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The Ambassador, Chapter 17

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  • The Ambassador, Chapter 17

    Mike got me up at a quarter to five. Surprisingly, Miss Rover hadn't beaten him to it. She was lying on the foot of the bed, snoring gently.

    My first inclination was to make her get down. We put a stop to that when she was about a year old. She developed the habit of climbing up between my wife and I, putting her back against me, and pushing on my wife with all four feet. She actually managed to push the wife off of the bed twice. After the second time, I called a halt to Miss Rover being allowed on the bed. She will still get up on the bed to get me up, if she thinks I need to be up for some doggy reason. Those reasons can be serious, or can be a total false alarm, but she has to get onto the bed to get me up as a rule. She was putting up with a lot of strange stuff and doing well, so I didn't have it in me to make her get down at this late stage of the game. She'd be up and about as soon as I hit the floor anyway.

    I spent about ten minutes just lying there thinking. Today was the big day. Bigger than big, in a lot of respects. The Earth was not only going to find out that it was not alone in the Universe, but that the Universe was moving in right next door. Nothing was ever going to be the same again.

    Miss Rover finally realized that I was awake. I don't know how she does that. Usually, I get one eye open, and she knows I'm conscious, and gets herself up and wants to do the whole morning thing. She stood up and wandered up to the head of the bed and stuck her nose in my ear and snuffled loudly. Then, she licked my face.

    “Bad dog. No licking. You know better than that.”

    She backed up a step, and bounced up and down a couple of times. That meant that she wanted me to get up and take her out. And I did so.

    I stuck my nose into the kitchen on the way to the back door, and about the time that I noted that the coffee was made, Housekeeper #1 handed me a (round) mug of coffee. I smiled, said “Thank you!” and went on out the door with the dog.

    We spent about a half hour out there. I was being contemplative, and Miss Rover was finding a lot of roses to smell, or something of that nature. I think that the unfamiliar nature of a lot of the vegetation had finally registered, and she wanted to smell all of these plants and get them fixed in her memory. She tasted several of them, and looked dissatisfied. She is a grass-eating fool about three or four days a week, and I needed to get a plot of Bermuda put in for her. That's what she prefers to eat at home, anyway.

    I'd finished my coffee, smoked a cigarette, and stalled all I could. It was time to go back in and get involved with changing the world. My first priority was that I needed a lot more coffee before I was ready to start changing the world. We went back in and I got another cup, answered some messages. Then I went back upstairs and got ready to face the day.

    We still had until almost midday, ship time, before the ball started rolling, and Mike was working me over. He was giving 10 of the AI's that were going with the shuttle into communication range a capsule of his best guess of how I'd react to most any suggestion from a real representative of a Government. If we had someone get into communication before we moved the ship, they would pretend to be Mike's version of me, and set things up. They would commit to nothing, but would supposedly make the same suggestions that Mike thought I would. He'd been living in my head for a while, and claimed that he could predict which way I was going to jump about 90% of the time.

    I don't claim that I can predict which way I'm going to jump with 90% accuracy, so I wasn't too confident, but since the AI's were under strict cautions not to commit to anything other than the fact that we'd be at the L5 point in a few hours, I wasn't too worried. I'm not female, but I do still reserve the right to change my mind once in a while. We'd manage on that front.

    Miss Rover and I went back outside and played some ball for a while. We were just getting into it when Heather sent me a message that she was on the way. I replied that I was out back with Rover, and that she should just get coffee and come on out. I did also message the Housekeepers to please let her in and hand her a cup of coffee on the way through the house. I figured they would regardless, but I prefer to be sure.

    Don arrived about two minutes behind her, and the other three guys drifted in together about ten minutes later. Don and Isiah had brought their own coffee mugs, but Curly and Scott were reduced to using square Karn ones. Heather had managed to get the use of my spare by arriving first. I briefly regretted not getting another dozen of them, recalled how much difficulty I'd had with the stuff I did get, and decided that I didn't really feel bad about not getting any more.

    Everyone was a bit anxious, but all anyone could do until about lunchtime was spin their wheels. I kept getting messages asking “What if.......” and proposing some other strange response or other that we might get from Earth. I developed a fairly universal answer which I was deploying in response to nearly all of that kind of question. “It depends on who it is. If the President of the United States or the Head of State of some other World Power starts getting goofy on us, stall and we'll get me on line with them ASAP. If it's the President of Samoa or something like that, just be polite and let him ramble. If it's not a Government or the News Media, hang up on them.”

    I did clarify a bit more than that, but the capsule version was that there was a serious limit to the amount of unserious stuff we were going to tolerate. That included the Media, for the record. One of the reasons that we were putting all those AI's within telephone range was so that as soon as the news that we were talking to Earth got started circulating, they were going to call about a hundred select media outfits and do telephone interviews. It was all going to be background type stuff, but it would get the media all wound up, and we'd be on every television on the planet pretty quickly, I suspected.

    We'd also be sending video. The Chairman of The Board had recorded a nice message of greeting and an overview of why we were here along with a once-over-lightly regarding our plans for trade and establishing a Hub here. We had some stuff from some of the other Board members, notably excluding me. We had documentaries about the ship, some of the industries we practiced on board, and a lot of “Karn in the street” stuff explaining how the average Karn lived, worked, and played.

