3 December 2114
Cory Wilson is woken in the middle of the night with a summons to appear in the president of Nations of Earth’s office. An aid worker in Djibouti has discovered a shipment of alien guns.
As ambassador to gamra, the extraterrestrial organisation which controls the Exchange, the FTL wormhole network, Cory has often been critical of Earth’s handling of extraterrestrial problems. This is his moment to shine, to apply his knowledge about alien customs, to, in the words of the president, “get those idiots out of there”.
Except the usual suspects, the Zhori mafia who have caused trouble on Earth for a long time, are nowhere to be seen. This is something far more dangerous, something that involves all of northern Africa, something that provokes the anger of Asto, gamra’s largest world. Asto’s army is already prowling in orbit, ready to strike.
The call came late in the evening, a few hours after we had gone to bed. Exchange staff came to wake us, even though they knew we were on a flight before dawn, and I’d given instructions not to disturb us.
Dare I say the word honeymoon?
“It’s very urgent,” said the young girl who had been given the unenviable task to knock on our door and deal with my slightly rumpled appearance and even more rumpled temper.
I took the reader she held out to me. My eyes needed a few seconds to figure out if I was reading Coldi or Isla, never mind what was on the screen.
Words fought their way into the lingering fogginess of sleep.
Threat to security and Nations of Earth.
Seriously, what the fuck.
Thayu had also gotten up and stood as a warm presence behind my back. She looked over my shoulder. She read some Isla, but wouldn’t understand the nuances of the language, or, in this case, the lack of nuance.
Mr Wilson, you are to see me in my office immediately regarding an immediate threat to security and Nations of Earth relating to the African plans.
It was signed Simon Dekker, who was one of Acting President Sigobert Danziger’s henchmen.
As soon as I’d read it, the text vanished. I stared at the blank screen for a few dumb second before I realised that this was one of those untraceable high-security messages, keyed to the high resolution scan of my irises that every Nations of Earth employee with any level of clearance had to submit. I was surprised that the thing worked, because my eyes certainly weren’t working too well.
I laughed. “See us in his office? It’s in Rotterdam. We’re in Athens.”
The young woman said, “This device was brought to the gate by a courier. He’s waiting there in a car. Apparently there is a hoverjet at the local airport.”
I looked at Thayu. She frowned.
That urgent, huh? she said through the feeder.
A chill crept over me.
“Um, yeah.” I scratched my head, feeling increasingly stupid. They would not come to wake us if it wasn’t urgent.
The young woman was Coldi and a minor employee of the Exchange. She wouldn’t have any more information than what she gave me. “Wait here. we’ll be ready in a moment.” I went back inside the apartment.
“Do you have any clue what this could be about?” I asked Thayu when the door had shut behind me.
Thayu was flicking through the news on her reader. “No.”
“I thought Danziger was getting busy with his election campaign.” And, being faced with some stiff opposition in the election, he had plenty to campaign.
“Maybe it’s about the election campaign.”
“In Africa? He doesn’t need to campaign in Africa. With all his humanitarian work, it’s the only place where his vote is secure. It’s the rest of the world he needs to worry about.”
She gave me a blank look and I figured she knew little about Africa. I hadn’t seen a reason to inform her. Lately we’d spent a lot of time discussing the point of elections.
“Africa is like…” I sought for words. “Like Beratha. It’s hot. It’s dry. Not many people live there because nothing grows there, and there are sand dunes and miles and miles of desert.” Well, the northern and central parts at least.
She continued her blank look as if she wanted to say, That sounds just like Asto, anything wrong with that?
“Africa is where many years ago the then Chief Coordinator of Asto Mizha Palayi planned a refugee camp.” In the Sahara to be precise.
Her face cleared up. And then a frown. “I thought we established that this was no longer an issue. They’re still going on about that?”
“I’d hope not, but I don’t know. If he wants to see me urgently, and it’s to do with Africa, I can’t imagine that it would be anything else.”
“I guess I better pack up, then.” She went to do just that. And Thayu being Thayu, she was done in moments, because she always travelled light. I always joked that the he weight of her little travel bag was less than that of her weaponry.
My preparations were much less organised. Hell, I was less organised, still grumpy from having been woken up. What the hell did one wear on a midnight meeting with the president when one had been on a holiday and only had worn, rumpled and dirty clothes? Would it be acceptable to appear in a full a set of gamrablues?
Most of our possessions had already been delivered to the Exchange’s freight counter for decontamination and packing for transport back to Barresh, with little chance of getting them back at such short notice.
I sniffed my most dressy but still decidedly non-dressy shirt that I’d worn on the flight from New Zealand to Athens. Urgh. I couldn’t possibly wear that.
Gamra blues it was, then.
Damn, I better wake up Nicha, too.
I crossed the room and knocked on the door that connected our room to Nicha’s.
He came to the door a moment later, just as rumpled as I had been. “What, time to go already?”
“Nope. We’re going back to Rotterdam.”