Diplomatic immunity, p.1
Diplomatic Immunity, p.1
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This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction August 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.
By ROBERT SHECKLEY
Illustrated by ASHMAN
_He said he wasn't immortal--but nothing could kill him. Still, if the Earth was to live as a free world, he had to die._
* * * * *
"Come right in, gentlemen," the Ambassador waved them into the veryspecial suite the State Department had given him. "Please be seated."
Colonel Cercy accepted a chair, trying to size up the individual whohad all Washington chewing its fingernails. The Ambassador hardlylooked like a menace. He was of medium height and slight build,dressed in a conservative brown tweed suit that the State Departmenthad given him. His face was intelligent, finely molded and aloof.
_As human as a human_, Cercy thought, studying the alien with bleak,impersonal eyes.
"How may I serve you?" the Ambassador asked, smiling.
"The President has put me in charge of your case," Cercy said. "I'vestudied Professor Darrig's reports--" he nodded at the scientistbeside him--"but I'd like to hear the whole thing for myself."
"Of course," the alien said, lighting a cigarette. He seemed genuinelypleased to be asked; which was interesting, Cercy thought. In the weeksince he had landed, every important scientist in the country had beenat him.
_But in a pinch they call the Army_, Cercy reminded himself. Hesettled back in his chair, both hands jammed carelessly in hispockets. His right hand was resting on the butt of a .45, the safetyoff.
* * * * *
"I have come," the alien said, "as an ambassador-at-large,representing an empire that stretches half-way across the Galaxy. Iwish to extend the welcome of my people and to invite you to join ourorganization."
"I see," Cercy replied. "Some of the scientists got the impressionthat participation was compulsory."
"You will join," the Ambassador said, blowing smoke through hisnostrils.
Cercy could see Darrig stiffen in his chair and bite his lip. Cercymoved the automatic to a position where he could draw it easily. "Howdid you find us?" he asked.
"We ambassadors-at-large are each assigned an unexplored section ofspace," the alien said. "We examine each star-system in that regionfor planets, and each planet for intelligent life. Intelligent life israre in the Galaxy, you know."
Cercy nodded, although he hadn't been aware of the fact.
"When we find such a planet, we land, as I did, and prepare theinhabitants for their part in our organization."
"How will your people know that you have found intelligent life?"Cercy asked.
"There is a sending mechanism that is part of our structure," theAmbassador answered. "It is triggered when we reach an inhabitedplanet. This signal is beamed continually into space, to an effectiverange of several thousand light-years. Follow-up crews are continuallysweeping through the limits of the reception area of each Ambassador,listening for such messages. Detecting one, a colonizing team followsit to the planet."
He tapped his cigarette delicately on the edge of an ash tray. "Thismethod has definite advantages over sending combined colonization andexploration teams obviously. It avoids the necessity of equippinglarge forces for what may be decades of searching."
"Sure." Cercy's face was expressionless. "Would you tell me more aboutthis message?"
"There isn't much more you need know. The beam is not detectable byyour methods and, therefore, cannot be jammed. The message continuesas long as I am alive."
* * * * *
Darrig drew in his breath sharply, glancing at Cercy.
"If you stopped broadcasting," Cercy said casually, "our planet wouldnever be found."
"Not until this section of space was resurveyed," the diplomat agreed.
"Very well. As a duly appointed representative of the President of theUnited States, I ask you to stop transmitting. We don't choose tobecome part of your empire."
"I'm sorry," the Ambassador said. He shrugged his shoulders easily.Cercy wondered how many times he had played this scene on how manyother planets.
"There's really nothing I can do." He stood up.
"Then you won't stop?"
"I can't. I have no control over the sending, once it's activated."The diplomat turned and walked to the window. "However, I haveprepared a philosophy for you. It is my duty, as your Ambassador, toease the shock of transition as much as possible. This philosophy willmake it instantly apparent that--"
As the Ambassador reached the window, Cercy's gun was out of hispocket and roaring. He squeezed six rounds in almost a singleexplosion, aiming at the Ambassador's head and back. Then anuncontrollable shudder ran through him.
The Ambassador was no longer there!
* * * * *
Cercy and Darrig stared at each other. Darrig muttered something aboutghosts. Then, just as suddenly, the Ambassador was back.
"You didn't think," he said, "that it would be as easy as all that,did you? We Ambassadors have, necessarily, a certain diplomaticimmunity." He fingered one of the bullet holes in the wall. "In caseyou don't understand, let me put it this way. It is not in your powerto kill me. You couldn't even understand the nature of my defense."
He looked at them, and in that moment Cercy felt the Ambassador'scomplete alienness.
"Good day, gentlemen," he said.
Darrig and Cercy walked silently back to the control room. Neither hadreally expected that the Ambassador would be killed so easily, but ithad still been a shock when the slugs had failed.
"I suppose you saw it all, Malley?" Cercy asked, when he reached thecontrol room.
The thin, balding psychiatrist nodded sadly. "Got it on film, too."
"I wonder what his philosophy is," Darrig mused, half to himself.
"It was illogical to expect it would work. No race would send anambassador with a message like that and expect him to live through it.Unless--"
"Unless he had a pretty effective defense," the psychiatrist finishedunhappily.
Cercy walked across the room and looked at the video panel. TheAmbassador's suite was very special. It had been hurriedly constructedtwo days after he had landed and delivered his message. The suite wassteel and lead lined, filled with video and movie cameras, recorders,and a variety of other things.
It was the last word in elaborate death cells.
In the screen, Cercy could see the Ambassador sitting at a table. Hewas typing on a little portable the Government had given him.
"Hey, Harrison!" Cercy called. "Might as well go ahead with Plan Two."
Harrison came out of a side room where he had been examining thecircuits leading to the Ambassador's suite. Methodically he checkedhis pressure gauges, set the controls and looked at Cercy. "Now?" heasked.
"Now." Cercy watched the screen. The Ambassador was still typing.
Suddenly, as Harrison sent home the switch, the room was engulfed inflames. Fire blasted out of concealed holes in the walls, poured fromthe ceiling and floor.
In a moment, the room was like the inside of a blast furnace.
Cercy let it burn for two minutes, then motioned Harrison to cut theswitch. They stared at the roasted room.
They were looking, hopefully, for a charred corpse.
But the Ambassador reappeared beside his desk, looking ruefully at thecharred typewriter. He was completely unsinged.
"Could you get me another typewriter?" he asked, looking directly atone of the hidden projectors. "I'm setting down a philosophy for youungrateful wretches."
He seated himself in the wreckage of an armchair. In a moment, he wasapparently asleep.
* * * * *
"All right, everyone grab a seat," Cercy said. "Time for a council ofwar."
Malley straddled a chair backward. Harrison lighted a pipe as he satdown, slowly puffing it into life.
"Now, then," Cercy said. "The Government has dropped this squarely inour laps. We have to kill the Ambassador--obviously.
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