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Listening to Strangers
(The Strangers Series)
Written by Catherine Mintz
Genre: Science Fiction
Listening to Strangers
Frank Guzeliman sat in the first row of the news conference, half-turned in his seat to watch the nervous group of airline representatives who were herded together in the back of the briefing auditorium at the Beyal Embassy. Topic of the day: the latest near miss in the Atlantic Launch Zone.
One of the passengers on EuroAveo 112 had been carrying a camera. Her download had reached Frank’s network in time for him to do commentary on it in unedited form for the evening news. The threatening escort and the aerial ballet of the actual launch had captured public attention, even though these days most people didn’t fly the Atlantic regularly, or know anyone who did.
Frank looked over the group of alien officials who had assembled behind the protective barrier. It would be a junior who read the statement and answered questions, if any were answered. Not all of them were familiar, and one teased Frank’s memory: a tall, bushy-headed blond. He was on the UN tape, thought Frank, attending the bodyguard. If that was what that guy was.
The tall blond sat down to the left and well toward the rear. The few public appearances the Beyal made all involved a silent superior officer who watched a subordinate do the interacting. Frank, and a number of other observers, speculated that Barrant could not be the senior Beyal official.
Given the importance of the senior official and the reclusive habits of the alien Beyal, it seemed unlikely that the man who staged a one-man commando raid would be the one in charge. But if not him then—here they come.
They were letting the crews into the pit before the rostrum. His camerawoman was looking flustered. Frank could remember his first trip through the thorough examination and knew why: the procedure left no doubt the Beyal were alien. Nonetheless she gave him a brisk thumbs-up and jabbed her way front and center.
Frank needed to get in at least one question and he would be going live with analysis as soon as the conference finished. He felt sweat trickle down his back. His job would be so much easier if he could get friendly with the briefing officer. That was the way it worked at all the other embassies. Here you just scrambled with the pack.