"You can't say that civilization isn't advancing, however, for in every war they find a new way to kill you." Will Rogers.
Each side gathered together for after actions reviews, and Ceres spoke first by saying that he had to take some blame. He should have taken into account the underground attack, and that cost them greatly. However, he had great praise for their ability to adapt to the situation as it had presented itself. The only flawless thing about the day was the SEALs and the reconnaissance platoon. They did their jobs to perfection. The other thing that was noted was that they had not adapted their fighting styles to take on larger and stronger opponents. When they hit hand-to-hand, they hit with tremendous force. Many of the casualties fell because of that factor. If it were not for the stealth units getting the goal, indeed they would have been annihilated. Thus, the training had to be adapted to face foes like that. Indeed, because of where the Moundians sprung, their strength was immense. What this meant that, because they could never be that strong, either training had to be more strength and agility training, or there had to be a way to come up with a battle suit that allowed them to be as strong as their strongest foe or ally. The Moundians had been so used to mopping up their opponents quickly that they had grown lax in dealing with a foe that could outthink you and not have their inferior strength be a weakness. Speed and strength was important, but what was better was taking one's time to be sure that you knew better what you faced, even if that be on the battlefield. That way, you could adapt quicker as their opponents had. Yet, with them on their side, they could use that strength, and the pair combined could always produce something greater than the sum of its parts.
In space, Commodore sat in with the Artemis on their review, seeing that he and his ships had worked with her. The one thing that Venus mentioned was that she was in awe of the swiftness of the vessels against which they had fought. She feared that that could be the Achilles' heel of the fleet. However, Commodore said to her that what they lacked in speed they made up for in shielding and firepower. In addition to that, he had also said that she was wise for remembering that, in space, one must think in three dimensions when it comes to maneuvering for an attack, and that ships can thus maneuver in such a way that could not be achieved in a gravity environment. For those in the ship, even if the ship was spinning, though they may feel the force of it, they will always have the perspective of being upright as opposed to everything else. He also told her that, because the ship could fight in the waters of aplanet, they had a perspective on combat that few others had. Because they could fight on the sea, in space, or in the atmosphere in a limited sense, it made them strong. He figured that both sides might annihilate each other due to the fact that only one ship was different than the others, but the factor was the rogue ship. It was the only survivor despite the pounding it would have taken for real. He knew that both fleets combined could stomp anything in their way. As a result of the successful games, a banquet was called for by Queen, and she asked if it were possible that Serenity's chefs could contribute. They could create some good vegetarian dishes from all over the Earth, and perhaps introduce them to something that they may enjoy that they could not at that point. They were not meat eaters, and it was unknown what meat would do to them. However, they explained to Queen that they had a bean called Soy that could be made into something called Tofu, and it could simulate meat. They could thus flavor it, and have them be able to eat it without hurting them.
While the plans for that were coming in, they set up aholographic meeting with King Endymion so they could work out the details of atreaty between the two worlds. The Senate had been informed of the happenings, and they had already debated and gave approval for a treaty to be approved once they agreed that the terms were satisfactory. This would speed the process up greatly. However, unlike the other one, this one was being made public across the Sol system as the first sentient race of people that Earth had ever met, much less formed an alliance. No one knew of the secret one because of the security that had to be maintained while information was being gathered in that regard. Until they had that worked out, and until the Artemis returned from its first exploratory mission, nothing really could be said. Too much was at stake. After about four hours of working out the details with the governments of both worlds, and coming up with a plan that was suitable for Sol and the Epsilon Eriandi system, the Sol Senate came back with approval. A copy was faxed to Endymion, and signed on interplanetary television as one of the most historic events of human history. That day was to be known forever as Alliance Day, when the Silver Millennium Kingdom reached to a people outside the system, and joined with them in peace. In the kingdom, there would be celebrations the next day, but the party was going to start on Great Mound that night.
