Today's story takes us back to the AI Universe a couple of days after "Consequences of Snooping." You'll get a couple of Easter egg type references if you've read the other stories in the series, but you don't have to be familiar with the universe to understand or enjoy the story.
If you'd rather listen to the story, you can find the audio here.
“Woe is me.”
“No, woe is me for having to put up with this farce.”
Commander Ratriam stalked over to the viewport and glared down at the planet below. He snapped his mandibles and emitted an irritated set of clicks. “Despicable as they are, your skills are of some use in this backwater system.”
“You feel ill used, Commander?” Hyutic kept her tone even as she addressed the officer. As amusing as it was to see him in a tizzy, she didn’t want the headache insulting him would bring.
“I’m a military man.” Ratriam raised himself to his full height and gestured toward to viewport with one taloned hand. “I should be conquering this system for the glory of our people, not playing host to negotiations with the insipid soft bodies infesting it.”
“Now, now, Commander,” Hyutic chided. “You know as well as I do the Zolacksians have a particular fondness for humans. Endangering their access to them would sour our relations with them beyond repair.”
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” Ratriam grumbled.
Hyutic laughed. “Perhaps, but where would we be without their medicines?”
Ratriam’s head turned, and he regarded her with black, multifaceted eyes. “Stronger,” he said.
“You’re a Destac supporter?” Hyutic asked.
Considering the opinions he’d voiced so often on the role of the military and how colonization should be approached, she supposed she shouldn’t be surprised. What place did the weaker members of their species have in such a society? It was a common enough belief, but one she couldn’t condone.
Hyutic lost half her clutch mates to ecdysis failure before the Zolacksians’ treatment became available. She carried a copy of the gene responsible, and chances were a good many if not all of her eventual children would die without it. For all their lackadaisical attitudes toward first contacts and cultural exchange, Zolacksians were a crafty and careful species. They guarded their trade goods and technological secrets with a precision her people’s military leaders envied. If trade relations with the galaxy’s party animals broke down, those with the mutation would be back to relying on synthetic ETH for their survival with its abysmal success rate.
“Of course,” Ratriam said, oblivious to the thoughts running through her mind.
Focusing on the calming techniques she’d studied, Hyutic cast about for something to say to distract Ratriam from this train of thought. Knowing the man, he’d launch an assault on Earth within the hour if he thought it’d be in their people’s best interest. Perhaps it would for the Destacites, but it’d spell death for many more for generations to come.
“Still, there are the drives to consider,” she said. “Our best have yet to reverse engineer them. Am I right?”
Commander Ratriam hissed. “Of course they haven’t!” he exclaimed. “Have you seen how close those things are made? Every engineer that’s tried has lost a finger or three.”
“I suppose there is some advantage to mammalian physiology,” Hyutic said.
“Humans are mammals, aren’t they?” Hyutic nodded, and Ratriam tapped his chin with a tallon as he thought. “Do you suppose they could be trained to maintain the drives?”
Hyutic’s antennae flattened. “Are you considering keeping one as a pet?”
Ratriam trilled. “If they could prove useful.”
“Well then,” Hyutic began as she rose from the commander’s office couch. “I suppose I have new motivation for handling this situation instigated by the Smitherson brothers.”
Each story in this series is 500 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.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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