"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:" Proverbs 6:6
Usagi gave the briefing, and told the pilots, "Go over your fighters with your crews and make sure all is ready. We do not need everything going haywire on us if we have to go at it. Once I take care of some royal matters, I will be joining you. You will then stay at the ready room in shifts. Alpha squadron will take the first 6 hour watch and then the other three squadrons after that in rotation. Of course, if it gets hot, well, you know what to do. Tend to your duties, and dismissed."
As soon as that was done, she went to her cabin and immediately put a secured call into the palace. Because of subspace radio technology, (allowing the mind bending transmission speeds of warp 25,) they could instantly communicate. The call went through to her father, who was in his study at that moment. The screen came on to show a smiling Endymion, saying, "Hello, my small lady, and how..."
"What are you thinking!" she snapped, "How could you call for all this action and not tell mother, or at least call her back? The scouts may be needed for this!"
Endymion snapped back like he had been slapped, shocked at the immediate retort of his daughter. Apparently, this went beyond a social call. He regained his composure and said, "Hey, slow down there, missy! That is no way to talk to your father or king..."
"You left mom out of this!" she retorted, her not being afraid of his words at this point, "That is not right!"
He sighed, realizing that she did have some justification in being upset, considering that this was indeed her mother as well, and that, constitutionally, she needed to be in the whole process. However, there was nothing constitutionally that covered this situation. He then said, "Honey, this was something that we didn't think about when we formed the constitution of the kingdom. There was nothing that dealt with your mother wanting to go star hopping."
"The reason why I am upset has nothing to do with that!" she said, now angry that her father was not getting it, "She is proverbially in uncharted water! Indeed, if there is a threat, she is in the dark to the whole thing. The whole incident started after the Artemis had left the system. If they get attacked..."
She let the statement dangle, and Endymion knew that she had him cornered. He then said, "Look, the Artemis is a battleship. I am certain she can hold..."
"She is only one ship!" Usagi shot back, now wanting abetter explanation than what she was getting, "What if she is hit by a small flotilla or battle fleet? Even the mighty Bismarck could not stand up against a multiple ship attack. Even if her rudder had not been hit and they found her, the amount of shells they threw at her would have done her in regardless of how able she was to fight. You have to call her home."
The main reason why the king had said nothing was worse than that, and he did not want to go there, but his daughter was not having it. Finally, he said, "Look, you know your mother. I know she has come light years from when you met her in her 20th century form, but there are still certain things..."
Once again, he was cut off, but this time it was Usagi finishing the sentence, "...that have not changed. Are you afraid that, if you told her, she would panic? Okay, I have to give you that one. But, the other scouts are with her. I'm sure that they could bring her to reason if we told them."
"If your mother panicked," responded the king, "she would override her friends and rush right into where the action was at that time. She would not wait for the briefing as to what was happening, and she would absolutely ruin all that the outer scouts are trying to accomplish this minute. That would more than certainly endanger the life of one of the SEALs who volunteered to infiltrate the Gnarl. She is in a covert situation, so she cannot be discovered, or her life is guaranteed over. You can understand that, right?"
Usagi sighed and said, "I guess you're right. I'm sorry Igot mad."
"Hey, Small Lady, she is your mother, and you have a right to be upset," he said to her, "Please, just trust me a bit more, okay?"
"Okay daddy," she responded, and this time with much in the way of a little kid, "I have to go check my fighter now."
"Speaking of which," responded Endymion, now sounding more like a doting father, "You did well the other day, but stay behind the Quartet. You are the heir, and our only child. The kingdom respects you greatly for putting yourself into such dangerous duty, but, please, still, be careful for me?"
"I love you daddy!"
"I love you too!"
She kissed the screen and the transmission ended. As she went to her fighter, she thought about her mother and what she would do in that situation. Who would show through: Neo-Queen Serenity, or Usagi Tsukino? When she had everything ready, she knew that she had to call her uncle, Duke Shingo, and tell him what was going on. He did have a right to know.
