Alien Diplomacy
Available April 3, 2012 from DAW Books

They call boxing the sweet science. I have no idea why. It’s not like two guys beating each other up can be called sweet in any culture, and it’s hard to buy the science part when there’s not that much scientific theory involved in “hit harder, longer, until the other guy goes down”.

Now diplomacy, there’s your sweet science. You have to be sweet, even when you don’t want to be. Or your husband has the little “representing an entire race” chat with you. And figuring out the many layers, links, connections and conspiracies attached to just one diplomat is hard enough. Try doing that with every diplomat on Earth. Then expand past Earth. Then wonder why your husband can keep it all straight when you can’t and await the “if you’d only read the briefing file” chat.

Diplomacy has opened up a whole new world of chatting for me and Jeff. So far, haven’t enjoyed any of them, but hope springs eternal.

Being one of the head diplomats for Centaurion Division’s Diplomatic Corps is quite the honor. Kind of wish I’d had a little more time to transition from marketing manager to super-being exterminator to newlywed to new mother to retired super-being exterminator to full-time diplomat. More than two years start to finish would have been nice. But, hey, I’m good with change and a challenge, right?

Of course, nothing could really have prepared me for the superpowers that were my parting gifts for labor and delivery of our daughter. Like the Alpha Centaurions from Alpha Four, I now have hyperspeed, faster healing and regeneration, improved vision, and super-strength. Other abilities show up when I least expect them. I don’t have two hearts like a real A-C, or any special talents such as dream and memory reading or empathic skills. But being a super’s pretty much all it’s cracked up to be.

Sadly, when it comes to diplomacy, superpowers don’t really help. At all. But that’s where my winning ways and charming influence over others come in.

Hey, when it comes to diplomacy, I do practice the sweet science. Yeah, okay, the kind with boxing gloves. What can I say? Washington’s a tough town.

Chapter 1

“Missus Martini, can you please explain the proper way to greet a visiting dignitary from China when you are also in the company of dignitaries from Japan, Russia, Thailand, and Bangladesh?”

“This is a trick question, right?”

My Washington Wife course instructor glared. “Hardly.” Mrs. Darcy Lockwood, a proud Daughter of the American Revolution, wife of the influential senator from Maine, and all around know-it-all wasn’t fond of me. I’d only been in her class a few weeks but the feeling was incredibly mutual.

“I suppose a cheerful howdy-do isn’t it, right?” There were titters throughout the class. Sadly, I knew they were absolutely not laughing with me.

Another glare. I wasn’t sure which one of us hated the other more, me or the instructor, but there was less than no love lost between us. To date, this summed up my entire experience with Washington, D.C. -- I didn’t like it and it didn’t like me.

“Missus Martini, your husband’s career is affected by you, what you say, how you present yourself, how you act. As the wife of an ambassador, I’d think you would have more interest in representing yourself, and your principality, well.”

“I’m also an ambassador.” I chose not to argue about the principality thing. I was representing the Alpha Centaurion, or A-C, population, and it was never clear to me what our exact status really was. It wasn’t like we could tell the general population that most of those who called themselves A-Cs were aliens from Alpha Four in the Alpha Centauri solar system, with a goodly group of human agents and a few intermarried humans thrown into the mix.

I’d been told we were like the American Indians, with reservations a little more spread out all over the United States and the world in general. I’d heard we were like Puerto Rico, only our islands were all landlocked, in that sense. I’d also gotten the younger half of the population listed as political refugees. And every A-C born on Earth was considered a legal U.S. citizen with all the rights therein. I had no clear idea how this worked, or who knew, or thought they knew, what, so I tended to just nod and forge ahead. This worked everywhere but in certain situations, the Washington Wife class being Exhibit A.

“Missus Martini, as we’ve discussed, you are not the ambassador. You are part of the diplomatic mission, true, but you are not the ambassador, nor are you his Chargé d’Affaires. You are an ambassadress, the wife of the ambassador.”

“No, as I keep on explaining to you, I am one of our ambassadors. My husband, the other head ambassador, says so.”

She snorted. It was delicate and ladylike, but it was a snort, nonetheless. “Please. As I keep explaining to you, there can only be one Chief of Mission. Charming as it is of him to make you feel as if you’re his equal, the Chief would be your husband, not you. Now, let’s try to get back to decorum, shall we?”

I opened my mouth to share that, as I kept explaining, we did things differently at our embassy, but Eugene nudged me and I snapped it shut. Eugene was the only person in this horrid class who didn’t hate me or laugh at me, because he was as lame as I was with this stuff.

“Besides,” Lockwood went on, “if you were the actual ambassador, this greeting would carry even more impact. Therefore, who can tell me what the proper procedure is?”

One of the gay guys politely raised his hand and shared the proper greeting procedure. He did it perfectly. Everyone in class did everything perfectly other than me and Eugene. We were both washing out, and neither one of us could afford to.

