Preparation over the next few days consists of a few things. First, there is the assembling of the Mrenian military, conducted by Vazen and overseen by Lelia. It’s almost humorous to Bateny, how war is being overseen by peace. Pernelle is telling the civilians of the plan, alerting them of the foreigners. They expect mass panic, but it never comes because no-one believes them. Not until Dienis shows them where the aircraft is, and the projected landing day. The Rineschen do not panic this time because they believe that their delegates will take care of everything. They are certainly trying, though Bateny is not sure how well this will work out. If the citizens are not panicking, the delegates are panicking for them. The Council has not been heard from in a while. Bateny himself is watching the aircraft, monitoring it in real time. He has a team of Rinesch engineers backing him up, telling him random strings of data that he understands due to studying as a Vasrinian.
There is the small matter of where to hide the Mrenian military. Vazen suggests that they hide in the forests surrounding the enormous clearing where the foreigners are projected to land. The ship is going to land in the continent of Rineni, if only because it is the central continent. It is somewhat like having a giant red target with an enormous bull’s-eye. There is absolutely no way one can miss it. The days pass, and the time isn’t enough, but the Rinaschen make do.
On the day of the landing, they are not ready. They would never be prepared for this, none of them would. Not the foreigners, not the Rinaschen. Anis stands beside Bateny in the clearing; there was not much fuss put up regarding the assistants, since they were supposed to be helping their delegates anyway. Bateny is nervous, and no drite would need to see his wavelength meter to come to that conclusion. He is trembling, with fear, excitement, nervousness. Anis takes her father’s hand and emits nine clicks. A reassurance.
“Anis,” Bateny murmurs, “if they attack, you run. Run and do not look back for anything. Not for me, nor Deni, nor any of the delegates. This is an order. You save yourself. I did not have you built to have you destroyed, my dear.” Anis does not think it will come to that. Her father is being overdramatic. The shuttle blasts into the atmosphere noisily; the engines are on full blast. Bateny’s hold on Anis’s hand tightens; he is terrified. He genuinely wants to be strong for Anis, but she must be strong for him.
“It is alright, Father. Trust me. The military is all around us, in the trees. They are ready to fire, if anything. Do not focus on the hypotheticals, you told me once.” She emits two clicks at the emergence of the fond memory. “Here and now. That is what is important.”
Bateny nods. “You are right. Thank you, my dear. I have taught you well.”
The shuttle lands in the clearing, right in front of the delegates. They wait, expectant, nervous, scared. There is tension in the air as the shuttle door opens. One of the foreigners steps out. Her hair is short, brown, slightly messy—intentionally so. Her skin is tan, her eyes brown. Compared to the delegates, she is quite short. They stand at least two feet taller than her; she is five foot four. She walks down the stairs to meet the delegates, quivering. She did not expect this. They do not need a wavelength meter to see that. They don’t know what she is, but they can tell she is feeling much of the same emotions as they are.
“Hello,” she says, smiling. The delegates do not understand.
“Pienen, escine. Dania lerjen brenli?” The woman’s smile fades. Bateny has spoken in his native language, Rintone. It is clear there is a major language barrier.
“I… I don’t understand.” Her face exhibits confusion. Bateny is not familiar with facial expressions, nor are any of the other delegates. However, from the tone she uses, they can tell she is puzzled.
“Inez, what’s going on?” A male voice calls out to the woman below.
“Um, I don’t think you guys should come down. I think I’m meeting with the natives of Clepsydra, and I don’t know if they’re gonna attack us. They might see a bunch of us as a threat. In any case, the atmosphere is pretty good, the air’s breathable.”
“We noticed,” the man shouts back dryly. Shakily, the woman identified as Inez turns back towards the delegates. Bateny can see she is unarmed, and emits something that sounds like a sigh of relief.
Vazen turns to him and says sharply, “Do not think it is over just yet. Just because she is unarmed, it does not mean the rest of them are. She was communicating with the rest of them.” To the delegates, it is obvious that whatever she is, she is female. She has the same tonal regions as a female drite. The other person in the ship was male, according to the tonal regions.
“Um,” Inez tries again, “I…” She puts a hand upon her chest. “I am Inez Quintana.”
Bateny steps forward and puts a hand on his own metal chest. “Onei piem Bateny Rendox.” He sees that there will be no resolution unless they attempt to communicate and learn each other’s languages. Anis steps forward as well, and introduces herself the same way. Pernelle follows suit, as does Deni, Lelia, her assistant, and eventually all the delegates and assistants introduce themselves.
