The walls of the isolation chamber were bare seamless stone that curved into a dome that disappeared above Raylene's head into darkness. Half of the curve of the room was complimented by a wide table made from a smoky glass-like substance that was no doubt ten times stronger than steel. Behind the curve of the table, with their backs towards the unmarked wall, were the sixteen delegates of the Galactic Trade Commission.

The roster of delegates changed from meeting to meeting, apparently reflecting the ebb and flow of power within the vast galactic trade routes that Raylene was forced to admit she knew virtually nothing about. The names of the current delegation floated below the table's surface in glowing orange letters, carefully translated to their nearest phonetic equivalents in the English alphabet. If their names had an English equivalent this floated below the first name in glowing blue letters, although she was instructed to address them by their phonetic names so as to minimize confusion.

Raylene seated herself at the small white desk with a child's playroom chair as she was expected to. A slim reptilian alien of intimidating height that she recognized as a Chimopteran stood next to the desk facing towards her.

"I am...Calishina O'Mokly...I am...translate for this session," the creature spoke in hissing and slightly sing-song English.

Raylene nodded and thanked the creature. The translators were never the same and this marked the first time she had been assisted by one of the wispy snake-headed aliens. In the past she had dealt with a shape-shifting amoeba that looked like a human but only spoke Spanish, twice it had been a 30-foot tall creature that seemed made out of stone with glowing magma for eyes that spoke perfect English in a young girl's voice, and the last time it was a jelly-like purple animal no bigger than a dinner plate that projected pictographs on its surface and giggled constantly. The jelly creature had been her least favorite, as it seemed to take perverse pleasure in misleading her with imagery and making the negotiations almost impossible to comprehend.

"MGUSK!" The booming voice came from a hulking bear-faced creature wearing a miter. "AOGL TUNE REESHI UVUSK!"

"Attention, the chair is recognize and delegation is called to session," translated Calishina softly, its narrow tongue flicking out to smell the humid air.

A gnarl-faced creature with six thin arms that nearly dragged the floor and a rough wooden hide covered in deep green hair, or possibly moss, stood slowly and with a barely audible groan. Its face was enormous and emerged from the lumpy mass of its body. It spoke in a slow rush of air that moaned and howled without pause for breath. Raylene's Chimopteran translator leaned down and whispered the English translation in Raylene's ear even as the creature continued groaning.

"The chair is begin the list of items of inquiry for trades," hushed the Chimopteran. "The Saccarites of Remseus are request 150...thousand...kilograms of gelatinized ursine confection. Individually wrapped. They are also request 40...thousand...packages of mass-produced chocolate and sugar confections human are called Ehhhm and Ehhhhm."

"Candy," Raylene thought to herself, "always with the candy."

The delegation chair paused in its whooshing speech and lifted a pair of huge spectacles from the table, balancing them precariously on its knobby nose. It squinted through the thick lenses at what looked to be a sheet of faintly luminescent metal that it held in one of its hands. It continued speaking, glancing occasionally at the sheet for reference.

"Of chief importance is Chimopteran delegate request for investigation of distress signals. Chimopteran bonded steerage liner Does Not Crash has...coordinates...of earth nation Guatamala. Chimopterans request immediate investigation by human planet government with great...expedient...and secrets."

"Assure the Chimopteran delegate that I will dispatch a search and rescue team as soon as I can communicate with my subordinates." Raylene hoped that the aliens continued with their inability to recognize deceit as she could not conceal the laughter in her voice no matter how hard she tried.

"Chimopteran delegate also...insists…that human government cooperate with guild crew with effecting repairs. If not possible…then…recover vessels of plasma for…transfer back to guild. Human government and human beings are not…informed…to use plasma vessels."

Raylene nodded and the Chimopteran translator chattered to explain the meaning of the gesture to the delegation.

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