by Nancy Fulda
Nancy Fulda is a 2012 Hugo and Nebula Nominee, a Phobos Award winner, and a Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award winner. She is also a recipient of the Jim Baen Memorial Award, which was created to honor the role science fiction plays in advancing real science. Nancy holds a Master’s Degree in computer science and has published several IEEE research papers on machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The knock at Adrian’s office door was brief, tentative, and mildly desperate. Reluctantly, he set aside his research and called, “Come in!”
The handle swung downward, and a young biologist from the colonial research institute poked her head around the door. “I’m sorry to bother you. I know you must be very busy…”
“Not at all,” Adrian lied. He read the name on her ID badge. “Come in, Brenda, and tell me what the slythii have done this time.”
Not, Adrian reflected sourly, that the inevitable conflicts between the human colonists and their alien hosts were ever truly the aliens’ fault. The slythii were an herbivorous race, quadrupedal, and almost annoyingly complacent. About the only crime they’d ever committed was the accidental blockage of traffic by milling around on public roadways.
The roadways in question, it turned out, had been built along a series of culturally significant hunks of rock bordering the canyon wall. Adrian, incensed on the aliens’ behalf, had shouted down several overzealous traffic cops and complained to the colony leadership. He’d expected to ruffle a few feathers, get the roadways removed, and return to his quiet field studies of slythii culture.
Instead, he’d ended up with a desk job and the lofty title of “Director of Native Relations”, which hadn’t been his intent at all.
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