At that point, the Artemis was now approaching Epsilon Eriandi, and they were coming into it in such a fashion as to come in vertical to the three debris belts that surrounded the star. Indeed, the system was incredible to view at the spot where they stopped to observe, and as many scientists had figured, there were three gas giants that sat in-between the belts. However, because of their state and massive size, there was no way that there could be life on them. In addition to that, because it was not as powerful a star as the Sun, though close to our own, any moons that may orbit them were suspected not to be holding life. With a quick warp leap, they got in close to confirm this, but in doing so, they also detected something that Earth astronomers could not have detected. When they got close, they realized that two of the belts were asteroid belts, and the outermost one was similar to the Kuiper belt, but much broader in size. Yet, inside the innermost belt was found a planet that was blue green, but covered with many white clouds. At adistant scan, there was much in the way of water, and the atmosphere was taller and thicker. The atmosphere was at 1.5 atmospheres as compared to Earth, and the size of the planet was such that the circumference was 48,280km around. This meant that the atmosphere was thicker and the gravity was greater than what they would be used to. Mercury found it interesting that the planet wasn't sweltering hot, and then realized that the planet's location was about the orbit of Mars as compared to the Sun, and because of that, and because of the thickness of the atmosphere, the temperatures were warmer than Earth, but not to where they would be beyond the planet's ability to support life. Another interesting sight was the fact that the planet had a broad ring about it not unlike what Saturn would have. However, this one did not go all the way to the planet's exosphere, so there was a gap. They began to ponder what kind of life may be on this world, and what that ring would look like in the night's sky when another thing about the planet revealed itself-it held a spacefaring race! This was discovered when about five craft about the size of light cruisers appeared quickly around the Artemis, along with fighters that were forming aperimeter and doing so not unlike a bunch of African Driver ants forming aprotective line with soldier ants as the workers went out to forage. Serenity said, "We're under attack!" but Venus kept her head and said, "Go to yellow alert."
Mars looked at her funny and said, "Yellow alert: no shields?"
"We don't know their intentions yet," responded Venus, "They might interpret that as readiness to fight. Yet, if they see us charging up our batteries, they might get the hint that we are willing to fight if they press the issue."
Down below, Ceres was getting his marines into position as Jupiter was getting the Greenbacks ready at the ship's spots where boarding attempts may be tried. On the bridge, the communications officer said, "It seems that the lead vessel is hailing us."
Yet, as that was being relayed, a few green bolts shot over the bow. Venus interpreted that for what it was-a warning shot to stop where they were. She called for all stop and said, "Set the particle accelerators at some targets in case, but not the rail guns just yet. Have the anti-fighter batteries at the ready."
There was a bit of a problem, though. The transmissions were hard to peg, in that, there was the main communication coming through from the vessel, but other, very slight, transmissions coming in with it. Because of that, the universal translators were having a hard time pegging down the language. Some more shots came out, and this time very close to the hull, though they had stopped. Venus then said, "What is taking so long?"
"Ma'am," responded the communications team, "The computers are having a hard time pinning down the language...oh, wait, we have it!"
What finally came through was, "...your last warning shot. Cease and desist or we shall attack. You are outnumbered and we would make quick work of you."
Venus quickly shot back, "Please, hold off-we come in..."
However, one bolt hit the bow and shook the ship. The hit was interesting, in that, the blast mark did not look like an ordinary blast mark, but it looked like a piece of modern art. Venus called out,"CEASEFIRECEASEFIRECEASEFIRE!"
The other ships stood to, and they called back, "What is your purpose?"
"We are explorers!" responded Venus, "This is our first major venture outside our own system. We come in peace!"
"Oh really," came the response, "Then, why do you do so in aship that looks more geared for combat than for exploring?"
That really was a tough question, considering that the idea was to have the firepower needed in case they met a hostile force. They just never expected to meet one that moved that quickly. Venus then hit on an idea, and said, "Your Majesty, I think this is more your department."
Serenity took over and said, "This is Queen Serenity, and Ihave come as the representative of our system to negotiate peace with any race of being that we meet. Indeed, we come in peace."
Venus then chimed in and said, "Would we be willing to risk our own queen if we had warlike intent?"
