Port three was busted again, but instead of looking into the problem Sanuth was examining the hairy wart perched rather precariously on the very tip of the nose of a very generic ambassador from yet another trade federation who thought their backwater solar system entitled them to some sort of reverence.
‘Umhum,’ Sanuth nodded, eyes still fixed on the wart. It twitched any time the ambassador said a word beginning with s.
‘I really don’t understand the problem here,’ grumbled the envoy. He was tall and thin, except for his stomach which splurged out suddenly at the waist. That was as much as Sanuth had noticed before the wart. The wart was green and blotchy with three yellow hairs which curled into exactly four loops each. It looked a little like Sanuth’s Aunt Barbara.
‘I mean really,’ said the envoy, ‘anyone would think that Hemrath wished to shun our offer to open trade routes with them? You did explain to them who we were did you not?’
There was a pause and Sanuth realised he was supposed to be responding.
‘Uh?’ he hesitated and broke his staring contest with the ambassador’s wart. ‘Pardon?’
The Ambassador flushed orange around his gills and flared his nostrils.
‘The Councilers of Hemrath,’ he said. ‘You did tell them who you had been sent to represent did you not?’
‘Of course, of course,’ said Sanuth. He vaguely remembered ordering Captain Tust to Hemrath a month back on some sort of trade alliance thing, but that might have been with the Ramborn Alliance. Come to think of it, the nose-wart ambassador might have even been a member of the Ramborn alliance, he’d already forgotten the guy’s name.
‘Well you know the Hemrath,’ shrugged Sanuth. ‘They can be a prickly bunch at the best of times.’ He tapped at the hologram on his desktop and tried to flick aside a document on new steel infrastructures for endangered marshlands. The screen fizzed for a moment and then went black. Swearing, Sanuth punched it which made it flash green and then yellow, before going back to black. He looked up at the ambassador sitting on the opposite side of the desk.
‘You promised to convince them,’ gritted out the ambassador. ‘You gave us your word.’
‘I gave you my word to do all I could,’ corrected Sanuth. ‘In this case, all that I can do might not be enough. The last trade alliance that approached the Hemrath Council did attempt to threaten them with total extermination if their demands were not met.’
‘I am aware,’ said the ambassador. ‘But that alliance was not this alliance, and I really do think you could have tried a little harder to argue our case to them.’
Sanuth shook his head. The lighting in the office was low and according to the clock projecting onto the wall behind the ambassador’s head, his secretary would be there to start work any minute. He hadn’t even noticed the night arriving, never-mind dawn creep in. Not that dawn really has much impact on a intergalactic super-sub swimming around somewhere in the centre of the known universe.
He groaned and rubbed his knuckles into his eye sockets.
‘What would you like me to do?’ he asked, looking for a way to get the ambassador out of his office as quickly as possible.
‘Something more!’ replied the ambassador. ‘Order them, tax them, demand they meet with us and sign the treaty.’
‘I can’t,’ said Sanuth. ‘Hemrath is technically an independent planet and out of my jurisdiction. Any act of force on my part would be considered an act of war against all independent planets.’
‘You’re worried about a few bureaucrats?’ huffed the ambassador. ‘What will they do? Tell us off from their mighty government chambers on the other side of the universe.’
Sanuth didn’t mention the last commander who’d trod too close to independent soil and tried to swallow past the lump in his throat as he thought about the poor man’s head rolling down the steps of those same mighty, government chambers. The rules were clear, kicking off wars was not okay.
‘I’ll extend an invite for them to treat with you here,’ he suggested. ‘They might be more receptive to meet with you on neutral ground.’
The ambassador open his mouth and then paused, thinking about it. His mouth closed and he nodded.
‘As you suggest then, a meeting on neutral ground.’
Sanuth smiled stood from his chair and held out a hand for the ambassador to shake. He saw the wart twitch as the ambassador stood, shook his hand and then quickly wiped his fingers against the fabric of his robe.
‘I’ll wait to hear the time and exact location of this meeting from you,’ said the ambassador before turning to leave. ‘Make sure it is not too long of a wait. I have important matters back home to attend to.’
‘Of course,’ smiled Sanuth, his cheeks aching as he held it and watched the doors of his office snap shut behind the ambassador.
Looking down at the dead screen on his desk he yanked open the top drawer and pulled out a walkie-talkie with EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION DEVICE stamped on the side. Practically prehistoric but still functioning at least.
‘Tris?’ he called, holding down the little button and praying.
‘Yeah?’ crackled back a familiar voice. ‘Did you break your desk again?’
‘Maybe, I’ll talk to you about that later. I need you to do something for me. It’s that ambassador here about Hemrath.’
‘The one with the wart?’
‘That’s the one! Could you make it look like an accident?’
He heard her sigh rattle through the device.
‘Well you’re the one always telling me that I should do more to prevent war and strife in our little corner of the universe.’
‘I meant donate to a charity or something. Not orchestrate assassinations.’
‘I don’t think he’s important enough for an assassination,’ shrugged Sanuth. ‘Tell you what, I’ll even make a donation to a wart based charity if it makes you happy.’
The walkie-talkie remained silent.
Sanuth shrugged again and chucked the thing back into his drawer.
‘Bloody ambassadors,’ he sighed. ‘Always drumming up trouble.’