‘So, you see,’ said Zareb Matosh, the taller of the two Zandrians. ‘We would be willing, more than willing, to manufacture and supply you with the vaccine, provided that you meet the conditions as specified.’
The second Zandrian, Alita Graven, pushed her spiky red hair back from her face. ‘You will agree,’ she said in a rough crackling voice, ‘that they are not at all unreasonable.’
‘It does leave the problem, still, though,’ continued the man, ‘that the vaccine is not stable and may not survive the journey. Presumably your scientists will be willing to work with ours on making the compound more stable, for the benefit of both our peoples.’
There was a long silence.
‘Well,’ said Alita, her voice rising in her nervousness, ‘do you think our terms are acceptable?’
The whole file had been produced in Universal English as the Zandrians were trying to sell something to the Terrestrans, even though it was the Terrestrans who were requesting the item. But amongst themselves, the Zandrians were actually speaking that little used language which they used almost as a secret language. It was a corruption of the old Luxemburg language. It was just about understandable if you had standard German or Dutch - and not many people did- even though Razjosh actually spoke it fluently. He had first met it when he was about the same age as Kaleem was now.
Yes, the terms had looked reasonable enough. It wasn’t at all unreasonable to ask that the trading lines should stay open between Zandra and Terrestra. It wasn’t unreasonable to ask that in the future the Zandrians should be given first option to provide the vaccine plus any other medication the Zandrians could supply to Terrestra. And it wasn’t unreasonable that the Zandrians should want to come to Terrestra to discuss how the Terrestrans would recompense them for their efforts with the vaccine. At least, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to anyone except a normal Terrestran. Razjosh found it reasonable. He knew that other Terrestrans would not.
‘Well?’ said Alita. ‘When can we decide on the finer points?’
‘I’m afraid I can’t confirm that,’ said Razjosh. ‘I shall, of course, have to consult with the authorities on Terrestra.’
Razjosh watched Alita and Zagreb exchange a look of sheer disbelief. He could understand their surprise. There was nothing unusual about what they had asked. There was just something unusual about how the Terrestrans might react to that.
The two Zandrians seemed not to know what to say.
‘Believe me,’ said Razjosh. ‘I find your proposals excellent. You probably appreciate, however, that Terrestrans are extremely cautious. But I will take these ideas back to my people as soon as I can. Thank you for all of your efforts on our behalf.’
Razjosh bowed slightly and left the meeting room before the Zandrians had time to react further.
He walked slowly down the corridor. It was the same old story. He could see the senselessness of the Terrestrans’ isolation but could not be seen to admitting that to inhabitants of another planet.
How was Kaleem going to be able to deal with all of that? And it looked as if he was going to be facing these things soon.