By this point, the Artemis was welcomed to land on the planet's surface now that it was no longer seen as a threat. Some briefings were given about the culture there, and what some of the faux pas were to avoid. They would be given personal communicators that would be rigged into the ship's computer so that they could converse with anyone that they met. Thus, the port of call became a liberty call. However, Queen suggested that they should yet be guided, and they were set in groups of five with a soldier and a worker to make sure that things went smoothly. A swift camaraderie built between the Marines and Greenbacks with the soldiers, while the other sailors were set with naval personnel of Great Mound. It soon became evident, though, where the interests of the humans fell, as they further broke up as to where the women went with the workers, and the men went with the soldiers. The men showed them to things that typically interest men for the most part, while the women gravitated to the fashion of the land. Since all wore armor on Great Mound, that was all the women had to choose from in fashion, though the men were into it for other reasons. After an acceptable exchange rate was set, atype of battle armor was purchased by the men that were specially designed for them to wear. When word of this came back to Mercury, she said for one of the men to come to her once the banquet and concert was over, and they could see about the power enhancement being put in such armor. She even figured that she could work with the scientists of Great Mound to address that issue. The women got the armor for that reason, and because it was the fashion on that world anyway. One of the designers saw the uniforms of the women, and devised an armor that went well with the fuku design of the ladies' uniforms, colored in the navy blue that they wore. For ground troops, a woodland design was made along with a suit for formal occasions. When it came time for the banquet, many decided on wearing the armor. While it was a bit against regulations to wear such in an official function as that, because it went with the uniforms they wore, and because the Moundians felt highly complimented and honored because of that, it was overlooked.
By the time the banquet started, the night had fallen and displayed a spectacular night sky that no one from the Millennium kingdom could have ever envisioned. Because all the lights of the city were underground, there was no light pollution. As a result, the sky was emblazoned with stars. Because they were also close to the two asteroid belts around the star of that system, they combined to create a bright band across the sky, along with the arm of the Milky Way that could be seen from there as it crossed the other way behind it. This was combined with the ring that orbited the planet, making for quite a sight. In addition to this, because the comet belt around the star was so vast-many times bigger than Sol's-there was always at least three comets or so in the night sky, and they had said that there had been as many as 12 in the sky at one time with varying degrees of brightness. Mercury then asked if it was a worry about a possible collision with the planet. She was told that there was evidence of that happening once, but it was the equivalent of many centuries ago, maybe even Millennia away. In fact, there was evidence that there was a developing sentient race of beings not unlike their own on the planet before the Moundians came along. The greatest proof of this came when excavations for city building dug up an entire village not three Earth weeks before the Artemis had arrived. They knew that they were going to have a couple more Earth days there, so Mercury wanted the opportunity to go through that site with her science team if she could. Not only could they help the Moundians to study things, but they could also learn about how such things could be survived, considering that Earth had had its own catastrophe that they managed to survive, and that learning how to avoid things like that from happening again would be beneficial.
The banquet was a smashing success, and the Moundians loved the tofu "meat," loving the flavors of it, feeling like their race may be missing something. Of course, their systems were not designed to digest meat, so this was as close as they could come. After that, the ARK Juban Trio started their concert. They played about three sets, but as they were wrapping up their last set, a message was coming in from one of the picket ships that there was an unknown vessel coming into the system, and it was severely crippled, sending out distress signals. Queen and Serenity both slipped away so as not to cause a panic and began to talk to the picket vessel. With the aid of the universal translators of Serenity's people, they could communicate, and they were begging for help!
Olympia was now in what they would later learn to be the Gnarl home system. Mirini kept her close, but she also knew that the auction block followed. She was worried that her and her ersatz foster kitten stood achance to be separated, but she was relieved when the slaver decided to sell them as a pair. Because they were both female and healthy, they were put up as two potential house servants. Yet, there were those in the crowd that had other ideas. There were pimps in the audience, as well as mine leaders, plantation operators, amongst other things. Because of their appearance, the bidding was fast and furious. However, it whittled itself down to two that both seemed to be well to do. It turned out that one was the owner of one of the best producing mines in that region of the galaxy, and the other was someone that worked in the royal house. The mine had a reputation of having ahigh turnover rate, which really translated into a high death rate for its workers, and as a result, neither Mirini nor Olympia wanted to know just what that entailed. Soon, it came to a bidding competition, and it seemed that egos were on the line as well. The mine owner wanted to flaunt what kind of power he thought he had, and really had none compared to the vast wealth into which the other could tap. It was not so much that the royal man really wanted to spend that much on a slave or two, but it was that he just wanted to put this one in his place. Finally, the mine owner gave up in disgust and they were given over to the man who worked in the royal house. He came up and looked them over, and he said, "They will both make excellent maids in the house. You, what's your name," addressing Olympia.
