The Diplomats (FEGHOOT XXIII)

These tales, “Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot” were by Reginald Bretnor writing under the pseudonym of Gredel Briarton.

In 3270, Ferdinand Feghoot’s star-drive broke down while he and a person named Lodowick Goor were serving as Couriers for the Greater Galactic Th’lgian Empire. With the ship helplessly drifting, he struggled to make the repairs. In three weeks the food was exhausted, and they faced seemingly certain starvation. Soon the unhappy Goor was eyeing the diplomatic pouch hungrily.

Th’lgian tradition demanded that all official dispatches be written on xx’tti, which when boiled tastes simply delicious to all known life-forms. Terrans, however, were so vulnerable to alien diseases that even out in deep space they were forbidden to eat any foods not grown on Earth. Violators were stripped of their citizenship and perpetually exiled from their native planet. That was why the Th’lgi trusted Earthmen as Imperial Couriers.

Goor had, of course, been solemnly warned — but hunger was too much for the man. On the fifth day, while Feghoot was working, he sneaked the dispatches into the galley, boiled them, and devoured them greedily.

Feghoot, returning after having repaired the drive, saw at once what had happened. He stared at his shipmate in pity and horror. “Goor! ” he cried out. “Do you know what you’ve done? You have sold your Earthright for a pot of message!”

(Copyright © 1960 by Mercury Press. First published in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, February 1960.).

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