Author: Alastair Millar

“It would be fitting,” the Sardaanian said, “if you took a new name now. A human name.”
“But my name has always been T!kalma,” the woman replied.
“Yes,” ze replied, “but that is one of our names. Your birth people are reaching out, as we predicted. Soon it will be time to play your part.”
She looked away at that. “What if I don’t want to?”
“Come, have we not given you a lifespan vastly longer than that of your species? Have we not looked after you, nurtured you, taught you, asking only that you ready yourself for this – to be an emissary?”
“Yes. You have.” She looked at hir directly. “And because you have, this is my home. I don’t want to leave it.”
“You will only need to make short trips. We’re not suggesting you live with them, or anything.”
“Well that’s a relief.”
“I thought it might be.” A forelobe frond waved in what she knew was good-natured agreement.
She sighed.
“But I think, for all your research, you still don’t really understand them.”
“How so?”
“They won’t forgive you. I know why I and the others were brought here as children, but they won’t understand. They’ll say you kidnapped us, call it a repeated act of aggression. And their first instinct will be to respond with violence.”
“But that is just what we seek to avoid!” Ze clacked hir beak worriedly.
“Surely they will see the benefits of peaceful coexistence? We have so much to offer them – energy without waste, climatic fluctuation control, matter transference, even chronosynchronisation! And in return we will learn their arts, their music, their belief systems, and by doing so enrich our own culture.”
“They will suspect that your generosity hides a desire to take control of their society and worlds. Worse, they will see what you offer as prizes for the taking.”
“They would be crushed in moments if they tried to take anything by force!”
“And that is what I wish to avoid. The destruction of a species, even one ill-suited to membership in the universal community, is a terrible thing. And it is my species, after all.”
“I know them well enough to be sure that there is no-one they will trust more than one of their own. That is why we brought you all here in advance of their expansion. To act as ambassadors for the greater community and ease them into the Galactic Polity.”
“I am aware,” she said drily. “But this is a huge responsibility, and I do not know if I am ready for it. Or capable of managing it.”
“You are. Of a certainty, there is, in all the galaxy, no group better placed for this than your cohort. You need to trust yourself; and if not, then trust us, as you always have before.”
“I want to believe you. I want it to work. I truly do.”
“And it will. If you make it happen,” ze said, hir carapace glowing blue with reassurance. “They will reach out, and find to their amazement that they are already among us. And that wonders await them.”
“And yet we only have one chance to make a good impression.”
“That is true.”
She took a deep breath of the scented air.
“Then call me Hope.”