|HEA: Preparations||HEA: Erosion Index||Part 2|
Copyright (c) 1998 Phaedrus; All rights reserved
The opinions of the characters in this story are not those of the author.
^} approached the cabin with some trepidation. This would be his first contact with a human in the field. And this human might be unaware of the nacalites, of their mission. An awkward situation at best. The human would probably be angry, perhaps even violent; there was no physical danger, of course, but it presented a high risk of a forfeiture offense. And if ^} could not prevent humans such as this from forfeiting, it would almost certainly result in his removal from this assignment, in the cancellation of the program he had worked so hard for. It would not do to miscalculate, to fail...
Negative thoughts. ^} concentrated, banished them from consciousness. There would be no failure; there was no reason for failure. He had studied carefully; he was familiar with the humans, with their ways. The situation was clear enough. His was the position of strength. He was reasonable; there was no need for the human to be unreasonable.
More confidently, ^} moved to the door of the cabin. He paused, studied the surroundings once more. A peaceful, natural place; the cabin clung to a hillside, surrounded by pristine woods for at least two kilometers in every direction. No power lines, no cable wires, no antennas marked the roof; the only sound was the steady flow of water from the stream at the bottom of the hill. It seemed as close to nature as a human could be. Perhaps this human would understand, would accept. That would make things much easier.
He could easily penetrate the door, of course; but that would seem confrontational. It was best to emulate human behaviors as closely as possible, at least until the situation was made clear.
He focused, produced the human speech, in what he hoped was a firm, but nonthreatening tone.
"Paul Anthony Foster? I must have a word with you..."
Seconds passed, and ^} considered how long he should wait before calling again; but then he heard footsteps, and the door swung open.
The human's facial expression showed hostility, but not fear. Obviously, he had somehow heard. This could make things easier... or more complicated.
"Here so early, are you? I figured I had at least six months before you showed up to kill me."
More complicated, obviously. The human had not only already heard, he had already made a decision to forfeit. He had apparently decided to forfeit passively, rather than actively; that was grounds for hope, at any rate--there would be time to convince him otherwise. But it made the outcome of this conversation all the more important.
"Mr. Foster, I assure you that I have no intention of doing you harm of any sort."
"Oh, of course, that's right. Wipe out my fucking race, yes, but no harm, right?"
^} remained still for 2.3 seconds. According to his studies, this would be long enough for a human to note it as an uncomfortable pause, but not so long that it would allow the human to formulate and begin to speak another sentence. He had observed that when a human utilized such a pause, followed by a forceful but reasonable response, it was often successful in causing other humans to continue the conversation in a more sensible manner. He hoped that the technique would work for him as well.
"Mr. Foster, if it had been my intention to 'wipe you out', or to do anything whatsoever to your person, it would not have been necessary for me to stand at your doorstep and await your response. I am here for no purpose other than to converse with you, and to help you if you require it. Now, will you listen to what I have to say?"
The human's face became even more hostile. ^} felt doubt creep back into his thoughts once again--perhaps the 'pause' technique depended on some nuance of facial expression that he could not perceive or duplicate...
"Fuck it. What do you want?"
^} pulsed once with relief. "Thank you, Mr. Foster. I am what you would call a 'social worker'. Judging from your response, I assume that you are already familiar with at least the rough details of the current situation. Have you heard one of the official notices, or have you only heard second-hand information?"
"I do have one of our primitive human radios. I have heard the of-fi-cial no-ti-ces." The human's tone was precise, presumably a mockery of his own. "I am to report to my nearest Human Extinction Agency office at my earliest convenience, so that the remaining four years, eleven months, twenty-seven days of my life can be properly planned... assuming, of course, that you do not decide to revoke your gracious generosity in allowing my miserable carcass to contaminate this planet for even that long."
Continuing to discuss the facts directly was obviously not the correct course. It was time for a calculated risk. "If I were to learn of something so far outside my own experience, only on the basis of a verbal description, I do not think that I could bring myself to believe it; it would seem like a dramatic simulation... like your 'War of the Worlds'. Yet you seemed not to be surprised by my appearance. Is your faith in your communications media greater than mine in this respect?"
The human's face seem to loosen for a moment; if ^} was interpreting his expression correctly, he was genuinely surprised by the question... perhaps he had used the correct approach. "If I'd only heard it on one station, I wouldn't have believed it... I'd have thought the deejay had flipped his lid. But four stations, from four different cities..." The hostile expression returned. "And it's so nice of you to take such a personal interest in the lower animals."
^} ignored the insult, pressed his opportunity. "Then you are aware of the standard procedure, which is for you to report to the nearest field office for your initial processing, and for each of your subsequent stages. It is my belief that this procedure is ill-advised, in the case of individuals such as yourself. If all humans lived in a place such as this and in a manner such as yours, we would not be here in the first place. There is no reason why you should have to travel fifty-three miles to a field office just to attend to these matters. Judging from your original comment to me, your feelings on the matter are similar.
"I have managed to gain approval for an alternate procedure, to be used for a small number of cases such as yours. All aspects of the procedure can be conducted in this location. It would not be necessary for you to leave this place. Would this be of interest to you?"
The human paused--but only for 0.8 seconds. "So you're offering me the opportunity to be murdered right here in my own abode? How fucking generous of you! I'm sorry, though; I just don't think a brute such as I is worthy of such a noble gesture. So who don't you..."
The human stopped. ^} knew that this would probably be his last chance; there was nothing left to lose.
"You think of this change that you face as death. I disagree with you, but I will not argue with you. But if it is death you are facing, then I am not the cause of that death. If you do nothing, then you will be dead within a year. And your death will accomplish nothing. It will not be an effective protest; it will not even be noticed. It will simply be a tragedy. I am trying to offer you five years of life, as normal and as enjoyable as possible under the circumstances. I will not ask you to stop hating what is happening, or even to stop hating me; but please do not throw away four years of your life just because of that hatred. There is no need for more tragedy.
"You do not need to decide now. I will return next week at this time. Please, consider this carefully."
The human stared at him for 1.7 seconds. Then he slammed the door, without another word.
Well, it could have gone much worse, ^} thought as he departed.
There were fourteen more clients on his schedule for the day. And several dozen more for the days after that. He hoped that all of them would be as reasonable.
But he doubted they all would.
|HEA: Preparations||HEA: Erosion Index||Part 2|