As the Lem’ing fleet closes in on Sanctuary and Demaria, the Theorian pack known as Akalpatra attempts to reason with the aliens…

New Pansheera Commons <Demaria>

Buildings in this small village are made of stone quarried from the surrounding mountains and roofed with thatch made from fronds of tropical trees that comprise the jungle around the rather primitive-seeming community. Although the stone provides a sense of permanence, it is not unusual to see denizens packing their belongings into carts and moving on – while others settle in to take their places. A water well complete with a pulley, rope and bucket stands near the middle of the commons. Market stalls encircle the well, providing a place for merchants to hawk their wares.

Akalpatra is currently clustered around the well, surveying the activity in the village with pert ears at alert status, haunches raised. Occasionally, one of the members will glance toward the stars.

A dim light flickers through the jungle, winding its way down the path from the higher mountain slopes, soon accompanied by the whisper of the coils of an approaching hoverbike. As it nears, a lone figure might be made out hunched over its back.

A member of the Theorian pack facing the mountain path turns to another, tail twitching spasmodically. ~A city dweller approaches.~ It sniffs the air. ~Familiar scent. No need for alarm.~

When the bike nears the village, the already dimmed headlight shuts off completely and it slows, the figure straightening. Nudging the vehicle down the path until the huts come into view around a bend, the rider halts the bike and shuts it down completely, sliding off. Scraping off a helmet and leaving it on the seat, the rider approaches the perimeter on foot, head swinging as it searches the inconsistent shadows.

One of the pack trots away from its companions, leaving them to continue observing the preparations in the village. The Theorian pack member approaches the outsider with ears full front, nose sniffing. Getting a few yards from Snowmist, the creature settles onto its haunches. ~They come.~

Snowmist’s ears swing forward at the faint sounds of the Theorian’s approach, and as she picks out its form, she stops with a respectful nod toward it. “Do you know them?” she asks quietly, tucking her paws into the pockets of a light jacket that she wears over her usual attire.

~They come because of the furless ones and the Gray Masters,~ the Theorian pack member replies. ~Old enmity. Bitter. Fear.~

Snowmist’s shoulders slump with a sigh. “Do you know what they want? Do you know why they’re doing this…if they’ll just target the landing pads again, or do worse?”

~They want…safety,~ the Theorian pack member replies.

Snowmist turns her head, one ear pricking sharply. “Safety? From whom? Or is this something along the lines of a security blanket?”

~From…outsiders,~ the Theorian pack member replies.

Snowmist growls, mostly in frustration, rubbing a hand over her face before she drops into a crouch, forearms draped over her knees. “Do you know of a way to talk to them? Is there any reasoning with them? Or are we just going to end up butting heads until one of us drops?”

~We will try,~ the pack member sends. ~Difficult. Much fear.~

Snowmist gives a pained smile and absently reaches out a hand, as if about to ruffle the Theorian’s ears before she guiltily snatches it back with a sheepish snap of her ears back. “Thank you, very much. S’all anyone can ask. An’ I didn’t mean t’run up to you and just demand help – well, ok, I suppose I did in a sense. But I don’t mean to offend, or take the aid you give for granted.”

~We are not offended,~ responds the Theorian pack member, as it rises to all four feet and drops its mouth open in a panting, tongue-lolling gape. It might almost be laughing. ~Our aid is given freely.~

Snowmist grins back, before she too straightens, stretching her back. “Eh, not that I can really repay you in any way, I think, but you’re welcome t’milk an’ cookies at our place anytime,” she half-jokes with a wink. “If y’don’t mind some haphazard attempts to cling to whiskers, ears and tails. Afraid m’kits are in the grab-happy stage.”

Akalpatra raises its hackles and flattens its ears, lowering its heads in apparent alarm at the warning. ~Such grasping and clutching would be unwelcome,~ the Theorian sends, perhaps a bit unnecessarily.

Snowmist bites back a laugh at their reactions and nods as solemnly as she is able. “Of course. I’ll make sure they’re properlly penned if y’give a bit of advanced warning before dropping in.” Tilting her head as her mood shifts abruptly, she asks with plain curiosity, “I remember y’mentioning something a long time ago. Something concerning defenses for the other races on this world, when you were worried about our riding roughshod over the planet. May I ask what – ” She screws up her expression as she considers her wording, and finally finishes with, “Would any of that happen t’be effective against these Lem’ings if…’negotiations’ don’t work out? With Sanc and Demarian forces combined, we’d still be sorely outnumbered.”

~We shall see,~ the Theorian pack member replies. Then, the creature turns and trots back toward the rest of the pack.

Snowmist dips her head deeply in an almost bow. “G’night. An’ I wish your pack well.” Turning as well, she heads back toward the hoverbike.

That night, as the Lem’ing fleet closes on Sanctuary and Demaria, Akalpatra ventures into the community of Gleaming Star…

Sandwalker Road <Gleaming Star: Demaria>

A broad thoroughfare paved with sandstone that is swept routinely by Demarian underclassers.

