Thyron pondered the concept of being planted, something his distant ancestors had endured before evolving mobility. Renewed fear tingled through his protoplasm at the prospect of being stuck in a pot in this human-infested horror chamber for the remainder of his life. Furthermore, his progeny would suffer the same unfortunate fate. His boughs drooped. All wisdom and knowledge acquired through his adventures would be lost forever.
Greenley's troubled expression reflected comprehension of his horrific thoughts.
"What's going on?" one assistant queried, puzzlement tinting his voice. "Are you talking to yourself, us, or with the, uh, specimen?"
"Sorry, Bill," Greenley replied. "Yes. The specimen, I mean. It's telepathic and apparently I'm sensitive to its thoughts. It's frightened, as you can imagine, being trapped on a foreign planet and now confined, not knowing its fate."
"Are you crazy? It may have eyes, but it's a plant, for Pete's sake!" stated the other white-clad assistant. "Since when does a plant worry about its future? Or anything else, for that matter."
"You'd be surprised; and apparently, this one does," Greenley replied evenly. "Obviously you're unfamiliar with Cleve Backster's work as well as Marcel Vogel, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, and numerous others. Plant sentience is nothing new. If you want to remain on this project, I suggest rather strongly that you familiarize yourself with their work.
"All that aside, communicating as specifically as this one does is definitely unique. Which implies there's no telling just how intelligent it actually is. Underestimating an unfamiliar lifeform is never wise. As an extraterrestrial species, there's no telling what its defensive or strategic abilities might be. It's our job to find out. Furthermore, David, since it's sentient, we have a moral obligation not to harm it."
"Isn't that contrary to policy?" Bill argued in a deep, scratchy voice. "Our mission is to learn everything we can about alien lifeforms. Protecting them is secondary. If they're intelligent, they could be dangerous."
"Until we determine its character and motivation, we can't make that judgment. We can learn much more from one that cooperates. I don't think we have to worry about this fellow taking over the planet."
"You never know," David said, frowning. "I've heard some pretty weird stuff goes on around here. Could be another Audrey."
All three of them laughed hard, providing Thyron with a triple vision of a carnivorous plant that thrived on human blood. Ha. Revenge is sweet, he thought.
Unfortunately, Greenley picked it up.
If you ever want to get out of that ECV, we're going to need to have a serious dialog. You apparently can't hide your thoughts from me any more than I can hide mine from you, so achieving trust or lack of it should be fairly easy. Understand?
Thyron recognized the statement held dual potential, threat as well as promise. Yet, so far, Greenley seemed sincere. Maybe he couldn't help Thyron's situation, but he could make it as pleasant as possible. Or miserable.
Tell me about yourself. What are you? Plant or animal? Greenley psaid, parking on a stool to peer at him while both assistants stood behind, emanating skepticism.
Neither, Thyron replied. I'm a vegemal, possessing characteristics of both. Not flora or fauna, but known in more enlightened galactic sectors as flauna. Specifically, I'm a flora peda telepathis.
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