Starting Point: Limoncello in the Afternoon

lemoncello carafe

“Limoncello?” asked Lazaro as he proffered the carafe filled with the lemony sweet liquor.

Draeka sniffed and then licked his scaly lips. “Sssertainly my good sssir. Not too mussch. What isss the alcohol content?”

Lazaro smiled and said, “No more than twenty-eight percent ethanol. Perfectly compatible with Xichung biology. As is the citric acid with honey, which we both know your species absolutely loves.”

Taking the glass, Draeka took a sip and sighed sibilantly. “Aaah, esssquisssite!” He took a larger sip and then set the thin glass on the table. “I ssshouldn’t drink too mussch of this. Both the ethanol and sssucrose have intosssicating effectsss on my ssspecies. One would think that you were trying to get me drunk.” His slitted pupils looked accusingly at the human, who poured himself an ample amount of limoncello. 

Sitting back, Lazaro looked out the window on Greenbeak Parish, a small town on the colony world of Rigi c, also known as New Pallas. It was a coastal town, on a world with only forty-six percent water. The brackish sea lolled onto the shores under a 7.85 m/s^2 gravitational acceleration. Desal plants busily converted the brine into salt and potable water. This little colony wouldn’t have existed otherwise. The lemons that went into the limoncello were hard won prizes turned into a liquor prized across a dozen worlds. Yet…

“We are at a bit of an impasse,” said Lazaro as he sipped his drink. “Our colony is doing well. We have six settlements that are slowly growing. They would grow faster if we had more potable water.” He took another sip, while Draeka watched him silently. 

“If we had access to the poorest of rivers that flow from the interior of this continent…” he gestured broadly, “we would be able to grow much faster and produce much more in terms of trade goods. Something your people clamor for, I might add my dear Chamberlain Draeka.”

Governor-General Lazaro Delmarr leaned forward, proffering the carafe filled with the honey yellow liquid, “What is it your government wants from us?”

Chamberlain Draeka sipped his limoncello and smiled…

What does Chamberlain Draeka want for himself and the natives of New Pallas? Access to human markets? Access to humans? (Of course that’s such a stereotypical a trope, we can safely ignore it… right?) How technological are the Xichung? Do they hold their own against the humans or is it that they survive because they pose no threat to them? Questions that need answers.

Written by John H. Reiher Jr.

  • Leonardo Faria

    Xichung are not real aliens, they are a mutant species of earthlings exiled to New Pallas after an attempt to take over the political power on Earth (when they showed psychic powers, along with a lot of somatic deviations from our anatomy and physiology). Economic colonization came later, when humans realized the immense possibilities of business, still largely unfathomed, the planet hid.
    Xichung fellows want a removal of the ban from Earth, and during the decades of familiarity with the regular humans in the process of colonization, they have learnt to manipulate them, who are avid and have short memory. Xichung are masterful at lobbying and skullduggery.
    The final chapter of their plan for world domination is still to be written.
    Oh, and Chamberlain Draeka can stand alcohol way better than Lazaro believes…

  • Kirov

    This is a really cool starting point. I think I’ll have to write something for it. But I imagine the Xichung as a non-space-faring species native to the planet. Human colonists arrived unaware of their presence, but with too little supplies to head off elsewhere. The Xichung welcomed colonization, but years later, two highly segregated societies emerged coexisting sometimes in peace, and sometimes on the brink of war depending on what issues were of importance at the time. Recent failures of the desal plants have been one of those tense issues, and the two rivals must now find a way for both groups to come out ahead.

    • Kirov

      Here’s something I wrote real quick. Didn’t think it was long enough or well-thought-out enough to be worth an email. I may rework it later and if I like the result, I’ll email that in.

      Chamberlain Draeka sipped his limoncello and smiled. “You know our customs, Lazaro. We’ve already given your people the coastlines, but the rivers are used as breeding grounds. If you were to take even the smallest of them, there might be…” he paused for moment to take another sip, “unintended consequences.”

      Lazaro knew he was referring to the accident in Pallas City, the colonies original settlement, seventeen years ago. Several of the Xichung younglings had been killed when the settlers had begun operating a desal plant in the river, which had eventually forced the humans to relocate the plant offshore and quite a ways away from the main colony. It had been an expensive learning experience for both sides, but it was unlikely to happen again with a better understanding of each other. However, it wasn’t the physical risk which posed a problem. Tensions were already high with the Xichung at the moment, and the political fallout with the local population might not go over well. Unless, of course, the Xichung got something in return.

