Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Ambassador Shaylin steepled his fingers and pursed his lips in a half smile.

“Now Envoy Tsak-tuk, you must appreciate the cost of transporting your exports to other planets, we’re happy to facilitate trade, but we’re simply unable to be any more charitable than we are at present.”

Across the table, The Tsak-Tulian Envoy huffed in and out several times, expelling great gusts of pungent air as he did so. Those directly across from him shifted uncomfortably in their seats until he spoke.

“Ambassador, you speak of high costs, and yet you pay nothing for our goods and they command high prices amongst your buyers. You would appear to be taking…”, the envoy paused, waiting for the correct word to bubble up through his consciousness, “advantage of what you assume to be our ignorance.”

Shaylin raised his hands and eyebrows at the affront.

“Envoy, you insult us. We’ve opened your doors to interstellar trade, brought you cultural knowledge and business from outside your planetary boundaries and you repay us with accusations and insults?”

It was the Envoy’s turn to smile.

“Knowledge? You bring us stories, select fragments of your history, tales of your heroism in the stars, of your benevolence and grace. You feed us your stories of Matthew, John and Luke and yet your knowledge is so clearly…”, again he paused, waiting for the correct word to present itself.

“Fascinating?” Shaylin offered.

“Sanitary.” Tsak-tuk finished the thought. “Your history as you present it hides the contributions of your Napoleons, Sun Tzus and Ghengis Khans.”

Ambassador Shaylin sat straight up in his chair, listening intently to his earpiece for some explanation of this information breach and receiving only static.

Tsak-Tuk laughed, a low rolling belly laugh that Shaylin felt rumble through his ribcage.

“You wonder how we know things you don’t show us? We have those among us for whom barriers and safeguards are of no consequence, you have your… John Drapers, we have ours.” He raised one worn appendage, noting how pitted and cracked the dermal plates were. Too long at work. “We have learned a great many things from you, about your ruthless subjugation of the weak, your wars, your failed societal systems, we’ve learned of your politics and insatiable lust for power.” He looked pointedly from delegate to delegate, weighing their discomfort. “Why don’t you provide us with your ships, and we’ll take our goods to the stars ourselves and broker our own deals?”

A melodic tone began sounding from outside, Shaylin recognizing it as the midday chiming of the towers in the city square.

Tsak-Tuk narrowed his eyes. “You come to us promising opportunity, your assistance and equal prosperity and yet you take advantage of us and seem intent on keeping us powerless. The time has come to renegotiate the terms of our arrangement.”

The Ambassador moved forward in his seat, reddening in the face.

“How dare you…”, he started as Tsak-Tuk cut him off.

Shaylin, focused too on the envoys cracked and pitted appendage still held aloft suddenly realized the other held a short but impressive looking handgun.

“Today’s chiming unites all of our people against all of yours.” Around them, weapons appeared, amply covering the off-world delegation.”I believe it was your Mao Tse-Tung who said ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’?”

Shaylin shrunk back into his seat in a pool of his own sweat.

“He wasn’t ours, exactly.” Was all he could think to say.

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