Ashur had a very particular problem, a problem he didn’t fully know how to overcome. The unfortunate reality was that his captive scavenger was smarter than he was. Credit where it was due, Ashur knew he was certainly more cunning than the girl-thing, but over the long run, there was little chance of him coming out ahead in a battle of wits. So, he did what he always did before approaching a tough mark. He did his recon.
Kaori was far too absorbed in her misery to notice Ashur skulking around, watching and sometimes listening to her. He saw her build a new arm as quick as a blink. It was a big ugly thing, perfectly sized to crush Ashur like an Akkadarian beetle. He had grown worried, but as she worked she seemed to grow more miserable and less motivated. He wrote down the odd behaviour, hoping to decode and possibly exploit it later. It was then that the little Captain contacted Kaori to ask for help. His captive seemed reinvigorated, leaping to action to solve Annie’s conundrum. This was a precarious balance on the scale of good and bad. On one hand, It was bad that Kaori was motivated, worse that she was helping his rival, but on the other, it was excellent that her attention was focused on something other than mutiny.
He was certain Kaori didn’t realize it, but she had all the power. He couldn’t stop her from altering the ship and taking control from him, nor could he defeat her in an actual fight. His scrap-bots might slow her from accessing the bridge, but no more than that. Her correspondence with the little star child meant that he had time to think.
He would need Kaori to change her mind about him before she could realize her place of strength. It was a tricky thing to force someone to go from foe to friend, but Ashur had done it before. In the past, he had either focused the two of them at a mutual enemy or otherwise redirected the anger. Trapped alone on a ship with no one else in sight, that option wasn’t available to him. He would need another idea, an idea that should be alien to him. A human idea.
Ashur was grateful that the Akkadar were far more pragmatic than the other species of the galaxy. Other sentients let their fiction, their histories, and their media be studied and enjoyed by the galaxy at large. Cultural exchange they called it. Only the Akkadar saw art for what it was, a weapon. A species write about what is important to them, they write about their virtues, their weaknesses and everything they found important. Literature was a goldmine for people like Ashur who were probing for weak points in a creatures psychology.
“You.” He ordered his scrap monkey to his feet. The creature looked at him curiously. “Open your human fiction archive.”
The creature stiffened up like it was no longer in control of its own body. A pleasant Akkadari voice answered him from the unwilling lips of the scrapbot “four thousand eight hundred and sixty-three works found.”
He’d need to find something pertinent to the situation. Something that could construe it as uplifting. Nothing remotely to do with being a prisoner, he needed something she could focus on.
“Find something about treasure.”
“One thousand seven hundred and thirty-two results found relating to ‘treasure’”
Well, that number told him quite a lot already. Humans nearly a third of human fiction seemed to involve the acquisition of wealth or treasure. Still, that was likely too vague of a search.
“Narrow the search to ‘treasure hunts’ and give me the three most popular books. Read me the top three.”
The tiny processor clicked and clacked inside the monkeys head.
“The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien is a story set in the fantastical world of Middle Earth. Bilbo Baggins is an ordinary Hobbit, plenty satisfied with spending his life at home. Against his better judgment, he is whisked away by the wizard Gandalf and a band of dwarves in a plot to steal the dwarven treasure back from the great dragon Smaug.”
Ashur wasn’t entirely certain what hobbits, dwarves or wizards were, but the Akkadar had the word dragon in their language as well, They were small annoying little creatures that liked to bury themselves between the cracks of your shell and take infuriatingly itchy bits from your skin. He was relatively certain that it must not be the same thing in the Terran dialect, as there was no chance that a pesky insect like a dragon would be capable of stealing anything unless hobbits, wizards, and dwarves were an even smaller breed of insect. Best not to overthink it.
He could see a few similarities between this ‘Bilbo’ and Kaori. Both seem to have been dragged off on a treasure hunt they apparently hadn’t meant to go on but based on that synopsis the similarity ended there.
“What’s the next one?”
“The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown tells the story of Robert Langdon, a cryptographer, as he unravels a two thousand-year-old mystery. He follows a series of clues left by the famed medieval artist Leonardo Da Vinci about shadow secrets in the Catholic church, going back all the way to the life of Christ.”
Ashur did know about Christ, he had made a point of learning the basics of human religions when he came to the spur. Originally it was hoped by the Akkadar missionaries that they could find common ground and begin converting them. Sadly, the most influential human prophet, Christ, had preached opposite virtues to Akkadarianism. The humans as a whole focused their beliefs on the sentiment that the strong should protect the weak. A devout Akkadar believed the opposing philosophy, however, society should strive to make everyone strong. No one should need a guardian to get through life, everyone should be able to fend for themselves and to deal with adversity. Anything else was humiliating.
He supposed that there wasn’t going to be much of value in this book, nothing about it seemed relevant to Kaori.
“Give me one more,” he said.
“Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson is the tale of a boys search for treasure, and his complex relationship with the enigmatic pirate; Long John Silver.”
Now that sounded like what he was after. It was about a boy rather than a girl, but based off of his current observations, there wasn’t a big enough difference between the two to think that would be a problem. Kaori already had a grudge against him as sure as the boy in this book would have had a stigma against pirates.
It would serve him well to see how this John Silver, who was apparently long in some way, befriended his youthful hero. Ashur might easily find a way to do the same.
“Give me the audio version.”
He barely even noticed the smile that grew on his face as he pulled a pair of bulky green headphones over his ears.
“Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about treasure island,” spoke the narrator.
Humans were so reckless, just leaving their fiction out in the galactic market. Why anyone could get their hands on them.