      “Come now, Draeka.” He poured the reptilian another glass of limoncello. The Xichung had quite an affinity for the drink, and Draeka had already finished his first round. “You and I both know the Xichung population isn’t very high here. I know of several rivers which aren’t used by your people at all.”

      “Yes, yes,” Draeka hissed. “I know of the rivers of which you speak. But my people would be very unhappy regardless. Perhaps more limoncello would soothe them?” He glanced down at his hands where his drink currently resided. He knew he shouldn’t be drinking so much of it, but it made him feel so exuberantly intoxicated. Plus, he had his own trick up his sleeve.

      In the nineteen years since the humans had first touched down, the two species had learned a lot about each other’s biology. But what the humans hadn’t learned yet, Draeka knew, was that the Xichung used pheromone communication. It was limited to simple, emotional displays, a vestigial remnant of their animalistic ancestors. But it could still come in handy. In his time among the humans, Draeka had learned that their sense of smell was weak and mostly subconscious. They could be easily manipulated if you knew the right scents, and Draeka, having been Greenbeak Parish’s chamberlain for six years now, knew them all.

      Draeka began releasing his pheromones, controlling his emotions to make sure he got them just right. He started to ease Governor Delmarr into the deal. “If you were to raise our share of the drink from five to ten percent, we might consider it.”

      Lazaro hid his surprise well, but the offer had certainly surprised him. He had expected the lizard to ask for a lot more, forcing him to bargain from there. But a five percent increase would be nothing if they could get the second desal plant running. He raised an eyebrow and tried to sound a little skeptical, “alright, that sounds like it might be doable. We’d have to wait until the new plant was online, of course.” It was a blatant lie. The colony would miss out on a few hundred kilos of exports, but it could easily afford the new price even without the second plant. “When might we start construction?”

      Draeka detected no hint of suspicion. His attempt at making the human more trusting was working, but it was difficult to maintain considering how much the limoncello was affecting his emotions. “Well, that’s not all we want.” He took another sip of the yellow beverage in his hand. “We aren’t quite satisfied with the pace of your technology integration team, either.”

      Lazaro frowned as he considered the reptilian’s words. “The pacing is meant to be slow. We can’t just introduce your species to new tech without their being a significant societal impact.”

      “Yes, I understand. But my government is concerned that the pace might be a little faster with the team in Pallas City. Rumor has it that they’ve worked with the Tanri Nation to develop an aero-vehicle. We don’t exactly see eye to eye with the Tanri,” Draeka hissed the word out, barely managing to conceal his disgust, “so you can see our cause for concern.”

      “An airplane! Already?” Lazaro was unable to hide his surprise this time. Despite his slightly impaired state under the pheromones, Lazaro knew he was now treading on a highly sensitive issue. If the two Xichung nations ended up in a tech race, it could spill over into actual war with the already high tension. And there would be no doubt that human colonies would also be dragged in. “I can’t believe it! They’re not supposed to bring them up that far! Those scale-heads over there are going to militarize the whole program!” As soon as he said it, he knew it was a mistake. Any mention of war to a Xichung would get them riled up, and that’s not the kind of Xichung you want to be negotiating with. He didn’t know why he let himself say it. He was usually far more controlled, but something had caused him to let slip his underlying thoughts.

      Draeka clenched his fist at the use of the term “scale-head,” but didn’t hold it against the human. Any insult aimed at the Tanri was fine in his books. “Then you see why we want more technology? We must be able to defend ourselves against them! We must be able to attack them if the need arises!” His thoughts turned toward the thrill of combat, and he stood up in excitement, slamming his fist on the table.

      “Hmm,” Lazaro considered his options for a moment as he let the Xichung calm back down. “I can’t bring you up that far, but I suppose we might be able to get you started with combustion engines.” Lazaro hoped that would please the reptile. It wasn’t as impressive as an airplane, but it would be far more exciting for the Xichung than the health and infrastructure technology they had been sharing lately.

      “A generous offer,” Draeka’s smile grew wide. “If you’re satisfied with those terms, we would be willing to accept an agreement.” In truth, Draeka didn’t actually know if the Tanri had actually developed aircraft. It was possible; they’re integration program had certainly been around long enough. But it was unlikely, considering the massive militarization opportunities it presented. Such militarization would be in violation of the peace agreement. But he had made up the lie to convince the governor, and in his intoxicated state, he had started to believe it himself. His thoughts turned to the Tanri and how much of a threat they posed to his own nation.