    I anticipated the whole thing about us intending to take over the world and steal their stuff, so we'd addressed that, too. We had video of Karn scientists explaining how a modern spacefaring civilization harvests metals. First, you find a solar system that had a couple of Gas Giant planets, or more, and had it's sun go Nova a few million years ago. You go to those Gas Giants, which don't have much gas left after the Nova passed by. You send down your mining robots, and they find where specific metals plated out. They then cut them out in blocks as large as can be conveniently handled, and ship them up into space for refining. Some things are relatively pure. Copper, for instance, usually runs about 90%, which makes refining a lot easier.

    Rare earth metals usually only process out at 20 to 30%, but that's still a reasonably good return.

    In other words, to make it clear to the paranoids, we have access to a whole poultry farm, and sure don't need to come steal your little flock of chickens. It just wouldn't make sense economically, even if we were inclined to be criminals, which we aren't anyway.

    We also had literally years and years of video available about other Xenos. Nobody was going to be able to process it all in any given century, but we'd cheerfully pass it all along. I figured it'd give some folks at most Universities something to do besides seeing who could come up with the dumbest new theory of Economics or Gender equality.

    I was answering messages and participating in the whole discussion thing until Housekeeper #2 came out and announced that the morning meal was ready. Everyone seemed ready to eat something, even though Karn breakfast foods were not what anyone was used to. The consensus was readily reached that we needed to import ham, eggs, and hash browns. Scott observed that if we were actually planning on having as many humans involved in this operation as it seemed we were, we might just want to set up an Agricultural cube and start raising pigs, chickens and potatoes. It seemed to me that he probably had the right idea.

    That, however, was tomorrow's problem. I noted to the guys that I had scheduled an appointment with the Chief Engineer tomorrow morning to demonstrate our firearms. I had remembered to bring some along, and he had asked if I had remembered, so I took it that he was interested and would make the time for it. He clearly could, and had eagerly scheduled it. I told the guys because I had intentions of bringing them along for the demonstration. I was betting that all of them were more competent with guns that I was, and probably knew more about them.

    Shooting was going to be interesting. The Karn kept the manned cubes of the ship at about .82G, which was not a large enough difference to give anyone massive coordination problems, but was going to have a huge effect on where one should aim at longer distances. I mentioned that fact, and we all geeked out over it for about a half an hour. Heather finally got bored and announced that she was going to take the dog back outside and get away from all the Trigonometry that we were spouting.
    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 17

    We theorized on the difference in gravity for a while, and then got into how much difference the air pressure was going to make. We were looking at about 27.5” of mercury for that, which was also low. It's going to reduce air resistance, but by how much, and to how notable an effect?

    It occurred to me to ask about personal weapons. I was interested in the calibers involved, since I didn't figure that anyone other than myself had thought to bring along a whole wad of extra ammunition. The results of my poll came in at two 9mm's, one .45, and one .40 Cal. I had ammunition in all of those calibers in hand, so they could shoot their personal weapons without worrying about getting short of ammunition.

    I'd done some checking, and found that nobody on the ship was expected to be anywhere in particular for the first phase of making contact. We weren't going to be talking to anyone by 'phone from the ship until we relocated to the L5 point anyway, and if anyone needed any input from another party, everyone was readily available via their AI. I announced that everyone was invited to join me in my Den to follow the proceedings. The feeds from Earth were going to be running a fair time lag until we moved the ship, but we could at least get a feel for what was going on down there, but it would be a bit delayed from real time.

    We got everything arranged. It was almost like a Super-Bowl party, without the beer. My “Den” had a big screen monitor on one wall that was over 200” across. It could do several split screens or one big one, and I found that I had a stack of personal monitors available also. I placed them where they were available for access if anyone had some particular place or source they wanted to monitor, and we arranged for some snacks and beverages. Isiah had suggested iced tea, and that seemed like a popular enough idea that I'd arranged for about three gallons of it to be brewed.

    It seemed to take forever to get to Noon. I'd talked to everyone, paced around, quit drinking coffee because it was making me want to pace around, took the dog outside for a while, smoked a couple of cigarettes, and generally watched the clock. Finally, the announcement came up that the shuttle had turned on all the sound effects. Then we had to wait out the time lag before we started getting video.

    Nothing was happening at first, of course. The shuttle was Hoovering up about 60 different broadcast media outlets from all over the world, and we were all waiting for someone to notice our appeals for attention. And we waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, 43 minutes into the process, someone at Sky News heard from someone they apparently trusted. They announced that the boffins were getting some kind of messages from outer space, and that they were getting confirmation of that from various other sources. About two minutes later, someone had the sense to get a short-wave radio set up, and they put our initial announcements of our presence on the air.

    Fox News got on board in the United States about three minutes behind Sky, and the BBC and CNN chimed in within another two minutes. It was a domino effect from there, and our broadcasts started including the fact that we were going to try to call various media outlets, which we were naming off.

    By 1500 GMT, we had AI's being interviewed by the talking heads on most of the big networks around the world. One of the first things that the AI's started emphasizing was that we were going to move our ship to the L5 point at about 1700 GMT, and that anyone on the dark side of the terminator should look, because they would probably be able to see us when we got there. We were going to be visible to the naked eye that knew what to look for and where to look.

