Chapter 1: Planetfall
Copyright© 2016 by Snekguy
Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1: Planetfall - Set in the Pinwheel universe, Dennis is overjoyed to accept a job as the first human ambassador to Earth on Borealis, but gets more than he bargained for when he realizes his position might not exactly be a promotion.
Caution: This Science Fiction Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa Fa/Fa Mult Consensual Romantic NonConsensual Reluctant Rape Coercion Lesbian Heterosexual Fiction Science Fiction Space Aliens DomSub MaleDom FemaleDom Rough Light Bond Group Sex Oral Sex Petting Size Big Breasts Slow Violent Royalty Politics
Dennis adjusted his tie, and breathed on the shiny UNN badge pinned to his lapel, polishing it with his sleeve as he looked out through the shuttle viewport. Below the tiny craft Borealis hung in space like a monstrous Christmas ornament, the arid world’s twin suns blazing in the distance. The yellow secondary was almost obscured by the bright glare of the white primary, and smears of pale clouds streaked across the moonless planet’s surface like the paintbrush strokes of a lazy deity.
Long years of law school and unpaid internships had finally led him to this, deployed to Borealis by the United Nations to serve as the first ambassador to Earth. They had seemed eager to ship him off, he must be needed urgently, and he had swelled with pride as his diplomatic papers had been handed to him. There were no senior diplomats available for the position, they had all mysteriously vanished when the post had been announced, but Dennis had not hesitated to take on his first real assignment. He didn’t know much about the planet and its people, but he knew that it had only recently been inducted into the Coalition of allied worlds, and many Borealans had never met a human before.
He would be building bridges and smoothing relations between Earth and Borealis, and more importantly, meeting new people with alien cultures and strange practices, his heart fluttered with excitement. He would not be pushing papers here, this would be an adventure!
“Ambassador Carlisle, would you please take a seat and strap in? We’ll be landing shortly.” The pilot said, craning his head back into the shuttle compartment. Dennis nodded and sat down in one of the seats that lined the walls, this was a troop transport, hardly luxurious, but in order to make the seventy five light year journey from Earth to Borealis he had to hitch a ride on a Navy jump freighter. The massive ships were among the few classes of vessel capable of using superlight engines to cover the vast interstellar distances, and they weren’t cruise liners by any means. He was glad to be out of the cramped ship with its spartan furnishings and looked forward to touring the new embassy building that he was told had been built in his honor. He might be a glorified clerk back on Earth, but these aliens seemed to think he was of immense importance and high standing, he saw no reason to correct them.
He gripped the arm rests on his seat as turbulence began to rock the little craft, and he looked forward to the pilot’s cockpit to glimpse the planet close up. As they descended through the atmosphere and the nose of the shuttle glowed orange, flames licking up the glass, the planet’s features became more developed. Great lakes and snaking rivers broke up the deserts, ringed by bands of lush greenery. He couldn’t make out any cities or spaceports, but Borealis was not very developed. They had only recently been introduced to superlight technology, and currently had only a small fleet made up mostly of ships they had purchased from other species. He had seen no space stations or elevators in orbit, the ships must have to make planetfall, which was extremely fuel inefficient.
The shuttle cut through cloud layers, emerging beneath an azure sky, the white glare of the primary star like sitting under a fluorescent lamp. The quality of the light had an odd tint to it, everything looked too white, or perhaps Sol made everything too yellow? The air resistance slowed the ship, and it glided on stubby wings, cruising towards its target at a more leisurely pace.
“We’re about fifteen minutes off, Ambassador. I’m supposed to give you this.”
The pilot fumbled through a bag, then produced a small paperback booklet. Dennis unbuckled, getting up from his seat and moving towards the cockpit to retrieve it.
“Just some basic info on dealing with the natives.”
The cover was a cartoon of one of the aliens, tall with feline ears and tail, leaning down to shake hands with a little human. It was titled ‘Borealis Tourism Guide’.
Dennis thumbed through it, the title seemed odd to him, there had been no tourism to Borealis since contact was established and they had been inducted into the Coalition, only now was an embassy being established. Had the producers of the guide expected an interest in the planet that never manifested? Tourism was not a big industry on an interstellar level, due to the expense of traveling great distances, but the rich and powerful tended to travel when it was possible.
The first section was called ‘Borealan culture and social conventions’, that seemed like a good place to start.
‘Due to the hierarchical pack structure of society on Borealis, you are advised to keep in mind the following instructions:’
‘Do not maintain eye contact with a Borealan, this may be misconstrued as a challenge.’
‘Do not joke with, tease, talk back, or otherwise provoke a Borealan, even in a manner that may seem friendly or affectionate to a human.’
‘Do not make unsolicited physical contact with a Borealan, such as tapping them to get their attention, bumping in to them by accident, or attempting to touch their ears or tail.’
‘Do not attempt to argue with or assert yourself over a Borealan. If there is a disagreement, bypass them by talking to a superior.’