"Her name is Prr'ann," answered Mirini, "And she is a mute."
"Hmm, they didn't tell me this," he responded, "However, it could be good, though. She won't ever be able to talk back or refuse an order. Well, you both seem healthy enough. Nonetheless, you will both be given brief medical exams, be bathed, and sent for training for royal service."
He handed them over to one of his subordinates, who beckoned them to follow. This one was a bit harsher, but Mirini knew that life would be better for them, and things would not be as harsh, though disobedience still meant harsh punishment. Yet, Olympia was, in her mind, celebrating. She could not believe her luck! She could send the outer scouts a signal and have them slip in unseen, working in the shadows as she worked in the open. She was also grateful that the medical team made her disguise as such that it would not be detected that she was not a Nekonian. It was, in truth, a form of plastic surgery, but not as such that it could not be reversed.
They were put on the ship with the others that had been bought, and they were all told that they would be going to the Gnarl home world and put into service to the royal house. They would be examined, cleaned, clothed appropriately, and put into training. They were also told, both harshly and smugly, that they should feel honored and lucky that they were going to get far better treatment than other slaves, so they had better act like they were grateful for their "salvation" and not get ideas, or else the punishment would be harsh. Mirini then said, "Worry not, little one, it will get better, and we can support each other."
Olympia nodded and smiled as the two settled in for the trip in. It was not going to be at warp speed because they were in the system, but the trip would take a bit of time. Olympia, however, waited until everyone was asleep, and the guards were near that way, slipped to the floor from her seat, and turned on the scrambler to her communicator so her signal would not be picked up.
"/Catfish, /this is Olympia, come in," she whispered.
"Commander Pluto here," she said, to which Olympia shushed her, and then looked to see if she had been heard. No one was moving, so she said, "I'm right in the heart of things on a slaver heading right to the royal house itself."
"We're trying to trace you now," whispered Pluto, who looked at the data banks, and then she said, "We have the shuttle you are on now. What is your status?"
"I have befriended one of the Nekonians, and we have both been put as slaves in the royal house itself!" exclaimed Olympia as best she could, considering the situation. Pluto thought for a moment or two, and she said, "Get yourself established, and we shall be in geosynchronous orbit over you. Get a lay of the land as best you can and transmit back at that point. We'll go from there."
"I have to find a way to make sure the stuff you gave me gets transferred to the clothes they plan to give us," stated Olympia, "I'll do my best."
"If you cannot keep it, find what you can planetside, even if you have to escape to do it," responded Pluto, "That is the last resort. It stands a chance to endanger your companion."
"Then she comes with me," responded Olympia, "Trust me: it's a pledge I made."
"Just don't let that jeopardize the mission," stated Pluto,"Remember: one slip-up, and there will be no way to retrieve you, and we shall have to bug out."
"Understood," she answered, and then heard movement. One of the guards was making his rounds, and Olympia said, "I have to go, be prepared to receive the next transmission planetside."
"Roger, out," said Pluto, and she hoped that this woman had the wherewithal to handle this. Too much rode on her success.
Olympia was concealing her communicator as the guard was walking down the aisle. It was then that he noticed the empty seat, and he immediately went over to check out what was going on. Certainly, there was no escaping that ship, but there was always the possibility that the Nekonians planted a saboteur on the ship, so they still had to keep tabs on them, even if that just meant making a show of force for them to remember just who was in charge. He came up to the spot, and found Olympia with her head on the lap of Mirini, paws folded under her head, purring contently, seemingly asleep. The guard just shook his head and moved on. Olympia watched him with an open eye for a moment until he was gone, and then let out a sigh. "That was a close one," she thought, "I have to be more careful."
She waited until the guard was actually back to his post before slipping back into her seat. She figured a little shut eye would help here, because she knew she was going to need all the energy that she could get.