    The media was getting video, also. Those who didn't have enough sense to ask were asked if they wanted it, and nobody declined. They were most interested in the ship itself and general images of the Karn. They got about five minutes worth of that, and then the Chairman of The Board's message was sent. They didn't get much of anything else until they had run that segment. Some of them had to be told fairly pointedly that there would be no more video for them until that was broadcast, but we did get the Chairman's statement on the air at every media outlet we were communicating with.

    About 1600, the media folks we were talking to started getting calls from various Government people. A lot of the media outlets were hooking them into the conversations. Some Government types were attempting to negotiate things with us, right there on TV.. We'd pretty much expected that, and were fending them off. They were being told that they were talking to Communication and PR people, not anyone official. There would be no one in an official capacity available until the ship arrived. They were then referred back to the Chairman's statement. Our first priority was to obtain membership in the United Nations. Diplomatic Recognition and the exchange of Ambassadors with individual Nations would follow that. Most of them were capable of taking a hint eventually, although there was one guy from North Africa who seemed pretty much determined to get us to sign up with his Country for an MFN trade treaty and to ally with his faction against a rebel group in his Country. The AI he was talking to finally went to phase four and hung up on him.

    We did call that Media group back about five minutes later, and apologize for the interruption, but it was made quite clear that if they put that individual or anyone else from that particular Government back on, our conversation with them was permanently over.

    About 1630, it occurred to me to wonder why there were not any notable precautions being taken for the jump. Mike explained that it had to do with mass. The bigger something was, the less “bounce” you got when you transited. Shuttles were as large as they were because if they were smaller, they'd hurt people fairly regularly. With something as large as the ship, it wasn't an issue.

    We transited at straight up 1700 GMT. Several media places had telescopes focused on the L5 point, and a couple of them got a good view of the ship popping in. One of them was using a good enough telescope that they had to zoom out to get the whole ship in the picture. We hadn't been terribly specific about the size of the ship, so it came as something of a surprise to a lot of folks.

    Now that we were close enough to make telephone communication possible, there was a lot of telephone calling beginning to go on. A couple of folks from the UN wanted to talk to someone, and we really didn't want to make them angry at us just yet, so we talked to them. They got a whole lot of smoke blown at them and not much else, but we did talk.

    Our arrival was being taken fairly calmly in most of the world. There was rioting in Pakistan, but there's always rioting in Pakistan if it's possible for them to find anything different happening in the world to riot about. I think it's the national sport there.

    There were the usual suspects, of course. There were some people everywhere who were climbing up on soapboxes, fences, lamp-posts, trees, or whatever other high place they could find and loudly announcing that the end of the world, or the functional equivalent thereof, had just arrived.

    A TV station out in LA actually got one of those types on the air about 2000, and had him debating with one of my people. I'd sent a memo out to the whole External Affairs Department yesterday informing them that I expected everyone to make two or three of those Media Contact telephone calls. I wanted them to get used to dealing with the Earth Media.
    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 17

      I wasn't sure that my guy was ready for that much crazy, but he handled it in an awesome manner. He stated facts for as long as he could, and countered all of the guy's strange stuff. Once the nitwit got off into comparing the Karn to various Christian Demons, my guy announced to the talking head he had originally been talking to that a conversation with that person was totally, and a complete waste of time, energy, and oxygen. He told the Anchorman that he'd talk to him, but he was no longer going to waste his time talking to someone who was so clearly deranged.

      The TV station basically dragged the guy off of the set, ranting all the way. It was actually quite funny.

      We were downloading video to them as fast as they could record it. Most of the big US networks, a couple in Europe, one in Australia and one in Russia just relocated a satellite dish to the coordinates we gave them and were getting at least 50 meg a second download speeds. Most of the rest were stumbling along at 10% of that or less, but we were keeping everyone busy, at any rate. Someone discovered that we'd sent them a short history of the ship, about two hours worth. They weren't notably interested in the history of the ship, but they discovered that there were images of 53 other species of aliens shown during the video. That was the big thing for the next 24 hours or so. Not only was the Earth encountering an alien Race, but there were clearly at least 53 other ones out there. Someone, or more likely some AI got smart about an hour after this became the big thing, and sent them the contents of the Karn version of Wikipedia. It was about ten Terabytes of data, but it was searchable, and we had run the translations through a converter so that they worked with Windows. I suspected that it took the Apple fanbois at least ten minutes to manage to get it to work on their machines.

      We were keeping them busy enough doing their own research that the volume of 'phone traffic actually dropped by almost half.

      About 2300 we all started running out of steam. I needed a walk first, though. Other than a couple of fast breaks with Miss Rover, I'd been glued to the video screens for six hours, and I am not used to sitting that long. I clipped Rover's leash on her and announced that I was going to take a walk and get loosened up. Don and Scott came along. Everyone else stayed glued to the video monitors.

      We did about a mile and a half up and down the perimeter road of the cube, and I was loosened back up and awake again. We went back inside and I had some beer and liquors brought out. I poured everyone else a rectangular shot of the imitation Vodka, and filled Isiah's glass with tea, then handed them around.

      “Lady and Gentlemen of Earth, I give you our window onto the Universe. May we make the most of it!” We all clicked our glasses and drank.

