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The Ambassador, Chapter 16

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  • The Ambassador, Chapter 16

    I wandered back inside, and about the time I got Miss Rover ushered in the door Mike dropped a swarm of messages on me. Five of them, to be exact. The rest of the human residents of the ship now had AI's, and were testing them out. Scott and Curly just sent test messages saying that they were now hooked into the system.

    I replied to them and even remembered Curly's real name without having to ask Mike. Curly is really named Jose, but he's balder than I am and shaves his head, so what else would anyone call him? I pretty much just said “Welcome aboard.” to those two.

    Isiah sent a Bible quote. “The Lord moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.” I was glad to see that he was taking everything well, and replied with an “Amen”.

    Heather was delighted, and pretty much babbling. I was in the process of answering her first message when she sent me a second one. I got a third one while I was getting Don's message. I was getting a travelogue of her trip back.

    Don was already asking relevant questions. I referred him back to his AI for some of it, to Ian for some, and noted that I had not yet spoken to Engineering about more of those retarder field bulletproof shields, but that I surely would quite soon.

    I got three more messages from Heather, with pictures, before they arrived and we convened the first meeting of the Square Cup Coffee Club. In the meantime, I had cranked up the coffeepot and asked the staff for a carafe for hot liquids. I was at least 99% sure they had such a thing, and I was right. Naturally, it was rectangular.

    I also provided a coffee making lesson for the staff. I look at it as something of an intelligence test. The procedure is simple, and there's no judgment required. Remove the basket, empty if necessary, and place a new filter in it. Add three of this scoop full of grounds. Place basket in machine and ensure that pot is empty. Then pour this container of water into the top opening on the machine and close the lid. That's all there is to it.

    Anyone who can't figure that out in one time is probably not going to be able to do much of anything else right either. If they can't handle something that simple, don't trust them with anything more complicated that tying their own shoes. I hadn't noticed the Karn using shoe laces, but the point remains the same.

    Having given the coffee making lesson, I got to musing on the extension of parallel evolution into parallel engineering and design outcomes. I was concluding that being bilaterally symmetrical, having four limbs, and walking upright probably led to a fair amount of similarity in design of most things. I was making a list when I got to thinking about it loudly enough to get Mike involved, and he informed me that the Karn Xenobiologists and Xenoanthropologists had come up with that theory a long time ago, and pretty much proven it.

    Some folks might have had their feelings hurt by finding out that their new theory was in fact something that had been proven for several thousand years, but I looked at it as proof that I could figure stuff out with very few clues and awarded myself a couple of Sherlock points for it.

    That got Mike off into Holmes and Watson, and then into the human uses of irony and sarcasm, because he noted that one could get either positive or. negative points for Sherlockian insights, depending on whether the awarding party was giving them out realistically or ironically. He stated that the Karn did use both irony and sarcasm, but not at nearly the level or frequency that at least some humans did.

    He noted that he was studying on it, and I started to offer some suggestions about where to look when the group arrived and demanded caffeine. I distributed square containers and everyone dove into it. There was not a decaf or tea drinker in the bunch, it didn't appear.

    All of us were getting a little on the tired side, but the coffee got everyone livened back up a good bit. In the process of conversation, it developed that four of the six of us were at least intermittent smokers. I inquired of Mike as to how big a violation of any rules it would be to smoke on the ship, and was informed that he didn't know of any reason we shouldn't. The Karn did both incense and candles, and small fires for various purposes were common, including cook outs. Such being the case, we all adjourned out into the back yard for a smoke break to go with the coffee.

    I'm not welded to any particular flavor in my bad habits, so I had both Menthol and Regular cigarettes in hand. My preferences change with my moods, so I was able to offer everyone at least some choice. It was either Marlboro Reds or Marlboro Menthol, but at least there was a choice of flavors, if not of brands. Nobody griped except Don.

    He was standing there shaking his head at me.

    I inquired “What is it now?”

    “Did you plan on having smokes for everyone, or are you just unable to make up your mind which brand you use?”

    “Brand loyalty is not one of my bad habits. Being flexible makes life easier and more fun, because you have more chances to try new things if you aren't stuck in any ruts. Note that I don't apply that principle to everything, and there are some things that I'm purely welded down tight about. Most things, though? I'm usually omnivorous in the true sense of the word, although insects or Copenhagen dip are not high on my list.”

    He just rolled his eyes and said “Later.”

    We went back inside so everyone could get a refill. There had been another pot made while we were outside, and it was done correctly. It occurred to me that the correct outcome could be due to AI prompting rather than any native competence. It also occurred to me that it didn't matter which it was, as long as things worked out right.

    We discussed this and that, and the whole conversation turned to Karn naming conventions. We were all beginning to have fits and difficulties that way, given the total unpronounceable nature of the Karn language. The AI's made conversation simple, because you got a simultaneous translation. I was so used to it already that I didn't even notice that it was a translation most times. I just filtered out the actual voice and listened to the one that Mike was replacing it with. The AI's did different voices, and what I was assured were different accents as required, and everyone sounded like themselves from one day to the next.

    I had gotten by with my staff by referring to them as Housekeeper 1 and Housekeeper 2, and Mike prompted their AI's accordingly. From there on, their AI simply substituted the correct name in Karn when translating. That didn't feel right to me, though, and everyone else was already bumping up against similar problems. I was fresh out of bright ideas, and tossed it out into the group, and suggested that if anyone came up with a good solution they should make the rest of us aware of it.
    Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.

