Not Our World

From space, the habitats looked like soap bubbles stuck to the planet’s surface. As the elevator car zoomed downward, the changing angle with which  Devianti perceived the sunlight hitting the domes created interesting patterns of shifting iridescence.

“They are beautiful, are they not?” the Antiz diplomat said to her, in the lilting tones of its kind.

Antiz. The name flashed through Devi’s consciousness, triggering akashic recall. Alien life form designate 3269; primary life form on Verdun II. A talking tree, Devi mused, remembering the stories her father used to tell her.

A rustling sound by her left elbow made Devianti look that way. Behind her, in the massive car of the orbital elevator, she saw the other Antizi gathered there. She fought hard to suppress a giggle as she instinctively labeled each of them according to the Earth tree they reminded her of. The diplomat next to her, tall and pale, with silvery green “leaves” – Devianti reminded herself to stop using earth trees as analogies. It was rude and rarely appreciated by the extremely conservationist Antiz.

A soft wheezing sound, almost a melancholic sigh, from the diplomat signaled her to begin.

“Honored Antizi,” she said formally. When she was sure that she had the room before pursing her lips and emitting a series of low whistles, throaty rumbles and palatal clicks that set the assembled guests rustling in appreciation of her command of their language.

“And in conclusion, allow me to relay to you the very words of the High Council. ‘The Union is eager to embrace, in galactic brotherhood, the boughs of the Serene Antizi.’ ”

The rustling from her audience reassured Devi that she had not flubbed her first diplomatic mission. Relieved, she turned once again to the observation portal, her fingers lightly caressing the almost liquid force field that separated the interior of the elevator car from the quickly thickening atmosphere outside.

And that was when it struck her.

The angle of descent was all wrong! She craned her neck upward and sought out the mono filament cable that tethered the elevator from the platform in geosynchronous orbit to … where? She pressed her face to the force field and confirmed that the filament ran straight into … a habitat!

She pulled back in surprise. For a brief moment, thoughts of betrayal flooded into her mind, along with the images of the massive predatory animals Verdun II was known for. She quailed as she thought of the massive Verdun sunbear, standing 3 meters with a foreclaw sharp enough to pierce body armor.

“Are you alright, Ambassador?” the Antizi diplomat said, the concern apparent even in so alien a voice.

“We … we’re landing in the habitat?” she said, struggling to purge the quaking from her voice.

“Indeed we are.”

“Is it … what about the sunbears?”

“Sundur? What about them?”

“I’ve been told they roam free in the habitats.”

The sudden rustling sound she had learned to associate with Antizi amusement brought her up short. What was so funny?

“Your excellency,” the Antizi diplomat began. Devianti could hear the subtle undertones of koen, the Verdunish discipline of stoicism, rippling within the layers of sound. “I am afraid our translation regimes are not quite perfect yet. I beg your indulgence. What I believe was meant to be communicated to you was that the predators – and all the other species – of Verdun are allowed to roam free between the habitats. In the habitats, it is we sophonts that roam free. In fact, it is the only place where we are allowed.”

Her confusion must have shown on her face because the diplomat quickly added: “For this is not our world, Madame Ambassador. It is theirs.”

 

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It is not our world. It is theirs.

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