High stone walls mark the borders of the estates of different clans within the noble families. The clan with the largest and most valuable estate, boasting the most holdings and servants, is considered the most powerful and influential within the family.

The architecture beyond the walls – at least what you can see – seems to consist of turrets, domes and minarets.

Carved into a marker stone on the curb near Noble Square is a symbol showing three sand dunes arranged in a triangular formation.

The road continues until it ends at the rolling dunes of the Sand Mother Desert.

The quadrapedal members of a Theorian pack pad into the city’s outskirts from the Sand Mother Desert, dust drifting from their flanks and tails as they lash back and forth.

Darktail considers that, <From what I understand, they didn’t blow up La Terre… Sovereign Ritter did.> He lets that comment stand, then shrugs slightly, <But anyhow, what they did probably won’t affect anything they may do, and in any case, I’ll be here to make sure that they don’t…> He blinks, then trails off, <Ah, don’t do whatever it is they could do… to you… or, something>. He sighs with a smile, then gives up, before taking note of a sight not very familiar to Gleaming Star, and at once his amber gaze falls upon the Theorian pack, his whiskers arching forward with curiosity, <Well, there’s something you don’t see every day…>

Shiningcoat quirks an ear over towards the Theorian pack, turning to face them at Darktail’s comment. The noble girl frowns softly as she looks at the pack. She doesn’t move quite yet.

Several of the pack members settle onto their haunches, forming a rough circle, facing outward – and their eyes lift to the starry sky above. One of the pack members approaches the Demarians gathered nearby. ~They come,~ it sends.

Darktail follows the gaze of the Theorians, his own amber orbs settling upon the dark sky, tail lashing a little quicker as the proclamation is announced. “Then, we wait…” is all he comments softly, mostly towards Shiningcoat, his tone still soft, though a slight twinge of something else grips it. Fear?

The sky flashes in the distance, illuminating the early evening sky with what appears to be a celebration of fireworks.

Simultaneously, all the heads of the Theorian pack turn their attention toward the sparkles in the distant sky.

Shiningcoat’s tail is released from her paw, only to start swinging quickly from side to side behind her. The Demarian’s eyes turn up to the sky, causing her to recoil a little. She stands there, bent over slightly as she looks up at the sky.

The snowcat’s ears perk to high attention as he watches the glittering display, in awe somewhat at its beauty, yet knowing that it probably has a deathly undertone all but stops the felines expression from showing that awe. He takes a step backwards anyhow, closer to Shiningcoat, leaning over to ask, <There don’t happen to be any underground hangars, or shipyards that are concealed with a ‘bakery’ sign over the door… do there?>

<We… no…> The noble girl shakes her head slowly to Shiningcoat. <Nothing like that.> Her ears twitch about alertly.

The Theorian near the Demarians returns its attention to them. It seems content to wait.

Darktail nods softly, standing back upright again, though pulling his gaze away from the display and back upon Shiningcoat, <Then we should be quite safe here. All I can suggest to to watch the show…> A sigh emits from the snowcat though at that comment, and his tone dips a little, <And try not to think of what it really stands for…>

Suddenly, the Theorian pack member near the Demarians pads back toward its companions, joining them in the circle. Again, their snouts become directed toward the skies above – specifically, toward Sanctuary.

Shiningcoat fidgets and shifts as she stands. <I… no, I don’t want to just wait. Isn’t there a way we can leave, or something? Like… a secret passage or something?> The girl asks, then looks over towards the Theorians for a moment.

~Who are you and why do you make war against these peaceful beings?~ comes the amplified psionic transmission of the Theorians.

Shiningcoat recoils again at the psionic message, as if it were a gunshot. “Wha… I don’t– I didn’t do anything.” She stutters defensively.

Darktail glances back at the Theorian pack for a moment as the psionic message echoes lightly in his mind, finding the experience a little… unnerving. Still, he shakes off the feeling, looking back upon Shiningcoat for a moment, then simply nods, <I’m not sure, but I’ll find out… you wait here with these Theorians, I’m sure they’ll look after you for a while.> He offers her a warm smile, trying to reassure her a little, <And in contrary to what your parents may have told you years ago, they don’t bite, nor suck blood.> He winks, then quickly paces off a little into the shadows, tail swishing in an apprehensive manner.

One of the pack members – a different one from before – spares a moment to glance at Shiningcoat. ~This is not for you,~ it sends at normal psi levels.

Shiningcoat watches Darktail walk off. She seems to be about to say something, but chooses to just look over to the Theorians again. The girl watches them silently, glancing up to the sky occasionally.

The Theorian pack members lift their snouts toward the stars, aiming their unified gaze at Sanctuary. ~We wish nothing more than to communicate. Such conflict is futile and fruitless. These people have done nothing to you.~

You sense a mass of individuals suddenly reaching out towards you, their tendrils of psi-energy so strong and threatening that one might suspect that at any moment it may turn to an attack.