Inez’s brow wrinkles, trying to take in this new culture, language, these names. The fact that these beings are enormous, metal, and clothed similarly to the fashion of the Victorian era—which made a comeback a decade ago on Earth. She puts up her hands, and calls to her team inside the shuttle. “Guys, I think it’s okay to come out now, just… come out one by one, will you?” She speaks quickly, and it unnerves the delegates. Bateny puts up a hand to the other delegates, though, telling them silently to trust this stranger.
Silas comes into view, a slight, relatively tall man with longish, messy blond hair and blue eyes. He is unsmiling, but does not look scared. He pulls a book from his pocket, and begins to record notes about the planet, about the strange beings.
“Silas,” Inez says firmly, “introduce yourself. Social first, notes later.”
He sighs. “Fine.” He then turns towards the delegates. “Onei piem Silas Patrick.” Inez looks at him in shock; he is speaking their language. Silas shrugs. “Heard you guys talking from the shuttle.”
All of a sudden, a bunch of clicks resound from the delegates; they are laughing. That this foreigner attempted to speak Rintone, it is amazing and amusing at the same time. Perhaps if they are all this agreeable, nothing will go wrong.
Inez and Silas are startled by the sudden clicking noise, eyes wide. Annie, a woman of relatively average height with long black hair and almond-shaped seemingly black eyes, does not pay any heed to the delegates’ laughs; she exits to step on Inez’s right side. She takes Silas’s cue and says, “Onei piem Annie Wang.”
Brad is next; he is a few inches taller than Annie at five foot eleven, with dark skin and a handsome face; his hair is black, and his eyes are brown. He did not hear Annie, Silas, or Inez introducing themselves. He says, “I am Bradley Robinson.” Brad smiles at the delegates and stands next to Silas. The delegates note the introduction usage, and make mental notes to do the same, to learn this strange new language.
Hania has long, thick brown hair tied into a ponytail, and hazel eyes. She is a little taller than Inez, but not by much. Once she exits, she introduces herself to the delegates in Rintone, because she was standing by the door and could hear what the delegates and her fellow crew members were saying.
Chandra exits next, of above-average height, brown hair braided down her back and brown eyes searching the crowd gathered below; the five delegates and their assistants, most of her team sans Nick. She introduces herself in English, figuring that the strange giant beings would understand her anyway.
Nick is last to exit, with a broad grin, brown hair, and green eyes. He is almost as tall as Silas, measuring at around six feet. He introduces himself to the delegates in Rintone, and Bateny decides that he does not really like Nick much. The man seems arrogant.
The drites do not introduce themselves once more. Inez steps forward, gesturing to each delegate. “This is… Bateny?” The delegate nods his head, emitting two clicks as a smile. Inez smiles as well, introducing the delegates in turn. As soon as the exchange is over, the military swarms in and captures the team of astronauts.
Bateny is furious with Vazen. Has he not repeated time after time that ignorance breeds war? The astronauts sit in cells, in the delegate tower. Apparently the Mrenian delegate had them built specifically to contain the prisoners. He had built too many, as a result of paranoia and overpreparation.
“Lelia,” Bateny addresses her abruptly, “were you not watching over Vazen and making sure that he was not pulling any tricks?”
She nods. “I was watching him, Ban, but I never saw this coming.” Bateny has changed his mind about her arrogance. She is not arrogant. She is an idiot. He is frustrated, upset, and Pernelle senses this; she puts a hand on his shoulder and sits him down.
“Bateny, do not be angry with Lelia. Vazen is sly and sneaky. She never stood a chance. We shall speak to Vazen, we must reason with him.”
“Pernelle, he cannot be reasoned with!” His tone is laced with the frustration he feels at that idiot Vazen. Does he not think things through? Of course he does not. This is the Mrenian delegate we are talking about. Bateny does not care that he is stereotyping, because Vazen has done something irresponsible and likely irreversible. The foreigners will not trust them now. They may have been capable of it at one point, but no longer.
A few drites went through the cargo that the team brought with them and found nonperishable food, but they did not know what it was. They bring it to Bateny now, who emits a sigh from his tonal regions. “They would know what this is. They could have taught us what it is.”
