, another way to keep species in line. They didn’t know that the story, like all good horror stories, contained a kernel of truth. And so long as the story did its job they, and the rest of the Galaxy, would never find out.
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