  • #2
    Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

    Scott questioned the presence of domestics in the first place. He wondered if we were being watched or something. Don noted that since the Karn had built the place to start with, and given their sophistication with electronics, he did not figure that they would need to have a live body in the room to watch us if they wanted to do so.

    Heather was the first one to think to check with her AI on the subject. She noted that the Karn did not monitor the interior of private residences, but anything outdoors or in public buildings was monitored. She also noted that the domestic staff might well be temporary, at least for some of us.

    Everyone else started in with their AI at that point. I recognized the distracted appearance that comes on someone doing that before they get the hang of it. I was probably still doing it myself on occasion, but I usually could divide my attention enough to handle two things at once, or at least seem to be handling them both. There is a learning curve to using an AI.

    Curly got the right search terms first. He explained “Jefferson and Don are high enough on the ladder they rate domestics anyway. The rest of us? They aren't sure where we fit in yet. Besides that, they figured we'd need someone to show us how to work the light switches and suchlike, so we all got one. It will probably be temporary for most of us.”

    Don laughed at that one. “They aren't sure where you guys fit in for a reason. I'm still not sure either. If this thing gets as big as I'm told it's going to, there's a lot of ladder to be filling up. The three of you got here along with me right in the front of the line for a reason, if you follow me.”

    Heather inquired about where she was going to fit in on the ladder. I replied “You need the practice using your AI. Do your own research. I'll send you some search parameters to get you started.”

    I'd already done some checking regarding her and Don's potential status. Once Mike got the titles and job functions aligned correctly, I found out that all of the Board members had executive assistants. Most of them had several. Their status was just about what one would expect to find for someone who had the Boss's ear and could enable access. It wasn't nearly as bad as it could get in extreme cases like you see on earth in an out of control Bureaucracy, because this one was kept under the thumb of the people it worked for quite well. On the other hand, though? Access is valuable, and the folks who can enable it do have a lot of status, even here.

    I did have Mike send some additional search terms to Heather, though. Turnover among executive assistants was fairly high. In point of fact, when one broke down the numbers of people fired by the Karn from the Corporation by occupation, the executive assistant job came in at number one. Bribery or influence peddling were seriously frowned upon, and harshly dealt with when discovered.

    While Heather and I were on that subject, Don and the other guys had gotten off into an evaluation and study of Karn personal weaponry. I was just about to get dragged into that one when Mike informed that my transportation was arriving, and I had to go. I told everyone to get their coffee jones treated, and that I'd see them in the morning. I added that I was usually pretty much a “crack of dawn” sort of person, so they need not wait too late before showing up.

    On the way to meet Ian and Allan, I got to wondering exactly why we had meetings for a lot of these things. The primary object of the whole dinner meeting was to get me briefed on my visit to Calgary tomorrow to renounce my U.S. Citizenship. Mike had the whole plan and schedule already on tap, and I'd been through it, so why the meeting?

    All I had to do was ask, and Mike filled me in. It turns out that the AI's are responsible for the propensity for meetings. The collective wisdom of the AI's goes back a long way, and there are apparently reports of AI's in toward the center of the Universe that are in the vicinity of a billion years old, so they have a lot of history to be able to draw on. They have discovered that any Civilization that starts depending on interacting through their AI's alone and not maintaining strong levels of personal contact tends to collapse within a few thousand years, at best.

    Such being the case, they don't allow anyone to isolate themselves and depend strictly on the AI net for communication. They demand a fairly high level of face-to-face interaction. I gathered that, worst case, an AI will simply quit relaying communications for someone who has been isolated for too long a period of time. They will make you get some face time with others if necessary.

    I wondered what would happen if I holed up for three or four days and answered messages. Mike replied that if I was doing that, it simply meant that I was busy, but that if it was a week, he'd probably start forcing me out. He also noted that I wasn't going to even manage a day that way, because I had a symbiont to interact with most all the time.

    I was surprised that a dog would count, and it was explained to me that based on the current state of analysis of human/canine relationships, about half would count and the other half wouldn't. Mike noted that each situation had to be evaluated individually that way. I couldn't find any flaws in that reasoning, and we arrived before I could pursue it further.

    We were eating at what gave the appearance of being a Restaurant. Mike informed me that it was such. We had a semi-private alcove to ourselves, and Ian informed me right up front that he had ordered for me already, because there were some things he particularly wanted me to try. Through the course of the evening, I concluded that he'd done quite well, and did a lot of note taking regarding the names of various things for later reference.

    That was secondary, though. The primary purpose was to review my little trip that was scheduled for tomorrow. The more I looked at this trip, the more impressed I was with the Karns' abilities on the covert side of things. They'd set this one up fairly well, the way it looked to me. I was going to be transited in via shuttle, of course. There is a Nature Reserve on the Southwest side of Calgary, and it adjoins an Indian Reservation. The Canadians call it something else, but that's what I'd call it, and that's what it is in my mind and in objective reality. Between one and the other, they'd found a good place to get a shuttle in and out without being visible.

    Once on the ground, I was going to have to walk about a thousand yards to a road. I would be met there by a car, which would take me into town. The driver would also hand me an envelope with $5000 in funny colored Canadian money. I noted that I would not have thought of that particular detail.

    Allan replied “In the normal course of events, if something goes wrong? It's usually much easier to deal with unexpected situations with money than it is to deal with them without money.”

