GNN Brokered News
Contents/Warnings: Human/Alkari diplomatic session - i.e. possible boredom. ;-)
Disclaimer: MoO-lord; Infogrames.
Scribbler: kebzero, March 2002, revised/rewritten January 2003
Stowed away at: the MoO3
(old version), www.fanfiction.net
and my own notepad.
The deserted spaceport gave a false impression of abandonment - few vessels were present, and virtually nothing appeared to be moving. In one way, since it was in the middle of the night, this seemed only natural - However, Rondane IV's rotation gave it a night/day cycle of - by Human standards - extensive length; a night lasted for nearly a hundred hours. Of course, daytime didn't feel all that different - the planet's sun was a distant, faint one, and provided little light or heat to this remote world. Its twin moons helped though, reflecting the limited light to the 'dark' side of the planet, adding to the illusion of Rondane IV as a permanent twilight world. Even now, the faint twin moonbeams shone across the tarmac, providing a most eerie sensation upon their exiting of the shuttlecraft. This world's reputation as a ghost world was seriously reinforced in Beardsley's mind, and the faint hiss of the weak breeze did nothing to counter the mental image, either.
Behind him, he could hear the pneumatic gears of Robbie's legs approaching. Beardsley had still not figured out exactly what Robbie was - an organic being using extensive cybernetic implants and organo-plastic casing much like the Meklar, a completely artificial being, or an organic mind moved or copied into a metallic body. In fact, even the name had been determined by Beardsley, meant as a joke when the creature asked for a name. Attempts at getting Robbie to disclose any other name, had failed completely. The topic of both origins, names and nature of Robbie's kind was simply never discussed; none dared do anything to insult them, fearing the isolation they might suffer as a consequence. Robbie's function was to Beardsley far more vital than his origins. There were few interpreters as versatile in the various languages of the Orion Sector as Robbie and his kind, and all the empires knew it. Even so, Beardsley would have liked to know if he at least used the accurate pronoun - or to know Robbie's tru
e name or designation - whatever that might be.
Robbie stepped up beside Beardsley, turned towards him. The robotic creature, through somewhat humanoid in body shape; two legs, two arms, a rectangular torso and a head, lacked all human facial features - no mouth or nose, no ears, no eyes - there was an array of sensors circling the head as a reddish-brown band. The band had been dented in two places, to give Robbie a 'face' with two 'eyes'. This was because most sentients preferred to have a point to focus their own sensory devices on.
"We will follow standard protocol," Robbie said flatly. "Whatever you or your counterpart says, I will immediately translate. If you wish to address me, do so by name before any message. Also remember, I cannot convey body language, and tone of voice is often impossible to properly translate. My superiors, as usual, will hold no responsibilities should the outcome of my services be unsatisfactory."
Standard disclaimers. Indeed, Robbie's 'superiors' had avoided quite a few problems by having such contracts - any mistake would not be their fault. Robbie was, after all, just a machine. ...Or so they say... The Galactic News Network was by far the linguistic experts of the Sector. Their broadcasts were transmitted in every known language - and then some. The origin of the GNN had never been revealed - nor had they given any clues to that secret. The common belief was that the Orions built the organization, and perhaps forgot to 'turn off the lights' at the commencement of the Long Night. Beardsley accepted the terms with a nod, knowing the paperwork had already been signed before they ever began the journey here. Together, they proceeded across the moonlit tarmac, heading for the nearby conference center to commence negotiations.
The black velvet hide of the Alkari representative glistened in the dim light of the room. Although Beardsley would have preferred a brighter setting, the level of light did a good job in reflecting the dance of moonlight outside. The Alkari chirped a few words, while motioning with one wing. Beardsley couldn't understand the words, but deemed the gesture clear enough; 'be seated'. Robbie still translated the phrase, even though Beardsley was already responding through action. The table was regular, square-shaped, albeit slightly elevated. The two diplomats sat opposing each other along the long sides, Robbie stood at one end. While Beardsley had gotten a relatively comfortable padded chair, his counterpart had opted for a simple wooden stool. Beardsley assumed this was merely for show; a diplomatic ploy designed perhaps to make the Alkari look hardier, or less demanding. Then again, he knew too little of Alkari customs and creature comforts to even hesitate a guess of the true purpose of the stool. Hopefully
, their two races would be able to learn both from and of one another soon enough.