      “It’s settled then,” Lazaro said, drawing Draeka out of his thoughts. “We’ll begin construction of the plant, and as soon as it’s complete, we’ll increase your share of the limoncello and start up the engine program.”

      “Begin the engine program right away. The loss of a potential breeding ground is a heavy price to pay, and my people would need something to soothe their anger before the additional limoncello arrives.”

      The governor considered the implications, and finally decided that a few months would not make a difference in the long run. “Alright,” he said. “We’ll start the program right away then.”

      The two figures stood and shook hands. On a colony as remote as New Pallas, there was nothing so formal as a signed contract. Each individual was expected to uphold his end of the bargain, and if he didn’t … Well, Lazaro didn’t want to think what the Xichung might do to a dishonorable deal-breaker. He only hoped that he had made the right decision.

      The two negotiators payed their bill and departed from the bar. The human turned westward as he thought about the future, and how successful the colony would be with another desal plant for the crops. He had high hopes for the future and would be happy to report that the negotiations had gone well. Not only had he acquired permission for the plant, but he had also maintained a peaceful relationship with the locals. Or so he thought.

      The Xichung, unlike the human, turned eastward, towards his home. As he walked, he also thought of the success he had met today. He could finally report to the First General that he had acquired something of military value. In the deserts of New Pallas, away from prying human eyes, preparations would be made and plans would be laid…

  • Paulo R. Mendes

    Limoncello? hum… I know this beverage by another name: mead (and yes, I am a fan of Skyrim). 🙂

    • John H Reiher Jr

      Mead is fermented honey. Limoncello is made from neutral spirits and lemon peels. Lots of lemon peels. The New Pallas version uses the rare honey from their bees to further flavor the beverage.

      • Paulo R. Mendes

        Oh… now I understood. Sorry for my mistake. 🙂

  • A Limon cello is the yellow variant of the standard chocolate colored cello. They also have violins and guitars (joke)

  • JeredNA

    …Water was a controversial topic for the Xichung Lazaro knew. But the Chakthi and Chamber of Control in their government were extremely corrupt, and Draeka was the second Chamberlain of the Chamber of Control and an avid user of the XaTing drug, it’s main ingredient: citrus.
    Draeka’s headpiece jingle as he tilted his head, slithering his tongue along his lips, “Missster Lazaro” he sussered, “You know that I know what happened to your firsssst planet, you ssssucked it dry of all itsss waterss. Now why would I give ssssuch a creature accessss to my riversssss?” He paused and narrowed his reptilian eyes “unlesss you have sssomethsing I want?”
    Lazaro swirled his drink and had another sip “as a matter of fact I do” he said “The Cang Poceik” he smiled as Draeka’s eyes widened, “and I know you want it dearly.”
    Draeka hissed “how did you come by thissss it iss ssssupposssed to be buried in BakuluLi! That issss not human accessss how did you sssteal it creature!”
    Lazaro laughed “oh Draeka, as dearly as I know that human scientist’s would love to have proof of a God that is actually real. All I want is water.” He said, tapping his empty glass, “so let’s make a deal.”
    Draeka grinned “you are ssslimier than me, creature. Tell me your priccce.”
    “WangZei and KuluBang rivers” Lazaro stated.
    Draeka was displeased, “Thosse are hardly minor riverssss! You asssk allot!”
    “Do not forget what artifact you bargain for Draeka.” Said Lazaro, presenting a small round orb of rough brown metal and glowing crystal eyes from his inner jacket pocket “the Cang Poceik.”
    “The Cang Poceik,” echoed Draeka quiet and wide eyed, Lazaro hadn’t doubted that Draeka hadn’t seen it in person before, his reaction confirmed it.
    “You have a deal.” He whispered secretivly, “now pass it over.” The orb exchanged hands.
    Lazaro leant back in his chair and poured himself another limoncello, “I look forward to doing more business with you, Chamberlain Draeka.”
    The Alien turned his head from the orb and met eyes with Lazaro “I’m afraid you will ssssee no more of me” he said cold and calmly, and with an alarming hiss his tongue shot from his mouth and into the humans neck, the barb burying itself into the flesh that splurted red blood. Draeka retracted his tongue with a rip as Lazaro bled and splattered. Lazaro’s glass fell and smashed upon the ground “why do you bury your god?” He chocked desperately curious.
    “Thankssss for the drink” Draeka replied as he rose and Lazaro bled.
    He would never know, Lazaro though as his world faded around him,
    Draeka would never find the real Cang Poceik.