Daktor strode into the room like a conqueror, and that’s exactly what she was. She held out her purple, scaly fingers in a gesture of command. It was important to be regal, no matter who she addressed. Even if it was a computer.
“Speak, Voice,” she ordered. “Tell me about these humans. Theirs is a distant world, but General Noth advances in their direction. I hear many conflicting rumors of their kind, and I would know the truth.”
The ship’s computer was a vaguely cylindrical mass of metal and polymer casing, enclosing such strange and mystical circuits as even Daktor dared not imagine. It spoke in a harsh synthetic tone. “Enlightened One, these creatures are no threat to your navy.”
She frowned. “I have heard of their skill. With ships, with technology. They have colonized three of the nearby systems, have they not?”
“It is so, Enlightened One.”
“How do you know they are not a threat?”
“They were a race of toolmakers, Enlightened One. They achieved nuclear fission and interstellar drive early in their history. But they have fallen.”
“Fallen – how? The technology is gone?”
“The tools remain, but the toolmakers have grown weak. They engineered such clever devices that they had no more need of toil, of skill. Pampered by their machines, they ceased to study, and they forgot how to invent new things. A few of the old builder clans remain, but it takes all their effort just to maintain the ancient ways. They do not innovate.”
Daktor smiled. “Like a thousand other worlds. Prey to their own genius. Once I have pushed my borders beyond them, I will teach them new ways. Our ways. The ways of strength.”
“So it will be, Enlightened One.”
Daktor strode out of the room like a conqueror.
A panel in the corner shifted, and two heads poked out of a supply cache, scanning the room. Their faces were not purple or scaly, but soft and smooth. Daktor would have thought they looked weak, had she been there. But Daktor had moved on.
“They bought it,” one said to the other. “Let’s move.”
For those who don’t know, Forty-Minute Stories are a semi-regular feature here. I write each one in (shocker!) forty minutes or less, in the mornings before work. If you liked this one, there are plenty more.