Chapter Two

Allow me to introduce myself, reader. I am Jax, the liaison in charge of Planetary Relations on my … our ship. I am not alone; my ship has a crew the size of one of your medium-size cities. But most members of the ship are repelled by interaction with planetary types. I am considered by my fellow crew members as eccentric and highly valuable, because if I die, one of them has to take my place. I’m felt to be valuable … like a garbage collector!

I know this, I know the contempt they hold for me, and I return it in full. That’s why you will often hear me talk about “my” ship. I refuse to dignify them with an “our.”

Still, I am Spacer, not Earther. They are my family, and those we deal with below are aliens. I can deal with them, I can manipulate them, but I am even less one of them than I am crew.

The meetings I have with the other world leaders on this trip to the surface are equally routine. All know why I’m here, and it is clear from my meetings and the news broadcasts that this world’s “honeymoon from unrest”—caused by my arrival—is about over. It seems my ship was the first to come here in their recorded history. The ship’s arrival caused quite a stir, and unified the world, for a while. As it has become clear to those on the planet that my ship is not about to wantonly attack these natives, the cracks in their unity are reappearing. Now I can sit back and wait. New technology and new ideas were spreading around this world before I arrived. Dislocation caused by the new technologies, and the new philosophies they give seed to, are imminent. Violence, and a resolution, are coming soon. And with resolution will come a migration of the dissatisfied, a huge migration. If I can tap just one percent of that…

Oh, did I mention the distractions? For one, a call from a minor player on this world, Jane Ngo. I entertain her with appropriate gravity.

She says, “Surely, trader, you must care about the outcome of our time of troubles. There are the lives of women and children at stake. Can you allow them to suffer? Help us. Help the women and children.”

“Of course I care about women and children. I care about men, too. Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to stop the unrest.”

“You have the power to space travel, but you can’t stop the unrest?”

“I don’t have the power to stop the unrest. You have that power. It’s your world. You’re bringing this down upon yourselves. I’m here to bandage the wounds you will self-inflict. Stop it if you can, but I can’t.”

“But you have such power!”

“And you are so … ‘human’, is it?”

She breaks off the meeting unsatisfied. I can’t help that. But in the course of our conversation, I discover her price: I offer to back her while she organizes a Progress Prize program she has in mind, and she laps it up. Credibility is her price.

There are many others to meet with. Some are philanthropic as this lady was, others have more nefarious motives—they are already willing to deal “on my terms” as they put it. The trouble is that these early converters have no power base—they are hoping I will become their power base. No, thank you. Shortly, those who already have real power will come calling, and be just as ready to deal on my terms.