There was silence for about 30 seconds. What they did not understand was that the term "queen" meant much to them, and that, if it had been them, they never would have done that. They came back and said, "Your people have great courage. We would have never risked our queen mother in such an act. Only a race intending peace would put their mother before them in such a place."
The fighters then returned to some of the ships, and then back to the home world. Then the unknown vessel said, "We shall now give you full escort to our world."
Two cruisers then pulled up alongside, and a squadron of fighters took position in front and behind the Artemis in what they only could assume to be an escort formation. While this was going on, the cruisers were sending back transmissions that all was well, and that they needed to have some diplomats ready. However, Mars was looking like she was in pain. Mercury asked, "What's wrong?"
"They are all faint, but I hear so many voices," she said.
As she was saying that, a transmission was coming in Planetside, and they were asking for a visual. The front window, which doubled as a view screen, brought up the first images. What faced them was what looked like a giant ant wearing gold plate mail armor. Serenity screamed, but Mars was quickly on top of her, trying to keep things from going south. Planetside, the natives seeing this were a bit repulsed. They had never met a race that looked so hideous to them. Serenity calmed down and said, "I am Queen Serenity of the Silver Millennium kingdom and the Sol system. I come in the name of all my people."
The words were coming through, but her mandibles didn't seem to be moving. "I am Queen Matron Kllxr, of our world of Trnx. I would ask an audience with you. I first must ask if our environment is suitable to you."
Mercury said, "The air pressure is one half times thicker than our own, and the gravity is greater, so if you do go, take it easy. The air is breathable."
Serenity then said, "I thank you for your hospitality, and Ihumbly accept your invitation."
Venus then said, "Shall we prepare to land?"
Serenity thought, and then said, "No, we don't want to rattle things more than we have."
She then said to Kllxr, "We shall prepare a pair of shuttles. Please transmit to us the coordinates for landing."
"I look forward to meeting you face to face," said Kllxr, and the transmission ended. Mars now knew what was going on. "They are speaking through their antennae," she said, "I can hear them in my head."
"Perhaps you should stay here?" said Mercury.
"No, I'll be okay," she said, "I just have to concentrate."
"That poses another problem," said Mercury.
"What's that?" asked Venus.
"In order to communicate with them, we have to devise a way of speaking to them the same way," responded Mercury, "What I can set up is adevice that matches their frequencies of personal communication, and when we speak into the translators, it will transmit it to them."
"Make it so," said Venus, "We have a dinner for which to prepare."
The scouts decided to get into their gowns, while Ceres decided to go with his colonial threads, which were the finest clothes he owned. They all entered the shuttle and received a three fighter escort in. As they approached, they observed that the world had two massive continents, and a tropical environment. They penetrated the atmosphere and had to keep their shields up longer for entry in that the area where they would experience the most friction was longer in duration than on Earth. They continued to follow the fighters and before long they were at a coastal region. However, instead of seeing vast buildings and roads, they saw several small pods sticking out of the massive hills that lined the coast. The closer they got, the more they saw them, but they were not as numerous as what would be in anormal city. However, in places that would normally have buildings, there were either tall earth columns or earth domes. They then approached a large earthen dome and a large panel opened up. Once they entered, that is when they saw it all. They saw a vast system of buildings and roads networking everywhere, with craft both on the ground and in the air. What was more amazing was how everything was moving like clockwork. The fighters peeled off, and smaller escort hovercraft approached and led the shuttles in. They then set down on the landing pad, and they were then approached by the welcoming party. They were then amazed at the disparity between those creatures that were of that world. There were about four massive ant-looking creatures forming a square around the group, and they stood about seven feet tall, and all wore matching silver armor. Wearing brown armor over their exoskeletons were those that were no more than four feet tall and seemed to be doting over the one in the middle, who stood at normal human height. By her armor, they knew that this had to be the queen they had seen on the screen. They indeed looked like ants, complete with four arms and two legs upon which they walked, with armor being the clothes that they wore. They looked askance at the boxes, and immediately it started speaking the communications between the ant creatures, at which they stopped, and one came through clearly that said, "Is that our speech in your tongue?"
