Negotiations (Part 1)
Month 6, Day 13
The negotiators halted in the doorway, confused by the struggles of the threesome across the room. Even Kolla wasn’t sure what was happening; it looked like DocMac was trying to pull Colleen into a standing position, while S’thyme – No, she calls him Smit – tried to put Colleen’s feet on a bed. He knows she needs more sleep, instead of having to deal with this nonsense.
Colleen jerked, Smit lost his grip, and Colleen fell atop DocMac. Kolla winced. That was a hard landing. With a grimace, Colleen rolled off her friend and laboriously climbed to her feet, then helped DocMac off the floor.
I have to talk to her. Kolla surged across the room and wrapped her arms around the woman who had spent so much time closer to her than her husband.
After a moment, her hug was strongly returned. Even so, she knew this was nowhere near the strength Colleen usually had. Poor girl. First her studies, not being able to sleep, then… well, me. And the cordaki illness, always so hard on an adult. And instead of sleeping, now she has to deal with insane demands from an old man who’s been out of date for centuries! “Wish we could speak privately,” Kolla whispered.
“Remember Gaelunder?” came through the translator.
Even stranger than sharing a body is that I learned 2 languages during our time together. Colleen read the computer screens in English, and now I can read, speak and understand English. But her personal thoughts were in her native tongue, so I can speak and understand that, also. “Yes,” she answered.
When they separated, Colleen’s fingers brushed the controls of Kolla’s translator, which then spoke strange words –. “No one else here speaks it.”
This isn’t the same as our communication while we shared a body. That was easy, as long as she was drinking. She has strange biology. But I have to warn her, before someone interrupts us. Anxious, she spoke quickly, mostly in Gaelunder, but occasionally she substituted English or her own language. She hoped Colleen could understand the mishmash. “Some are angry because I dared to make first contact instead of letting them make contact.”
Colleen frowned, which emphasized the dark smudges under her eyes, the few faint yellow spots that remained. “It wasn’t your idea. Wasn’t anyone’s idea.”
“Negotiator Arblek doesn’t care. Or doesn’t believe it. The man with a face of wrinkles. He’s stuck in the ways of long ago.”
Colleen looked grim. “I know the mind-set.”
“The other two are more modern, but he won’t listen to them. However, the rest of the council will, so you must try to impress them.”
Colleen hesitated for a long minute, then shook her head slowly, and had to be grabbed by the men on either side to keep her upright. “They should talk to the captain, not me. I’m basically nobody. And mostly asleep.”
“They won’t. Arbleck-“
“Kolla,” S’thyme said quietly as the group approached. “That’s why you’re in trouble, remember?”
Colleen gave her a lop-sided smile. “I’ve been in trouble my entire life, seems like. Sorry it overflowed onto you, Kolla.”
“Probably, mine overflowed onto you,” Kolla returned and sighed. “I was hoping to avoid any more misunderstandings between our peoples.” She turned, but Colleen caught her upper arm.
The human’s fingers played with the translator again. “Now you can hear and understand everybody.”
Kolla returned to her husband. She didn’t understand. I didn’t convince her that this potentially friendly contact could go completely wrong. Now that Arblek is involved. S’thyme wrapped his hand around hers and gave a gentle squeeze. Hope my trouble doesn’t overflow onto him. That would be a poor start to our marriage.
Colleen studied the negotiation team for a moment, lowered her eyelids and failed to open them. She started to slump, straightened abruptly and opened her eyes. She stared at the negotiators again and muttered, “Still here.” She sighed and faced her supervisor. “What do I do?”
Smit glanced at the group and shook his head. “Sorry, Colleen, I woke up only a minute before you.”
Colleen turned, lost her balance and fell against Smit, who grunted, but supported her. “Doc?” she asked hoarsely.
But it was JanBuck who answered the question. “Yukoskian tradition says that those who made First Contact will negotiate the relationship between the 2... peoples involved.”
Mac pulled her brows together as her eyes glazed. She shook her head, listed, and was held upright by both men. “Captain, I need sleep. I heard your words, but they didn’t make sense.”
JanBuck tried again. “You were the first member of our crew to come into contact with a Yukoskian. Therefore, you must negotiate whether the Fleet and Yukosk will be friendly or not, engage in trade or not, and probably a dozen other things. These negotiations might take days.”
“I have no authority for that!” Mac protested. Kolla saw Arbek’s face turn hard, while the 2 younger negotiators glanced at each other.
JanBuck stepped forward. “Ambassador Arblek has explained that according to their customs, you are the only one with the authority. I believe he drastically bent their customs to tell me, because normally, the only communications at this time are the negotiations.”
Mac groaned and turned to one of the men holding her arm. “Put me ba--“ She stopped and turned, blushing, away from Smit to face DocMac. “Send me back to bed, Doc. This is even worse than my usual nightmare.”
“Wish I could,” he told her. “Wait, what nightmare?”
But Colleen had turned back to her captain. “That rule isn’t in our SOP... Is it?”
“No,” JanBuck stated. “Not in any SOP you would know. The closest we get is the understanding that in these situations, the Fleet members try to oblige the customs of the culture that has been contacted.”
“I wasn’t trained for it!” Mac muttered. “I’m in no condition- I can’t think!” She paused. “Mr Smythe.”
Smit looked surprised. “Yes?”
Her face red again, she didn’t look at him, stared instead at JanBuck. “Could you leave? Abbie says I think better when you aren’t around.”
“You’d think better if you could rest and recover,” DocMac growled under his breath.
JanBuck stepped forward. “The same goes for Smythe. He’ll want to examine every inch of this ship before we leave, but right now, he’s still got a couple spots.”
“Captain, I feel--“
“Has he been released?”
“Not for duty,” DocMac stated. “I told him to go to his quarters and sleep.”
“Good idea,” JanBuck agreed. “When you think you’re done sleeping, Smitty, come back for a formal release.” She reached out to relieve him of his grip on Mac’s arm.”
“Yes, captain,” Smit replied. He released the girl and left the room.