‘Should a Borealan show aggression towards you, attempt to make yourself appear as weak and non-threatening as possible, then seek immediate medical attention for bites and/or lacerations.’
He looked up to the pilot, his blood running cold.
“Bites and lacerations!?”
The pilot chuckled to himself.
“Did you not research the planet you were going to be stationed on, Ambassador?”
“Well, I glanced over the basics! I thought it would be better to get to know the locals and build a more personal relationship with them through being immersed in their culture.”
The pilot steered the shuttle through a pocket of turbulence, and Dennis grabbed a handhold in the roof of the craft as it shook, then leveled out again.
“Well then this is going to be a very enlightening visit for you, Sir.”
“What does that mean? Why is it funny?”
“You ever heard the nickname the marines give the Borealans?”
“They call them ‘Mad Cats’, I’ve been told they fight like lions, and they’re a pain in the ass to be around. They get sent to a special Navy facility for training before they’re even allowed to be in a room alone with a human.”
Dennis swallowed hard, looking through the windshield at the arid desert racing below them, in the distance was a large band of greenery. He fiddled with his tie nervously.
“I’m not trying to scare you, Ambassador, but did they not tell you this when you took the job?”
“No ... and I was the only one who applied...”
The pilot whistled, his tone sympathetic.
“Take a good read of that booklet then, and er...”
“What is it?”
“Don’t go anywhere on your own.”
The ship glided into view of their destination, a gigantic lake, large enough to rival the great lakes of North America, its glistening blue surface reflecting the harsh light. Hundreds of miles of desert surrounded it, but in a wide band around the water source grew a plethora of exotic plants and trees. There was a whole forest, or maybe a jungle. Tall, straight trees that resembled firs, alarmingly high even at this distance, jutted up from the canopy, their spiny leaves spreading in a cone pattern. Dennis was used to seeing trees that resembled these in cold climates and they looked oddly out of place next to the desert sands. He couldn’t make out much else as the greenery flew by them, the ship descending towards the water.
As they cleared the foliage, Dennis’ eyes widened as the first Borealan city he had seen revealed itself below them. It was immediately clear to him that Borealans built out, not up. There were no structures more than than three or four stories tall, most buildings were long and squat, with impressive stone arches and domed roofs that brought to mind imagery of Arabian or maybe Roman architecture.
It was austere, but there was a unique artistry to it.
The city, small by human standards, was nestled between the band of green forest and the shore of the lake. The ground was paved with stone, marking the boundary between the city and the forest, he guessed it must have been cleared in the distant past, and it had been paved to prevent the trees from encroaching on the living space. With a start he realized the water sources he had seen from orbit might be the only habitable zones of the planet. Life clustered around them almost desperately, carving out what territory it could glean from the desert.
The pilot circled the craft around, giving Dennis time to take in the view.
“This is the capital city, Elysia. Each water source is a territory, each territory is ruled by a tribe, each tribe is further subdivided into packs and family units. The Elysiedde family is currently the most powerful political entity on the planet, most of your dealings will be with them. They’re currently the only territory that can afford spacecraft, and Admiral Elysiedde has been very eager to make alliances with Coalition planets. His own daughter is currently training new Borealan troops for the war effort on a UNN starbase.”
“So these guys are a bit more ... friendly?” Dennis asked, a twinge of apprehension in his voice.
“They’re about as friendly as a Borealan is ever going to get, yeah, but don’t expect much.”
“I don’t suppose it’s too late to ask for a ride home?” Dennis asked, half-joking.
“Afraid not Ambassador, but in the future, please read the assignments you agree to more thoroughly.”
The ship banked, flying towards the center of the squat city, buildings made of what looked like sandstone, in shades ranging from deep brown to off-white lined narrow streets, the ever prevalent decorative arches passing overhead. Every other building had a domed roof, even the smaller dwellings had one, wide and decorative, their curved surfaces patterned with indents and ribs. Before them an impressive structure loomed, only five or six stories tall, but it towered over the surrounding buildings. A great spire reached into the air, supported by stacked layers of massive decorative columns, like several Greek Parthenons stacked one on top of another. It was paler than the stone around it, almost pearl white, and it reflected the sunlight of the primary star like a beacon. There was construction happening beside it, a much smaller, square building with a domed roof. Blocks of stone and unrecognizable machinery blocked the street.
The shuttle circled the spire, behind it was a large, flat slab of rock, landing lights blinked at the edges. The piloted zoned in, setting the shuttle down on the improvised landing pad, the engines kicking up a torrent of dust and sand. The engines died down, and Dennis walked towards the exit ramp, apprehensive.
“Watch your step.” The pilot commented, and the ramp began to lower.
Dennis recoiled, hit by a wall of sweltering, dry heat that seared his lungs. It was like opening an oven door, the hot wind washed over him like a blow dryer. He stepped forward, immediately beginning to sweat inside his two piece suit. As he walked off the ramp and outside of the artificial gravity range of the little shuttle, he heaved as if the wind had been knocked out of him, his knees bent and he doubled over, the dry air burning his throat.
