The Long Result
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In the future, the human race has developed interstellar travel, allowing it to search other galaxies for intelligent lifeforms and even colonize other planets. This has led to the discovery that even though other sentient races exist, humans are the only ones to have developed interstellar travel. The Earth has colonized two planets in hopes of creating different societies from zero: Viridis, a Rousseau-inspired society, and Stellaris, a society built almost solely for the purpose of technological advancements. Over time though, the advancements on Stellaris led to the partial deterioration of relationships with Earth, to the point where they try to put the Earth in difficulty by forcing them to enter first contact with an alien race called the Tau-Cetians, with no notice given beforehand to the mother-planet.
The story follows Roald Vincent, an employee at the Bureau for Cultural Relations on Earth. He is described as a witty but lazy individual, his biggest ambition being to form a family with his fiancee, Patricia Ryder. Even though his area of work relies solely on relationship with the human colonies, he is assigned one day to lead the greeting committee of the first Tau-cetian delegation to set foot on Earth. He is informed that this is a deliberate act done by Stellarians to make the Earth look bad, as humans have next to no information about the Tau-cetians. When they arrive though, the Stellarian guide Kay-Lee Wong is reluctant to give up the Tau-cetians, so Roald is forced to meet them on behalf of the BCR after they have been accommodated.
Things do not go as planned though; there are attempts at repeatedly sabotaging this first encounter by the "Stars for Humans League", an extremist association which believes that humans should rule the universe and that other alien races are just feeding on their progress. They were responsible for sabotaging a rocket containing a visiting Regulian — a race with a more advanced judgement and physical resistance than humans that surprisingly hasn't discovered interstellar travel — called Anovel in an attempt to kill him, and later they even try to assassinate the tau-cetian delegation itself by sabotaging the atmospherization conduits specially put in place so that the Tau-cetians could breathe. Roald and Dr. Bin Ishmael manage to convince the Tau-cetians that it was an accident, and Roald finds himself implicated in the police investigation led by Inspector Klabund.
His work to accommodate the Tau-cetians and find out the truth behind the "Stars for Humans League" also affects his personal life, as his fiancee is furious about the time he spends with aliens. He also gets a proposal from Kay-Lee Wong to become the chief of a soon to be started replica of the Bureau on Stellaris; she then becomes a potential love interest for him. Trying to escape all these problems, he visits his friend Micky Torres, a genius studying at Cambridge also working for the Bureau. Torres tells Roald that by assessment of the reports from Stellaris he has concluded that the colony has become more advanced than Earth, and suggests that it may be time to make it the principal human settlement. When they fly back to the bureau's HQ to bring the news, the League tries to assassinate Torres, but a confusion makes Roald nearly lose his life instead.
Roald becomes more and more implicated in rooting out the League, as his admiration for aliens rises after a couple of discussions with Anovel, and because the Bureau is ready to implement a gigantic media campaign to facilitate the shift of power towards Stellaris. He works with Inspector Klabund towards finalizing the case; his wit makes him realize how the assassination attempt of the Tau-cetians worked out, and also the fact that his fiancee is working with the League, so that he was actually the one who unwillingly provided information towards them.
After all this, the Bureau chief, Tinescu, proposes him to be his successor, but Roald accepts the Stellarian offer instead, citing that he has grown tired of the Earth and that he wants to build a life with Kay. He also contacts Anovel, whom he tells that he figured out the fact that Regulians are actually colonists of another species and have discovered space flight long before humans, but chose not to reveal themselves. Anovel approved everything he said, and also mentioned that contact with the humans will be made in 50 years time; he also erases that information from Roald's mind as he deems it too early for any non-Regulian to know.
In the epilogue, an old Roald celebrates his 50th year of leading the Bureau of Cultural Relations on Stellaris, now having a family with Kay, while Micky Torres is shown to have created an intergalactic council of whom he is to become its first leader. A distressed employee of the Bureau communicates amazed that a Regulian ship has been spotted and is trying to make contact with Stellaris. Roald suddenly remembers the conversation with Anovel from 50 years back and is teleported on the Regulian ship, where another Regulian apologises to him on behalf of Anovel, telling him that he has been observed and that they think he would have probably never broken the secret until that moment.