“I have seen the creature now on five separate occasions!” Judith said. “Twice at close range, no less!”
“Oh, my dear, the Warumbi think he is just a killer and a maneater, but he has never made any attempt to harm me. I go out and I sing. Old hymns and showtunes. I just plop down and sing, and before I know it I see him out of the corner of my eye, creeping closer to listen! He’s skittish, but he’s curious! Isn’t that amazing?”
She looked at Maribelle. “You’ve read the manuscript, of course?”
“I have a copy of it in my bag,” Maribelle said.
“And do the powers-that-be at WEBwatch still think me the victim of a hoax?” Judith asked. “Oh, of course they do. They must, or they would have sent an entire flock of scientists out here to help me instead of my just my loyal goddaughter.”
“But you’re still convinced?” Maribelle asked. “About the manuscript?”
“More now than ever!” Judith clasped her hands together. “The creature himself wrote that journal, to communicate with me!”
“It still blows my mind,” Maribelle said.
“Mine, too!” Judith chirped. “Oh, sweetie, the bosses just want proof that the Natarajan Corporation has been dabbling in genetic manipulation, but to me they’re missing the most important thing, the fact that such a creature already exists and that it is intelligent! The genie is out of the bottle now, for good or ill. There’s nothing WEBwatch or anyone else can do about that. I’m not saying that the Natarajans shouldn’t be held up to the precepts of international law; they should, of course. It’s just that, now I feel it’s so much more important to study the fruits of their transgressions, the knowledge that can be gleaned from it.”
“And you don’t feel that the creature is as dangerous as they say?” Maribelle asked.
“Oh, I didn’t say that,” Judith replied. “I think it’s too much to hope for that such a being would be prepossessed of a strict pacifistic disposition, not to the fullest extent, by any means. But I do feel now, in truth, that our Blackmane poses no overt threat to myself. Perhaps that’s because I’ve never offered any threatening posture to the creature. Had I come at it in an aggressive manner I might well be singing a different tune right now.”
“That’s if you could sing at all.”
“Right you are. The Warumbi say the only reason the Blackmane hasn’t attacked me is because his stomach has always been full on those occasions when I have encountered him. But they can’t attribute any form of intelligence to him, unless it’s some malevolent hatred for their people. They still regard him as some sort of demon of the grassland. But we know better, don’t we? Our creature can think!”