“Argh, what the hell...”
“High gravity!” The pilot called out. “1.3Gs I believe.”
“You couldn’t warn me?” Dennis choked, it felt like someone had dropped a small horse onto his back.
“You were gonna find out eventually. Have fun Ambassador, I’ll be back to pick you up in six months.”
“Yeah, any damage to your joints after that will be permanent.”
The engines of the shuttle flared, and Dennis hobbled off the landing pad to escape the gale. Taking stone steps down towards the spire, afraid he would fall in the high gravity.
A large wooden door opened in the building, and a towering creature stepped out. She was about eight feet tall, with a head of shaggy orange hair, small furry ears on the top of her head that pivoted, and the flat brow of a cat. Her fingers ended in claws, and her legs had a jointed heel, with odd, paw-like feet. A long, furry tail swung behind her. She wore a revealing robe made of light, blue fabric that accentuated her impressive figure and showed off the patterned skin on her shoulders and thighs, he assumed because of the heat. She was heavily muscled compared to a human, probably due to the high gravity. She watched him with large, amber eyes, then called to him in rolling English, her accent oddly Russian to his ears.
“Ambassador Carlisle! We have awaited your arrival most impatiently!”
He was hunched over, raggedly breathing in the dry air, and he was sweating as if he had run a triathlon. He wanted to stand up straight and shake hands, make a good first impression, but it was impossible under these circumstances.
He stumbled down the last couple of steps, limping over to her, cursing himself for accepting this position, this was not a promotion, it was an exile! He had been the only one young and naive enough to think of adventure and prestige before his own neck.
It was a lesson learned far too late.
“Ah! My apologies Ambassador, I, how do you say...”
Her English was good, but not perfect, she seemed to have some odd grammatical quirks.
“The gravity here, is too much for a human, yes? You will adapt in time.”
She grasped him gently under the arm, alleviating some of the crushing weight, and guided him into the building. They descended a flight of stairs, slightly too big for his human legs, if this alien had not been there to support him he might have fallen badly.
When they reached the bottom, they emerged from another door into the street, and turned towards the construction site.
“I am sorry, I failed to introduce myself, I am called Xhe Fortaz, you may call me Xhe, I have been trained specially to assist you while you visit us.”
Dennis nodded, not wanting to speak, large breads of sweat dripping down his pale face.
“Do not worry, we will get you seated in a chair, it will help.”
They walked past heavy stone blocks and large, rugged machinery of indecipherable purpose, entering the new building, its polished wooden door flanked by two large pillars. There was a long hall running down the center of the structure, the floor was made from shiny marble that squeaked under his shoes. Borealans seemed to have a love for stonework, but perhaps in this high gravity, they could only build low and strong. Even if the style was borne from a limitation, it was no less aesthetically pleasing.
“This is the embassy we have built for you, as is customary for your people, we hope that it will please you.”
“I-It’s very nice.” Dennis wheezed. His knees and ankles felt like they were going to give.
Xhe steered him into a side room, past an ornamental door and into an open space with a wooden desk, everything was brand new and varnished to a fine sheen, the furniture must have been carved from local wood. She lowered him into a chair behind the elaborate desk. It was cushioned, and a little too high for him, the measurements must not have been perfect, but he relaxed into the seat, the pressure on his legs relieved.
“Oh lord, thank you Miss Fortaz.” He gasped.
“Please, call me Xhe.”
“Of course, Xhe. You’ll forgive my ignorance, I was not made aware of the ... local conditions when I was assigned to Borealis. I was unprepared for such heat and high gravity.”
She looked sympathetic.
“I understand, I have trained with humans on your Pinwheel, under Miss Elysiedde.”
“Pinwheel?” Dennis asked, wiping the sweat from his brow.
“A space station where Borealans and other aliens are sent to learn human customs, so that they might serve in the military, or in my case assist the Ambassador.”
“Ah, yes, my shuttle pilot mentioned some such station.”
The alien was oddly reverential, she said ‘Ambassador’ as if she were addressing royalty, not a politician. She had said that embassies were a custom of my people, implying that hers did not use them, perhaps the concept of an ambassador was new to them, and they assigned the position far more importance than it really deserved. No matter.
“Xhe, may I bother you for a glass a water?”
“A drink? Of course, please wait here.”
She scurried out of the room, almost sprinting. He had never had his own secretary before, but he sensed he would get along with this one.
He looked around the room, or his office, as seemed to be its purpose. There were no paintings on the walls as one might find in a human designed office, but odd tapestries and curtains hung from the walls, made of fine fabrics, despite the lack of windows. In fact he had seen no windows on any of the buildings so far.
One especially large tapestry seemed to depict a battle scene, it was crude, and the perspective was poor, but he could recognize what was being shown. A large, muscled Borealan with a flowing mane commanded an army, assaulting a squat castle, whose denizens aimed at them with what looked like pipes, maybe muskets or rifles. The embroidery was intricate, fine craftsmanship despite the relatively crude art.