After finishing a series of formalities, their negotiations began. Beardsley's objectives for the day was to get a trade treaty with the Alkari, both a general one, and one deal in particular. Some resources deemed invaluable to Humans - simply because of the peculiar lack of these substances in Human space - seemed abundant on Alkari-settled worlds. It had been with great frustration mankind had finally found one such valuable world, only to see it settled and claimed by an Alkari outpost ship. The settling of that issue would also be paramount - more so for the thinly spread Alkari forces. Fighting the Sakkra took nearly all of their available military resources. They couldn't afford a two-front war - nor could the Humans. Beardsley knew he couldn't use the threat of war to achieve his goals at the table; if the Humans and Alkari empires went to war, it would only be a matter of time before the opportunistic Gnolams would try to take a few key border worlds from the Humans, and if they didn't, the Sa
kkra might turn their attention to Human space as well. Despite that, his superiors had been reluctant to give him permission to use the weaponry schematics - which the Alkari clearly wanted - as 'currency' in this exchange, but they authorized it just as he left for the negotiations. In short; the Humans needed raw materials and trade rights, the Alkari new weapons. Both needed peace of mind. Neither were willing to make concessions.
The Alkari representative, having introduced himself as Ha'lo Kree, did not beat around the bush once the formalities were in order. Kree seemed more of the 'uprooting' kind. His cries and whistles were promptly translated by Robbie, whose metallic, flat voice in no way reflected the intensity of the Alkari's agitated voice.
"We already know what each of us have, and what the other need. Give us your latest weapon designs, and we'll provide your empire with the desired raw materials."
Beardsley rubbed his weathered chin; he was not about to be railroaded into a sour deal. "Not acceptable. We need our very own source of those materials. If you were willing to turn the outpost at Proxima II over to us, along with any claims to that worl-"
"No! Proxima II is essential for our continued war effort!"
Beardsley was surprised, and did a poor job at hiding it. That Proxima II had an excellent strategic position between the Human and Alkari empires, was well-known - but to think that the Alkari would come with such a crass statement, implying future hostility... As if the making of such a blunder had not been enough to startle Beardsley, Kree's calm stare did not indicate he'd been aware of his blunder - or cared.
"The Alkari people need not fear us. If you hand over Proxima II, we'll gladly sign a pact of non-aggression as a gesture of goodwill."
This time, Kree looked bewildered, blinking twice before glancing at Robbie, as if to get confirmation of what had just been translated.
Something isn't quite right here, Beardsley thought.
Kree gave Beardsley a hard gaze, shiny black eyes narrowed to thin slits. Had Kree been a Mrrshan, Beardsley would have prepared for an inevitable attack. If the Alkari had any facial expression for a frown, that one might be it. Kree spoke with a series of strangely low-pitched trills which, naturally, Robbie translated immediately, music turned to monotony in the process.
"A non-aggression pact is acceptable - but we will require considerable compensation to make up for the loss of Proxima II. New weapon schematics alone simply won't do it."
Beardsley was again surprised. Kree's gestures, expressions and tone of voice didn't match his words very well - perhaps this was just the way Alkari behaved. Being a diplomat, not a xenoanthropologist, Beardsley didn't want to make any judgment on the matter. If they could walk out of this room with the treaties established, there would be ample opportunity to learn about Alkari customs and culture.
"If you were to give us trading rights within your empire, I'm sure my government would be happy to provide you with a small sum-"
"Trade should be a two-way agreement. Will you also allow Alkari merchants access to your worlds?"
That statement, at least, was said with a relaxed expression, discarding previous feelings of uneasiness. Beardsley quickly agreed.
