I couldn’t read Ambassador Mahyul’s face. The muscles in her jaw looked tight and her pale eyes gave me a shiver, but even if I saw the details correctly, I didn’t think she meant the expression for me, whatever the emotion behind it. “The Hoon are late.” Distaste? Irritation? “The Hoon are always late.”
Captain Razush nodded. “Even for battle, though at times that works well for them.”
We sat in the same room or one just like it. My escort, not Commander Rizuk who was on station at the door to our freshly-assigned suite of rooms, brought me through a series of narrow corridors that also all looked the same. Newsworld played on one wall, a split screen showing the Shalash ship on the right. The left half played interviews with whatever experts they could scrape up or, occasionally, the Asoolianne ship. I’d seen the shuttle and our abandoned minivan exactly once since I’d come to the room, but my cell phone didn’t work anymore so they may have given up that angle for now. Or maybe the interviews were about me. The lack of sound let me ignore whatever the experts did speculate about. I might have liked to hear the government representative, but she’d only been on for a minute or two.
I put down the glass of blue juice both of my Shalash hosts assured me was suitable for human biochemistry. The taste reminded me of turnips, with maybe a little garlic and ground pepper mixed in. I figured two or three more sips for politeness’ sake before I switched to water.
The words sunk in and I stopped trying to look at the screen. Silent talking heads didn’t seem very important. “Who are the Hoon? I thought you came to negotiate with the Asoolianne.”
Mahyul nodded. “And the Hoon.”
“There are three sides?”
“Yes.” Razush looked at me, his expression completely blank. Just filled with information, our Captain. A Shalash of few words.
Science Fiction aside, I’d always thought conventional wisdom assumed any species advanced enough for interstellar travel would have outgrown war. A lovely thought, but conventional wisdom seemed to have missed the boat here, with three interstellar species all fighting each other. No joke or comment sprang to mind, probably a good thing. Frowning, I fought off a sigh instead. “So why do you need me?”
The Ambassador took a small sip of her own juice and I wondered about the fruit or vegetable it had come from. She set the glass down and leaned toward me. “We are here to meet with the Asoolianne and the Hoon. As Intermediary, you will attend these meetings, presenting to your people what you learn. Intermediaries for the Asoolianne and the Hoon will do the same and will also meet without us as required, with each other for organizational purposes and with representatives of your governments. We will not meet with any government directly as such a meeting would certainly compromise the neutrality of your species.”
Sharon had worked out the logic with only a little input from Rizuk. Randomly pick a human civilian to act as your go between. That civilian will possess a certain loyalty to his own nation and world, but should still be neutral as far as the aliens were concerned. If the randomly selected human was the only one to talk to the outside world about and for the aliens, a fiction of neutrality could be maintained. The aliens could pretend that Earth was neutral, assuming all three species held to the same fiction.
“Why do I need to meet with my, or any, government?”
“You will need access to your counterparts in order to arrange a time and location for us to meet with the Asoolianne and the Hoon.”
Dropping the whole thing in my lap. Wow.
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