He examined the desk, it looked like mahogany, but was surely some native species, the deep brown, varnished sheen was inlaid with carved heads. They looked like cats, not Borealans, something else. Perhaps some local animal. Because there were no windows, the light came from a bulb on the ceiling, putting out a less harsh, more yellow light than their sun. The cats had done their research.
If only they had installed artificial gravity generators, even if it was just in one room. His legs ached and his back was beginning to get sore. He believed them when they told him he would adapt to the new gravity, but how long would that take?
His feet dangled from the chair, he felt like a child sitting at a dinner table, fortunately the front of the desk had a panel, and people on the other side would not be able to see that. The floor was carpeted with a deep, royal red. Overall the room looked like the office of a tasteless statesman, or a politician who fancied himself a big player, Dennis loved it.
After a moment Xhe returned with a wooden mug, comparable in size to a thermos. She placed it on the table, waiting eagerly, and Dennis hefted it awkwardly, taking a tentative sip.
“Thank you Xhe, that hits the spot.” He felt the rasping in his scoured throat receding.
“You’ve done an excellent job on the embassy, my compliments to the architects.”
Xhe beamed, her tail flicking backwards and forwards, almost like a dog wagging, Dennis remarked, as he took another draw from the mug.
“I’m glad it pleases you, Ambassador. We attempted to imitate human styles.”
“This tapestry.” He said, gesturing to the larger battle scene that dominated one wall. “What does it depict?” Xhe turned to examine it.
“That is the battle of Elysia, it depicts the ancestor of Patriarch Elysiedde capturing this territory after laying siege to its citadel, shortly after he would found the capital city.”
“A Patriarch is your leader then? Like a King or a President?”
“Yes, more like a King, the title is usually hereditary, it can be taken by force but the breeding of great families is impeccable and that rarely happens.”
Eugenics, then? Interesting, this species had no moral qualms about the practice.
“Does it have to be a male? Have you had any female leaders?”
“No, it can be a Matriarch, there is less...” Xhe struggle with a word. “Dimorf...”
“Sexual dimorphism?” Dennis offered.
“Yes, there is less sexual dimorphism among Borealans than among humans.”
Dennis had imagined male Borelans to be even larger and more imposing, but that might not be the case, he was somewhat relieved. It was hard enough craning his neck to speak with this female, as oddly attractive as she was.
“Will I be introduced to the current Patriarch?”
“Oh, yes, very soon in fact. He is aware of the difficulties humans experience in the early stages of their visit, and will be visiting you here. An honor I am sure you can appreciate.”
Dennis soured, he would not make a good impression on the leader of this planet in his current state. He would have preferred to have a straight back and a firm handshake when introducing himself, rather than being slumped in a chair with his face coated in sweat. Perhaps such an early visit was a strategic attempt to make the Patriarch’s presence more overpowering? Had the political maneuvering already begun?
“Excellent.” He replied, putting on his best smile. He had been told that Borealans were nightmarish and ill tempered, but Xhe was lovely, and helpful. He still had the booklet with him, he should examine it more closely and read the rest of its entries in private.
“Do you know if my luggage has arrived Xhe? I sent it ahead of me.”
“Yes, we received several containers, they have been stored in your bedroom as requested.”
“Perfect, thank you.”
He wasn’t sure what to do now. He didn’t feel like unpacking, he just wanted to sit down, he felt like a giant boulder was compressing his chest. Perhaps he should make small talk, get to know his new aide.
“So, Xhe, tell me about yourself, how did you learn English?”
She looked flustered. Had he overstepped some social boundary, or was it just uncommon to show interest in the lives of employees here? She answered anyway.
“Well, all soldiers and diplomats learn your language, we have a school in Elysia that teaches it, and to learn human culture and social conventions we must travel to the Pinwheel and undergo integration training.”
“I keep hearing about this station, what does this integration training consist of?”
“Well, human and Borealan society is very different, interacting with humans can be ... trying for us. We must undergo intensive training and learn to suppress our pack instincts in order to live and work alongside humans.”
“It may surprise you, but I didn’t really know much about your people or your culture before coming here. I intended to learn through immersion, but I did come across some information that ... worried me.”
Xhe was visibly surprised, and her flat brow furrowed.
“Oh, I assumed you would have completed immersion training. Your superiors did not order such schooling?”
“No, you’re the first Borealan I’ve met.”
Xhe looked concerned, and touched her clawed fingers to her chin pensively.
“That complicates things, they sent you here with no training, and no knowledge of our society?”
Dennis was starting to get very worried.
“No, is that a problem?”
“I will have to teach you, please do not leave this building without me, Ambassador.”
Lord, what had he gotten himself into here? He winced his back was starting to hurt in this chair, the gravity was intolerable.
“Xhe, I assume there’s a bed in this bedroom you mentioned?”
“Could you help me up? I’d like very much to lie down for a while.”