      There was about a half hour of beer drinking after that, and everyone decided that it was time to call it a night. Heather left first, and Isiah was not far behind her. Scott, Curly and Don departed en masse about five minutes later. I gathered up the dog and went to bed myself.

      I actually woke myself up on Sunday morning. I was ahead of Mike, and the Alarm Dog hadn't seen fit to go off yet. I got into an upright position and inquired about the time. It was 0515. I got coffee on the way out the door with the dog, and didn't see anyone else up and around. I looked closely at the power connection on the coffeepot, and noticed a new thing there that hadn't been there when the Engineering tech had hooked it up. I inquired of Mike, and confirmed that it was a timed switch.

      That worked for me. I approve of efficency. I'd hooked a video pad on the way through, and started catching up on the latest news from Earth. Things were going about the way I'd expected them to. Most folks were just going about their business and waiting to see what happened. Governments were all making various profound statements without having any idea of what they were talking about. The lunatic fringe was running around foaming at the mouth, although I was shocked by the proportion of them who were bound and determined that this was the dawn of an era of peace, harmony, and brotherhood, as opposed to the end of the world. When larger groups of the “peace, harmony, and brotherhood” faction encountered the end of the world groups, they demonstrated their commitment to peace, harmony, and brotherhood by cheerfully engaging in full scale brawls.

      The Churches seemed to be taking it well. The Catholics were noncommittal, the Evangelicals mostly wanted to send Missionaries, and the main-line Protestant denominations were suspicious, but not overtly hostile.

      The Europeans (except for the Germans) were already starting to discover the level of work ethic that the average Karn had, and were beginning to work up toward being suspicious of the motives of anyone who was willing to work for that many hours a week. Nobody had really yet caught on to the fact that the ship didn't really have a Government in the style that everyone on Earth had.

      We weren't being too specific. We had an elected Government, and there were regular elections. That was all they really needed to know right now.

      Don sent me a message that he was going to skip morning coffee. He was apparently working the telephone regarding hiring some folks. I presumed that he was talking to people in Europe, since most of the United States wasn't out of bed yet. Everyone else showed up at our usual time, and at about 7:30 our transportation arrived to take us to the firearm demo for the Chief Engineer. We picked Don up on the way. I'd specifically invited Heather, but she was not that interested in firearms, and was proving to be a huge news junkie. She said she'd rather stay home with the dog. Miss Rover will come along if allowed, and will wear sound suppressing earmuffs if I make her, but I'd just as soon not expose her to all that noise when I had not thought to bring along the earmuffs that I'd modified to fit her somewhat properly.

      We got to where we were going, which was a basically empty cube, a fair way up and out in the array. It was designated to become living quarters for humans, but it was the fifth one they planned on using, and they were currently mostly working on number four. This one didn't even have the divider floors in it yet, so it was a mile to the celing.

      After much deliberation back on Earth, I'd selected and brought along three rifles and four handguns. I had a Ruger 10-22, a street legal AR-15, and a bolt action Remington 700 CDL in 7mm Remington Magnum with Leupold glass on it. For handguns I had a Ruger Mark 4 in .22, a 9mm Glock 17, a .40 S&W M&P, and a 1911 in .45 ACP.

      I had my personal 10mm 1911 with me, and the other guys had all brought theirs along, so we had a total of nine handguns available, and the three rifles. I had brought a hundred rounds each of .223 and 7mm Mag ammunition, two bricks of .22 LR, and 300 rounds each of 9mm, .40, and .45. Add in the couple of hundred more of 9mm and .45 that I'd scarfed up at the last minute as an afterthought and we were fairly well set for ammo.

      I'd been asked to spec out whatever we needed for backstops, so we had berms about 10' tall by 50' long at 100, 300, and 600 yards. I'd picked Mike's artificial brains and specified some stuff that we could make into field expedient target stands and targets in about two minutes. They'd set up a couple of tables at the start point of the measurement out to the berms, so we had a firing line arranged.

      We had everything set out and most of the available magazines loaded when the Chief Engineer arrived, with an entourage of a half dozen other Karn. Two of them were carrying what looked to me to be some kind of shoulder fired weapons. That made me smile, and I saw Curly and Isiah noticing the same thing and grinning at each other.

      I met the Chief Engineer about halfway between where his sled had stopped and where we were standing. Everyone else in both groups hung back. We exchanged greetings, and spent about two minutes agreeing that the Contact plans seemed to be going quite well, and then he stated that he wanted to see these weapons of ours. His people hurried to catch up to us.

      Everything we had out on the tables was locked open. I hadn't thought to bring chamber flags, but I didn't expect that we'd have to be too worried about Negligent Discharges given the group I was in. We would all watch ourselves, and were probably all in the habit of watching everyone else also.
      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 17

        Don announced that we needed to get some targets up, and hailed our sled over and started loading target stand parts and targets on it. Once he got everything loaded that he wanted, he announced that the range was cold, and climbed in to go set some stuff up. One of the Chief Engineer's group went along with him to assist.

        It took them about thirty minutes to get set up at all three berms, plus the stop that they made at 25 yards to set up handgun targets. While they were doing that, I field stripped the 1911 and the AR. I handed the AR to Scott and told him to give the Karn a rundown on the working parts. When he got through with that, I did the same for the 1911.

