“Why is the glass misty?”
“Because its plain old silica, kiddo,” I replied. “They don’t have a coating to prevent moisture from building up on them.”
The bullet train from the spaceport travelled through dense forest. Rain spotted the windows, which were, indeed, clouding up.
“Were our windows like that when you were a kid?” Bahr asked me.
I pondered for a moment. “I’m not sure. It was a long time ago.”
It was, at that. Relativistic travel takes a toll on continuity. I’m not getting any younger in absolute years, and in real-time I think I’m at least two centuries old. The rare trips home always lead to technological and social surprises, not least of all this unexpected child of mine.
“Are you going to teach them how to make proper windows?”
“Its more complicated than that,” I replied.
I glanced around briefly. There were two other humans at the other end of the car, and a smattering of locals, who probably work at the port.
The locals studiously ignored us. They’re a bit shorter than the average human, wiry-framed, hairy, slow and deliberate of movement, with protruding muzzles.
Humans. Locals. Bovines. I reminded myself firmly of the necessity of political correctness. Its a funny thing; every sentient species calls itself human in its own language. That or something equivalent. Somehow though, its the rude names for each other that always stick. They have some nice ones for us too.
It didn’t really matter if anyone overheard us, I supposed.
“We’re hoping that they’ll open up trade barriers, and we’ll do a technology exchange.”
The train slowed, and we pulled into a glass-and-steel station. One of the locals brushed by me as we gathered our baggage, murmuring something in passing. My translator thought for a few moments, and came up with a best guess: “Despoiler of worlds.” I frowned.
“Why do they hate us?” Bahr asked me.
“We’re bringing them the entire universe,” I said. “They’re still only locally space-faring, and they operate on a labour-oriented economy. We’re going to bring them the cornucopia, the genuine cup o’ plenty.”
“I don’t understand.”
“There’s always a short term dislocation,” I said. “They’ll hate us for a while, but thank us later.”
A party waited for us outside, with porters, a fleet of cars, a canopy of unfurled umbrellas.
One lady stepped forwards. I vaguely recognized her from a briefing photo, but recalled neither her name nor position with the embassy.
“Ni hao! Nín de xíngchéng rúhé?”
“Salut! The trip was long, but uneventful, thank you.” I replied.
She spoke to the person beside her. “May I introduce you to the new trade attache and his son?”
Trade attache. Economic consultant. I’ve been called worse things, at that. Economic hit man. Bringer of tainted gifts. Destroyer of worlds.
“You bring a treaty?” the ambassador asked me.
“A framework only,” I replied. “We have much negotiating yet to do.”
As we headed for the cars, Bahr looked back, almost wistfully, at the direction we had come.
“Those trees were beautiful,” he said.