She moved behind the desk and lifted him under the arm, the pressure was put back on his legs, and he hobbled out of the office. There was no second floor in the building, the bedroom was at the end of the marble hallway, behind another wooden door.
She opened it into another ornately decorated, stately room. The Borealans it seemed had spared no expense, and their attempts to impress him had succeeded with flying colors. The question he kept asking himself was, just what on Earth (or Borealis, in this case) did the Borealans think an Ambassador was?
The bed was gigantic, the carved wooden headboard must have weighed half a ton. Upon it were inscribed more battle scenes, and what looked like a hunting party of Borealans chasing down some large animal in the jungle.
Xhe lifted him onto the mattress, and he sank into the soft material, his pain relieved.
“How long do I have until the Patriarch arrives, Xhe?”
She retrieved an electronic device, and tapped it.
“In your time, three quarter hours.”
“Thank you.” He relaxed, sighing as his muscles and joints were alleviated of their stress.
Xhe closed the door on him, intending to give him some privacy. He may request more water later, and she would bring it to him. It was odd being subservient to such a small, frail creature. He was barely able to survive on Borealis itself, let alone challenge one of her people. It gave her a creeping sensation of wrongness, but this was what she had trained for. Months on the Pinwheel with the Patriarch’s vaunted daughter, now a Matriarch in her own right, albeit ruling over the microcosm of the station.
She was expected to succeed her father in time, and she was the foremost expert on humans. Along with her human companion, she had taught Xhe what was expected of a “secretary”, one who serves the Ambassador. Xhe would never have been selected for such a task were it not for her extraordinary temperament, but even with that advantage it had taken her months to meet the standards Raz Elysiedde had set for her.
She could be in the company of humans indefinitely now, and what few impulses to assert herself over them still rose to the surface, she could control. She had even learned to defer to them, to take commands and accept their leadership. Were an inferior of her own kind to make such outrageous challenges to her status, she would claw them viciously, and teach them their place. But she had come to learn the way of these humans, their bizarre, contradictory social system and their obtuse culture.
Besides, this Carlisle might be physically inferior, but his status was great, he represented all of humanity, the UNN, and their colonies. He must be an individual of great and noble exploits to have earned such an honor. She should respect him, surely after his period of adjustment to the planet’s crushing gravity, his character would shine through.
Dennis splashed water on his face from a tall marble basin in his en suite bathroom. He looked in the mirror, straightening his tie and rubbing his sleeve over his UNN badge. The Patriarch, or as the UNN called him, ‘Admiral Elysiedde’ would be arriving soon. He must look his best, and make a good impression. The gravity still tugged at him, threatening to pull him to ground and crush his joints into bone dust, but he would have to endure it as best he could. His legs felt as if he had climbed a mountain with a rucksack full of breeze blocks.
Xhe knocked on his door, and he hesitated before answering, marveling at her knowledge of human social conventions.
“Is it time, Xhe?”
“Ambassador, my lord Patriarch Elysiedde will see you now.”
Dennis composed himself, and putting on his best diplomatic smile, strode confidently into the hall.
He was confronted with nine feet of male Borealan. He was almost as wide as a human was tall, massive shoulders supported a head the size of a lion’s, with a flowing mane of orange hair to match. He wore an ornate robe made of a fine blue fabric that shimmered in the light, embroidered like a tapestry with golden figures. Hunters, warriors and unidentifiable beasts battled eachother in intricately woven scenes, and a flowing cape trailed on the ground behind him, made from the soft, downy hide of some animal, layered fur shining in pearlescent shades of blue, green and brown.
His massive claws were tipped with gilded thimbles, and his long tail swayed, protruding from a split down the middle of his long cape. Upon his breast were innumerable badges and medals, what honors and achievements they might boast were unknown to Dennis.
He tried to contain his awe, and hoped that it did not show on his face.
The Borealan spoke, his rumbling voice reverberating in the enclosed space, making Dennis’ bones shake. His English was very good, with the same hint of Russian that Xhe exhibited.
“Ambassador Carlisle, we meet at last. I hope you will excuse the unfinished state of your embassy.”
Dennis adjusted his tie, fidgeting, and replied, doing his best to keep his voice from wavering.
“Not at all, Patriarch, the embassy you have built is grand and tastefully decorated. I find myself impressed by your knowledge of human culture, and the subtle Borealan touches you elected to include.”
Oh God, had he addressed him correctly? Should he call him Patriarch or was it Admiral, or maybe Lord? Should he dumb down his grammar so that the alien might better understand him, or would that be seen as an insult to his intelligence?
“Yes, I displayed some tapestries from my own private collection, I am pleased that you can appreciate them. How are you finding our quaint little planet, Ambassador? Do her claws still grip you?”
He had to think for a moment, the Patriarch must mean the gravity.
“Yes, she has quite a grip! But in time I believe I will adapt, and be able to fulfill all of my diplomatic duties.”