        The Chief Engineer took it all in with apparent interest. He asked a couple of relevant questions here and there along the way, and when we were done he commented. “You folks have take the projectile weapon concept further than I've ever seen it developed before. You use simple mechanisms, but they are robust.”

        I chuckled at that, and noted “If you want simple and robust, I'll bring you a Russian M44 one of these days. They are the ultimate refinement of simple and robust.”

        The Chief Engineer then relieved one of his people of the weapon he was carrying and proceeded to go through what was basically the same field stripping and explanation of function that we had with ours. They used electrically powered wire guns. They varied in bore diameter from just under 1/8 inch to almost .30 caliber. The length of the wires they fired varied from about ¾ inch for the larger diameter to somewhat over an inch for the smaller diameters. They powered from a standard B-1 battery, and loaded a coil of wire that contained about five hundred shots worth of wire. The things were as heavy as an FAL when the wire and battery were attached.

        The target crew got back from setting up, and everyone in both groups looked at me, so I figured that I'd get things started off. I picked up the Ruger Mark 4, announced that the range was hot, put a magazine into it and released the slide. I brought the Chief Engineer up next to me, pointed out the safety lever, and explained it's purpose once more, then aimed and fired four rounds at one of the 25 yard targets. I couldn't even see if I'd hit the thing, let alone where, but Don had a pair of Karn binoculars in hand, and announced “Eight, eight, seven, seven, all left.”

        I put the safety back on and handed the pistol to the Chief Engineer, noting that one did not want to have any part of their hand in contact or behind the slide when the pistol was fired. He took it, took the safety off, and after some shifting around to decide how best to grip it, fired off the other six rounds slowly and deliberately.

        I then moved us up to the 9mm, and handed the Ruger to Don. “Here. Show your buddy how it's done and let him try it out.”

        We worked our way through the handguns that way, with Don handing the Ruger off to Isiah and having him start showing another Karn how it was done, and so on down the line. We spent almost two hours working everyone thorough the handguns. The Chief Engineer noted that he had another appointment at 11, and wanted to show us how their wire guns worked before he left, so we agreed to put the rifles off for another day.

        He ran me through a short course on the disconnects, safety button, and suchlike, shouldered it and fired about a half dozen times, then handed it off to me. I pulled down on a target at the 600 yard berm, and Mike informed me that 600 yards would be slightly over the outer envelope of available range. I switched back to the 300 yard berm and leveled the gun. I discovered that it had magnifying optics on it, and fired a dozen or so wires downrange. It looked as if I was hitting in or near the black. There was no recoil worth mentioning, The ergonomics were not great for a human body, and I'd have hated to get into a serious firefight with one of them unless I could change out the stock, but the optics were awesome. I handed it off to Don and his range partner, and each of we humans got a turn with it.

        At that point, the Chief Engineer noted that he really did have to go, but that we were going to do this again soon when we had more time. He seemed to be having as much fun as all the rest of us were. The Karn all went along with him, except for our driver. Two of them offered to stay and help us clean up, but we sent them along and did that part ourselves. We'd been policing the brass as we shot, so there wasn't much to do but take the targets down, and then we headed out ourselves. I got a much lighter load of firearms and ammunition back inside when we got back to our quarters, then went down to Heather's and picked up Miss Rover.

        I didn't bother to leash the dog. There wasn't anyone else around, and she stayed right with me. I decided that I was getting hungry, and I was debating what I wanted for lunch when things actually started happening.

        We'd sent off another video from the Chairman of The Board addressed directly to the United Nations, requesting that they arrange a way for us to contact them regarding our application for membership in their Organization. I really wasn't expecting to hear much from them until sometime Monday night our time at the earliest, since I figured that they probably didn't even start work until around Noon on Mondays, which would early evening our time. So, I was figuring tomorrow evening.

        They fooled me on that one. At around 12:15 I got a message. One of our telephone guys had a UN Undersecretary on the telephone, and he wanted a call back from someone Official to discuss scheduling. He gave the right name and had the right voice pattern to be who he said he was, and the number he offered up was an official UN telephone inside the Official UN Building in New York. The message to me was in two parts.

        First off, did we want to tell him that someone would contact him? Second, if we did want someone to contact him, who should the number be forwarded to? I replied that he should be told to stay by his telephone, because someone would be contacting him in the next half hour or so, and that the number should be forwarded to me.

        Finally, something constructive I could do! I'd been feeling like a spare wheel since yesterday morning, and now I had a job again. It improved my outlook on life by at least ten percent.

        I had already set the procedure up with Mike. He was going to have to mess with my voice, because I really didn't want to sound like I was from where I was from for this conversation, and I suspected that some UN guy from Europe, based on his name, would find it strange that the Karn Director of External Affairs sounded suspiciously like he was from the Trans-Mississippi American South.

        That wasn't a problem for Mike. He was going to be acting as the “telephone” in the whole process anyway. The person I was talking to would be a voice in my head, and I would just talk back to him and Mike would relay what I said. It wouldn't come out quite in my voice, but more of a generic Karn accent, as envisioned by the AI's who did all the translating.

        I commented to Mike that I was going to be on my best behavior, grammatically speaking, and would make every effort not to say “Y'all,” or “Boy-Howdy”, or “Whee-Doggies” or anything of that nature too often. Then, I dispatched a message to the rest of the Board announcing that we had our first official response, and that I would file a full report once I got through talking to this guy.
        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 17

          Having gotten all my ducks in a row and all my stuff in one sock, I took Miss Rover outside for a run for about twenty minutes. I wasn't going to make it look as if we were too eager. Once we got her ball playing in, I went back inside, made a fresh pot of coffee, and got my game face on. Then I had Mike make the call.

          The UN guy answered on the first ring.

          I identified myself as the Karn Director of External Affairs, and noted that we had much to discuss.

          The guy took off and laid it on thick for about three minutes, nonstop. He considered it a great honor and privilege to be the first representative of Earth and of the United Nations of Earth to make official contact with the Karn people. He was overwhelmed to be able to speak to such a noble and high ranking representative of the Karn race, and on and on and on.

          I did note to myself that he had said that he was speaking to a “...representative of the Karn people and race.” He had it exactly right, and at the same time totally wrong, because I was representing the Karn, but I was hardly representative of a Karn. I liked that.

          Once he finally wound down, I dove right in, and laid it on as thickly as I could. The Karn were honored to speak to such a distinguished representative of the United Nations, and were particularly honored that someone as important as himself would condescend to concern himself with something so trivial as our little scheduling request, and so on and so forth. I threw a whole thesaurus full of compliments at him, or at least a many as I could come up with off the top of my head. I don't think I went on for quite as long as he did, but I at least got close, and managed to be equally flowery about it all.

          It took him a good while to work around to asking exactly what it was that we wanted from the United Nations. He phrased it very obliquely, bu that was what he really wanted to know. I went about 10% out of Diplomatic mode and laid it out for him.

          We (the Karn) were here. We planned on hanging around for a good while. I even expanded on the concept of “a good while” to note that most Hubs existed for a minimum of several lifetimes of even the most long-lived of species. Such being the case, we (the Karn) felt it prudent to Diplomatically associate ourselves with the Earth, since that would make it much easier for all of us to work together and cooperate, both in the near term and in longer terms. I pretty much cribbed that from the Chairman of The Board's video address that we'd directed at the UN, but I did elaborate just a bit, mostly emphasizing that we planned on being around for a good long while. The fact that it was all true didn't hurt anything.

          Then I got even more specific. We thought that it would be impolite to just drop in on them, without an invitation or Passports or Visas or anything like that. We really wanted to be good neighbors and friends, and would prefer that when we showed up that it be because we'd been invited. I noted that we would appoint and send representatives to be present when they felt prepared to act on our application for membership in their body. In the meantime, we felt that our understanding of their Diplomatic and Legal processes indicated that we should not just casually drop down for a visit.

          He started fishing for transfers of Karn technology. Of course, he implied that we would just “give” them all of it on a platter, for free. I replied that we did plan on transferring a lot of technology to Earth, and had no intention of holding anything secret from them. I did note that on the other hand, there was going to be gap of several years before we managed to get their scientists and engineers up to speed on all of the things involved. During that period, it would be likely that many Nations and people of Earth would wish to obtain certain things, most notably power generating and transmission equipment and medical supplies and treatments from us directly. Those transfers of pre-built equipment and medical substances, supplies, and nanobots, along with the Karn to administer the medicines and operate the equipment, would have a price tag attached, although I added that we did not suspect that they would find our prices to be unreasonable.

          We got back into platitudes from there. The only other thing of substance we discussed over the next half hour was to agree that I would contact him again in 24 hours so that we could further discuss the process of the Karn joining the United Nations. He was boring me to death by the time we finally managed to get through saying nice things about each other and get off the telephone.

          I kicked together a 250 word capsule report on our conversation for the rest of the Board, and had Mike attach a recording of the whole conversation when he sent it off. I felt like I'd at least done something useful today.

          Starvation was setting in, so I let the staff experiment on me for lunch. They offered up four different selections for me to sample. Three of the four made it onto my list of quite edible Karn foodstuffs. One of them was a credible imitation of fresh Ham, there was an almost Oriental noodle concoction, and a slab of something that looked suspiciously like Tofu, but tasted somewhat like Cashew nuts. Those I would willingly eat again. The fourth sample was squares of something that looked slightly like chicken nuggets, but tasted like the fishiest fish I'd ever encountered. I got around half of it, but that was all of it that I could manage. Each of the four things they'd brought out constituted about half a standard serving, so I'd had plenty to eat by the time I got done with the sampling. I also had some more additions to my food list, so it all counted as progress to me.
          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 17

            Earth news media was in “All Karn All The Time” mode. I flipped through about seventeen broadcast channels before I found one that wasn't running one or another selection of the video that we were still dumping on them as fast as they could record it. CNNI had a telephone interview going. They had an Economics Professor, from Oxford, as I recall, interviewing one of our people. The Professor had seen about five minutes of video we'd sent down and come to the conclusion that the Karn were actually Socialists, and just didn't understand that they were. I listened to the conversation for about five minutes, and had Mike send our guy a message congratulating him. I didn't know that there were that many ways of politely telling someone that they were a complete idiot, and was impressed.

            Nothing noteworthy happened the rest of the day. Don had teamed his guys up with some Karn engineering folks and they were involved with exploring the properties and adaptions available in those bullet stopping fields. Scott had stumbled onto the fact that they could be made to function only from the outside, which suddenly made them a whole lot more useful. Stopping bullets was nice, but having to turn it off in order to shoot back would be depressing. If it could be made to stop incoming, but not outgoing fire? That was really interesting, and was getting a lot of attention from Don's folks.

            Don was mostly making telephone calls. He wasn't getting specific with anyone about what he might be hiring for, but he was getting the word out that he'd be hiring in the immediate future.

            Heather had talked to Kayla somewhere along the line. The Feds hadn't raided Universal Distributing as of Friday, anyway. She was quite put out, because all that Kayla wanted to talk about was the arrival of the aliens. Heather said that she had major difficulties with that conversation, because she couldn't say much of anything for fear of saying the wrong things.

            Miss Rover was having a fine time. She was getting all the attention she wanted, and extra ball playing to boot, so things were all good from her perspective.

            I watched the news and spun my wheels until about 11:30 Monday. I grabbed an early lunch, and called that number at the UN again at 12:15. I was informed that I was being put on a speaker, and that I was speaking to about a dozen people. The Secretary-General wasn't there, but all the other big dogs in the UN hierarchy were. After a round of introductions, they got down to business.

            They were still Diplomats, but they were asking more pointed questions, and not settling for platitudes in response. So I gave them the facts, mostly.

            They wanted to know about our “idea” of putting this “hub” as we chose to describe it, here. The first question was “Why here?” I gave them truth in response. This side of the Milky Way Galaxy was under-served as far as galactic trade went, and pretty much open territory. Earth was relatively centrally located. Earth had intelligent life which would provide the necessary manpower to get the hub up and operating, and to keep it staffed. The additional bonus fact was that we Karn thought that humans were enough like we were that we'd be comfortable working and associating with them, and we suspected that the converse would also be true. We were reasonably compatible. Our dietary requirements were fairly similar, and we were both bilaterally symmetrical quadrupeds. Both species used oxygen and water as the basis for their metabolism. As such things went on the galactic scale, our two species were about a 98% match. That would be why we chose to put our hub here.

            They then wanted to know why we needed a hub, with this instantaneous transport thing that we had. Again, the simple facts served. While our transport was immediate, the range was not unlimited. The maximum range you could cover in one transit was about 11,000 light years. Rather than make thirty or forty transits to get to somewhere that may only be in the market for a dozen cubes of what you had, it was better to conduct some of your trading at a hub, and let someone else move those things closer to their ultimate destination. You would sell stuff for less that way, but your fuel costs would be less also. Moving a full sized trading ship through a transit took a lot of power. Thirty or forty transits each way to a small sale would eat up all your profits several times over.

            I explained that most trade is conducted within a radius of about 55,000 to 66,000 light years. There are things that move all the way to the center of the Universe, and there are things available from there, but you have to understand the technologies involved to use the stuff that comes out, and you have to know what they want or need to get things sent that far in. We Karn trade among the younger civilizations out on the rim.

            I think they got the point, in as much as we moved on to other things from there.
            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 17

              Someone wanted to know what we were going to give them, in order to purchase our way into the community of Nations. Yes. That's how he put it. I picked up the big hammer and went after him with it.

              We are not going to “give” anyone anything. We will provide a lot of free knowledge, but the skills necessary to use that knowledge will be paid for, one way or another. I noted that, having given them our encyclopedia, we'd basically already given them all the free knowledge we had. As far as the ability to use that knowledge without killing themselves? That would cost them something.

              I really wanted to use the acronym “TANSTAAFL”, but couldn't. There was a Karn version of it that I did give them, regarding the guy who went and ate what he thought was a free meal on his way home every day for his term of employment. When he decided to retire from the Corporation, he discovered that he'd been paying for it in parts of his Stock Shares, and had only about two-thirds of the stock he thought he had. The Karn use it as a cautionary tale about reading your quarterly reports, but it applies equally well to any other discovery that nothing is free. One alternate version has it as a “youth” who squanders his family's stock on high living, but there is no prodigal Son happy reconciliation at the end of that story.

              I spent three and a half hours with them, and finally concluded that they were not going to give up on asking for us to give them free stuff, regardless of how I tried to explain that we couldn't without taking the value of those things from their owners, which were our Stockholders. They just didn't get it, or refused to do so, whichever you choose to believe. It was all “Give us this, and give us that, and we'll think about admitting you.” I was totally out of ideas about how to approach that without giving away the whole store, which was not going to happen. I was not happy with the way this had gone.

              We scheduled another conference call for tomorrow at the same time, and I noted that I would be sure that the Chairman of The Board and the entire of our Board of Directors was included in the call. I then messaged the Board about that, and suggested that they should be prepared to deal with some serious stupid stuff tomorrow.

              I then messaged the Chairman directly, and made sure that I knew what our fallback position was if they wanted to get demanding and refused to move until we appeased them by making them richer. He did. He was a bit noncommittal, though, which made me wonder just how badly I'd managed to misalign all the gears we had turning.

              I got done communicating, and went and played ball with Miss Rover for the best part of an hour. Then I ate a late afternoon snack, and got myself a beer, because I was feeling sorry for myself. The whole thing was going to go down in flames just because I couldn't convince the UN Mafia that they couldn't steal their customary 20% off the top this time. I was really gronched out over it all.