    I couldn't argue with that, other than to note that the one thing that was bothering me about the whole operation was that I was going to have to go in unarmed, and as such was concerned that we could trust the drivers involved. I was assured that we could, and left it at that since there wasn't anything I could do about it at this point anyway.

    Once we got into town, we would proceed to a certain intersection, and stop at a stoplight. A Taxi would pull up next to us, and the driver would hold up a paper with the numbers 215 written on it. I would then get out of the car and into the Taxi. The light would then change, and the Taxi would proceed to take me to the Consulate, and wait for me. Leaving town would involve the same procedure, except that the driver of the car I was transferring to would display a paper with the number 512 on it. That vehicle would transport me back to where I'd been picked up, at which point I'd walk back in to the landing site, board the shuttle, and we'd leave.

    I inquired about how sure they were that their timing with the various vehicles and stoplights would work out, and was assured by both Allan and Mike that they had the electronics in place, and that the timing was not in question. They were more confident than I was about that part, but if Murphy did show up, I figured that I could afford to just walk to the Consulate and then take a Taxi back to the woods and walk back to the pick-up point. They did have a point about the funding making it easier to deal with things.

    About then it hit me that I had another idea of what to do with some of those funds. I got Mike busy, and looked up a Walmart that was pretty much directly on the route back from the Consulate to the pick up point. I inquired about the possibility of building a brief stop into the return trip, and was told that it could be done.
    Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


    • #3
      Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

      We needed more coffee, and I now knew when and how I was going to get it.

      I did have to inquire about the logic behind the whole changing vehicles at the stoplight thing. Ian noted that they weren't doing that to avoid any direct surveillance, but that current state of the art on earth just might allow them to track an individual vehicle through the journey. By changing vehicles a couple of times, that possibility was eliminated. He also said that he didn't think it mattered at this point, but that we were going to keep doing things as carefully as we could, and not get sloppy at the last minute.

      Again, I couldn't fault the logic in any way, so the plan was locked in and approved.

      We finished our meal. I was now in the position of being both overtired and overfed, but I only had to make it through the Board Meeting and could then go get some sleep. I was assured that this meeting would not take terribly long.

      It didn't. We got there, the Board was called to order, and we got a quick overview of the status of several things. We were then informed that based on the situation, it would seem that we could just as well get the announcement of our presence underway. The forms were different that I was used to, but what it came down to in English was that a motion was offered to the effect that the announcement would begin at straight up Noon, Greenwich Mean Time on Saturday, which was the day after tomorrow.

      The overview was that we would announce, get some communication established, and then tell whoever we were communicating with that we were going to show up at the L5 point. We would then transit the ship there, and the communication would continue with everyone on earth with a telescope able to see us sitting there, figuratively waving hello at them. There were a lot more details to it than that, but that was the framework, and the details had to flex, depending on who answered us first and how quickly.

      That worked for me. I voted “yes”, and it was unanimous.

      The only thing really holding us up at this point was me. I had to get my dual-citizenship thing resolved before we showed up. We were not nearly as far along as we had hoped to be with some issues on Earth itself, but those mostly involved personnel. We had most of the purchase options and whatnot in place that we wanted, and with the potential for some Government or another to be breathing down Universal Distributings' neck any minute, business on the planet was on hold until after the announcement.

      As the meeting broke up, I got several congratulations from various Board members on my sense of humor. It all went right by me until the Chief Engineer said “Scientific Smoke”. It turns out that the engineering guy I'd related it to was impressed enough with it that he'd put it on their net in video, and it had gone viral.

      I made a note with Mike to expose them to Monty Python one of these first days, and headed home to bed. I was purely tired.

      On the way back, I messaged Heather. “I suspect you are asleep by now, and I'm tired too. Just bring the stupid fish back to me in the morning when you come over for coffee.”

      I wasn't expecting a reply, but I got one. “Miss Rover is currently standing at my front door with her tail wagging. She is expecting you.”

      Oh, well. I was still about five cubes away, and the dog apparently knew I was coming. “Ok. I'll come get her.”

      Heather replied that they'd meet me out front of my place. They were walking up to the door when the sled stopped. I took the leash, thanked Heather, and stumbled inside with the dog, who was making happy to see me and generally acting like I'd been gone a month. Then again, she always does that, even if I've only been gone a half hour. She settled down immediately when we got into the bedroom, and I was out in less than a minute.

      I didn't wake up all night, for a wonder. When I did wake up and inquire about the time to Mike, it was 0445. I felt like I'd slept longer than that, and then remembered that ship time went to about 2500 before it turned over, so I had gotten an extra hour in there. I got up.

      I fell back into my normal morning routine, which works just fine for me. Get up. Put coffee on, and then take Rover out. We don't play ball first thing in the morning. We go outside, she does whatever she needs to do and smells the roses for a few minutes, then we go back in and my coffee is ready. Once I get a couple of cups down, I'm functional enough to go shower, shave, and put on clean clothing to replace the stuff from the day before that I tossed back on when I first got up. I get at least one more cup of coffee down, get a refill, and then take the dog out to chase the ball for a while.

      Once we get back in from playing ball, I'm awake and functional. For that first hour, though? I'm a coffee seeking Zombie. By the time the dog and I get back inside from playing ball, I'm as functional as I ever get.

      I discovered that there was a clock in the kitchen, over the stove. It had more or less gone through my head that it would be in the right place for one yesterday, but I was just taking things all in and hadn't pursued it. It was in the Karn number system, of course, which meant that I couldn't much read it yet. I'd figured out all the way up to five so far, but since they were in base fourteen, I wasn't even halfway there yet on the single digits, let alone double digits or beyond. They did use a zero, and their symbol for it was a stacked plus and minus symbol. It was represented as the number which was neither positive or negative.

      I thought about what that said about whoever had developed their numbering system, and decided I didn't want to think about it too hard because it would probably give me a headache. I can do math if forced, but I don't particularly enjoy it. If I was to forget everything beyond the basic stuff that one needs to be able to do to survive and function, I probably wouldn't miss it much.

      At any rate, I could look at the clock and ask Mike what it said and get a response. I don't know why that seemed better than just asking for a time check, but it somehow did.
      Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


      • #4
        Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

        It was 5:58 by the village clock, and I was expecting people to be coming in for coffee before long. If there had been a porch light on the front, I'd have turned it on. The outdoor lights in the residential cubes started dimming by a few percent per hour about 6PM, and the amount of dimming increased each hour until 2400, when it ratcheted all the way down to around 20 percent and stayed there through 2500 and 0100 before it started running back up, at 0700 it was back to 100%, and stayed there until 6 PM, when the cycle started over. Such being the case, it never actually got dark enough to warrant exterior lighting on buildings. The whole purpose of the dimming cycle was for the vegetation in the residential cubes. Industrial or commercial cubes were fully lit all the time.

        Mike gave me a message from Don. “You up and about?”

        I responded that I was, and that he should get over here, because the coffee was up.

        He and Isiah arrived almost simultaneously. We were still working on our first cup when Heather came in. She got a cup and took Miss Rover back outside to play ball some more. Scott and Curly drifted in about fifteen minutes later, and Heather brought Rover back inside about then.

        Everyone else was discussing their plans for the day, and Heather finally inquired what I had going. I replied “Nothing much. A little interplanetary travel, pay the USG my final visit as an American, and hopefully be back here before they shut the cafeteria down. Just a day in the life.”

        Don noted “The whole Citizenship thing is bothering me. Are they going to expect me to do that?”

        I replied. “I doubt the necessity in your case, although you may come to see advantages in doing it, if and when you become a member of the Corporation. There will be some serious tax advantages, apart from anything else. Just to note, at this point you folks don't have dual citizenship. You are still strictly Americans. I don't see any of you having jobs that would make dual citizenship an issue anyway, but when I am the Secretary of State for the Karn, having U.S. Citizenship might be seen as something that would bias me. My being a former American will probably be seen that way anyway, but I've got plausible deniability if I've renounced, and if anybody doesn't like it, that's their problem, not ours.”

        Mike passed me a message saying that my transportation would be here in about 24 minutes. I made my excuses to the group for always abandoning them. I went up to my bedroom and got into a suit. Then I made sure I had everything I needed that I was going to be able to carry with me.

        I had everything. Passport, letter, and a lightweight battery for Mike. It was only good for 75 hours or so, but it only weighed about a half pound, which didn't mess my suit up nearly the way a five pound B-1 did. It was also non-metallic, which meant that if, or more likely when, I got to wander through a metal detector, it wouldn't show up.

        Having gotten myself squared away, I went back downstairs and took my leave of everybody and the dog. I was off.

        Everything went like clockwork, right up to the last part of the trip. I got through what was a fairly dense woods out to the road, met my ride, made the change of vehicles, and got to the Consulate in good time and good order. The Consular official there took my letter and Passport, had me sign a couple of different things, and spent about five minutes questioning me regarding whether I was doing this of my own volition and free will. I assured him that I was not being coerced, and was not under the influence of drugs, and so on and so forth. He was marking on a form as he read the questions off, and when he got to Citizenship he just said “Obviously, and marked something. I just smiled and let him make whatever assumptions he wanted to about me becoming a Canadian.

        He said “I guess that's it, then.”

        I thanked him and left.

        The vehicle change went smoothly again, and the last driver pulled into the parking lot of the Walmart we'd arranged for him to stop at. I went inside and went on a buying spree. I picked up five little six-cup coffeemakers. Then I got about 25 pounds of coffee, and grabbed a bunch of different teas while I was at it. That got me on a roll, and I went and found the candy, and got several industrial sized boxes of various kinds of candy bars and gum. Then I raided through the beef jerky and nuts. I figured that I'd done enough damage, and headed back to sporting goods and found the biggest equipment bag they had, looked at the cart, and got two of the bags.

        I realized that I'd missed some stuff, and went back to the coffee section and got a dozen powdered creamers, and about ten boxes of individual envelopes of sugar. I also tracked down a dozen standard ceramic coffee mugs, two each of six different colors. I had the cart running over by the time I got done.

        I checked out, and ferried it all out to the car. We stuffed it all into the back seat, and I opened one of the bags and started packing it with stuff. It was a good thing I got two bags, because I had them both filled when we arrived at the drop off point. I got out and tried to give the driver a couple hundred dollars, but he declined, saying that he was being amply compensated already. I asked if he was sure, and he said yes, so I thanked him and headed into the woods as he drove off.
        Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


        • #5
          Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

          That's when I realized how badly I had messed myself over. Coming out was not a big deal, but this was a wilderness area. There were no trails or paths, and one walked around the undergrowth and trees. It wasn't what I'd call badly overgrown, but it was interesting, even without all the junk. Going back, I had two big carryall bags with about 125 pounds of stuff in them. It was heavy, and it was totally clumsy. It took me the best part of an hour to get back to the landing spot, and I was calling myself a fair number of synonyms for “Idiot” by the time I got there.

          About halfway through the trip, while taking a massive detour around a big area of Aspen, or Alder, or whatever it was they had growing out there in thickets, I debated dumping about half the stuff, but my stubborn side kicked in and I decided that I wasn't about to do that.

          I got there, finally, and I lugged all my stuff back on board. We were back in space in less than a minute and a half.

          We were back on the ship by early evening, ship time. Allan and Ian met me, and Ian ask how I'd found Earth. I noted that it was still there, and that they better be drawing me up a Karn passport, because I seemed to have misplaced my American one somewhere down there.

          They both smiled at that, and Allan noted that appropriate documentation would be in hand when it was needed. We discussed tomorrow's upcoming events for a while, and Allan said that they figured that I was probably ready to call it a day. He noted that traveling always wore him out, and that they'd see me tomorrow morning.

          They went on, and I loaded my bags onto my ride and we headed for the house. On the way I sent messages to all five of the other humans, noting that my raid had been successful and that they should come to my place to assist in dividing the loot.

          I got a simple question mark as a response from Don. Heather wanted to know exactly what I was talking about. I replied to her “Get over to my place and find out. Oh, yeah. Bring me my dog back, too.”

          Three of them were waiting for me when I got there, and the other two were visible heading that way. I handed one of the bags each to Curly and Scott, who happened to be the closest, and told them to bring them inside and we'd get this party started.

          We all got inside, and I hoisted the bag with the coffeemakers in it onto the table, and handed them out first. I got the mugs out, and for a wonder, I hadn't broken any. I noted that they got two each. Then I started unpacking coffee, creamers, and sugar.

          When I got into the second bag, all the junk food and chewing gum went over equally well. I was missing it too. I don't usually chew gum, and a candy bar or two a month is usually about my limit, but the thought of not having one available if I wanted it had been bugging me. The beef jerky and nuts were considered a good idea too.

          I had kept all the plastic bags the stuff had been packed in originally, thinking that we might want to pack it back into them for carrying it off in. Don noted the name on the bags and congratulated me on maintaining my Redneck credentials. “In Canada, and you find a Walmart!”

          I retorted. “Fine. You get one stop, and you probably aren't familiar with who has what in Canada any more than I am. You pick out one store where you will be sure that you can get all the stuff I have there in one place. It's a matter of being practical.”
          Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


          • #6
            Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

            I noted as an aside that I'd cast an eye on a Sodastream unit while I was shopping, and decided that I didn't want to carry any more than I had already collected. Good thing, that. I'd also looked longingly at a case of Blue and emphatically rejected that as being too heavy. I commented that I'd only had to carry everything about a klick as the crow flew, but I figured that I'd covered close to two miles on the way back, with all the avoiding of tight spaces I was having to do.

            Don announced that if I'd lugged all that through that much dense woods, I was tougher than he'd expected me to be at my age. I blamed it on the Karn medical procedures I'd undergone, but added that in spite of being a lot healthier, I was still not in anything that I'd call good physical shape, and that it had been all sorts of enough fun getting that much stuff through the woods.

            The Karn staff was seated off to one side of the room, taking it all in and waiting for someone to ask for something, so I decided to put them to work for a bit. I asked if anyone had eaten yet this evening, and got five negative responses, so I placed an order for some of the things that I'd found particularly tasty last evening. I selected mostly finger food or the Karn equivalent of sandwiches, and added that if someone would please to bring in some beer, I'd be glad to have one, and everybody else was welcome to join in, because I figured it was party time.

            One of the staff brought in a cooler with a dozen containers of beer in it, went back to the kitchen, and returned with a tray containing about six bottles.

            I announced that “Their liquors I know nothing about, but I have sampled some of their beer. This one is called “Red”, and will pass for Miller Lite in an emergency. I displayed the container. This one is called “Finest Yellow”, and was a bit on the watery side for my taste, but it's not horrible. This one is called “Top Right Outside”, and I haven't tried any of it yet, so that's where I'm starting. Have fun!”

            Everyone dove into the beer except Isiah. I inquired of him “Don't drink?”

            He replied that he did not. I noted that we'd get coffee on for him, and went out to the kitchen to find that there was a pot ready. I filled a round mug and carried it out to him.

            I handed him the coffee, and said “You make me regret not grabbing that Sodastream.”

            “I don't drink much of that stuff either. Some of that tea does look good, though.”

            “Help yourself, please. That's why I got it.”

            He did so. He went over and surveyed the selection, picked out a box, and headed toward the kitchen with it in one hand and his coffee in the other.

            I got back to the rest of the group and found Scott demonstrating how to open Karn beer containers for the rest of the group. Scott had taken to his AI like a duck to water, and was much faster both in using it and in remembering that it was there to use than anyone else in the group.

            I snagged a container of Top Right Outside, opened it, and tasted. This one I liked better. Whatever they were using in place of Hops put just enough bitterness in it, and it was balanced and a bit stronger than the Red. I inquired, and Mike told me that it ran close to 6% alcohol. I was not going to want to be slamming very many of these.

            Heather was entertaining herself by opening each of the square liquor bottles and smelling them. She made a face at one and announced that it smelled “nasty”. I went over and picked it up and sniffed at it myself. It smelled pretty much like Jaegermeister to me, and I agreed with her assessment.

            She sniffed the next one and said “Vodka”. Mike confirmed that it was grain neutral spirits, charcoal filtered and diluted with water to 135 proof. I told her to be careful if she got into that, because it was strong. She wanted to know how strong, and I asked if she had any experience with 151 Rum. The help had set some of the small rectangular glasses out with the bottles, and she poured about a jigger into one, announced “Cheers”, and slammed it. It went through my head that I would probably need to keep an eye on her if she was planning on making a practice of doing that.

            The whole thing got me to wondering, and I had Mike put some facts on me. It appeared that the Karn had a moderately higher tolerance for alcohol than we did. BAC was not fatal in them until it approached 0.6 percent or so, and the other effects came on at similar higher levels. Their sobriety rules about working around machinery and stuff had a limit of 0.2 or 0.25, which would have most humans passed out.

            They didn't even have rules against drinking on the job or suchlike. There were rules against being impaired, but as long as the alcohol content wasn't up to impairment levels, nobody cared.

            I made a mental note to caution Don and the rest of the guys against getting in any drinking contests with the locals, and had another big slug of my beer just for emphasis.

            One or another of the help showed up with a couple of trays of food, and the other one followed on with a tray of plates, napkins, and implements that were the Karn equivalent of forks. Everybody dove right in, and I wasn't holding back myself. I'd caught some snacks on the way back in the shuttle, but I was pretty much in starvation mode.
            Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


            • #7
              Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

              I killed my beer so I'd have both hands free for serious purposes, and went to feeding things in. About halfway through my plate full, I concluded that something in there was more than just a little spicy, and went to snag another beerhere was only one Top Right Outside left, so I went looking to see if there was any more of it in the house.

              The first thing that happened was that I got ambushed and verbally abused by the staff. These folks were Company Karn, and they had a job. They were downright eager and enthusiastic about doing their job, and I was not letting them do it. I was being a bad Manager.

              I apologized to them, and pointed out that I was not used to having a staff, and was just doing what I'd ordinarily do without thinking about how it was preventing them from doing their jobs. I vowed that I'd do better from now on, and added that I'd make sure that the rest of my people did better also. Having gotten over that bridge, I explained what I was wanting, and one of them went to get it. I went back out into the front.

              I got everyone's attention, and announced that the staff had just made it clear to me that they were here specifically to fetch and carry for us, as well as bus plates, carry off empties, and wipe up any spills that should happen to occur. In the interest of interspecies harmony, I was asking everyone to please refrain from searching out trash cans or suchlike, and if they wanted anything, they should ask, and it would be provided.

              Scott asked if the could come up with a blonde about so high and......He caught the look Don was giving him at that point and trailed off, adding “Or not.” and leaving it right there. Don had apparently laid down some ground rules, and Scott had just wandered very close to the edge of them, at a minimum.

              Heather was, in fact, a complication in a lot of respects. Had it just been the five of us guys, I can't imagine that Don would have turned a hair at that comment, and I know I wouldn't have, but with Heather among us? I didn't know if Don was aware of her orientation or not, but he hadn't done anything that made me think that he had any particular interest in her, and he'd fairly obviously told the rest of the guys that she was totally off limits, and should not even be offended or scandalized.

              Scott wandered over to the table and sat down one chair down from me. “I didn't mean anything by that. I just naturally wise off on a regular basis.”

              I laughed. “Having been there myself on occasions too numerous to mention, I can fully understand how it can happen. Apart from that, I've been meaning to ask you if you have been doing any weapons research. You seem to be the man with a plan when it comes to using your AI.”

              He had been, and I got about fifteen minutes of overview about everything from electronically strengthened chambers for firearms which would make caseless ammunition really practical all the way up to railguns.

              I'd managed to absorb another whole container of beer while we were discussing that, and Scott needed a refill too, so we wandered over to get one. I decided that two high octane ones of that size were enough of that, and switched over to Finest Yellow. I also disengaged from our geeking out.

              I asked Scott “How about if you generate a report on all of this for me. It'll be good background when we get some folks up here to start seriously working on this kind of thing. No, wait. Hold that thought, but send the report to Don, and copy me. I've got plenty of jobs the way it is now, and I don't need to add weapons development to my list, even if it would be a whole lot more fun than most of the stuff I'm going to get to do.”

              “What exactly are you going to do? It seems like you are the one running this whole place sometimes.”

              “That is because I get carried away and forget that I'm not actually in charge of everything that I see a solution for. My specific function, and job title as a member of the Board of Directors, is Director of External Affairs, which is a fair analogy for Secretary of State in a lot of respects. I'm going to get to be kissed up to by various diplomats on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. For the record, I did not apply for this job. The Karn selected me somehow, and called me up and made me an offer that I chose not to refuse.”

              He replied “I sure couldn't do something like that. As noted, I tend to smart off about half the time, and.....Hey. You said you do the same thing a lot, didn't you?”

              “I sure do. Which is one of the reasons that I think this is going to get very interesting at times, for certain select values of interesting. At least I'm an equal opportunity offender. I can even annoy the housekeeping staff with minimal effort. Go, me!”

              Scott wondered “Are Earth diplomats going to expect the Karn to be just like they are?”
              Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


              • #8
                Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

                “Don't start me to lying about that part, but in case you hadn't noticed, I'm Karn by citizenship, not birth. I'm sure that most all of the Diplomatic Corps of every Nation on Earth will have my CV in hand in fairly short order, and they aren't going to be inclined to like me very much, I'm afraid. I have a track record of being a bit less than kind about Government in general, and we won't even get off into some of the things I've said about the UN at various times.”

                Don had been auditing the conversation, and joined in at that point. “Is it that obvious that it's you?”

                “If you think you are anonymous on the internet, think again, because you aren't. And I never even tried particularly hard to be, because I didn't care. I still don't, for that matter, but it's going to make for some even more paranoid Diplomats that I'm going to have to deal with. Do you have any idea how big of a threat we are?”

                Don furrowed his forehead and squinted a bit before replying “Ouch. I was overlooking that one. The Karn surely have the potential to be a huge threat.”

                “I have nightmares about how many people are going to suspect that we are going to reprise the opening ten minutes of Independence Day tomorrow. We are not going to, of course, but a lot of folks are going to think we might. Then there are the big Militaries, who know exactly what it means that we have the particular high ground we're going to settle into. We could do anything we want to to them, and it's almost impossible for them to even try to do anything to us. We're going to put the fear of The Lord into most all of them.”

                Isiah announced that “If they truly feared The Lord, nothing else would scare them anywhere near as much as that does.”

                “You've got that part right, but I wouldn't wager at even odds that even a third of the folks we are talking about are Christians, in my sense of the meaning of that term, and over half probably aren't by any stretching of the term you can do. So they are going to be going massively and quietly crazy worrying about what we are going to do.”

                Heather offered that “Everyone will probably get over it in a few days, when they see that we are not going to do anything mean and nasty to anyone.”

                “Some will. Maybe even most will. But everyone? Not a chance. There will still be paranoid conspiracy theories about us 20 years from now. You can write that down and I'll gladly claim to be a Prophet when you bring it back up then.”

                Don said that he really needed to start hiring a whole lot of really good people, preferably right now.

                “Late tomorrow afternoon you can start using the telephone to call folks you know. We have a relay in Earth orbit, but the time lag out to here makes conversations a bit difficult.”

                Curly wanted to know why they hadn't found the relay, since some satellite tracking systems were pretty good nowadays, or at least the United States' had one that was. Shouldn't they have picked it up?

                “They might have, once in a while, but it's at about 30,000 miles out, it's stealthed up pretty good, and it's about the size of a 20 pound propane bottle for a grill. If anyone does happen to get a reading on it, it's going to look to be about the size of a baseball at best, and they aren't going to recognize that as a relay today. Tomorrow, maybe, but not today.”

                I had finished my beer somewhere during all of that, and decided that I wanted to move around for a while. I announced that I was going to go run the dog for a bit and stretch my own legs, and that anyone who wanted to come along was welcome to join me, but otherwise the dog and I would be back in about 20 minutes. I hooked another Finest Yellow on the way by the cooler, and let Rover out the door. The entire group followed along.

                Everyone wanted to know how we were going to go about announcing that the Karn were coming to visit. We wound up with Heather doing most of the ball-playing while I explained the plan. It was actually more of an outline than a plan, but it was the framework we had set up.

                Step one, at high noon Zulu tomorrow, was to start yelling at Earth on all available frequencies, and wait until someone noticed. We had that figured to take around an hour before word started getting out. Once the media was awake and knew there was something going on, a hundred or so of the major TV networks were going to get telephone calls from the Karn. It was initially going to be from Karn AI's, but it all works out the same at that level. We'd answer any rational questions and wait for them to start broadcasting the fact that the Aliens were coming. Once the word got out, which we estimated would take another three or four hours beyond that, we were going to transit the ship to the L5 point, at which time anyone with a halfway decent backyard telescope would be able to see us if they looked at the right place.

                Don asked about the telephone calls to the Media. “I thought you said there was too much time lag for that.”

                “There is from here, but we're going to put a shuttle in close with about 200 AI's and serious telephone capabilities. That should solve that problem.” Then I went on explaining the plan.

                Once we get into place, we keep talking. We explain that we are here to trade, that we plan on hanging around, and that we want to apply for UN membership. We do whatever negotiating it takes to set that up, and send a delegation down to formally accept said membership, press the flesh, show the flag, and whatnot.

                From there, it would be a matter of negotiating trade agreements and Diplonatic representation with individual Nations, which was going to be the biggest can of worms ever seen, but we should have enough leverage to get things rolling. Then it was a matter of getting down to business. I didn't get off into what a lot of that business would involve, both because of the uncertain nature of exactly where a lot of it was going to be centered and the slightly uncomfortable (for some folks) fact that most of the money we made selling stuff to Earth was going to get plowed right back in to buying weapons and recruiting troops.

                Besides that, I didn't want to start explaining that when I really didn't have a good grasp of the whole “why” of it myself. I knew that there was big money involved, and when the Karn talk about “big” money, the GDP of the whole Earth is probably about the size of it. The Karn usually didn't keep secrets or have a whole lot of “Classified” things going, but this one was one real secret I'd found them to be keeping. We had to go somewhere and get something that was worth said “big” money, and they needed a whole lot of protection to get it.

                I was taking the Karn at their word for the whole protection aspect of it. We weren't going to go take something away from someone else, but apparently there were a whole lot of hostile beings who wanted to prevent us from doing whatever we were going to do to obtain what we were after, and the Karn couldn't handle it themselves. It had something to do with plants and a pharmaceutical drug, and that was about as far as I'd managed to get to date.

                All that was next year's problem anyway, or more likely four or five years down the line. We had to get all the groundwork in place first, start building the hub, and wait for the second ship to come in before we were going anywhere else.
                Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


                • #9
                  Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

                  Even confining my description to the more immediate aspects of the whole thing was plenty enough to talk about. Curly asked what the Karn planned on trading, so I explained that. Medical Technology for starters, although we'd be administering that ourselves for eight or ten years, because it was going to take that long to get human medical people trained up to speed on all of it. There was also a whole lot of other technology we were going to be selling while we got the scientists and engineers, not to mention the manufacturers, to the point where they could make the stuff themselves. The Manufacturing areas of the Ship were already cranking up for what was expected to be full speed operation in most areas. We'd have to see what moved and what didn't. The Karn were reluctant to put too much effort into things that they weren't sure there was a market for, and I could understand their reluctance. I am human, and I didn't want to predict what might fly and what might fizzle out. The only things we were really concentrating on were small power plants and batteries at this stage of the game. Power is always going to be in demand, and we can undercut the local Electric Company by 50% and still be clearing a 20 % profit. Once we sell the technology to build our type of power plants and get people trained to be able to do it, that will come to a halt, but that's fine. We're also going to be pushing a lot of solar power, because when we get the Hub up, one of the big parts of it is going to be about a quarter million square miles of solar power screens. That will supply the hub and probably a quarter of earth's current usage, although it'll be a smaller percentage as our tech ramps up on Earth.

                  The higher tech way of life is a lot more energy intensive than Earth currently is, which is going to really annoy the Greenies, until they stop and consider that all that power is going to be carbon neutral. I'm sure they'll still not like it, but they won't have any ground to stand on to protest it any more. It occurred to me to ask Mike about the whole CO2 thing at that point, and he noted that nothing he could discover gave him any indication that the amounts of CO2 we were adding to the atmosphere was an issue. He did have some comment about a few other things, notably heavy metals and some other fairly noxious gases like Freon, but he noted that we'd already pretty much stopped putting anything out that was a serious issue.

                  We went back inside a couple of minutes after all that. The dog was not notably ready to stop chasing the ball, but the dog is never notably ready to stop chasing the ball. I was beginning to notice that I had been drinking beer, and wanted to off load some of it and get something more to eat.

                  Heather wanted to know when she'd be able to go back to Earth, and I noted that she was probably going to get to go whenever I did, since Miss Rover would be coming with me, and someone would have to watch her while I was going to meetings and such. I added that “My going to the UN is probably going to cause some folks' heads to explode. If I brought my dog along, it would cause a genocidal level of bursting skulls, or close to it.”

                  She asked “Do you really think that they aren't going to like you?”
                  Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


                  • #10
                    Re: The Ambassador, Chapter 16

                    “It's not necessarily got a lot to do with liking or not liking me. About 24 hours or less after I show up among the Karn when we make our first visit, everyone is going to know my name even if we don't give it to them. Someone will recognize me and talk to the media. From there, I have a track record. The Internet is forever, and I have been declaring eternal hostility toward the United Nations and most all other all other Governments for lo, these many years. I don't really care, but it is going to make for some fairly hostile encounters here and there.”

                    She wanted to know if they would even be willing to talk to me.

                    “They aren't going to have much choice. If they want to deal with the Karn, I'm going to be the only game in town. And they will want to deal with the Karn. The lust for power and the hope for graft will keep them in line until we set the hooks, and then they won't be able to stop things. Once the general population realizes that they can get about ten times the Medical results they get now for half the price, and that every block can have their own ten-year power plant for less than they pay the electric company over five years or so? I'd like to see the Governments try to cut that off. There will be other stuff, too.”

                    Scott jumped in. “Wait a minute, something just hit me. I thought that the way you phrased something earlier sounded familiar. Did you used to post on “this or that” discussion boards?” (I'm not naming which ones, to protect the innocent.)

                    “Yes, particularly “that” site.”

                    “And you were a moderator at “the other” site. I remember you.”

                    We compared screen names, and I remembered him too, and so noted.

                    He replied “I see what you mean about making some people's heads explode.”

                    “Wait a minute. I was always careful to note that any comments that I made about a few salutary hangings or putting heads on pikes were purely rhetorical devices, and should not be taken to indicate any intent on my part to actually do or incite any such things, now didn't I?”

                    “Usually, I guess.”

                    “Usually enough for it to be noticeable, for sure, and if you will recall my reaction to racism and suchlike as a moderator, I've also got a track record that way. We didn't even allow profanity or obscenities, now did we?”

                    “That's why I always had trouble with that place. Do you know how hard it is to discuss some things without using any foul language?”

                    “Yes, I do. I learned a whole lot of self control there. Good thing, that, because I'm probably going to need it before this is over.”

                    We kicked a whole bunch of other things around over the next half hour or so. Everyone seemed to be winding down, and I offered that I thought that I had probably best make an evening of it. I reminded everyone to grab their coffeemaker and some coffee on the way out, along with whatever they wanted to take in the way of the sugar, creamers, and junk foods.

                    I also added that even though everyone had their own coffemaker now, they were still welcome to come by and join me in the morning. I didn't mind the company.

                    Everyone collected up some of the loot and headed out. I was left with over half of the stuff I'd bought, but I figured that I'd manage to distribute the rest later on. We all wished each other a good night, and I headed off for bed after thanking the staff for their assistance, and for reminding me to let them do their jobs.

                    It'd been another long day.
                    Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.