For decades the United Earth Force had tried to get someone inside the Royal Chambers of the Empress, to understand what actually goes on within her hallowed halls. Sadly every attempt either via official request or subterfuge was always rejected. So much time had passed that the UEF officials began to wonder if the Kratel Empress even existed. It was for this reason that when the UEF Department for Diplomacy, or DfD as they were known, received their missive they acted at once.
The decision for who to send was left up to the head of the DfD, a Mr Albert Horn. Horn knew who he wanted to send on this, the most impressive of occasions; his own son. Sadly however Horn knew that doing so would not end well. He knew that the Kratel Empire was governed by a matriarchy, that it was normal among the Kratel for the males of the species to be treated as second class citizens. No better than breeders and bottom feeding slaves. In fact in his twelve years of holding his position at the DfD he had never once even seen a male Kratel. No, the only way he would possibly be taken seriously would be to send a woman.
Horn hated to admit it himself, but he knew the best person; the only person, he could send was Kiyoko. She had been a thorn in his side since day one of her joining the Department, but she was headstrong, opinionated and would never back down from an argument, even when he told her that she was flat out wrong. Horn hated that most of all about her.
Kiyoko had left that same day for Krata-Prime, a world that only a handful of Humans had ever had the honour of seeing. Carrying little more than a couple of changes of clothes and her top of the line camera, Kiyoko had been man-handled onto the next available shuttle to the region of the Outer Fringe where a numerous series of contacts had arranged a network of shuttles and system-hops to navigate to where she needed to go.
The Krata system was located about as far away on the outside of the Fringe as you could get. Beyond was little more than uninhabitable world's and the light from distant galaxies. Kiyoko assumed how that must have been the reason the entire journey had been hassle free. It was usual with journeys of this distance for at least a single INI raid, where the shuttle would have to disable all of it's functions and play as if dead in the water; hoping whatever INICell was currently scanning it would fail to notice it's precious living cargo. But on this journey they hadn't encountered any INI forces at all.
The planet of Krata-Prime was little more than a rock floating around it's star. Centuries ago it's people had stripped it of all it's nutrients killing off all natural life but the Empire had been more than resourceful. They took to the stars in their ramshackle skiffs and very quickly learned that others had exactly what they needed in the form of the Hydan; their at the time only neighbours in the Outer Fringe. It had started small, offering their strong arms for manual labour in exchange for appropriately desired goods. But they did not take these goods straight back to their home world, or even use the goods themselves. Instead the Kratel began trading these goods to other Hydan colony world's that needed whatever commodity they had. It did not take long for the Kratel to establish themselves as the number one traders in the Outer Fringe and thanks to their physical prowess and resistance to hazardous environments they were able to reach work sites that the Hydan could not. But despite all of this amassed wealth and necessity the world of Krata-Prime remained almost inhospitable.
Kiyoko was onboard the Golden Stork, it was an old Human vessel that had been decommissioned and sold to the Kratel as scrap metal, who in turn had fixed it's damaged chassis and rewired it's tired AI processor. Now the Golden Stork, acted as a solar-hopper allowing those authorised to do so, to travel from the star base in the neighbouring system to travel to Krata-Prime and back again. These 'hops' were infrequent, only one every standard Earth week, but despite this infrequency Kiyoko had the whole vessel to herself. She felt comfortable with this situation, knowing that she had some time to sleep and not have to worry about having her belongings stolen or her time pressed upon.
The time last few hours passed quickly for Kiyoko as she used the time to brush up on her Kratel history and customs. She learned how as a people the Kratel were brutal at heart but insisted that honour and traditions were maintained at all times. She learned how a mear six hundred years they consisted of broken societies that they called T'Vikrypr'thks or as they were recorded in the books "Broods". Even then in their splintered state they were a matriarchal culture each ruled by a Brood Queen and in turn were locked in continuous war with each other. Kiyoko read about how one of the broods was lead by the now Empress who had an incredible affinity for strategy and tactics. This brood defeated each and every other brood one by one, every time taking this new brood into their own, teaching them their tactics and strategies. Soon the last remaining Brood Queen was Empress over all of Kratel and utilising a strange organic form of cloning was able to create copies of herself to ensure that with every generation that followed they would always be ruled by the same Empress.
Continuing to read and study, Kiyoko learned about how in recent years a small faction of Kratel calling themselves the Red Claw had splintered off from the Empress cling her rule tyrannical and in line to doom their whole species. It was then that the information began to become patchy with claims of the Red Claw attacking birthing chambers and schools while the benevolent Empire responded always in it's people's best interest. She flicked to the end of her data-pad and read about the author; Albert Horn.
"Of course!" Kiyoko said to no one in particular "Trust him to print only their side of history".
Krata-Prime loomed ahead of the Golden Stork, with every moment that passed it's appearance as a swirling sphere of purple torrents and ebbs grew larger and larger on the ship's view screen. Kiyoko gulped back a dry throat. It would only be a matter of moments before the ship landed and she would be escorted to a region of the planet that no Human had ever had the opportunity to tread. She almost pinched herself with excitement and anxiety as she quickly packed her bag and prepared to disembark the ship.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley