I scent human outside the door: our linguist, Parker. He never comes to the Ice Home while I attend Cold Council - he must bring important news! I bow to haunches, then excuse myself from Majesty's presence, quickly as I can without inviting snarls from the others.
Parker stands waiting, his body showing agitated despite its covering clothes. I've told him many times that decorative cloth is most appropriately displayed on a wall, not dragged through mud and weather - but I won't chide now. I begin to fear for our project.
"Rulii," Parker says, self-lowering with respectful Warm words, "Are you certain there's no way I can enter audience with Majesty Gur-gurne?"
He, enter audience? I lean close to his ear, since listeners would take offense that I don't dominate him with Cold words in reply. "What, Parker, have your superiors abandoned you? Do the Allied Systems punish you for our previous failure?"
He shakes his short mane. "No, Rulii. They want too badly to place a spaceport here. They may blame me for the language error that cast insult on Majesty, but they still need me for my own studies. I came to tell you the Systems have granted my request: a replacement negotiator arrives tonight. But if I could speak to Majesty before she arrives..."
He must fear indeed, to propose such a risk. "What is it? Still the problem of Cold words? Someone of Rank among your people must grasp the dominator's tongue, Parker, or Majesty will brand you Barbarians!"
Parker's fur-naked brown face shows embarrassed. "This new negotiator is a more gifted speaker than the last," he says. "Officer Jasmine Hada will speak Cold words well enough not to Warm Majesty's presence inadvertently."
"Then this is news of triumph. We shall have our spaceport!" And all that comes with it - so close is the conclusion of my life's hunt!
"Yes, but Hada is too skilled.
She even bears the authority to propose terms. Why should the Allied
Systems grant Aurru spaceport such importance, if it's meant only to be a
way-stop between star territories?" Parker frowns. "I fear some hidden
intent of unfairness to the Aurrel people."
My hackles rise. I know much of unfairness, as the only one of Lowland race on the Cold Council - and also of hidden intent. My own is to use this spaceport to bring Human silver to the Lowlands, thus raising my nape-bitten race. If Parker scents true, this Officer Hada could ruin my hunt before its final pace. "When will she take foot in La-larrai City?"
Or go to:
Into the New Millennium: Trailblazing Tales from Analog Science Fiction and Fact 2000-2010