While the news of their upcoming attempt definitely made ripples, the main reason for the constant deliberation had more to do with the speed that humans seemed to operate at. Every cycle brought several new challenges. Something new to review and discuss.
Recruiting for the colonization begun. Political arguments rallied regarding planetary ownership. A competition among geographic "nations" broke out regarding who would be the first to reach the planet. Tensions rose between those nations and even threatened war. Several interplanetary vessels were destroyed by what was believed to be sabotage.
Despite all the setbacks and changes, the colony ships launched at the very end of the tenth cycle. There were two ships; both from different geographic "nations". One from a location known as "China". The other from the "United States".
Juag-e never showed up to a single meeting during that time.
"Where is he?" the old judge demanded of Jin'thun at the beginning of the second cycle.
Jin'thun gave the old judge a withering glare before responding.
"Do I look like a Tulguck?"
"You two are always together." interjected Darrian before the old judge could respond.
"Politically." agreed Jin'thun with a threatening growl. "The same can be said of him and Yool, yet I don't see you turning a sharpened tongue towards him."
"Hey. Don't drag me into this." retorted Yool.
"The fact remains," continued the judge, "We just went through an entire cycle without so much as a notification as to his whereabouts. Juag-e needs to take this council seriously."
"Who could?" snapped Jin'thun. "Particularly when you can't seem to tell me apart from an entirely different species."
"It's jus..." began Cherryl.
"It's just what?!" demanded Jin'thun. "I am not an ambassador from Tulguck. I'm a Gorderian and you'll be wise to remember that."
"Calm yourself, Jin'thun. They meant no disrespect." said A'alan't 32.
"Of course they did. Because we dare have a different opinion from their own." he said, turning his rage on the little Bivvie. "It's the same reason Ferris likes to call Juag-e, Yool, and I the Trifecta."
"That's right." he snarled, turning towards Ferris. "You're not as quiet or as funny as you think you are Merrenian. But what can you expect from a rodent in a robot?"
"Jin'thun!" yelled the old judge.
"What?" he responded in a low, threatening tone.
"This is a council meeting. If you can't control you're temper and follow the rules of etiquette you will be removed from this council."
"Would those be the same rules of etiquette that dictate interspecies relations, specifically on the matter of respect, tolerance, and mutual agreement? Or perhaps you're referring to the subsection that dictates what a council lead is to do in the absence of a species ambassador?"
The judge had no response and no other counselor dared the Gorderian's fury.
"Before you yell at me about my breach in etiquette, consider your own. I am not Juag-e's keeper and I will not be put on the spot for his absence." growled Jin'thun. "If you want to know where he is, contact his embassy. That's yours and his problem. Not. Mine."
Despite the fact that Jin'thun was clearly still fuming, he settled back into his place at the table. The room was silent for several moments as no one knew what to say. Finally, the old judge stepped up.
"I apologize for my inconsideration, ambassador." said the old judge in a soft tone.
"Damn right, you are. Now, we've got a job to do. Let's get to it."
And they did.
Despite the fact that Darrian was sure the old judge would have contacted the Tulguck embassy immediately after the debacle with Jin'thun, no one heard anything regarding Juag-e for a good while. He didn't return nor was a replacement Tulguck arranged to take his spot. His place at the table remained empty.
It stayed that way until the evening of the twelfth cycle.
"Just when I thought we were done with meetings for a while." grumbled Ferris.
"I thought so too." agreed Darrian as they settled into place.
"There can't possibly be something else going on." Ferris complained towards the old judge. "The human ships aren't supposed to arrive on Mars for another six or seven cycles."
"Did something happen?" asked Illiquina with a hint of concern. "Was there an accident? More sabotage?"
"No accident." confirmed the old judge. "But, to be frank, we have a problem."
"And what is that?"
"The Tulguck Armada has been mobilized and they have declared hostile intent against the humans."
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