THYRON GLARED AT THE MPs, knowing if he let fly with a silent and quite deadly botanical fart it would eliminate them while sparing Gabe in the other room. But the base commander would be safe as well.
"Just looks like a plant," one of them commented, hunkered down in front of the open habitat door.
"Worst plant I ever encountered was poison ivy," said the other. "Never knew it to attack anyone unless you touched it, though."
"Do you think anything will happen if we touch this one?"
"I don't know. Doesn't look dangerous. Look at its leaves. They're kinda pretty, like little palm trees."
"Too many fingers, but it reminds me of something else," the other said with a crooked smile. "I wonder how it would smoke?"
The other soldier chuckled. "Yeah, but it's from another planet. No telling."
I don't think so, Meathead, Thyron thought as he moved his branches enough to reveal his eyes. Theirs widened as their mouths flopped open. Thyron shook with mirth, limbs rattling like the proximity alert used by a local reptile, causing the pair to stumble back in alarm. Still not done, he stiffened his branches, imitating two felines he'd viewed having a heated discussion behind one of the hangars. Then, as the coup de gras, he sent a defensive volley of hostile psibrations, including a gory visual of strangled bodies entangled in leafy branches.
As he'd hoped, the colonel picked it up, while the soldiers gaped at their unlikely adversary from their new position on the far side of the lab.
You can't win, whatever you are, the colonel responded, stepping to the window.
Thyron shifted his focus to the base commander, unimpressed. The man's telepathic psignature was unnatural, produced by some sort of implant. The device was primitive and made reading his mind a cinch since it opened up neural pathways that Thyron could trace with ease. If the colonel wanted to play psi-games, that was fine with him. That arrogant asteroid fungus was about to find out that threatening his human was a big mistake.
It took less than two and a half seconds for Thyron to determine that the man's pet project was hopelessly stalled.
I understand your engineers over in Galileo Bay are having a bit of trouble with vehicle AI and self-repair, Thyron taunted.
Gabe tried unsuccessfully to stifle a smile as the colonel's expression shifted to one of interest.
What's your point? Watkins psaid.
I could provide tutoring in that area as well, Thyron replied. The colonel's brow shifted to a pensive look, catching the implications; the man was obnoxious, but not stupid.
As well, eh? Watkins responded. I suspected as much. Inglehardt is smart, but not that smart. So he got that from you?
I assume you're referring to Brad, Thyron replied.
Affirmative. So you're telling me you know something we could use related to that robot?
Affirmative, Thyron responded, using a mocking tone the colonel either ignored or didn't catch.
That thing possesses technologies we've never seen before, Watkins admitted. The thought train that followed wasn't deliberately expressed, but Thyron heard it anyway, which he found amusing as well as informative. Apparently it was the interface between the hardware and AI algorithms that interested him, which Brad's presentation had only touched upon.
Why was Brad promoted and moved to EVO&RE? Thyron asked.
There's plenty he can teach the vehicle crew, Watkins stated, rambling thoughts revealing more: AI applied heavily to combat, navigation, maintenance, and other areas. Back engineering vehicles was their primary objective. AI not so much, largely because they got fewer samples. They suspected some of the greys were a type of biologically based android, but so far they haven't found conclusive evidence. They thought AG4MI looked like an older technology that might be a precursor and provide a suitable transition.
Thyron rolled his eyes which, since arriving on Terra, had become a prelude to cloaking his thoughts, usually to avoid hurting Gabe's feelings with sarcastic comments. Yet, as he thought about it, the fact they were more interested in that herbicidal 'troid than they were in him had distinct advantages.
There is much I didn't explain. I could provide additional breakthroughs, using the robot as a basic example—a primer, if you will, of physical laws not yet discovered or understood with their application.
So you'll cooperate? Watkins prompted.
Under certain conditions, Thyron stated.
Thyron fixed his hardest look on the man, glaring with confidence. He had him by the bulbs. Doctor Greenley's reporting violations will be disregarded and his clearance upgraded so he can continue his work here and anywhere else with total impunity.
Watkins scowled and set his jaw, emanations of anger and frustration sparking his aura with shades of red and black. Allowing Greenley to remain represented failure. Eliminating researchers from base access entirely was number one on his list of objectives. Yet, in spite of being ruthless, he was nonetheless truthful and wouldn't make an agreement he planned to break. Watkins' thoughts shifted to a different strategy, that maybe he could get him on a different charge and still be rid of him. But for now, he was in a quandary and didn't like it.
Before the man could respond, Thyron kicked up his own hostility to the next level. Otherwise, colonel, your superiors may not like the results of the next HIO inspection.
That hit a nerve. The man's psimissions emitted a burst of static, blood pressure and heart rate spiking. As the first USAF commander since assuming control from the CIA, an unfavorable report from the galactic authority could end his career, quickly and decisively; perhaps he'd be reduced to coyote fodder. Or worse.
While Watkins ruminated far more openly than he realized on his dilemma, Thyron quietly scoped out his implant, gathering its technical specifications.
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