Elysiedde liked Dennis’ response, he laughed, the low baritone echoing through the hall.
“Good, good. I am aware of the fragility of human visitors, you should be on your feet, touring the capital within a few rotations. I will not take up too much of your time, it is better that you rest for now, but when you have recovered I expect you to attend one of my banquets. I would like to show off my alien guest to the leaders of the other territories.”
“Of course, Patriarch, it was an honor to meet you. I observed the impressive architecture of your city on the way down, I’m eager to explore it and meet the people.”
Elysiedde nodded, then turned to leave, his shining cloak flowing behind him. He strode down the marble hall towards the entrance, his claws clicking on the hard surface. When he reached the large, wooden door he turned around again.
“Oh, and Ambassador, Xhe is not only your aide, but a member of your pack now, she will obey any command you give her without hesitation. Please don’t be hesitant to make any and all use of her during your stay, she has been specially trained for this task.”
He left, and Dennis looked to Xhe, she had been almost cowering in a corner during the Patriarch’s visit, was she afraid of him, or was this one of their alien social rituals?
“What did he mean by that, Xhe?”
She looked flustered, a little angry.
“How much do you know about Borealan social structures, Ambassador?”
“Not a lot, I know you live in packs.”
“Borealans don’t really have friends the way humans do, we form packs, each pack has anywhere between one and a dozen members. The leader of the pack is the one who physically overcomes the others, usually through violence. They are the Alpha of that pack, they command unwavering loyalty and deference from the others. During my training I learned how to suppress the instincts that govern such behavior, in order to work alongside and take instructions from a human, who would under normal circumstances be my inferior.”
Dennis swallowed, she had two feet over him, and claws like knives. If she had wanted to overpower him through violence, the fight would not be drawn out.
“My position as your secretary puts me in a subservient position to you, in Borealan culture, this makes you my Alpha. I must obey any order given.”
“Xhe, you know I’m not a Borealan. Humans employ eachother and form power structures unrelated to their social status all the time, you don’t have to be my slave in order to work for me.”
She raised a hand, gesturing for him to stop.
“Trust me, it is better this way. The training I underwent was intensive. I suggest you pay it no mind, and focus on your duties. I will work around you.”
“I’m not going to ask you to do anything a human secretary wouldn’t do.”
She nodded, was she a little relieved? The Patriarch’s comment had been strange, but no matter, he was here to do a job. Better to make the best of the situation.
“Sounds like I have some free time before my diplomatic duties begin, I guess I’ll get unpacked!”
He returned to his room on shaky legs, and Xhe trailed behind him.
Dennis unpacked his clothes, toiletries and a few personal items, among them a slab of Kobe beef, given to him by the Ambassador to Japan. It was contained within a stasis unit to preserve it, a sizable square box with transparent windows and a blob of nondescript machinery on one end that contained the technology required to slow time in the contained space. It might be the most expensive gift ever delivered, but it would keep the meat fresh, and it was the best Earth could produce.
It would make an excellent gift for the Patriarch, Dennis would present it to him at one of the banquets he had mentioned.
“What do you think, Xhe?” He asked, hefting the container so she could see inside, her eyes widened, lingering on the marbled meat.
“What is it?”
“This is Kobe, the most expensive luxury meat Earth produces. The livestock are fed a special diet and massaged to improve the flavor. I’m going to give it to the Patriarch as a gift, do you think he’ll like it?”
She nodded enthusiastically.
“You might not know a lot about my people, Ambassador, but whoever gave you that gift certainly did their research.”
Satisfied, he set it down and got back to work.
Among the possessions that been shipped ahead was a large trunk, doubly heavy in this intolerable gravity. He tasked Xhe with dragging it to the center of the room. Pushing a button on the side made it open like the petals of a flower, revealing a sophisticated communications and computing station. It would allow him to do any work that required a computer, and to communicate with the UN and UNN High Command. The receiver was powerful enough to send and receive data to orbiting satellites.
Xhe seemed fascinated by the device, walking around it and examining the powerful transmitters. He turned it on, its self-contained power source whirring to life. The monitors flared, displaying data on the status of the computer and its peripherals.
“It’s a computer.” He said, showing her the keyboard and the trackball mouse.
She rolled the trackball experimentally.
“We have computers, of course, but this is advanced compared to ours. No doubt the Patriarch will want one if he sees it...”
“I had heard he enjoys buying foreign technology, especially ships.” Said Dennis, as he started a diagnostic scan, had to make sure no components had been damaged during transport.
“Yes, Elysia is the only territory that can afford to buy starships right now, my lord Patriarch has made it a matter of inter-territorial grandstanding.”
“You don’t approve?”
Xhe lowered her head, as if she had done something wrong. The Patriarch was not in earshot, did Borealan subservience to those of higher social status run so deep?
“It is not my place to question the Patriarch, but I do wonder if the money could not be better spent elsewhere. Our pacts with the Coalition guarantee the protection of the planet from space, in exchange for our best warriors serving on the front. They are really just happy to be occupied. There has not been war on Borealis for a generation, the Elysiedde family line has dominated, and Elysia is the most powerful territory. She commands respect above all others.”