Mercury stepped up and said, "We learned of your communication as we approached. If the transmission is too strong, please tell us."
The one in the gold's antennae started to twitch and the words came out saying, "No, it's not too strong. How did you figure this out?"
"Our Special Forces commander here, (pointing to Mars,) has psychic abilities, and we realized that you were merely enhancing how you spoke by your own transmitters to us," responded Mercury, "We used our universal translators to figure out your language, though it took a bit for it to figure it out. Once it did, we figured out the frequency by which you talk to each other and attached miniature transmitters to it."
Serenity then spoke and said, "Yet, I do apologize for all this before we formerly introduced ourselves. I, Queen Serenity bring greetings from our people and our king. We are pleased to make your acquaintance."
"I am Queen," she responded, to which Serenity said, "Please, no disrespect is intended, but, do you have a name that goes with your title?"
The queen tilted her head, and then she said, "That is my name."
Mercury started to look at the equipment, and the data that she got back was that "Queen" was the best it could do, because that was her name, and it indeed meant "queen." In other words, her name was her title. Mercury then said, "I apologize, but our machines were misreading it."
She then briefly turned off the transmitter and said, "Just call her 'Queen' and the machine will interpret it."
When she switched it back on, Queen then said, "I find it odd that your first name is the same as mine," which confirmed what they suspected, and Serenity then said, "Well, where we are from, that is a title one can bear, though it is not out of the ordinary for you to have your name as that."
Mercury added, "From the world where I was born, in some of the old tongues of the native lands, people had names that were also their titles. In fact, to help designate people, our kind came up with a second name unique to that person, but no name is without meaning."
The ant creatures began to nod back and forth to one another as the chatter was indistinguishable being that they were all talking at once. Queen then said, "So it is with is, in that, there are several the same occupation, so we must designate. However, there is only one of me; so, whoever holds this spot is called 'Queen.'"
Venus then asked, "Is there a king?"
Chatter went back and forth again, and one of what they had to assume was a soldier spoke up and said, "This is a concept unheard of, but, if you mean 'mate' well, there is an annual competition amongst us solders..."but Queen just reached up and patted his hand and said, "We shall have time for that later. There is much to be learned between our cultures. I suppose we can speak of this as we dine. Welcome to our home world of the Great Mound."
Mercury then switched off the transmitters again and said,"Their language is based off radio transmissions, and there is no way to actually speak it. Everything is going to be descriptions of what it is rather than proper names."
She switched it back on, and Serenity said, "We would be glad to partake of your generous offer of dinner. We are just curious as to what you eat."
"Come and you shall taste of delicacies of which you could only imagine," said Queen in a delighted voice, "I am just curious as to why the one in the red loose armor, (their best description of their dresses,) is so quiet."
Ceres spoke at this point and said, "She is trying to concentrate to keep out all the voices she is hearing."
Queen came over and gently took her by the hand and said, "I understand. This can be an issue for us, which is why each room is designed to block all speech outside of it. Once you get to the dining room, it shall not be as bad."
"Thank you," responded Mars, "Oddly enough, I do hear your speech, and indeed, if I was to speak your tongue out loud, I could not make my tongue say the words, but I am able to make out phonetics of a language. Perhaps, in time, we could learn to put it into a written form."
"Ah, I see," said Queen, "Well, we used to have a written form, but now we keep such records on special solar powered devices that transmit to us anything we wish to record. Yet, come, we can talk of this over dinner. Our food consists of much in the way of grain, beans, and honeydew."
Serenity brightened and said, "Sweets?"
Everyone just smiled and rolled their eyes at which the ant creatures, (Moundians, if you had to give them a name,) were confused, and Mars said, "In our tongue, she would have what we call a sweet tooth: a love for anything sweet."
"Excellent," said Queen, "Then I am sure that what we have will put your home world to shame!"
"I sure hope so!" said Serenity, all excited, and, though they did not yet know it, a great alliance was forming between the Silver Millennium Kingdom and Great Mound.