The Tanzanian Ambassador, six-foot-nine and wiry with it, strode along the narrow red carpet that snaked along the corridors of his country's Conference Center, his long tread propelling him forward at a rate that forced his Department bodyguards from America to jog to keep up with him. Slip-sliding on the marble tile on either side were various Tanzanian Embassy aides, attachés, and agents from that country's security and intelligence departments.
As they rounded a corner, Kelly's loafers skidded on the polished floor. Automatically, Scotty reached out and hauled him into balance before he could fall. Kelly regained his footing in an unnoticeable instant, the two of them shifting into equilibrium in motion by dint of long practice, eyes not even meeting as they scanned the halls for threats to their charge. The little fumble had taken no more than a second when they resumed their little jog behind the Ambassador, the Zambian aides watching the exchange curiously.
Moments later, they were in the conference room, watching the man Scotty had dubbed "Basketball Ambassador" ascend the podium. He and Kelly took the right side along with two Tanzanian agents; another pair of Department men, accompanied by more Tanzanians, secured the left. "Ladies and gentlemen, my dear colleagues," the man began, and Scotty settled into Relaxed-Alert mode, Kelly at his shoulder scanning his half of the room.
"Brother," whispered a Tanzanian Embassy attaché – Ajabu, if memory served – to Scotty in Swahili. He was on Kelly's far side, so Scotty had to talk across his partner to speak to him. Kelly automatically took a half-step forward so the conversation could take place more unobtrusively behind his back.
"Yes?" Scotty answered in the same language.
"I wish to ask you a question, if I may be permitted."
"Speak freely, brother," Scotty replied.
"Does it not pain you to associate with such a person?"
"I'm not quite sure I take your meaning," Scotty replied, in careful, formal Swahili.
"I had imagined the American government gave its agents some leeway in selecting their partners. Why would an honorable tree with roots in the Old Country waste its time and pollute itself by associating with the ilk of those who enslaved our ancestors? It is clear that you are carrying him; he is weak, and white, with the incompetence and arrogance of his race. Can you not request a person of proud African origin?"
"Well, I could," Scotty replied slowly, carefully, mindful of the conference room and the security detail, "but then he might turn out to be a bigoted fool like you, see, saying stuff he doesn't understand about a man worth a million of him, and then, you see, I'd have to rip his guts out and stuff 'em down his throat."
The man snapped sharply to attention, eyes front, and Scotty, with the merest twinge as he caught sight of his partner's innocent profile, went back to scanning the room, fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.