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The Yillian Way by Keith Laumer

THE YILLIAN WAY

By KEITH LAUMER

The ceremonious protocol of the Yills was impressive, colorful--and, in the long run, deadly!

I

Jame Retief, vice-consul and third secretary in the Diplomatic Corps, followed the senior members of the terrestrial mission across the tarmac and into the gloom of the reception building. The gray-skinned Yill guide who had met the arriving embassy at the foot of the ramp hurried away. The councillor, two first secretaries and the senior attaches gathered around the ambassador, their ornate uniforms bright in the vast dun-colored room.

Ten minutes passed. Retief strolled across to the nearest door and looked through the glass panel at the room beyond. Several dozen Yill lounged in deep couches, sipping lavender drinks from slender glass tubes. Black-tunicked servants moved about inconspicuously, offering trays. A party of brightly-dressed Yill moved toward the entrance doors. One of the party, a tall male, made to step before another, who raised a hand languidly, fist clenched. The first Yill stepped back and placed his hands on top of his head. Both Yill were smiling and chatting as they passed through the doors.

Retief turned away to rejoin the Terrestrial delegation waiting beside a mound of crates made of rough greenish wood stacked on the bare concrete floor.

As Retief came up, Ambassador Spradley glanced at his finger watch and spoke to the man beside him.

"Ben, are you quite certain our arrival time was made clear?"

Second Secretary Magnan nodded emphatically. "I stressed the point, Mr. Ambassador. I communicated with Mr. T'Cai-Cai just before the lighter broke orbit, and I specifically----"

"I hope you didn't appear truculent, Mr. Magnan," the ambassador said sharply.

"No indeed, Mr. Ambassador. I merely----"

"You're sure there's no VIP room here?" The ambassador glanced around the cavernous room. "Curious that not even chairs have been provided."

"If you'd care to sit on one of these crates----"

"Certainly not." The ambassador looked at his watch again and cleared his throat.

"I may as well make use of these few moments to outline our approach for the more junior members of the staff; it's vital that the entire mission work in harmony in the presentation of the image. We Terrestrials are a kindly, peace-loving race." The ambassador smiled in a kindly, peace-loving way.

"We seek only a reasonable division of spheres of influence with the Yill." He spread his hands, looking reasonable.

"We are a people of high culture, ethical, sincere." The smile was replaced abruptly by pursed lips.

"We'll start by asking for the entire Sirenian System, and settle for half. We'll establish a foothold on all the choicer worlds. And, with shrewd handling, in a century we'll be in a position to assert a wider claim."

The ambassador glanced around. "If there are no questions----"

* * * * *

Retief stepped forward. "It's my understanding, Mr. Ambassador, that we hold the prior claim to the Sirenian System. Did I understand your Excellency to say that we're ready to concede half of it to the Yill without a struggle?"


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