A month into her archeological research, Najiltrin was going 20 rounds with insomnia. And no wonder. The data available from the humans’ servers was staggering. Imagine, a globe-spanning network of metadigital relay stations, still operational 1,120 cycles after the planet was abandoned. How was it possible?
“Temporal stasis?” she asked TahKedert, her AI assistant.
“Close enough,” said the robot. “The phenomenon is based on a type of tensor analysis I doubt you ... have time for.”
“Very diplomatic,” said Najiltrin. “But you must mean partial stasis. Otherwise we’d never get through.”
“On the contrary,” said TahKedert. “the temporal stasis is total. What you perceive as answers to your questions are recorded responses based on the humans’ 11-dimensional probability projections.”
Najiltrin’s left eyelid started twitching.
“They knew in advance what we’d ask?” she said.
“Don’t be too impressed,” said TahKedert. “Even I knew you were going to say that.”
“Stop it,” Najiltrin snapped. “But if you’re right, the humans must have predicted the predator, too.”
“May I remind you,” said TahKedert, “that the existence of a predator is merely your hypothesis?”
“Right,” said Najiltrin. “But if it did exist, odds are the humans had a statistical model for it.”
With that, she left TahKedert to compile more questions for the human servers and raced over to her main research dome, tucked into the lobby of an ancient hotel. Her eyes settled immediately on the crumbling groundcar her team had excavated late yesterday.
“It may have functioned as a mobile store,” said Genaltrik, the expedition’s second in command.
Najiltrin held her breath as Genaltek showed her an infrared scan of one of the groundcar’s side panels. Genaltek entered a command and the smudgy image resolved into a rectangular object with a smiley face and two gloved hands.
“What did the human servers make of this?” she asked.
“They returned the phrase ‘ice cream truck,’” said Genaltrik. “We believe this vehicle may have sold delicacies enjoyed by human children.”
“Curious,” said Najiltrin. “Have you found anything similar on the surface?”
Genaltrik’s face clouded over.
“No,” he said. “We’ve found no evidence of human children anywhere on the planet’s surface.”
(To be continued)
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