Ordinarily, Najiltrin wouldn’t stoop to such tactics, but she knew her audience. To secure more funding from the Bythrahnin Institute for Scientific Investigation, she’d have to play on Director Pothrejnon’s fears.
“The evidence is clear,” she told him. “Why else would the humans abandon a world they’d perfected over thousands of cycles? They must have been fleeing a dangerous predator.”
“A predator,” sneered the Director. “With fangs, perhaps?”
“Oh, Director Pothrejnon,” cooed Najiltrin, “your sense of humor is priceless. But picture a predator so devious it leaves no trace of its presence.”
“Intriguing,” said Pothrejnon. “But the predator fled after its prey. It’s no concern of ours.”
“Did you forget the abandoned colony we found on Yahthreem 3?” asked Najiltrin.
“What?” said Pothrejnon. “There was no trace of predation there.”
“Exactly,” said Najiltrin. “The threat is spreading and has already hit close to home.”
“So you expect me to fund research into a predator no one has seen,” said the Director, “precisely because no one has seen it.”
“I knew you’d understand,” said Najiltrin. “Now, let’s talk about the budget.”
Eventually, she wore Pothrejnon down — by assuring him he’d be hailed as a visionary. Within a month, Bythrahnin’s most up-and-coming archeologist stood once more in the middle of ancient New York.
“How will you validate your theory?” asked TahKedert, her android assistant.
The one-and-a-half meter tall archaeologist shook her head.
“That will take months,” she said. “After we’ve completed the background work, of course.”
“I wasn’t aware a predator had a background,” said TahKedert. “Aside, that is, from a history of mindless predation.”
“I meant the humans,” said Najiltrin. “To understand the predator, we have to grasp what it was after.”
“Flesh, I assume,” said the android.
“Really?” said Najiltrin. “I expected more from a Tah-class AI.”
“You are apparently under the impression,” said TahKedert, “that I possess vanity sub-routines.”
“Well, do you?” asked Najiltrin.
“It’s your mission, Chief Archeologist,” said TahKedert as it walked away. “I am merely your humble assistant.”
“Sarcasm sub-routines functioning normally,” said Najiltrin under her breath — knowing full well the android could hear her.
(To be continued)
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