Chapter Sixty One - the Negotiator

Doug's Ego Grows

Sitting in their shuttle, me and three
Gennies.

I didn't feel an atom of fear, in
fact I was more disoriented.

They were talking in their
unknown tongue.
No urgency or emotion.
The fact they were identical
added to my drift, so I focused
on what I knew was real.

Firebird.

I knew Firebird wanted to escape
with her Priam, I didn't know what
these characters intended. With
the Terran Mil out there, adventure
outweighed disaster.

Right now I was the centre of the Universe. My ego growing. Every where in the galaxy they were singing Doug Hooker. Good thing both divorces final, and wifey number three quiet.

As we flew, the only thing that had me off centre was Priam, Firebird's Priam.
Priam hadn't appeared to be greeting his wife, he was grabbing on to a life
rope. I'd seen it, Firebird had to pick up. I wouldn't judge what these guys
saw, cause they didn't give an eyecorner to the lovers.

These Priams had entered my yacht, their eyes on me, eye cuts at the
monitor, backs to Priam and Firebird. No notice when our heroes slipped
into my bedroom.

As none of These Priams is giving me note, I ring Firebird on my wrist
com, speaking as I would to a girlfriend. I was giving her an out, a way
to run with Priam. She was bright enough to pick it up.

I glanced at the three Priams, they didn't react. I wonder sometimes if
they understand, or if they don't care.

On Tellur, the Gennies accepted me as one of them, so I can't balance
the encounters. I don't know if these Sags trusted me, had so much power
didn't need to, or were so ignorant, they didn't know I wasn't talking to my hand.

That's the thing with Priams.
A brain-deadness.
Silence bordering on the inability to form words, remarks a few beats behind
the original statement.

With Norms you expect a response. With Gennies, using my time on Tellur
as measure, I had started sentences, which they finished.

If I thought Priam especially 'slow' on the uptake so were his clones

We were pulling into their ship now. I was glad I'd bathed and had a Gennie
flavour, expecting the usual Gennie hygienic, but not here.
The ship was crowded, less than spotless.

I didn't have time for sightsee; I was marched into a room. The lights on
near the wall where I stood, the rest of the room slipped into shadow.
I couldn't tell whether I was in the length or width.

In a Darkling Room

"Sit there..." came Priam's voice somewhere ahead of me, I couldn't tell if twenty, forty
or eighty feet away, due to the acoustics.

There were long plastic topped tables. . I guessing this the galley as I slid on a bench.

The voice came again; "My brothers suggest you see advantage in this event, explain it to me."

The Priams who'd escorted me moved ahead into the darkness, I watched them until they disappeared. Yeah, Gennie eyes see better than normal. But why was the interview being done in this melodramatic way?

I started to talk to simply begin the interview, not to impart deathless prose;

"The Terran Space Navy is just beyond scanner range, en route to Newfrance. They are proceeding based on my data that the Dalmar have enslaved the human population."

There was no response, and I thought...hey! Let me find out what they're here for....
cause it wasn't Firebird....

"Might I inquire the reason you are in this part of Space?"

"To destroy the Dalmar," he drawled as if evident.

"In space?" I poke.

"Space, their ships about NewFrance, the surface; so we can learn how to 'hunt and kill' them," he said as if it was perfectly reasonable.

And to prove I had no place in diplomatic discussions I blurt; "That's a really bad idea..."

As the words came out of my mouth I realised my gaffe but held firm.

"Why?"

"Because if you land, the Terrans will take it as an act of war, and NewFrance is occupied by...(what term do I use?)...Norms."

"Norms who align with Dalmar."

"But Norms, making it seem a Sagir/NewFrance war...and that would not be in your interest."

"Hmmm?" he gave.

This was not the response I expected...I just explained that if he approaches NewFrance the Terran Force may fire on him...well, not in so many words, but it is evident...maybe not to him.

What did Ahmet tell me?
Hawking...
Trade...

"Sagirs had no economy.
They stole what they
needed.... Now the Sags
know money. They are
getting...stuff they
didn't know they
needed."

I speak; "If there is a NewFrance/Sagir war, Hawking will have to cease trading with you..."

"Ah," he replied.

"If a delegation comes with me to the Command Ship, meets the dignitaries, appears reasonable and willing to cease hostilities then treaties can be made." I say.

"Of what use are treaties to us? We have no interest in Norms, only with the destruction of Dalmar. And its people."

"Treaties are always useful and the fact is Norms have no idea what your
intentions are. We've gone to war footing. Hence, we may see hostilities
where there are none."

"And that means what?" he replied, "The Terran Space Navy will attack
us?" And after a pause he continued: "If that is the choice..." in a voice
last heard from a waitress asking; "Coffee or Tea?"

Ahmet had not lied.
The Sagirs were so far out of standard reality that it made having no
economy the least.

I took a breath, tried again;

"It means that if you form a treaty of non-aggression, if you explain
to the Admirals and others why you are here, what the relationship
between Dalmar and Sagir has been, that perhaps you can gain
allies, and that the Norms will respond to the Dalmar's invasion of
NewFrance; not you."

I wished I could see him, to gauge if he understood half of what
I'd said. I didn't know if I should repeat or not, or add...Maybe add...

"I don't know if it matters to you, but consider, you've won the war, now what do you
do with peace? The Dalmars have gone to Newfrance, probably to capture, the
Terrans will have to go there, land and investigate. Right now, public opinion is
balanced. Do you..."
(better not ask that)
"...people are not sure. Terrans realise they can't send the Dalmars anywhere because
they have no where to go. Leaving them on Newfrance is better than taking them to
Earth. And you might be able to influence the conditions under which they live on Newfrance."

"I still see nothing in your words which offer me anything." The voice replied.

"What do you want?" I asked.

My words were sucked into a bottomless silence. It went on and on while my mind
painted horrific scenarios, each image more frightening than the last. The tension
so thick it was like breathing jello.

I felt sweat running down my back. The silence persisted until my ear drums felt they
would burst. I thought of saying something else, anything else, to smash this endless soundlessness... this black hole, and then;

"It is the first occasion I have been asked what I want. Excuse my inability to reply.
I do not know the answer."

I jerked at his words, my mouth working, trying to grab logic;

"You fight a war...you must have had...a reason..." I choke out, his answer bouncing
around my head as if it was one of those superballs which are so difficult to catch.

"A reason?" he repeats.

I wish I could see him. I wish I knew why he kept the room so dark to mask his identity.
For that's all I believe this was.

The purpose of darkness, not to put me off balance, for I was no enemy, I wasn't here
to be interrogated, I was here of my own volition. The only reason for the darkness was
to prevent my seeing his face. Why? Was he so frightening?

His voice came again; "We ended their genocide," he says. "That was the reason.
To end it. It has ended. Now we end their existence..."

He stopped, said something in his language, and the others left the room.

I felt him approach, then, I was surprised by not being surprised.
He was white.
He was identical to Priam, but white.
His hair was the 'ginger' colour and done in braids, not unlike the style
I effected, and his eyes were hazel.

He made a brief smile, sat on the table;
"Have you figured it out, Douglas Hooker?" he asks.

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