"A mutual trade agreement, then. We will allow your ships access, and our ships will be granted passage in your systems."
To this, Kree gave a lengthy series of cries, whistles and trills. Therefore, it was a bit baffling when Robbie translated it all to "Agreed." Beardsley wasn't a xenolinguist either, but he knew languages often had disparities when it came to how many syllables one expression required in various tongues. Still, over 15 seconds of speech seemed a bit much for just one word. Filling the sudden silence, Kree continued.
"Very well. From this day forth, we shall join each other in trade. We will sign a treaty of non-aggression, securing our border. However, in return for Proxima II we would require something to also compensate for the loss of potential habitat. Provide us with your latest weapons designs, 100 BCs and the knowledge of how to make our artificial biospheres more effective, and we'll have a done deal."
Beardsley grinned ear to ear, not ashamed to show his yellowing teeth in the process. Not like an alien would consider stained teeth offensive - that is, if they even noticed. Throwing in biosphere tech meant nothing, if the monetary sum could be kept as low as a hundred BCs. He had expected being forced to promise nearly ten times as much. Even so, he tried to remain calm. No need to let the alien realize there was still leeway to exploit.
"That is acceptable. This is definitely an agreement I can guarantee the Human empire would sign."
"I can safely say the same for the Alkari empire."
Beardsley nodded. "I leave it to Robbie to draft the treaty in both languages. Is this acceptable?"
Kree acknowledged with a wave of his hand. Everyone trusted the GNN robots. Considering how high their fees were, betrayal and subversion through bribery seemed unlikely, if not impossible. As Kree stepped out, Beardsley shoveled his papers down in his briefcase. He felt delighted. The negotiations had been incredibly quick, painless and overly fruitful. He gave Robbie some quick pointers on how to phrase the document, then departed for the shuttle, to let Robbie work in peace.
Gone from Beardsley's mind were his feelings of concern for the quirks of Alkari body language and sentence constructions - Just as these feelings for Human body and oral language were from Kree's mind. In the darkness of the conference room, Robbie walked over to a comm screen, and attached a plug-in from himself to the system. On the screen, the treaty was slowly drafted, words and phrases in both languages constantly altered and improved. However, Robbie's mind was elsewhere, as he got an incoming call. It was never recorded, nor made vocal.
>Incoming signal, carrier frequency #145-22 - Accept? Yes/No<
<#145-22>: Status report?
Human-Alkari cooperation formed. Further smoothing between the two will be necessary to obtain sufficient trust. This must be done before they learn to talk to each other directly. Suggest we make our offer as interpreters impossible to refuse to either side - make it cheaper - perhaps even free of charge.
<#145-22>: Lack of profit acceptable. Will most likely still not stop development of a common language platform or automated translator systems. Estimated time until such events?
10 cycles, more or less. We must act fast.
<#145-22>: Then we will. When our creators return, let us ensure some of these races are still alive. We must balance one against the other, try to even the score.
Suggest formation of disruptive teams to ensure this.
Actions of said teams might include: Hire of pirates. Intentionally leave behind derelicts with valuable technology or components in easy-to-reach places. Insert nutrition supplies with fertility agents - or poison. Strand leaders in random systems. Re-route comets. Give monetary donations. Convince one to attack the other. Place beacons the Antarans might want to investigate. Perhaps even causing novas.
Anyone who is getting ahead. To keep them all alive, our primary goal is to halt the progress of the most powerful, while aiding the weakest.
<#145-22>: Likelihood of discovery?
We must conceal our actions very well. This will limit our ability to perform them.
<#145-22>: There is no other way. Suggestion acceptable. Continue negotiations. For both Humans and Alkari to survive, they should have a common front against Sakkra space, preferably a military alliance.
Noted. Expect to achieve that immediate goal within a cycle or two. Will contact again then.
<#145-22>: Acceptable. GNN HQ out. This concludes our broadcast.
>signal #145-22 lost<
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