“ARE YOU F***ING INSANE?!”
The muscle-bound Tarraken warlord looked at his newly seated counterpart with an expression that was equal parts terror and rage, the needle-like spines running down his thickly scaled back vibrating audibly.
It wasn’t out of the ordinary for a new power to join the table and make a big declaration of intent as a show of confidence or cockiness depending on how viable the proposal actually was. Most of the time it was all big talk and the senior members of this underhanded alliance talked the enthusiastic newcomer down before any real damage could be done. But this idiot had just suggested something that he clearly didn’t understand the implications of.
The Tarraken wasn’t alone in his assessment, with each of the other senior members exhibiting signs of anger or distress. The arrogant Alfion newcomer, a member of an elegant humanoid species reminiscent of what the humans called elves, seemed surprised by the response to his declaration, but his expression held no fear or trepidation, only disappointment and disapproval.
“Is there a need to be so uncouth? Honestly I think my proposal isn’t just reasonable, it’s a necessity. Not only that, but it’s something that should have been taken care of long before I ever became a member of this…esteemed group.”
The sarcasm practically dripped from his lips at his ‘respectful’ assessment of the alliance, the contempt all but carved into his sculpted facial features. He clearly thought of the other representatives as beneath him, either because he saw them as lesser than his own species or because how dull must they have been to miss something so obvious to him.
The Tarraken was resisting every urge in his body to reach over and snap the Alfion’s neck like a twig between his fingers, but the execution of a member had to be voted on and it was generally not good practice to hold that vote when the member in question was in the room.
Each of them held some form of insurance against the others should they meet their untimely demise during official meetings, either files that would be sent upon death, explosives planted in their own flesh, or other similar incentives to at least pretend to not want each other dead.
Knowing the Alfion, it was likely the former since the narcissistic bastards wouldn’t dare to intentionally mar their ‘perfect forms’, which made the Tarraken want to give him a slow and messy death even more. But he reigned in his temper as best he could and tried his best to be calm and reasonable.
“Pray tell, would this most…enlightened member like to explain what this collective has missed for you to think this proposal to be so crucial.”
The Alfion knew he was being patronized, but he couldn’t help but indulge in the compliment despite it being insincere. His father was a key member in his race’s High Parliament, the governing body that oversaw all of the most important decisions for the species. Because of his father’s position, he had free reign over an entire sector of Alfion territory and diplomatic immunity to boot. It even granted him the title of a Prince.
This combined with an extremely privileged upbringing and the inflated sense of self-worth inherent in almost all Alfion created something worse than just a monster. It made one that was constantly bored and looking for amusement. This amusement came at the cost of the pain and suffering of countless others. Even his own kind weren’t spared as he viewed himself above even his own kin, taking cruel pleasure in destroying the beauty he treasured so much in himself.
The truth was that the Alfion’s ‘perfect bodies’ hid a gift and a curse. They were capable of great feats of regeneration, to the point that it was actually quite hard to kill one of their kind if barehanded or only armed with a melee weapon. But that enhanced regeneration came with a heavy pricetag, at least they thought so. Their vaunted beauty.
Because their bodies went into overdrive to heal an injury, they would essentially over-heal, resulting in something akin to keloids but on steroids. The injury would heal, but the site of the wound and the area immediately surrounding it would be covered in a mass of scar tissue that would only reform again but worse if an attempt was made to remove it.
An Alfion with an injury was immediately shunned by their kin and would most often flee their sector in favor of that of another race in fear of another of their kind coming to ‘remove the wart’ from their community. The Prince was fond of tasking his private army of heading into these other sectors and bringing back those who had fled, with him being of the mind that if they weren’t still worthy of living in Alfion space, they weren’t worthy of living at all and tainting the image of his magnificent species.
This was who now talked down to his elders and better of this longstanding organization. This petulant child who only got his spot because several members owed his father a favor and the old man couldn’t bear the constant nagging anymore.
“It is quite simple, my friend-”
The Prince was cut off before he could truly begin by the sound of an activating teleporter and a flash of light as a cloaked figure appeared a previously unoccupied chair positioned at the head of the table they were all seated at. The figure lounged in the seat as all but the Prince practically leaped to their feet or other appendages to stand at rigid attention.
“We greet the Black Market’s President!”
The Prince went white as paper and clumsily stood up himself, stuttering his way through a refrain of the group’s unified chorus. This person was someone even his father would have to bow his head to, the reason this organization was able to exist at all. It was the Black Market that cleaned their dirty money, buried their bodies, cleaned up their messes, made evidence vanish without a trace, and provided even the most obscure and theoretical of technology for enough money and with enough time.
Their information network was second to none, even the Galactic Federation’s combined efforts couldn’t unravel it, and gods know they had tried. As far as any were aware, the current President of the Black Market had been in power for almost a century now, leading many to believe they were a member of one of the longer lived species, though truth and fiction were interchangeable when it came to the details of the Market’s inner workings.
The Prince for one assumed it was an Alfion, they were long lived and there was none better to have established an organization of such strength that it could simply laugh at the Federation’s attempts to dismantle it. The shock starting to die down, his eyes suddenly widened at an epiphany.
“Has the President seen my proposal?”
For the first time in his life he was truly afraid as the room filled with murderous intent and every warlord present shot him the same death glare both for speaking out of turn in front of their benefactor and seemingly having gone behind their backs to sent the proposal directly to the Black Market before bringing it up for discussion.
“I…meant no disrespect.”
The President looked up, their face obscured by a visual disruptor which hid their features and could induce headaches in those who stared too long. A heavily modulated voice rang out as they dismissively waved a hand, the action revealing to the Prince that the cloak they wore had light-bending technology woven into it, making it impossible to get a clear idea of their outline, adding to the mystery of who and what exactly they were.
“Ladies, gentlemen, please sit. We’re all friends here. No need to be so stiff, we aren’t Federation officers, are we?”
The warlords retook their seats, but the mood was anything but relaxed after this unexpected arrival and seeming tease of potential spies. Eyes darted all about, trying to read the faces of the others at the question.
“It seems my joke has put everyone on edge, my apologies. There’s no need to worry, if one of you was a spy, you would already be dead, I assure you. No, I’m here on most interesting business, you see our new friend here was indeed correct. I have to admit I was quite surprised at his boldness when I was presented with this…plan. Of course I supposed I should have expected as much when I heard an Alfion was finally being added to your ranks, they are nothing if not confident.”
The reassurance erased all suspicion. If the President said there was no spy, then there wasn’t. Their word was as good as law. Apprehension was replaced by the original frustration they felt about the Prince’s declaration and further heightened by the fact that they had lost the chance to stop this insanity from reaching the Black Market. The only consolation was that the President was clearly aware they had not signed off on this and the responsibility fell entirely on the Prince’s shoulders.
“I was a bit busy, but I managed to move a few things around because I wanted to hear this visionary plan directly from the mouth of the originator.”
The modulated voice held a flat tone, it was impossible to tell if they truly thought the plan was good or was merely being sarcastic, but the Prince only heard the compliment and proceeded to bite down on the honeyed words like a fat carp onto a fisherman’s bait.
“I should have known your esteemed self would see the merits of my plan. Allow me to explain. As you know, in going over the the history of this organization I found that there have only ever been two incidents where it was deemed necessary to remove a planet from the starmaps.
The first in the case of the viral outbreak on RE-1 after containment was breached which could have led to a potentially galaxy-wide disaster, and the second to destroy the heart of a burgeoning rival organization that dared to threaten the authority of the warlords.
I propose that we have reason to do this for a third time. Of all the elements in the Federation that threaten the continued success of this alliance, humanity is the greatest. Their technology advances by leaps and bounds with almost unnatural speed and in time I fear they may grow to be the only real threat we could ever face. So I propose we strike at humanity’s heart. Destroy Earth and cripple them as a race and a civilization.”
The Prince preened and smiled as the President simply nodded along, listening to short but rather impactful suggestion.
“I see. I see. So you looked into the history of this alliance in an effort to think of a worthy first proposal, a smart decision it has to be said. But I wonder if I might ask a question?”
“Of course, I am glad to answer any question of our most generous benefactor.”
“…Mhm. Anyway, while you were looking through the records, did you find any mention of any of your counterparts targeting human operations?”
“I did not, which I must admit I found quite odd.”
“Ah you did, I’m happy to hear it, so did you ask any of the senior members why that was?”