As one, the Theorians raise their hackles and struggle from their haunches to their feet. Their tails hang motionless. They growl softly, keeping their attention on the stars. ~We stand ready to listen. Negotiation must be possible.~

Shiningcoat watches the Theorians silently, her mouth slightly agape. She doesn’t make a sound, her only movement being the nervous waving of her tail.

The image of a gathering of alien beings forms before your mind’s eye. They stand roughly eight feet tall and appear to be looking directly back at each and every single one of the pack’s members at once. They have no features to their faces, merely a single, heavy brow and a pair of small, intently focused eyes. “Negotiation is for you to abandon.” The voice which issues forth from the combined minds at once is one of gentle patience. “We wish not to destroy your civilization.”

Shiningcoat slowly backs away from the pack after a few moments, slipping into her family’s estate.

Again, unified, the Theorian pack members tilt their heads as if listening. Then, after a time, they reply: ~Our civilization has survived the Gray Masters. It will survive you. This is not arrogance. This is fact. However, the fact remains: Your assault appears pointless. You have driven one world to its death at the hands of a lunatic. What have these people done to deserve such horrors?~

There’s a pause as the heads bow, the slightest impression of anger and fear rising up from their communications. “It is not what they have done, Invader. It is what they /may/ still do.”

Akalpatra bobs its members’ heads. ~Yes. Fear. What might they do? Until you began your assault, they had all but forgotten you. Now, you have ensured they will remember. They will mark your kind as they have marked the Fast Lizards and the Gray Masters. Any chance at peaceful coexistence, shattered by your relentless, inexplicable assault. It is unwise.~

“There will be /no/ coexistence, Invader!” The voices scream in one harmony, “We will prevent that.”

The Theorian pack members lower their heads at some unheard keening noise, the growls rising within their throats. Keeping their psionic “voice” level, the felinoids send: ~Tragic arrogance. Destroy the New Moon. Desolate the surface of this world again. Yes. You can. You have the means. Know this, however: Should you strike at these beings, you will become targeted by forces you cannot hope to overwhelm, and you will enrage these people into a unity that may crush you before the Other effects your demise. You may become like the Gray Masters – a dead race.~

“We just wish to be left alone..” The voices say after a long, quiet moment.

The Theorians lift their snouts toward the stars. ~If you wish to be left alone, you should go back to your home star and remain. Those wishing to be left alone are foolish to attack those they fear *might* bother them at some uncertain time in the future. We fear that it is too late to reclaim much from this tragic situation – the loss of La Terre has sent resounding empathic waves throughout the races of this corner of the galaxy. But if you were to break off your assault now, or seek to negotiate terms for peace…you might be seen as less of a force of evil.~

The heads all turn to focus their gazes in on each other before nodding once and looking back towards the Theorian. “We are a race of peace wishing nothing more than to be left alone. It is your Kretonians and your furred felinoids which invaded our space. We are no longer mere shadows waiting for light to invade. The wars your kind has brought on ours will now be given back.”

The pack members shake their heads in unison, then refocus on the silvery globe of Sanctuary hanging in the distant sky. ~If you analyzed your statement with even superficial attention, you would recognize the inherent contradictions. If you strike the sand dancer nest, does it discourage them from attacking? No – it infuriates them to action when, if you had left them alone, they might have left you alone. You doom the galaxy to a war of retribution if you follow through. There is only one way to ensure you will be left completely alone – annihilation of all but your kind. If you attempt this, be warned: You will perish.~

“We do not wish harm to anyone save the destruction of their means to wage war. We have studied..” The voices say, beady eyes staring out blankly now. “..and all that has come harm to our race is of their doing.”

A wave of fluttering amusement ripples outward from the Theorian pack members. ~Destruction of their means to wage war? The decimation of material facilities accomplishes nothing. Knock down the sand dancer nest, and they rebuild, yet remain sand dancers. They are imperfect creatures of conflict and contradictions. You do nothing by destroying their ship construction facilities but cause minor setbacks – and you accomplish the polar opposite of your desire to be left alone. You fuel their need for vengeance.~

There’s a wall of firm resolution riding along the words which follow next in response to the Theorians. Combine this with the slight lowering of heads and one may assume that their existence, these which are doing the actual invading, is of no consequence in the grande scheme of events. “Then may they rebuild, soil their planets and come for us. We will be waiting, Invader.”

From the Theorian pack members comes a last rippling wave of resignation and sorrow. ~Such strength and beauty as you possess…doomed. We do not envy your future – and we have had a grim past. Take that for what it is worth. We can do nothing to spare you when the time comes.~ The Theorians then lower their heads.

“And nor do we envy your own future, Invader.” The voices say as one, their images disappearing from your mind.

The pack members gaze once more at the starry expanse against which Sanctuary is seen. Then, they turn and pad off toward the desert.