“So even your international politics reflect the pack structure?”
“They do, yes. There was a great war which Elysia won, under the leadership of Tark Elysiedde, the first Patriarch of Elysia. He led his tribe in the conquest of this territory and defeated three other tribes in the process. One was exiled into the desert, the others were inducted. The scene of the final battle is depicted on the tapestry in your office, which dates from that period.”
Incredible, he had the equivalent of the Bayeux Tapestry on his office wall. That explained the relative crudeness of the art. Xhe continued.
“The ships he bought serve no purpose, they are used only for boasting, to demonstrate the wealth and modernity of Elysia to the other territories, although they pose her no threat.”
Dennis nodded, he had read about many dictators of Earth’s past who had done similar things, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, Idi Amin. That was not to say that the Patriarch was a dictator, but it was a worrying correlation. Could such an underdeveloped planet even afford to fuel the ships, or have the training to staff them? He doubted it.
The computer had finished its diagnostic, all systems operable, the only anomaly was a higher than optimal system temperature, but that couldn’t be helped.
“I think I will take the Patriarch’s advice.” Dennis said.
“You are dismissed Xhe, please return tomorrow morning at your earliest convenience. I’m going to rest for a while.”
“I live in the embassy now, I have my own room down the hall.”
“Oh, fair enough, I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
She nodded, and left the room, closing the door behind her. It was unusual, on Earth being a secretary was just a job like any other, but it seemed Xhe had been groomed for the role, and undergone extensive training. It had become her life, and he didn’t know how he felt about that.
The next day was uneventful, Dennis rested, attempted to train himself by walking up and down the marble hall under the crushing gravity, and communicated with his superiors via the console, telling them of his progress and the difficulties he had encountered. When he questioned their forthcoming in telling him about the details of the assignment, they simply didn’t respond.
He examined the Borealis Tourist Guide, trying to familiarize himself with the culture and customs as best as he was able. He felt uncomfortable asking Xhe about it, and was unable to retrieve data from the console due to the great distance between UNN space and Borealis. Although the satellites were capable of FTL communication, the size of the packets they could send and receive was limited to small communiques. The little booklet the pilot had given him was the best source of information available to him.
It had sections on Borealan culture, society, history, the environment, and even local food culture.
After a trying jog up and down the hall, he leafed through the section experimentally. There was a crude cartoon of a Borealan shoving a T-bone steak into its mouth.
There was a lot of information compared to some of the other sections. It seemed the Borealans were very enthusiastic about their culinary arts and enjoyed sharing them, perhaps a throwback to their pack animal ancestors eating as a group.
‘Borealans have a rich food culture that is a significant component of their social experience. Their diet consists of varied meats, fish, grains and gourds. They are sensitive to the oils and fats in cooked meats, preferring cooking methods that enhance these flavors, and texture is of great concern when preparing meals. They have almost no perception of sweet flavors, and so humans visitors with a sweet tooth may wish to bring condiments and sauces with them when dining. This will not be seen as an insult to the chef, as many Borealans commonly carry small spray bottles containing their preferred oil, which may be processed from meat, fish or vegetables depending on the tastes of the individual. The rendering of fats is an important aspect of Borealan cooking, producing lard or schmalz for use in soups and stews.
Much care is taken when feeding livestock to ensure that the fat of the animal retains a certain flavor, and meats from the same species may not always have a similar taste, due to the diet of the animal before slaughter. Many of these subtle flavors would not be perceptible to a human, but it is a very important aspect of Borealan dining and should be taken into account. The excess skin of many animals is fried and served as an entrée or a snack.’
Interesting, the text was giving him ideas of how his gift should be cooked, Xhe had been right, the Japanese Ambassador had done his research, the Patriarch would be pleased. He continued to read.
‘Borealan civilization is based around the great lakes and rivers of Borealis, which are home to rich aquatic life. Fish and other seafoods are a staple of the Borealan diet. Being strong swimmers and enjoying bathing as a recreational activity, bare handed fishing is a popular competitive sport. Locals will compete to see who can catch the largest, or the greatest quantity of fish with their hooked claws. Commercial fisherman use conventional nets and trawlers.
Borealans prefer oily fish similar to mackerel which are commonly smoked, and the lower social classes eat many species of bottom feeding crustaceans analogous to lobsters and crabs, which are considered to be at best rustic, and at worse unsanitary.’
‘The cultivation of a grain not unlike the corn plant found in South America led Borealans to the discovery of agriculture, animal husbandry, and later civilization. It is a source of fiber, and grows easily in the jungles that ring the water sources. It is prepared in a wide variety of ways, from cereals to complimentary dishes.’
Dennis wondered absent-mindedly what a Borealan cereal might taste like, did they serve it with milk? They were cats, after all. Captain Crunch took on a whole new meaning in a 1.3G environment.