              I had opened my second Top Right Outside when Mike messaged me that the Chief Engineer and the Chairman of The Board had noted that they were coming to see me in a half hour. The way my conversation with the UN folks had gone, I expected that I was going to get fired, but what the heck? I've been fired before, so it was not as if it would be a new experience or anything.

              I was mentally composing parting messages for the other human folks when the Chairman and the Chief Engineer arrived. They came in with great good humor, and asked for Beer.

              Housekeeper #1 was Johnny-on-the-spot with it. He handed me another one also, which surprised me, because I hadn't realized that my second one was empty until he exchanged containers with me.

              I still wasn't really good at reading Karn body language or facial expressions, but they both seemed pretty happy to me. I got told how well I'd handled things, and had to ask exactly why they thought I'd handled it well, given the way the whole thing had ended up. I thought that it seemed to be more of a smoking crater than anything else.

              The Chairman laughed out loud. “You really aren't kidding about not being a Diplomat, are you? Keep in mind that your conversation was completely off the record. They were trying to run over you. You took a big stick and beat them all back into their pens. You asked for nothing but official Recognition of us as a member of the UN, but you refused to offer any kind of bribe or remuneration for that status. They now know that, and will not ask officially at any point.”

              That was at least 175 degrees off of the angle I thought we were at on it all, and I couldn't help but ask how that had came out well. I just wasn't seeing it, based on the level of hostility I had been getting from the folks I was talking to.

              The Chief Engineer explained it. “That was unofficial. They had the chance to talk to our Government, and chose to try to get us to bribe them. You refused, clearly and repeatedly. You would concede nothing to them, even under pressure. It was perfect.”

              The Chairman chimed back in. “They live by propaganda, and we are now using their chosen weapon against them. We are broadcasting hypothetical situations where we are not granted Membership in their UN organization. We note that there are at least three Nations, plus at least two regional groups with which we could align ourselves. If the United Nations turns us down, we go to one or another of them. Whichever way we would move on that leaves at least two-thirds of the rest of your world out in the cold, as it were. Do you think the UN people would countenance that? They now have no choices left, and no reason not to move expeditiously.”

              I took all that in, took a big slug of my beer, and asked: “So, you are telling me that telling them to go whiz up a rope was the right thing to do at that point?”

              That was a bad way to phrase it. It took a whole minute for Mike and the other AI's to sort it out, particularly since, as has been previously noted, Karn males had the innie. I'd just put a totally male spin on a female reference in the Karn context, and it took some parsing out before it made sense to anyone other than me. Once they did grasp it, though? They were both roaring with laughter. The Chairman repeated it three times. “....up a rope.” He announced it to be a particularly apt expression of a futile gesture.

              Apparently Karn females don't mark their territory, even though they are the ones who could more easily do so.

              We spent another hour or so being jovial and happy, and drinking beer. I decided that if everyone else was happy with the way things had come out, I might as well be happy too. The other side of that coin, though, reminded me that if I wasn't getting fired, I had work to do, and had best keep the beer drinking within reasonable limits. I had one more with my Boss before he left, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening doing research. I'd missed something that everyone else thought was obvious, and needed to find out why. I'd read Machiavelli, but had clearly not paid enough attention to what I was reading.

              It proved that The Chairman had the right take on it, though. The conference call the next day that involved the whole Board included the Secretary-General of the UN and all the appropriate folks to expedite our application for membership. The Secretary-General and the Chairman of The Board did most of the talking, and the outcome was that the United Nations would meet in a full session at 1300 EDT on Thursday and take up our application for membership, which would be expected to pass immediately and without debate.
              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 17

                We inquired about how large our delegation should be, and where we should be planning to land at. We gave our requirements about open spaces for the landing of a shuttle, and were directed toward JFK Airport. After pointing out that we could get much closer in a couple of spots, we left that one as an item to be discussed by our people and theirs. There were tons of details to work out, but we put our people in contact with their people, and put them to handling the details.

                The UN wanted a Parade. I think about three-fourths of the people on Earth wanted a Parade. I didn't like it, and I was sure that Don was going to have at least eleven cat-fits over it, but sometimes you have to take your chances. I was just hoping that I could get from the shuttle to a Limo without it being obvious that I was with the Karn. I wanted to save my introduction for the podium at the UN.

                There was something of a method to my madness in that regard. So far, the powers that be on Earth were not aware that the Karn had been around for the best part of a year, and I really didn't want them figuring it before we got the UN membership locked down. Universal Distributing was still doing a lot of things, albeit mostly outside the United States, and we wanted that to get a far along as possible before it got outed as a Karn front. We weren't doing anything illegal, and were, in fact falling over backward to keep everything scrupulously legal in whatever jurisdiction we were operating, but once we got exposed, prices were going to go through the roof. There would be at least ten venture capital firms tracking our every move and bidding things up.

                If the Feds raided us, we'd have to have someone from the ship make a polite call and request that they quit abusing our agents, which would give us away, but we were just waiting to see if that one happened or not. If it didn't, it gave us another 48 hours to play with, and a lot of business can be done in that length of time.

                Once more, I was back to sitting on my hands while waiting around for something useful to do.
                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.