“War Journal, Eleventh of Retwain.
Last night, I was rushed to a Terran hospital with severe concussion and several broken bones and lacerations. See medical file attached. The attack was perpetrated by humans as part of the Terra Defence League, a racist bigoted group intent on kicking all aliens off of Terra.
The Terrans were very insistent on letting me know that they don’t condone what happened, though they didn’t seem overly apologetic.
I’m not wanted here, that much is obvious.
I am awaiting an important transmission from our government, although the Terrans claim that interference from solar flares is interfering with many long-range communications and it may not be live.
End of entry.”
“I’m sorry, Draliv. I know you had your heart set on Litin Prime becoming a member of the Terran Consortium, but they ask too much to be a part of their club.”
Draliv sighed and slumped back into his chair.
The message had arrived that morning through a major bout of interference, through secure Litin Defence Force protocols and channels. It had been brought through on a secure tablet by Deniv, who had exhibited his profuse apologies for not being there during the attack. Draliv kept reminding him that it had been him being a stubborn old fool for preventing the younger man from coming along.
The news was a blow.
It was a surprise.
One that sent anger through him.
Something had changed in the six weeks since he had left the homeworld. Or, more than likely, he had been told one thing, but was in fact completely full of dung. It was conceivable that they had lied to him to get him out here, away from them and to prevent him from using his influence.
“But we must ask you to carry on, my friend,” the figure in the video continued. Draliv had only met the man once, after the War, during a banquet ‘in honour of the fallen’, but he still did not know his name. “We must ask you to request items and concessions from the Terrans. Perhaps even an alliance or treaty, but not membership. This has been decided by the government. As ambassador it is your duty to carry this out, to secure what we need.” The man leaned forward, trying to put on an air of menace. “Do not fail.” The screen went blank, and was then replaced by the Litin Prime government seal.
He calmly placed the tablet on the nearest table, and slumped into the armchair he was sat in. The apartment, such as it was, had two bedrooms, with a central collection of a lounge, kitchen, and spare bathroom, the master featuring an en suite.
The hotel had turned out to be nice enough, the staff reasonably friendly.
They had been as perplexed as he on the discovery of his identity as a foreign ambassador.
His injuries were not as extensive as he had thought –he was just getting old. The local medical staff had patched him up reasonably well, gasping at his older scars. He had waved them off as he did with everyone.
“War wounds,” he always said and left it at that.
Deniv waited in the kitchenette, busying himself with making up some sort of local caffeine-based drink.
Draliv blew out a breath.
“Lieutenant,” he called out. “Let’s get down to this meeting.”
The pilot had already researched the location of the large meeting, a large domed building off the River Thames that had apparently stood for several thousand years, becoming a massive landmark for all mankind. Or so the press release stated.
They both got dressed, Draliv opting for his dress uniform again despite it having taken a beating along with the rest of him. Deniv had been kind enough to have it repaired and cleaned whilst his wounds were attended to.
Deniv drove, Draliv not trusting himself with his injuries.
This time, the flight was in the daytime, the island state they were on currently covered with fog. The navigational computer worked hard to distinguish individual craft as they approached the big white dome, sending them to a parking facility off to one side.
Markeros awaited them as they approached the dome across the long bridge that connected it with the parking lot.
“General Draliv, should you be out and about? I would have thought you’d be resting.”
“And why is that, Markeros?”
The young Terran looked genuinely confused.
“Well, because of the attack, sir.”
Draliv snorted, not wanting to get into yet another conversation about the old days in the trenches and how he had been injured and carried on fighting.
“I’m Litin Prime’s ambassador; I’m here to attend the meeting. I’ll rest after.”
“Yes, sir,” Markeros answered. He spun on his heel and marched towards the entrance, Draliv and Deniv following in his wake. Deniv had armed himself with a Defence Force pistol, with a back-up in on his ankle if his general needed a weapon. When they reached the entrance, the guards attempted to take both weapons.
Deniv, however, refused.
“No,” he said stubbornly. “General Draliv was already attacked once and nearly beaten to death because of your lax security.” The guards backed off with an urgent nod from Markeros. They carried on without being harassed.
The arena they found themselves in wasn’t big by modern standards, even by Litin standards, but its amphitheatre sides were steep. Where there used to be benches, there were now individual seats with small computer consoles that folded down.
“This place used to be one of the biggest arenas of old Britain,” Markeros said with a little awe in his voice. “Now it’s just a conference centre.”
He showed Draliv to a seat at the back of the stadium.
“Why are we all the way back here?” asked Draliv.
There were no other dignitaries in that section, most of them crowded around the bottom rows; the rest were dotted around in groups of four or five, talking and chatting.
“And why am I on my own?”
Markeros suddenly looked extremely embarrassed.
“It was requested, sir.”
* * *
The meeting, as it turned out, was nothing more than a sales pitch.
A member of the Terran Parliament stood up in the centre of the arena, and talked about what they could all receive if they joined the Terran Consortium fully. He urged them to consider it completely.
Draliv was sure he was being excluded from something.
Not that it mattered, since his government apparently didn’t really care about joining the Consortium. They just wanted whatever the Terrans could give them for free. It made him feel sick to think his government had become that pathetic.
What had happened to the wartime spirit?
In the two years since the War, they had degenerated into what had come before. Nothing more than politicians out to grab power for themselves, rather than doing what was best for their people.
Sat there, listening to the Terran drone on about protection from the Navy, he wondered if it was possible to lead a coup against the government and return power to the people.
No, he thought, that’s not my responsibility. That’s for the proper authorities to sort. The military, retired or not, do not get involved in matters of politics. It never ends well.
But as he sat there, the thought that that same government had left him to rot out here kept creeping into his mind. It was a seed of doubt, beyond his personal misgivings.
How was he supposed to get concessions from the Terrans when they were working so fervently to get other races to join? And why were they so desperate? Terra was the strongest nation or power in the Nineteen Galaxies; nobody dared stand up to them. Why would they need others?
His head began to hurt.
My injuries, or trying to think like a politician?
The Terran representative wrapped it all up, and started giving the floor to anyone with questions. Most of them had questions about what their planets could be expected to provide, and what would be provided to them, mostly things the Terran had already gone over briefly.
Draliv sighed. He tapped the control on the little screen on the arm of his seat so that the Terran, and the rest of the arena, would know he wanted to be heard without having to shout everybody down.
The Terran looked up at Draliv, and there was something in his face that made the general wary.
He sighed, hating himself for following orders.
“What if, say, my government did not want to fully join the Consortium? What if they simply wanted concessions or an alliance?”
The Terran didn’t answer straight away.
Something was going on, and it was something to do with Draliv, or at least Litin Prime.
“You are the ambassador for Litin Prime, yes?”
“Well, in that case, perhaps we should arrange a private meeting, yes?”
“That would be acceptable,” he replied automatically.
He wondered what his government would say in response. Actually, he knew, and it wouldn’t be anything pleasing for him or for the people of Litin Prime.