Pernelle emits five clicks, a snort. “You are speaking as if they are dead, Bateny. They are still alive, it is not as if Vazen has killed them.”
“But he may not allow me to bring these things to them. Even if he did, the foreigners would not want to see me. They will not trust us now, Pernelle, do you realize this?” She nods.
“Of course they will not, Bateny, but are you going to give up? Are you going to allow Vazen to win?” Her tone suggests humor in that this is all a game, but Bateny is not amused. Her jesting only makes him more determined.
“No. I will not allow him to win.” Bateny orders the drites wheeling the cargo to follow him. They are in the delegate tower already, and only need to go down to the floor Vazen had reserved for the cells. It is lit well, with several windows; the cells themselves are closed, like rooms. They also have windows, but the windows are reinforced. The astronauts have been split up so that they do not convene with one another. Bateny decides he will visit Inez, who appears to be their leader.
He goes over to the guard. Bateny has been upgraded to be taller than the average drite, to show his superiority as a delegate, so he towers over the guard. “Open door one. That is an order.”
“But rinajste…” The guard hesitates. “Rinajste Vazen explicitly ordered that no-one was to enter any of the cells.”
Bateny makes a noise of impatience. “In that case, I am no-one. Let me in or I swear you shall be fired before the end of the day. Vazen can be melted down, for all I care, and before you threaten me with telling him I said this, he knows my feelings towards him.”
The guard nods and takes him to Inez’s cell, opening the door. She is sitting in the corner with her back to the door, muttering to herself with her fingers pressed to her temples. Bateny does not know what she is doing, but he motions to the guard to leave them, and the drite closes the door. Bateny sits and waits for her to turn around. Eventually, Inez turns and looks at him with loathing. The drite does not recoil.
“Why are you here?” she asks him with venom in her voice. “You wanted us gone, so why are you here?”
Bateny cannot understand her, but he understands her anger. “Crejten, xhenine.” His apology falls on uncomprehending ears. Perhaps they can communicate with tones rather than words.
Inez bites her lip. He sounds apologetic. But didn’t they put her there in the first place? Didn’t they imprison her team members, the ones she was supposed to be responsible for? “Bateny…” she tries the foreign name, speaking slowly, “Why am I in prison?” He still cannot understand, but he tries to explain why she was imprisoned because he’s sure she must be wondering.
“Vazen aschel denjie nae mrenii scejei xhi.” He tries to tell her that Vazen overreacted and the military obeys him, but all Inez hears is “Vazen”, and thinks it to be an answer to her question (and amazingly, it is).
“So… Vazen imprisoned us?” Inez inquires.
“Xje.” Bateny confirms, nods, and emits two clicks. He is amazed at how he has been able to communicate that Vazen is responsible for the imprisonment, and not any of the other delegates, simply by using the offender’s name.
Inez realizes that xje must mean yes. She smiles, happy to have learned a bit of this new language, and then wonders if Bateny will be able to understand her further. “What are you?” she asks slowly.
Bateny is confused, Inez can tell from his blank face (ha ha), so she points to him and tilts her head questioningly. Bateny points to himself. “Drite.” He then pulls a device from his pocket and creates a holographic image of the planet. “Rinas.”
Inez’s eyes widen, and she hesitantly points to the image of the planet. “Rinas?” Then she points below her. “This is Rinas?” Bateny nods. Inez slumps back and laughs tiredly. “We named it Clepsydra. My God, Mission Control is going to have a field day with this.”
Bateny switches the image to one of the tower they are at. “Rinajste inimje.” Inez repeats what he says, cementing it in her head as what the tower is called. Bateny then points to himself. “Rinajste.” Inez’s eyes widen with recognition. He is a rinajste, and they occupy this tower.
She points to the tower. “Inimje?” Bateny nods. So inimje means tower. Inez’s head is swimming, she tries to understand everything and put it together. She is intent upon learning the language to communicate. Bateny stands to leave, and she grabs at his hand urgently. “Please come back. Come back and teach me the language, or we’ll never be able to communicate. Please.” Bateny can’t understand her, but he understands that she wants him to come back from the urgency of her tone and how she grabbed his hand suddenly. He nods.
“Onei lerite brejtin.” He will be back. Inez sits back in her corner, pressing her fingers to her temples, practicing the small amount of rintone she learned. Bateny exits her cell, walking off to demand that the other delegates visit the astronauts and to try and reason with Vazen. He isn’t sure that it’s going to work.