The Gravity of the Situation
“Hey Svildy!” Tom exclaimed, waving to get the alien’s attention. She stood out among the stout shapes of the locals whose space station this was, and Tom knew that he looked almost as out-of-place. The gravity levels on this station were much too high for humans to handle without help.
They finally had that help, thanks to Svildy’s people. The Eltalafatar were past masters at gravity manipulation. When off-world, they all wore personal gravity fields to let them move about in environments that would otherwise crush them -- Earth being one such place. Early interactions were full of amazement on the humans’ part; these impossibly slender aliens seemed to float wherever they went, hardly touching down when they walked. As soon as the secret dropped that this was thanks to technology, the humans immediately started bargaining for it.
And now, thanks to diplomats on both sides, the secret of personal gravsuits had been shared with humanity. As far as Tom was concerned, the best part of this was the fact that it let him and his crew enter the Gottere space station in person.
“Tom, you have learned to walk!” Svildy said when she caught sight of the human. “This is good to see.”
Tom strolled over and greeted his friend in the best compromise of their two worlds’ customs: by clasping hands and spinning once in a circle. This always made Tom laugh, and today was no exception. While humans had come to use handshakes as a way of proving that they held no weapons, Svildy’s people came from a world where things could be left floating behind one’s back, ready to grab. Circling each other was the best way for two people to be certain of the innocence of the encounter.
Doing this while holding hands just made it seem like something out of a happy children’s dance. Svildy had assured him that it was funny to her people too, so Tom didn’t feel bad about laughing.
This time he chuckled for longer than usual, since he had difficulty coming to a stop when the spin ended. The gravity level on his suit was a touchy thing. He hadn’t quite gotten it settled into ideal human range for this station.
“Sorry,” he managed, sticking his arms out to regain his balance. “This is harder than I thought it would be.”
Svildy smiled in that alien way, with her top mandibles spread. “I am sure you will learn it quickly,” she said. “How long have you been practicing?”
“Not that long!” Tom said. “Obviously, not long enough. But this is great, and I will happily work on it. I’ve never been here in person!” He gestured to the sprawling pathways full of interstellar commerce. “Seriously. From my people to yours, thank you very much.”
Svildy bobbed her head humbly. “I understand the talkers reached an agreement that will benefit all of us,” she said. “Though to be fair, I know that the peacekeeping faction had the largest influence on the decision.”
Tom cocked his head, looking up at her. “How’s that?”
The alien looked amused. “There now exists one more safeguard in the face of theoretical warfare. If your people use the suits in a place where they should not be, they can be simply turned off.”
“What?!” Tom demanded. “How? By who?”
Svildy shrugged, fins drifting. “The people in charge of that sort of thing,” she said vaguely. “I don’t think it’s ever been done, but it is a possibility that is a comfort to those who fear an intergalactic war.” Then she made an odd gesture and added, “It’s never been done by my people. It has in fact been done to us, and that is why we take such care in seeing who uses this technology.”
“Wait, what?” Tom asked. “Somebody turned off your suits and let you guys get crushed?”
The alien nodded. “Eons ago. A long story, as your people say.”
Tom gestured that they should start walking. “Would you tell it to me?” He knew that the Eltalafatar generally felt more at ease when moving, and it sounded like this story could be an unpleasant one.
“I will,” Svildy agreed, drifting beside him with a light touch to the floor. “In the interest of peace, it is a good story to know.”
The pair walked off through the crowd, one stepping carefully and the other seeming to float, while uninterested locals stomped past at waist level. They spoke of past warfare in the name of future peace.