Author: Lance J. Mushung

I stayed on my feet while waiting in a beige room. The Boves hadn’t provided any chairs for a human, and didn’t use chairs themselves.

I’d been waiting almost half an hour when the First Assistant to the Chief Herd Leader walked in. She stopped in front of me, but said nothing. Like all of her species, she resembled a small bovine, except for having green and gray scales and two arms.

I said, “Good morning, First Assistant.”

“It is not so good for you, Erik Conrad. The Chief Herd Leader has rejected the proposal. We will not increase production of our drug for the Avians. It would change our agriculture and economy.”

“As I have often explained, the drug will help another sentient species.”

“The drug is for an Avian food animal, not the Avians themselves.”

She turned and walked away.

Aloof and uncooperative described Boves, but I’d been optimistic. The deal benefited everyone. Paying the Boves a high price for the drug was still over 100 times cheaper for GalaxMed than synthesizing it for the Avians.

I gritted my teeth and left before I created a diplomatic incident. Novara had landed nearby and could have me off the planet in minutes.

From high orbit, the viewer in Novara’s control compartment displayed an attractive blue and white ball. The Boves had a pleasant Earthlike world, but I wouldn’t miss them.

I recorded a brief message for the Avians. They wouldn’t like it. It said the Boves would not sell GalaxMed the drug and that I’d remain in orbit for one Avian day in case they had any ideas.

Novara launched a courier drone to deliver the message. The Avian home planet was only one hop away and the Director of Husbandry would receive it in minutes.

While I composed a detailed report for GalaxMed, a klaxon announced a large Einstein-Rosen bridge opening nearby. An indigo-colored ovoid came out of it. Twenty ships the size of Novara would have fit in the ovoid with room to spare. Novara identified it as an Avian heavy destroyer with the translated name Talon.

The idea of gun boat diplomacy hadn’t occurred to me.

Talon’s captain requested an audio-only comm. I accepted and said, “I’m Erik Conrad.”

“I know. I am Captain Flint Eyes in command of Talon. I will persuade the Boves to accept your deal.”

“I didn’t expect such a quick response, or a warship. You realize they have nothing that can do more than singe your ship’s paint?”


Flint Eyes cut the comm. Avians seldom spoke much.

Novara put the tactical display on the viewer. Talon maneuvered to a Bove comm satellite in geosynchronous orbit. She stopped within a klick of it and began broadcasting vid, which Novara played on the viewer.

The vid showed the satellite floating over the planet for about 15 seconds. It looked like a dull silver box covered with antennas. Then, in an instant, it disappeared. Novara reported that Talon’s weapons had turned the satellite into little more than gas and small bits of debris.

Flint Eyes next broadcast a brief blunt statement. “The Chief Herd Leader has 15 human minutes to accept the GalaxMed proposal before I take firmer action.”

The First Assistant contacted me 12 minutes later and said, “Erik Conrad, the Chief Herd Leader requests you return to finalize the arrangement.”

When I stepped into the beige room, the First Assistant was waiting and I had a chair.