We're back in the AI Universe today with a short set right about a week after "Interoffice Politics."
Having read the other stories in the series will fill in a bit of background information, but it isn't necessary to understand or enjoy today's story.
As always, you can also find an audio version of the story here.
“You’re one insult away from starting a war,” Ambassador Hyutic hissed once the office door latched.
Ratriam scoffed. “You give the soft bodies too much credit,” he said with a dismissive wave. “They’d need a map and several weeks to find the insults thrown their way.”
Ambassador Hyutic’s antennae twitched. “Your prejudice blinds you, Commander.” She emitted an irritated series of clicks. “Humanity may be primitive by comparison, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid.”
“Oh?” Ratriam trilled. “What of the Smitherson clutch mates? From your own explanation, Ambassador, the runt couldn’t understand a simple order.”
“Marcus Smitherson is still a nymph, not a runt,” Hyutic grumbled. “Mammals don’t clutch, remember?”
Ratriam hissed, displeased the ambassador dared goad him again. He smoothed his uniform and ambled over to the window to gaze down at the planet below. “Nymph, adolescent, adult: it doesn’t change the fact it didn’t understand a plain command.”
“In either case, we aren’t dealing with Marcus Smitherson now,” Hyutic said. She lowered herself onto his office couch with a weary air. “Hear me, Commander. Ambassador Franklin is a shrewd man, and though Jaysen Smitherson is but an assistant, he has learned to read our postures and the nuances of our language. Neither Humans nor Zolacksians are as simple minded as you’d like to believe, and Ambassador Brexos’ ship will arrive in a matter of hours.”
“Yes, time is running short,” Ratriam agreed. “Come, we must finish these negotiations,” he spit the word like it was something foul, “and have the exchange agreement signed before they arrive.”
“Worried the Zolacksian representative will catch on to our motivations?”
Ratriam turned and stared the woman down. His talons itched to etch a lesson into the smug official’s exoskeleton.
“Dependence upon Zolacksian technology and maintenance is a humiliation I refuse to endure any longer,” he answered. “The fuzzballs might turn a blind eye to our acquisition of a few of their favorite pets, but they’ll wage war to protect their technological stranglehold.”
“Now you’re thinking!” Hyutic said, her voice taking on a lighter, pleased note. “But, if you wish negotiations to go well and with speed, you must remember the instinctual drives of the other parties.”
“What in Ra’uth’s name are you on about now?”
“Humans are pack animals,” Hyutic explained. “Their alphas won’t agree to an exchange they believe will endanger the pack.”
“Will you let me finish?” Hyutic snapped, and her antennae straightened in agitation. The woman dropped all levity and took on a seriousness Ratriam could respect. “While they’ve begun to reason over the past few hundred generations, they’re still very reliant upon base instinct. Because of that, Jaysen Smitherson will spell the downfall of your plan if you do not control yourself, Commander.”
“One so young has such influence?” Ratriam huffed.
Hyutic gave an affirmative dip of her antennae. “As I said, they’ve begun to understand reason, and as such, they recognize the skills of their packmates,” she agreed. “Ambassador Franklin will consult with Smitherson on his reading of the proceedings before deciding.”
“And to obtain a pack of human engineers?”
“Keep your place in the back.” Hyutic’s voice dropped as she stood from her place on his couch. Raising herself up to her full height, the ambassador towered over Ratriam, and her voice took on a tone colder than the vacuum outside. “Control your posture and hold your words. Negotiations are the purview of the political cast, not the military. Understood, Commander?”
“Yes.” Ratriam held himself still, refusing to back down.
“Good.” Hyutic’s posture eased, and she sank back down into the half crouch she’d adopted after several months serving on the ship. “Remember that, and I’ll secure your engineers by the end of the day.”
Each story in this series is 700 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first prompt like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me" and "Culture Shock." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below, send it to my Tumblr asks, Tweet it at me, or leave a comment on any of the audio stories from this series. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
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