All human beings who have ever lived have had days they’ve regretted. I know that I’ve had more than a few even before coming to Jin’Drezia. The 24 hours, or so, beginning with my encounter at the museum dedication with Minister Anu’ra was easily my greatest regret, up to that point at any rate. I don’t even know why I’m repeating this, even for my personal records.
In any case, here I go.
The museum dedication related to the Drezian and Earthican Alliance Museum for Moist Harmony. It was a bit of a presumptuous building since it was being built before any alliance was ratified between Earth and Jin’Drezia. Apparently, it was the personal project of Emperor Grez’a and Dowager Broodmother Byt’hula, both of whom were quite keen on an alliance between Earth and Jin’Drezia. Yet, neither would be there for the dedication. Oddly enough, they stuck Minister Anu’ra with that “honor.” This was strange given that Anu’ra was the voice in the Broodmother’s inner circle most skeptical of the value of a treaty with Earth.
As for the building itself, it was a nice enough looking structure. The main portion was a bright blue and green dome, meant to be a Drezian interpretation of Earth. Inside it had all kinds of holographic displays depicting the history of Earthican-Drezian relations, starting with first contact 71 years ago. My parents told me about what a terrifying event that was. Drezian ships jumped into Earth’s atmosphere with no warning at all and caused an absolute planetwide panic. Their appearance out of nowhere resulted from some kind of navigation error that almost triggered a war we surely would have lost. The Drezian interpretation of this story was now somewhat different, depicting the admiral of that Drezian task force as an intrepid explorer blessing Earth in Splorxx’s moist harmony.
Incidentally, the portion of the museum depicting how Earth’s religions were brought around to worshipping Splorxx was simply fantastic. All of Earth’s religions were shown as comically barbarous, preaching lies and superstition before being blasted away by Splorxx’s righteous spores. They also depicted the now extinct atheists as blind and deaf fools, too stubborn to accept the truth of Splorxx’s benevolence. Ultimately, as we know, all religions either took on a pure worship of Splorxx or took a “compatibilist” view, where Splorxx’s verifiable existence was interwoven into existing human religious beliefs.
One large portion of the museum was dedicated to the war we humans fought alongside the Drezians against the loathsome Glyrgat Dominion. This ultimately featured a great deal on Ambassador Hunley, much of which I found to be incorrect. One obvious detail they got wrong was that they said she served in the 61st Shock Army when in fact it was the 71st Shock Army. Perhaps the translation from Earthican to Drezian left something to be desired. It could have been, in part, sheer sloppiness, though that wasn’t the Drezian way.
Minister Anu’ra, who showed up for the tour a touch late, was probably the best example of how I understood Drezians to be. Even with their slimy mucosal bodies, they were fastidious and that was especially true in Anu’ra’s case. On no occasion did he do anything untoward or embarrass himself. He was the best example of his race, at least as far as I could find, and he never gave me any reason to think otherwise.
He did the customary Drezian head flick, even with the slight dissonant motion that Ambassador Hunley had developed, toward me and tapped his cane several times when he greeted me at the museum. Anu’ra gave every impression of being pleased to see me. Whether this was me reading more into the Drezian permanent smile on their upward-turned lips or something more genuine, I don’t know.
“Ambassador Hunley, I’m glad to see that you’re here alone,” he said in his gurgling tone.
“Belgrano’s busy, or so he says,” I chuckled awkwardly.
“Thank Splorxx for that,” Anu’ra smiled, his pupils widening. “Perhaps we can have some more candid discussions on treaty terms without that damnable vug’freg Belgrano.”
I laughed politely at what he said. I still, to this day, don’t truly understand why the two didn’t like each other. I didn’t give the slightest care as to why either one of them didn’t care for each other. Since neither of them ever really told me, I don’t feel that I can be expected to have done so.
“Come. There’s one exhibit I think you should be particularly proud of. Have you been to the southwest wing yet?” he asked.
Honestly, I had been so focused on not walking peculiarly or saying anything that would give away my status as Hunley’s impostor. There had been so many questions that I had just responded to by saying, “Oh, Splorxx, that’s not a very interesting story.”
“I can’t say that I have,” I chuckled. As it turned out, I hadn’t been there.
I walked alongside Anu’ra as we approached the darkened and cavernous southwestern wing. Apparently this was meant to represent a particular conflict during the war. The number of holographic clips playing was amazing. There were so many clips of Ambassador Hunley and her comrade, the late Hugo Veroux, a suave Frenchman who gave his life taking out a nest of the Glygrat larvae. It was hardly an honorable achievement, but it was considered one of the 71st Shock Army’s greatest achievements in that war. The Drezians had never considered it one of the greater achievements in that war, but they were inclined to humor us.
Case in point, they depicted Ambassador Hunley shooting the queen of the Glygrat colony as this tiny little human shooting a monster hundreds of meters tall. In fact, the typical Glygrat queen was only barely taller than a typical human. This was something that disappointed me when I learned of it in the more accurate war records, rather than what we were taught as we went through the early stages of the Diplomatic Corps curriculum.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Anu’ra asked, chuckling at the various exhibits.
“Hrm? What’s that?”
“That we can immortalize lies within our own lifetimes,” he continued chuckling. “You and I both know that they didn’t get anything right in here.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Look here,” he said, pointing at a display that showed a caption, written in absurdly obscure Drezian. “They have you as the 17th Platoon 4th Company 7th Regiment 3rd Division 11th Corps 71st Shock Army! Ha! Nothing about that’s right.”
“Well, 71st Shock Army is,” I corrected him. I didn’t know if any of the rest of that was. “Otherwise, yes it’s bullshit.”
Anu’ra turned to me and rolled his pupils around his eyes.
“Bull… shyte? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before,” he chuckled amusedly. “I am afraid it doesn’t mean anything here. What was the way you said that one time?”
“Hyg’rut shyte?” I asked, hoping that some random note I’d read on Hunley’s desk was an accurate representation of what she’d say on ordinary occasions.
Anu’ra tapped his cane against the floor several times and clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s the one!” he chirped in glee. “I’d never heard that before you said it and it’s so true!”
I laughed along nervously, worried that he might be pretending to achieve some level of familiarity with me. However, as we walked along it seemed genuine. Looking at my wrist communicator on my encounter suit, I realized that it was almost time for our address just outside the museum and then… Then there was no escaping it. Either I would have to administer the poison then or I wouldn’t have another chance within the window the Sticky Tongue had given me.
This would be a good time to say that I truly didn’t know whether their deadline was literal or more of a suggestion that could be negotiated. I thought about it at the time. Believe me. I did. However, at the same time, the risk of having them reveal information that would scuttle the entire treaty was more than I could accept. Indeed, Earth did face obliteration without the Drezian fleet. We were fat, rich, fertile and without any appreciable amount of protection absent the Drezians. While the Drezians were to take advantage of us via treaty, this was preferable to the other fates we faced, ranging from enslavement to incineration.
Modest exploitation, by comparison, was almost nothing.