“You may have found a more primitive buoy,” the swooping grey shape suggested, “before my time as spokesman for the twelve, several administrations oversaw launches and missions to explore above-surface-atmosphere space, with varying degrees of success.”
“This was a different type of machine altogether, sent from a dry-land installation,” Gartuda said. “We are aware that you have several dry-land launching platforms and development sites, but they are all quite new. This satellite was, we believe, somewhat older than your current testing grounds. Moreover, it was not picked up by us, but by a rather notorious criminal according to our cultural definitions. We believe he is in communication with the originators of this probe, but we have been unable to locate them. Nor, without your permission, would we even try.”
Unusually for a piscine, the twelve-seas spokesman had gone completely still in the water. It gave Gartuda Felhbron a jolt of uneasiness to see the great dark shape just floating there, motionless. He knew the sort of emotions that would bring that sort of creature to a standstill. Very few of the emotions in question were positive ones.
“You are enemies to this criminal.”
“The Corporation has declared him outlaw,” Team Member 7 stressed. “It is not our department as to whether or not his presence is acted upon.”
The Fliei attendants moved their arms and released chemical signals from the Tanturian-designed pads under the join of helmet and neck, attempting to better translate the landbound’s words for their master. The spokesman waved them to silence with one of the small, delicate cartilaginous hands it had folded against its white belly.
“You believe the criminal alien has entered negotiations with Fliei,” he said. “Hidden from your machines, hidden from our noses.”
“We don’t know anything yet,” Gartuda replied. “We are your Corporate representatives, and the other contact event will take place without our supervision. A second team of representatives will be dispatched to this other group, if they request it. We are of the opinion, off the record, that they will not do so. The criminal of whom I speak is most persuasive, and will most likely convince…”
Felhbron realised the Tanturian was no longer listening, and saved his breath. An uneasy, oppressive silence – the sort of silence that you could really only get underwater – fell on the chamber. The Fliei, surprisingly calm considering they had just heard of the possibility of free-roaming members of their own species up on the surface, looked at their master expectantly. So too did the Standard 3 Aquatic Environment Diplomatic Team.
When the spokesman for the twelve seas finally spoke, the dead bluntness of his words could hardly be attributed to the translation equipment.
“They will have to be destroyed.”