Per Ardua Ad Astra
Chapter 37: Diplomatic Entertainment

Copyright© 2013 by normist

The next morning, Phyllis asked Kah, and his ladies for swabs from the cheeks inside their mouths. Taking these Phyllis returned to the Beagle, hoping to extract the Centauran genome. Tom accompanied Mel to the market. He was planning the feast that we had promised the Council. As for Kah and myself; he was showing me the records of the visitors' stops at his planet.

The visitors' craft were circular and about seventy feet in diameter. While they came in groups of nine, only one usually landed on the planet. On average they stayed for about ten days, although they had, on occasion, stayed longer. The visitors were reported to be slightly shorter than our hosts, who are somewhat taller than us. Their heads are slightly larger than ours and their skin has a light greenish tinge. Kah said that their blood was reported to be green, but that he had no information about the shade or hue.

Our talk was interrupted by the messenger from Krust. Joom was sending for timber to build the miners' homes and other mine buildings. Kah wrote a note to authorize the delivery of the timber, and directed Joom's messenger as to where to deliver it.

Meanwhile, I consulted Kah, as to whether shore leave for the crew of the Beagle would be welcomed by the local population or even tolerated by them. One problem that immediately arose was, what do we do about local currency. Kah suggested that he should enroll some members of his Council to accompany our shore parties, to explain their presence, and to bankroll their visit. When I demurred, Kah pointed out that we had not yet charged for the work we doing at Krust, and that the value of that work would more than compensate for the expenses of the visiting personnel.

We discussed the need to get our fiscal experts together to thrash out an exchange rate. In the meantime, we would watch the interactions going on at Krust, where the Endeavour was docked on the ground. There were bound to be some contacts there.

After the midday meal, Tom Chubb came to me.

"Admiral, do you think I could have a word, Sir?"

"Of course, Tom. What is it?"

"I've got a proposed menu for your approval," he handed me a sheet of paper.

I took a quick look and said, "Thirteen courses! Isn't that overkill?"

"They'll be very small portions, Sir."

"Tell me, what was your thinking behind this menu?"

"Well, I wasn't sure what they'd like, so I thought that this would be a solution to the problem."

"Perhaps, another way of determining what suits the Centauran taste would be to invite our hosts to a meal like this, and get their opinions before we issue an invitation to the whole Council."

"That's a good idea. Will you invite them, Sir? Mel is going to help me."

"I'll do that. Have you considered that they may be susceptible to some earth foods?"

"How do you mean, Sir?"

"Well, some foods that we like may contain substances that are poisonous to them. Take theobromine, for example."

"Theo ... What's that, Sir?"

"It's the substance in chocolate that can poison dogs. It's also poisonous to humans, but usually we limit our intake and it's only about a third as poisonous to us as it is to our pets. If I were you, I'd consult Doctor MacTavish."

"Thank you, Sir. I'll do that."

He left me wondering if there was any danger of poisoning our hosts. I would hate to become the first terrestrial interstellar mass murderer.

Two days later Phyllis put my mind at rest.

"Admiral. Good news! Do you know that the Centauran genome for all practical purposes is identical to the human genome."

"But what about their hands?"

"It would seem that one of the genes can be switched into one of two, (or even more perhaps) modes which control the development of our forelimbs. That means that our culinary tastes should, therefore, be similar."

My next visitor was Lieutenant Long, who amongst his other responsibilities is our cartographer. He was carrying his thirty-inch tablet computer which he placed on the table in front of me.

"I think that the Centauran leader would be interested in this as well. Is he available?"

"I think he's in his office. What have you got to show us?"

"We've completed our initial survey of the planet and there's something strange that he may be able to explain."

"Hang on here and I'll see if he's available."

I crossed over to Kah's office and knocked on the door.

"Come in? Ah, yes, Bil. What is it?"

"My map-maker has come down to show me something and he thinks that you would be interested in it, too."

"Give me a moment and I'll be with you."

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