The Spider and the Newcomers, Part IX

All in all, first contact between Fliei and Molran had gone very smoothly indeed. Gifts were exchanged, and promises of lasting camaraderie were made with great generosity. Even though this was his first attempt at overseeing this sort of situation, the Spider knew better than to condescend to the natives with cheap trinkets. His gifts of high-speed lexicon-absorbing and translating A.I.; medical technology; defensive shielding from the pinnacle of Merdokk Industries’ development arc; and remote receptors of Power Plant energy had all set him back a significant amount. Particularly the lattermost item – he wasn’t a representative of the High Council, and wasn’t authorised to give away equipment intended for Corporation members. He’d had to steal the receivers, and that had been quite a task. Each one was about a hundred feet across, and filled with the solid, durable technology that plucked energy straight out of the ether, from its mysterious source in the great Power Plant of Capital Mind. The Power Plant provided much of the urverse with cheap, clean power, if you only knew how to connect to it. It was a secret the High Council guarded jealously, and so far not even the Spider had found a way to pirate the system. The closest he’d come was bodily stealing the receptor arrays.

It was a far richer package, he knew, than the one currently being handed over by the Corporate representatives to the dreaded Tanturians. Spider had made sure his new friends were well aware of this fact, even as he made sure they were aware of his standing in wider society. It had been of mild concern to the elected officials, who hadn’t been sure how their voting public would react to the news that their first contact with alien life had been with a convicted criminal. The appointed-by-birth Eugon had been of the languid opinion that what the public didn’t know couldn’t hurt them, but Merdokk and the two duly elected Fliei representatives had respectfully countered that what the public didn’t know had a nasty way of sneaking up behind you and biting you on the sprickets.

“Speaking of misunderstandings,” Eugon said, gesturing towards the plate of native delicacies laid out in honour of the occasion, “perhaps you could tell us more about the possible repercussions of our contact with you. Repercussions, that is, as far as this Corporation you have told us about is concerned.”

Spider leaned forward and picked up a ball of dough in each of his left hands. He’d been relieved to discover that the herb-and-meat-filled pastries were in fact rather delicious, and entirely safe for his digestive system, provided he didn’t miss a dose in his anti-bacterial regimen. “Well,” he said candidly, “the truth is that the High Council of the Corporation doesn’t know, at this stage, that you even exist. They did not locate your satellite – I did. They found a signal-buoy sent out by the Tanturians. At the moment, the Corporation believes that the subjugated Fliei population under Tanturian control accounts for the majority of your species. Any wild-running Fliei are believed to be aberrations. They have no knowledge of your civilisation, mainly because you have been forced to hide it so well.”

“Thank you,” Eugon said dryly.

“Not at all. They do know that another group has sent out mechanised probes into space, and they do know that contact has been established … but they do not know where you are. I do not believe they are even aware of your level of civilisation. They may believe you to be a rival sect of Tanturians.”

“Not for long,” Eugon replied. “The Tanturians identify themselves with a solidarity we find impossible to understand. Even in a population as small as our own, there are different groups, and not even the three of us speak for them all. We have as many representatives as we thought practical,” he flicked a large-but-delicate hand at the attentive lesser partners seated and standing nearby, “but the Tanturians are truly one.”

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