"I don't understand." Ugul finally said slowly. "Why would we be worried about the Guillae?"
"Why wouldn't we be?" retorted the old judge as if he were educating a child; just a hint of condescension. "It's good to know and understand any rogue element within the stars."
"This council is meant to monitor and review information on the humans." Darrian said shortly.
"You're not wrong." the old judge agreed.
"Then, to reiterate Ugul's point." said A'alan't 32. "Why would we be concerned about the Guillae?"
"The Guillae are a rogue element." the old judge responded in that same condescending tone. "We need to understand them in the rare instance that we ever have to encounter them again."
"But this is about-" started Ugul again before being cut off by the old judge.
"The humans. I know." the old judge snapped.
Ugul looked shocked having been cut off by the old judge, as did a few others. He wasn't some child. He was an ambassador of the Jigger species. He wasn't the smartest or most outspoken of the council, but he was hardly out of line to question the old judge on this apparently unspoken motivation.
"Then why aren't we more concerned about the humans?" demanded Ferris.
"The humans are dead." the old judge stated with a level of cold detachment Darrian could only imagine was possible for a robot. "We need to use the time we have to learn what we can."
"They're not dead-!" Ugul started to bellow.
"They're dead. The Tulgucks have already entered the galaxy. The Gorderians haven't even mobilized yet and there's nothing the humans have in their arsenal that will stop them."
"There has to be something." muttered Ugul in distress.
"They DO have nuclear capabilities." offered Ferris.
"Capabilities pointed at each other and low in yield." he retorted flatly before adding, "It doesn't matter."
"Then why are we bothering?" demanded Darrian. "Why are we sitting here discussing politics about a species that you've already decided is dead before they even take the hit?"
"Because, again, we can learn more about the Guillae and how they interact with an oxygen-based, high water life form."
Darrian could feel the questions swimming, but didn't voice them. Why? Why do we care? Why does it matter? What good does it do?
"It's clear that we cannot progress any further today." the old judge said with cold sternness. "We can reconvene at a later time. You're all dismissed."
Darrian looked around the table but none of the judges moved. Even Cagool, who had finally stopped shaking from his exchange with Jin'thun earlier, sat in silence.
The old judge glowered at them.
"Ambassadors." he said with a mechanical sigh. "If this really bothers you all so deeply, I'll explain further."
"Please do." responded A'alan't 32 matching his own low, stern tone.
"Fine. I'm going to offer a guess: when I first mentioned the Guillae some cycles back, what was the first thing you after the initial meeting? I presume you went and tried to investigate them, did you not?"
There were a few assorted nods and muttered agreements.
"And what did you find?"
There was silence. Darrian knew that he personally hadn't found anything in the Consortium databases, but that A'alan't 32 and the Bivvie databases had been chock full of information on the Guillae. They locked eyes, but it wasn't A'alan't 32 who spoke up.
"Nothing." offered Cagool.
"I didn't find anything either." said Ferris.
"Me either." agreed Ugul.
"We don't know anything about the Guillae." said the old judge flatly. "In the short time the Consortium and the Guillae interacted, we never had a peaceful interaction short of the strained meetings that led to the Guillae and Consortium agreeing to stay out of each others' way."
"We need to learn as much as we can so we can add it to the limited cache we know about them. They've always seemed to be an extremely hostile species that is simply bent on taking over any water based planet that they can land a spore on. It's almost as if they're driven by a hunger that we don't rightly understand."
Darrian looked across the table to A'alan't 32 for confirmation of what she'd told him before and stared in shock. The Bivvie, who's transparent, seemingly holographic body always flickered between so many emotions and ages, seemed almost stable. The differences were minor at best. Almost solid. And all of them showed a glare of anger at the old judge.
For just a brief moment, A'alan't 32 glanced in Darrian's direction, perhaps sensing that he had been staring at her for too long. Without a word, she simply shaked her head.
"Now. That is all." the old judge said finally. "Take the rest of the cycle off. I will see you on the next."
The other ambassadors got up with little murmurs and mutters, but no one said anything against the old judge. Darrian didn't know what to feel. He trusted A'alan't 32's information and the data gathered by the Bivvie, but he couldn't understand what was happening. Did the Consortium really not have access to any of the information on the Guillae, leading them to believe this was some conquering race? Or were they intentionally misleading the species of the Consortium?
As Darrian sat there trying to understand his own thoughts, he watched A'alan't 32 storm out of the conference room. For the first time ever, her shape appeared to be almost solid.
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