What made this worse was that Amy hadn’t even had to take the class. Oh sure, she’d come from money and I’d come from covert ops masquerading as dull middle class, but it still wasn’t fair. I’d saved the world in the double digits, easy, and yet, here I was, the Class Dunce.

Amy had breezed in, spent about an hour with Lockwood, and bam, there she was, already approved and back in the Alpha Centaurion embassy, all snug and secure and not being picked on. She’d tried to help me, but I wasn’t really excited about studying this stuff when I was released from the prison that was this class, and all it had done was make us snap at each other, so she’d given up and I’d resigned myself to spending time in Hell every week for the rest of the foreseeable future.

Class droned on and I reminisced about the days when I was happy and carefree, killing parasitic superbeings for a living. Or when I was averting intergalactic war. Running away from scary creatures both human and extremely not that were trying to kill me. Saving the day. Those days were only three months ago, really, but they seemed like a lifetime away, especially when I was in the Washington Wife class.

It didn’t help that my husband and my two best male friends had both insisted that I take the stupid class in the first place. With Jeff, Chuckie and Reader aligned against me, I had nowhere to turn. That my husband was the head of the A-C Diplomatic Corps, Chuckie was the head of the C.I.A.’s ET Division, and Reader was now Head of the Field for Centaurion Division made the directive to attend sort of unavoidable.

Oh, sure, they’d insisted after I’d inadvertently insulted the Prime Minster of England, but how could I have known he wasn’t willing to admit that the Rolling Stones weren’t half the band Aerosmith was and never would be?

Lockwood droned on and I surreptitiously checked my watch. Fifteen more minutes and I could escape. If only A-Cs weren’t deathly allergic to alcohol, I’d get drunk both before and after this class, but, sadly, I was restricted to nothing harder than Coca-Cola or iced tea. I never wanted to risk Jeff not being able to kiss me. Him kissing me was still in my Top Three Things To Do At Least A Dozen Times Every Day list. Kissing tended to lead to my other top two things to do. My mind wandered happily to our sex life and stayed there.

“The President’s Ball is in two days,” Lockwood reminded us, yanking my mind away from Pleasure Island. She had a happy smile for all, until her eyes hit the back corner where Eugene and I sat. We got a pitying glare. I was kind of impressed. I didn’t know how you learned that look, but Lockwood had it down.

I’d spent much more time learning how to imitate my mother’s intimidating smile. I was getting really good at it. Pity that, so far, it hadn’t worked on the diplomats, lobbyists or politicians I’d run across these last few months.

My mother being the head of the Presidential Terrorism Control Unit had come as a shock two years ago. Sure, she’d been lying to me my whole life, but it was pretty cool to find out that my mom was basically the Annie Oakley of anti-terrorism. In my new career as a diplomat, however, my mother being the head of the P.T.C.U. wasn’t a threat -- it was a liability, because many of the people I had to deal with knew her, and, therefore, were more than happy to tell her how I screwed up.

“Please remember that while you haven’t finished the course yet, I expect all of you to do us and your spouses proud, and charm one and all.”

Class was dismissed, and the others all wandered out in groups, happily chatting about what they were going to wear, who they planned to cut dead, who was the “get” politico to hang with. Eugene and I looked at each other.

Eugene was the husband of the junior senator from New York, who was on the rise. The woman was an animal, meaning she was just what Washington ordered. Eugene, however, was a sweet, mild-mannered man who looked like an actuary because he was. He was of average size, average looks, and average intelligence. And he, like me, had fallen in love with, in that sense, the wrong person at the right time and ended up here.

“We’re doomed,” he said finally.

“Dude, you speak the truth.”

We got up and headed for the door. “You two,” Lockwood said before we could escape, “come here.” We did. It was like being back in high school, but we did. She shook her head. “I truly don’t understand what’s wrong with you two. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were both trying to sabotage your spouses’ careers.”

Eugene and I both started to protest, and she put up her hand. “I’m not actually accusing you.” Her expression softened and she looked almost kind. “I just want to ask one small favor of both of you.”

We looked at each other. This was a new one. Maybe I’d been reading her wrong. Maybe she just wanted to help and our failing hurt her. Maybe teaching was her calling and we were her greatest challenges and, therefore, would be her greatest triumphs. Maybe she wanted to be the Annie Sullivan to our Helen Kellers.

Eugene and I both leaned closer. “Sure,” I said. “What can we do for you?”

Lockwood cleared her throat. “Saturday night, at the President’s Ball?”

“Yes?” Eugene asked.

Lockwood gave us both a tight smile. “The reputation of the Washington Wife class is extremely precious. My graduates go on to help their spouses to achieve great things.” We both nodded -- we’d heard this Day One. Lockwood sighed. “Look, it hurts me to say it, but somewhere along the line at that gala event, one or both of you is going to blow it in a horrible way.”

I blinked. “Excuse me?”

She shrugged. “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention to anyone that you’re in this class. I’m certainly going to deny it, if anyone asks.”

Want the rest? Pick up your copy from any bookstore on April 3, 2012, or order online from Barnes & Noble,, or!

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