‘Borealans also enjoy gourds, more for their texture than their flavor, and cultivate parasitic vines that grow on trees and produce fruit not unlike the pumpkin. These are often eaten raw, or cooked into pies.’
Dennis lay the booklet down on a bedside table, and decided he would order his first Borealan meal. He had not eaten since arriving on the planet, and he had brought no food with him besides the Kobe in the stasis container. It seemed that anything a Borealan could eat, a human could eat too. He called for Xhe, and she arrived quickly, standing obediently at the edge of the bed.
“Xhe, I would like some food.”
“Of course Ambassador, I am familiar with many human dishes that I can-”
“No, no, I want to try a local dish.”
Dennis retrieved the booklet and leafed through to the culinary section.
“I would like some smoked fish, I’m not sure what kind you have, but use your best judgment.”
“Very well, Ambassador.”
After some time Xhe brought him a huge dish, a Borealan sized dinner plate that was comically large, on it were two whole fish. They were about the size of trout, brown and crispy with odd armor plating along the dorsal area and too many fins. They had the same streamlined appearance as an Earth fish, convergent evolution, there must be an optimal shape for swimming. He looked to Xhe expectantly, waiting for cutlery, but none came.
“Borealans use their claws to eat.” She explained.
Dennis picked a fish up gingerly, it was heavy, and took a bite. It tasted good, the scales were fine and he stayed away from the armor plating, focusing his attention on the soft underbelly. It was well cooked, smoked over a wood fire he surmised from the flavor.
“It’s good!” He mumbled, he would have liked a knife and a fork, his fingers were greasy and the fine scales were sticking to his mouth, but the dish was a success. He afforded himself a moment of pride for having tried something new, he was eating an alien! Probably the first human to ever to eat this particular species.
Xhe observed him as he ate clumsily, he had noticed that she always tried to keep a neutral expression, but now she seemed amused. He would have to find a solution to this problem before he was invited to one of the Patriarch’s banquets.
The next few days passed quickly, every day he sampled new Borealan dishes, meats, seafoods and grains as described in his guide, leaving their preparation at the discretion of his aide. He trained, doing his best to adapt to the harsh gravity, every jog up and down the marble hall became easier than the last. After five days he was mobile, and growing impatient with his sedentary life in the embassy. He wanted to see the city, experience the culture as he had intended, and no aggressive aliens or stifling heat would stop him from doing that.
“Xhe, I would like to tour the city.”
“Are you able to walk so far?” Xhe asked hesitantly, eyeing him as he stood in the hall.
“Well enough, yes. I’m dying of boredom, I need to get outside and do something.”
She looked distressed, it was obvious that she wanted to deny his request, but because of the strange Borealan social caste system she was unable, and that suited him just fine.
“I ... will make the necessary arrangements. But you must understand, Ambassador, the Borealans that are allowed to interact with humans have undergone extensive training and conditioning. Those in the city have not, they are, by human standards, wild. They have never interacted with a human, most have never seen an alien, humans are small and comparatively weak and so you will be treated as an inferior. If you do not know how to make yourself appear non threatening and submissive, you may expose yourself to violence.”
He felt a tremor of fear in his belly, she was deadly serious, but he put on a strong face. He had not traveled 75 light years in a cramped jump freighter to cower inside an embassy when there was a whole alien city out there to explore.
“So teach me! Give me the Borealan crash course.”
She looked uncomfortable, and shifted her weight from foot to foot, her long, furry tail flicking back and forth restlessly.
“That may not be a good idea.”
“If you aren’t qualified to teach me, Xhe, then who is?”
She considered for a moment, then nodded.
“Very well, Ambassador. As you wish.”
Xhe did her best to teach the human, but she knew that it would not be enough. He had no idea of the massive cultural gulf that separated their species, and the only way he would truly understand would be to learn the hard way? Perhaps in this case it was better to just let him trip and fall, so that he might pick himself up.
He understood the basics, not to make prolonged eye contact, to avoid physical interactions, don’t argue, don’t talk back, don’t joke or ‘pal around’ as the humans liked to call it. Almost every human social interaction was deeply provocative to a Borealan, and although he seemed to understand on a superficial level, she was certain he would slip up. It was their nature after all, she could not undo a lifetime of learned behavior in an afternoon.
She taught him how to be submissive, how to stay low and keep his eyes down, how to respond should someone address him, and how to avoid confrontations and back out of arguments. Seeing the small, frail creature take on his natural role nagged at her, tickled the back of her mind. The old instincts threatened to rise and undo her conditioning, he was like a ripe fruit, begging to be picked from the branch. She longed to assert herself over him, to take her rightful place as his Alpha, but she suppressed the desires, using the techniques Miss Elysiedde had taught her. Though unnatural, though infuriating, the Ambassador was her Alpha by special appointment, and she might be one of a handful of Borealans on the planet who could tolerate such an arrangement. This was a service to her Lord Patriarch, and she would see it through.