Mania sat quietly at the table. She was dressed well, but not overly so. They would have called it business attire in the past. The joint quarters her and Invictus shared had been re-arranged, furniture moved, and a large table moved in and lavishly decorated. The room looked well for a makeshift dining room.
Earlier in the week, a previously unknown alien civilization had contacted them from the very edge of the Milky Way galaxy. The leader had requested a private meeting. They claimed that they had technology that Earth would be greatly interested in, and that would be willing to barter for trade rights and other resources.
The leader, whose name that had yet to be given, had demanded that the meeting be extremely private, between the two rulers of Earth only. Invictus had seemed less than happy about the suddenness of the meeting and the dire need for secrecy.
Mania glanced over at him as he left the kitchen area. His hair was put up under a chef’s hat, and he wore traditional restaurant style chef clothing. He approached the table, laying out plates and silverware at both ends.
“You know what you’re going to say if he asks for me?” Invictus rumbled. Mania rolled her eyes.
“Yes, you’re out on an emergency trip to check on an outpost on Mars, and that you were terribly sorry you had to miss this meeting.” She replied. Invictus glanced over at her.
“Why did I have to go check on the outpost?” He asked. Mania made a frustrated sound.
“Your being paranoid.” She smarted. “I’m more worried that he is going to send out my ‘Personal Chef’ and you won’t get to listen in” Invictus shrugged.
“It’s worth the risk. It allows me to move around freely throughout the room and be ready for combat if needs be.” Mania sighed.
“You and your combat.” She said. She looked him over again, he did look like a regular chef, only the muscles in his forearms being apparent. She noticed his beard was slightly scraggly and he had dark bags under his eyes. Her eyes narrowed.
“When’s the last time you slept?” She asked. Invictus held her gaze unflinching for a moment. Then looked down at the solid black band of carbon that wrapped around his wrist. He twisted his wrist twice, and a small screen appeared, hovering over his wrist.
“ 32 hours ago.” He replied shaking his wrist again to dispel the screen. Mania glared at him.
“You’ve been working on that project nonstop haven’t you?” She asked. Invictus shrugged, seemingly unfazed by his lack of sleep.
“I’m almost done.” He replied. “Then I’m going spear fishing.” He chuckled. Mania opened her mouth to reply when the ear mic came on. She paused, listening. Then looked back at Invictus.
“Go back to the kitchen side and get the appetizers ready. He’ll be here in 3 minutes.” She paused again, then grew slightly taunt. “He brought a lot of guards.” Invictus frowned as he slung his axe off his back and handed it to one of the two guards standing behind Mania’s chair then returned to the kitchen side of the open room. The guard slung the axe onto his back as he had been instructed.
“I hope all of this is poisonous to him.” He growled as he set the appetizers down, then stepped away to go prepare the meal. Mania shot him a look and stood up to face the door behind her, smiling as she did so. The door slid open a moment later and Mania had to hide her shock.
Through the doorway came an alien that looked exactly like “The Greys” Humans had been talking about in myth for centuries. The thing was short. Right at five feet tall. It’s skin was all grey with a large head and bulbous eyes, it had no clothing on and seemed to not have any kind of genitals. Curiosity burned through Mania, but she squelched it, because then she noticed his bodyguards. Six large beings, all of them over eight feet tall. They looked like crocodiles walking on two legs. They had large humanoid arms and chest, but their legs looked closer to crocodile’s legs, albeit much thicker and sturdier. Their heads looked exactly like a crocodile’s and it their scales on their back gave them an almost hunchbacked appearance.
Mania could practically feel Invictus stiffen from across the room. Her guards behind her seemed much more at ease. She continued to smile and then gave a low nod to the alien.
“It’s a pleasure to have you here.” She said neutrally. The alien looked around quickly then spoke in an arrogant tone that sounded male.
“Where is your leader?” He asked. Mania resisted raising an eyebrow.
“I am Mania Empress of Earth.” She responded. “Please come in and sit.” The alien didn’t move.
“I am Artible.” He said. “Supreme advisor to his majesty, and I demanded an audience with The Praetor of Earth, not his bed warmer.” Mania bristled in rage and she thought she heard Invictus drop a pan out of shock or anger. She drew herself up to her full height, standing a full six-foot four inches, and laid one hand on one of the Katana at her hips.
“Praetor Invictus and I are of the same rank and station, and you will address me as such.” She said quietly staring down into the little aliens eyes. He held her gaze for a moment, then snapped his head to the guard next to Mania.
“Is this true?” He asked the guard “Do these” he paused again and his eyes rolled over Mania “Misshapen lifeforms get to hold the same stations as males in your culture?” This time she heard Invictus slam a pan down in anger. Artible glanced over briefly then looked back at the guard. After a moment the guard just nodded. Mania could see the veins in his neck standing out as he refused to tear the alien a verbal new one.
“I guess this will have to do then.” Artible muttered as he made his way to the other end of the table and sat down. His guards followed him, two standing behind him, but the other two stood behind and to the side of Mania’s guards that stood on either side and behind her chair. Mania stiffened slightly as she moved towards her chair.
“I have my own guards.” She said.
“And mine will stay exactly as they are if you wish to have this meeting.” Artible snarled. Mania stiffened even more and sat down. She could see Invictus cooking, stiff as a board.
“What is it you wish to discuss?” she asked as he sat down. The alien looked around at the appetizers for a moment before selecting one or two. Then replied.
“We have a new technology that we feel like Earth would be interested in.” His contemptuous look fell slightly and a more business like tone came over him. “We have just devolved it, no one else knows about it. We think your Empire is our best bet as allies when this new technology comes to light.” Mania raised her eyebrow curiously.
