The Elyse Phylarius Lecture on Practical Diplomacy

(So, I believe I promised y’all a story? Here it is. One 496-word piece of speculative flash-fiction, coming right up.)

So, gentlesophs, you’re all familiar with how things work in the Associated Worlds, or at least in the broad consensus of the friendly Associated Worlds. You live there, after all. And you’re not, for which you ought to be more thankful than I suspect most of you are, going to be sent off to supervise our relations with any of the really exotic species out there; sun-dwelling plasmoids, force-knots in neutron star cores, or nanite blooms. Such things are reserved for those with considerably more experience than I have, for that matter.

But the routine Periphery has enough strangeness to keep you entertained. My first assignment to the Periphery was to a “typical” Eliéra-class planet, whose only particularly distinguished feature – from the thousand-light view – was that its trade-and-transit figures were much, much lower than others of its class.

I can see you grimacing back there, you know. “A trade issue. How exciting.”

Well, that’s what I thought, too, right up until I arrived. Fortunately, I had a very good port director – and if you take one piece of advice away from this lecture, it would be this: listen to your port director. They see the day-to-day interface between their world and the Galaxy down at ground level. You won’t.

So, my first day on world, Linnéä Idolós – now there’s a name you’ve heard – called me up to the roof of the control tower, and pointed to what looked like a small city right outside the port gate. Except that it wasn’t a city – that was the customs station. Which the locals had built, shortly after they learned enough about the rest of the Galaxy to loathe it, to make sure that nothing like cornucopia machines, AI seeds, psychedesign, immortagens, or any other icky technologies that might contaminate the precious essence of their species got through. After all, that would disturb the status quo too much for the statist-corporatist combines who owned the planet and thought they owned everyone on it, too.

Yes, it does sound like something out of prehistory. This was the Periphery. It’s like that.

Anyway, they were happy enough to buy scanning machinery to enforce their self-imposed quarantine, and whatever you may have heard, we don’t officially endorse smuggling…

How did I solve it? Well, the second thing you should take away is that while you may work for the government, unofficial solutions are still allowed, and indeed often preferable. After a few weeks, I called a friend at Cognitech, and invited them to open a Rent-a-Thought in the port – inexpensive ideas and technologies for purchase, impressed straight into memory. And try as they liked, the locals couldn’t search the mind.

The local governments lasted about twenty years past that point. After fifty, the world was back inside the normal economic ranges for its class, and as upstanding a member of the galactic community as any. All done with one call.

That’s what makes this job worthwhile.

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