Chief advisor Armenn stood anxiously outside the great throne room, waiting for its mammoth door to open. Delivering a report to the queen was nerve-wracking enough at the best of times, without having the added pressure that the report he was about to give her could, in all probability, start an interplanetary war. He could, however, take small comfort from the fact that it wasn’t the first time one of his briefings had led to bloodshed.
The ceremonial gong rang out and echoed down the corridor as the huge amber door before him began to slide slowly upward. With head firmly bowed, Armenn took a deep breath, then scuttled into the cavernous chamber.
The guards that stood on duty either side of the door saluted as Armenn entered, their thick armour rattling heavily as they did so. Armenn lazily returned the gesture as he continued across the room without breaking stride. His head remained firmly bowed until he had reached the enormous, stepped plinth that filled the one end of the chamber.
A deep but nonchalant grunt from the queen acknowledged Armenn’s arrival, after which he raised his gaze to the massive throne before him. The royal seat was immaculately crafted, beset with green jewels, and, had it not been occupied, would quite easily been the most imposing object in the room. It was however, quite literally overshadowed by the titanic bulk of Queen Lukta’s body.
The queen’s head and thorax were situated above the centre of the throne, whilst the vast majority of her pulsating abdomen spilled out over the seat and down the entire right side of the plinth. Armenn watched briefly, as the tip of the heaving mass deposits a steady procession of slime covered eggs onto the floor. No sooner had an egg been laid, before a nursing drone would scuttle in from one of three small entrances in the right-hand wall, scoop it up, and disappear out of the chamber again.
Returning his gaze to the queen, Armenn began to offer a traditional royal salute. He slowly started to vibrate his body and buzz rhythmically, then scurried around the floor in a rough figure-of-eight pattern. The process was repeated three times before he came to rest and prepared to deliver his report.
“My Queen,” he began, with all due ceremony in his voice. “At the second hour, of the third day, of the feast of Altere, the scout craft ‘Piety’ detected and recovered a deep space probe of unknown origin. The probe was found in the lower arc of Henndall region somewhere near the-”
“Never mind all that,” interrupted Queen Lukta as she waved her claw in the air dismissively. “Get to the point. Who sent the damned thing?...The Fammorians?...The Renth?”
Armenn shook his head and moved forward until he was at the first of the thrones many steps. As he did so, both his movement and postures became less formal. Very few of the queen’s subjects would never dare act so casually in her presence, but Armenn was afforded such liberties, having served Lukta well over the previous three centuries.
“Its technology and design do not conform to either race, your most mammoth of matriarchs,” he continued. “It seemed to be drifting aimlessly…unpowered. We were not able to extrapolate, from its trajectory or design, exactly where it came from. In fact, it is unlike anything we have ever seen before.”
He then reached inside his carapace and pulled out a small hexagonal plate. Armenn scuttled up the first three steps of the plinth and handed the object to the queen before moving back again. Bowing his head, he then began to rub his antennae together.
Lukta held the plate in her massive claw and watched as thousands of microdrones poured out of the plates edge and started to move across its surface. Within an instant, the tiny creatures began to cluster, forming basic lines and shapes. After a further moment, they started altering their pigment, until they had formed a clear picture of the probe.
The image of the craft, although strange and alien, to the queen, was wholly unremarkable. In fact, it looked very primitive…archaic, even.
“Looks old,” she said, derisively. “Was it even armed?”
“No, my queen,” Armenn answered. “It only had a few basic sensors, all of which have been defunct for centuries.
“So, it poses absolutely no threat?”
“No, my queen”
“Then, why are you even bothering me with this?”
“Because of this…” replied Armenn with quiet resignation as he began rubbing his antennae once again. Instantly, the microdrones broke their rigid formations and swarmed chaotically on the plate’s surface. A moment later they began to form another image.
The queen watched closely as a more detailed picture formed. It showed a close-up of one of the alien craft's side panels, and, more significantly, the symbols that were etched upon it. Though unfamiliar to Lukta, they were obviously some primitive form of writing, containing nine simple characters.
“And what is this supposed to mean?” said the queen with mild irritation.
“Our scientists and scholars are still working to decipher it,” answered the chief advisor. “But our clerics have expressed some concerns”
“Some of them believe that the from the left symbol, is a blasphemous depiction of the God Karmaplatymus Wrex, hallowed be his name,” replied Armenn. “And the three symbols on the right could be considered insulting to the great prophet, Ken.”
“The problem with priests,” began Lukta, “is that they take themselves way too seriously. They look to find offense in everything. How can it be construed as an insult before it’s even been translated? Always too bloody eager to start a war that lot, Armenn, I’m telling you.”
“There was…another concern,” said Armenn, with a tone of embarrassment.
“Out with it, Armenn,” said the Queen with growing impatience.
“There was a plaque on the craft. There were some primitive etchings carved upon it,” he replied as he rubbed his antennae once again.
The microdrones began swarming across the plates once more, until a new image began to develop. This time, the picture that began to emerge was of two figures. The creatures depicted were hideously ugly and had far too few limbs for the queens liking. The thing that was most shocking to Lukta, however, was the fact that they both appeared to be in a state of undress.
“Good Gods!” she exclaimed with obvious disdain. “They’re naked!”
“Exactly,” responded Armenn.
“You mean to tell me that these disgusting creatures have sent pornography into the Blessed Void?”
The chief advisor nodded earnestly.
“This is blasphemy!” bellowed the queen, her massive bulk visibly quivering with rage. “It is an affront to our Gods! An outrage! Have these beings no shame?”
Lukta then stuffed the microdrone plate between her formidable mandibles, and angrily crunched it into pieces, which she then promptly swallowed. With her improvised snack finished, the queen hurriedly cleaned herself with her claw, before resuming her rant.
“I didn’t devour my beloved sisters and ascend to the throne, so that I may be subjected to this filth! If only we knew where these vile creatures were from, I would avenge the God’s honour and wipe out the entire bloody species!”
“Well, there’s the strange thing, my most mountainous of monarchs,” said Armenn. “Despite the fact our scientists could not determine the craft’s point of origin from the trajectory data, they still believe that will be able to calculate the position of the alien’s home planet, within half a cycle.”
“Then, why didn’t you tell me that?”
With that, the queen tilted her huge head back and raised up all four of her antennae. She began rubbing them together, until the chamber was filled with a deep humming sound. Almost instantly, the sound carried, not only through the whole of the battle cruiser "Temperance" but across the entire fleet.
Throughout a host of different star systems, and across dozens of planets, billions of soldiers, workers, and drones heard the queen's call. In response, each of them ceased their immediate tasks, and began to ready themselves. Within seconds, the collective and colossal might of the Mearmexxan Empire was preparing to go to war.
“There,” said Lukta. “The preparations have started. Now all we need are the co-ordinates…less than half a cycle, you say.”
“That is correct, my queen,” answered Armenn. “The scientists just need to run some figures through a calculation drone.”
“What do they need to calculate?”
“There was another image on the plaque,” began the chief advisor “I would show you with the microdrones, but your most massive majesty was merciful enough to have already devoured them.”
The queen nodded her head in response, as if to say "you’re welcome."
“We believe it depicts the craft's point of origin,” continued Armenn. “In relation to the position of nine active quasars…we just need to work out which ones. It shouldn’t take long, my queen”
“You mean to tell me that they sent this heretic filth into our space and they left their address on it?” scoffed Lukta. “Worst mistake their species ever made…Bloody idiots!”