Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Gourmet counsel

The Ambassador for Earth looked around the conference room. He was the first one to arrive, and had placed his burgundy leather portfolio at the head of the table, and rearranged the water jugs so that two were close to his position. He had also distributed copies of the agenda -- his agenda -- around the table for the other delegates when they arrived.

Delegates from all across the galaxy would be attending the meeting, at the end of which would be a vote, which the Ambassador was fairly certain he would lose. His agenda, and everything he had planned for the meeting, were intended to try and persuade the other delegates to see Earth's point of view, but he was still less than hopeful. The problem, from everyone's point of view, was taste.

It was rather unfortunate, the Ambassador felt, that over 80% of the other species in the galaxy had turned out to be so damned tasty. It was even more unfortunate, in his opinion, that various chefs on Earth were working on ways of cooking the remaining species that would make them exquisitely tasty as well. This was covered up as much as possible back home, but even so, most of the tourist guides published offworld about Earth now carried warnings in large letters (pictographs, smellograms, senseglyphs) that all tourists might be eaten. Also being covered up as much as possible was the fact that the most popular rerun on Earth television was the shameful series of 'Galactic Castaway' where the Earth team had systematically eaten all the other teams of contestants.

There was a demand for services from Earth, which is where the Ambassador's only hopes of a reprieve lay: Earth's technological knowhow was nonpareil in the galaxy. Other species might have physics and maths and biology skills far in advance of Earth's, but when it came to building devices, miniaturisation, and applying those skills in inventive ways, Earth definitely led the way. But the Ambassador felt that the vote was likely to end up with Earth being quarantined and effectively used as a sweat-shop by the rest of the galaxy: no way on or off the planet, and a lot of demands.

Slowly the room began to fill up with the delegates, and as each sat down at the table, they slipped on a translator, a tiny earpiece that did a reasonable job of machine translation of speeches being made by each of the delegates. It also linked to each delegate's translator corps, for when the discussion had nuances that wouldn't necessarily be caught by a machine.

The prevailing mood in the room was stormy, and despite his impressive presentation skills, and his educated persuasiveness, the Ambassador never quite managed to reach the delegates, and it became obvious over the course of the first hour how the vote was going to go. Earth had never really had a chance. The Ambassador sighed, leaned back in his leather seat, and pushed a button on a device taped underneath the table.

An electric pulse was delivered through the earpiece of all the other delegates, each configured for the delegate's biochemistry, rendering them all unconcious within a few seconds of each other. The Ambassador, after checking that no-one was responding to his poking and prodding, pushed a second button on the device to summon a clean-up crew, and then raised the motion on which they were all to vote. Being the only conscious delegate there, his vote was the only one that counted, and Earth was voted unanimously into the galactic council for another 5 years, with no strings attached.

That evening the Ambassador held a small banquet for the technical crew who had provided the earpieces and and the device that had made Earth's continuing participation in galactic affairs possible, and it was with only a small tinge of regret that he surveyed the table, seeing 12 people enjoying the well-cooked carcasses of the other delegates.

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