“So they’re not even apex predators on their own planet?” Vice Admiral Tonkin paced along the deck of the bridge, razor sharp claws tapping at the metal grating of the floor. These humans had turned out to be a much more difficult problem than anyone on the Council anticipated.

“No, sir.” Captain Vranks confirmed, scrolling through entries on his datapad. A small repetitive beep came from the pad and the Vraxonate native set it down on the console in front of him with a sheepish grin.

He pulled a small square of cloth from his pocket and wiped down the pad, but made no move to pick it back up.

“There’s no need to get excited yet, Captain.” The Admiral assured him. The poisonous glands that made them such effective predators on their own planet and in the Planetary Sovereignty had thrust their race into command positions on their warships almost from the moment of their inclusion into the Sovereignty.

Still, they’re instincts were still primitive around the edges, not entirely under control in the delicate environment of space. Still, Admiral Tonkin was confident they would adapt and make the Sovereignty stronger as a whole.

“On their native planet, they came to be the dominant species through technological advancements and sheer size of their population,” Commander Sykes, the very competent XO, seamlessly picked up the silence for her Captain. As she spoke, her skin shimmered slightly with the instinctual urge to camouflage her skin to the background of panels on the bridge.

In the short time Admiral Tonkin had worked with her, he had been increasingly impressed with her instincts and ability to control a situation. She probably would have advanced much faster if she didn’t have such a proclivity to fade into the background.

“So they’re prey animals?” The conclusion seemed obvious to Admiral Tonkin, but it only made the human’s ingenious combat tactics all the more perplexing.

Sykes shook her head, antennae bobbing with the movement. “No, from preliminary reconnaissance on their home planet, they share traits with both predators and prey. They can subsist on both meat or plants, or either one exclusively. They call this condition omni…” She squinted at the page, her mouth working over the unfamiliar syllables. “Omnivore?” She said the name more as a question that a statement.

“So we can’t create an embargo or stave them until we isolate them from ALL organic materials?” the Admiral asked, the size of their problem escalating in scope.

“It appears so, sir.” She used the antennae on her head to scroll through the screen. “Perhaps the Council was hasty denying their admission into the Sovereignty. They have the potential to be formidable allies.” Then a little softer, she added, “Or enemies.”

“Indeed,” Admiral Tonkin tapped another long claw on the back Captain Vrank’s chair and watched a thin sheen of poison break out along the smooth scalp. Maybe the Vraxonates weren’t as good of candidates as he first thought.

“Sir,” the Captain stood up, addressing the Admiral eye-to-eye. Admiral Tonkin snarled, an implicit challenge in his posture and insolence.

The Captain dropped his gaze to the floor and rounded his back, a conciliatory posture that saved his life. For the moment.

“Perhaps we should call for back-up. Have Garrus station send a few ships for reinforcement.” he said, his tone now quite.

Weak. The soft underbelly of his fear showing.

Not a stature worthy of a Captain.

“Sir, multiple contacts along the hull. Dozens, no hundreds of them,” Additional appendages unfolded from Sykes’ side, bringing up information almost as fast as the ship’s computers could compile it.

“They broke apart their pack?” Admiral Tonkin considered this new tactic. “I believe you’re right Sykes, the Sovereignty was a little too hasty in denying their application. Open a channel to the ship.”

After a few quick taps, Sykes confirmed, “Audio only.”

“Human ship. Recall your pack and we are willing to reconsider your terms for entrance into the Sovereignty.” The Admiral announced to the speaker set into the far wall.

There was a short delay, but the returning answer was definitive. “Why would we want to be a member of your Sovereignty. You people have been trying to kill us.”

“Don’t worry humans. As members, you will retain your autonomy, at least those of you who choose not to enter the glorified service of the Sovereign Fleet. But as members, it would dictate your territory and ensure other member species would not encroach on your area of space.”

Another pause. “So, a ceasefire and treaty?”

Admiral Tonkin turned to Sykes for confirmation of the unusual term.

She nodded her head once, indicating whatever humans considered a ceasefire matched our vernacular.

“Correct.”

The returning answer was much faster. “How can we trust you.”

Admiral Tonkin curled his lip, an answer to two problems today. “I’m sending over the Captain of this ship as your spoils from this encounter. Do with him what you wish until members of the Council arrive. Does this show our good faith?”

A crackle of static, then, “Yes.”

“Captain Sykes,” Admiral Tonkin strode towards the door, ready to indulge his appetites on the hunting deck. He stocked it with some of his favorite prey animals before leaving on this mission. “Send Vranks out the airlock so he can meet our new members.”

As an afterthought, he added, “No need to waste a good vac suit.”

Image by Stafford GREEN from Pixabay

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