“Actually, I think it might be better if you don’t speak anymore, I’m sure I can get a handle on what exactly happened and what went on in that arrogant little brain of yours. So you realized it was odd, but instead of asking the other members who you view as lesser than yourself, you merely assumed it was the result of cowardice or oversight due to stupidity.
Being an Alfion, you never bothered to delve into the details of other races because why would that be worth even a moment of your time? Which means that what little you do know about humanity means you thought they were a young, fresh-faced race with a talent for technology and not much else, after all, they aren’t Alfion, so they can’t be all that impressive.
Because of this you failed to learn about the fact that humans are one of the single most brutal races in the galaxy, but to be fair they haven’t shown that side of themselves in quite a while, let’s say you could be forgiven for not knowing that off the top of your head and you decided to proceed with your plan. You stopped right there and sent it my way, but had you done any real investigation into what you were proposing you would have discovered quite a large flaw.
Humans are vengeful, and the word to describe the degree to which they will go to enact that vengeance, for even the smallest of perceived slights, does not exist. And yet you proposed to destroy their heart. Their homeworld. The biggest, brightest jewel in their crown. If you had used what little intelligence you have left after spending the majority of your life drinking, f***ing, and torturing your own people you might have learned that humans value their culture above all else.
It is their identity, the soul of their civilization. And like any other race, they would cry out in anguish, weep, and lament the loss of that most precious of jewels. But even while they weep, their hands would assemble weapons of war, their minds would push all focus into finding the ones responsible, their hearts would thirst for blood, and their entire race would make it their life’s mission to return that anguish a hundred fold.”
Even through the modulation the President’s voice was ice cold, each word spat out like venom as they picked apart this idiotic idea, and when they were about halfway done they rose from their chair and started making their way over to the Prince. By the time they finished and stood in front of the fledgling warlord, the Prince had sunk down in his chair, shivering and pale with fear, wishing there was a hole he could go crawl into to hide from the entity before him.
“You thought thought destroying Earth would destroy humanity’s heart? You precious little idiot, do not confuse the anatomy of the human body with that of the human psyche. Every planet under their control is another heart, even if Earth is their first its loss would not kill them.
We, and by we I mean you and the others here burdened with your presence, do not touch humanity because we do not want to draw their attention. Because of all the crap that came out of your pretty little mouth, you got one thing right. Humanity has every potential to be our worst nightmare and only true threat.
So we avoid them, we take advantage of their frankly insane ability to make advances in technology and use it for our own ends while being very careful not to make big enough waves to rock their boat. An undisturbed humanity is an docile creature, a provoked humanity is a f***ing apocalypse.”
The President bent down so their face was mere inches away from the Prince’s and grabbed his chin to force him to look up at them. Tears began to form in the corners of the Alfion’s eyes and his head began to pound from the effects of staring into the visual disruptor.
“Do you know what this is for me, really? This little alliance? Daycare. This is how I keep you and the other little children busy and entertained while I and your parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or whatever other relatives who made it so all of you could have this authority and power do the real work.
These declarations and plans you send me? Class projects. You do a little drawing with the rest of the children, put it on my desk, and I pat you on the head, give you a gold star and tell you you did a good job.
Not once since the founding of this group have I had to explain this because until now, every new member has had the bare minimum intelligence to understand what this was. But here you are to break the streak. So until I decide otherwise, I’m putting you in timeout.
You will not be allowed back in the playroom. You will not be allowed to participate in the group activities. You will not be allowed to talk to the other children outside of the playroom. You will stay home and think about what you’ve done and you will never do it again. And when I allow you to come back, you will not do any solo projects. You will run all your ideas by the other children and work together on your little drawing before giving it to me. Then I will pat you on the head and give you your gold star. Do you understand, little boy?”
The Prince nodded frantically in the President’s grip, tears pouring down his face and his head screaming in agony, too scared to utter a single word.
“Good boy. Now run along.”
The Prince had never move more quickly or ungracefully as he did once the President released their grip, scrambling away and fleeing out of the room practically on all fours to get away. The President simply watched until he was gone and turned to the rest of the warlords, none of whom had the courage to even look in their direction. Letting out a modulated sound of disgust, they activated the teleporter once more to whisk them away.