“You sound like there will be war.” Mania said. She glanced over and she swore she saw Invictus perk up like a dog with its ears up. Artible paused for a moment, finishing his plate.
“There could be war over this kind of technology yes.” He replied. He glanced over as Invictus approached with plates, as he began to lay out the main course on the table. He made sure to put the Macaroni next to Mania. Once he had finished he made his way back to the kitchen, and began preparing dessert. Mania watched Artible as he slid a Razor thin sheet of metal across the table. It was plain, except a single small indentation in the middle.
“Press that.” He drawled. Mania tried not to glower at being told what to do, then pressed the indentation. Instantly, several dozen floating screens popped up. Some of them were blue prints, some photos, videos, statistics from test, but the largest screen was a detailed multi layered 3D blueprint of a massive spaceship. She resisted the urge to glance over at Invictus.
“What is this?” She asked softly. Artible smirked, then looked over at Invictus.
“Chef, leave dessert and go fetch some of that rotten berry juice you humans drink.” Invictus turned, with an eyebrow raised.
“Wine sir?” he asked humbly. The alien nodded impatiently then shooed him out. Invictus left, murder in his eyes.
“That is one of your navy battleship, but for space warfare.” The alien said smugly. It dawned on Mania why it looked so familiar. It looked like a giant floating battleship.
“It’s like a star cruiser…” She mumbled.
“I don’t know what that means, but we stole one of your navy ships centuries ago and based the design on that. The pictures you see is the only one in existence.” Artible smirked. “Unless the Empire of Earth would like to pay us to manufacture more.” Mania looked at him through the holograms. Holding steady eye contact.
“This does interest us yes.” She said without giving anything away. “How long does it take to make one?” she asked. The alien lounged in its chair, and smirked again.
“About six months in earth time” he responded. His smile fell, “But that’s all you get to hear about it until your Praetor arrives.” Mania stiffened.
“Invictus is currently away on an emergency trip to one of our Mars military outpost and won’t be back for several days.” She responded stiffly. Artible looked angry for a moment.
“He left on a simple errand, knowing I was coming and left me to speak with you?” he sneered. Mania felt a cold fury finally take her in the chest.
“Is there a problem with that?” she asked icily. The alien snorted.
“All of you humans are unshapely and disgusting. Your males are less so, because that disgusting dangly bit is hidden beneath clothes. But you females have those unsightly lumps that just stick out as you walk around. Unhidden from the world.” He paused. “Sickening really.” He spat. Mania bit her tongue, and she could feel, just the very lightest pressure of one of her guards behind her, just barely pinching the cloth of her shirt, attempting to discreetly hold her back.
“Sir.” She hissed. “You will speak to me with respect according to my position as the ruler of an entire planet system.” She took a breath. “Or you will not speak to me at all, and you will not make friends with the fastest growing war civilization in the galaxy.”
She watched as his eyes narrowed.
“You threaten me.” He said.
“I speak only the truth.” Mania replied, never taking her eyes from his. Everything happened in seconds. Artible snapped his fingers, and every guard moved. Mania moved before anyone else, rolling backwards over the back of her chair to back flip out of it. Before her feet had ever touched the ground, one katana was out, and sliding across the beastman’s throat on her right. She landed as blood sprayed from his neck and he staggered backwards. Mania’s guards had both moved towards the beast on her left, being her weak side. She grabbed her chair by the back and swung it hard. It hit the beast hard in the head, breaking as he staggered slightly. She left her guards to deal with him as she turned to face the other four.
Two came on either side of the long table. She drew her other katana, and moved fluidly. She ducked under the table, stabbing one on both sides in the knee. She heard roars of pain, then ducked as the table was flipped over on its’ side, now between two of them and her.
“Perfect.” She thought. She cut across both knees of the one she had already injured. Then rolled away from the other. The injured beast fell, and she slung a throwing knife from her hip and buried it in its eye. The remaining one on her side rushed her.
“Fuck this shit” she decided. She stood up straight, and met the beast full charge. She plunged both katana into its torso, and used its own momentum to flip it over her, as Invictus had taught her. It landed with a loud thump, and she crushed it’s throat with a stomp as she withdrew her Katana.
Now the last two had made it past the table and eyed her warily. Her two guards were just finishing their opponent, and she smiled. She flung one katana in a flash, and it buried in one enemies throat. She rushed the other. It swung a huge mace at her and she smirked. She cut his hand off neatly as she dodged. The monster screamed in rage. It sounded just like a crocodile. As it opened its mouth to scream, Mania pushed her katana down into its jaw, pinning the bottom jaw to its chest as the sword pierced where she hoped its heart was.
Mania smirked as it stumbled backwards and fell, slowly suffocating. She pulled her other katana from where she had thrown it, and slowly approached Artible. He looked terrified, and attempted to run. Mania kicked his feet from unde him and stood over him. She paused, then dragged him to the wall and threw him up against it.
She leaned down to be eye level with him. She could see him hyperventilating, and could almost smell his fear. She slowly, one at a time, undone the buttons on her shirt, revealing as much cleavage as she could, she watched as the alien glanced down, eyes wide, and shuttered in genuine disgust.
Then she separated his head from his shoulders.
Invictus returned just as she re-buttoned her shirt. He looked around, with a bottle of wine in his fist. After a moment or two of looking around, and his eyes finally landing on the headless Artible, he finally moved. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.
“I was gone for five minutes.” He said.
“Now we can redo the hardwood like you wanted.” Mania smiled sweetly.
Author’s note: I will link any direct sequels to this particular story below as I write them. (Im not just going to leave the battleship on the table)