From a work-in-progress.
Preseron Norts, Chief of Pomp and Bribes, swam into Sylvester's sensorium.「Ma'am.」
「Norts! New haircut?」
「Thank you. Two are quite recent.」Like all Geffen, Preseron Norts was completely covered in pale lush fur, and tended to have several haircuts at once. He squirmed his arch, presumably showing off the new trims.
Sylvester was mystified.「Norts, très trefoil,」she gushed. 「And to what do I owe this pleasant admin?」
「Your birthday,」said the Chief of Pomp and Bribes, with a puzzled air.「It's only twenty-six days off.」
「Not still searching for a prezzie, Pressie Norts? Everyone knows the fiefdom could do with a new mech. Our enemies know it especially. Hint, hint!」
Several polite but pained rictuses gleamed in the shaved regions of Preseron Norts's arch.「Ha ha, ma'am. 」
「Or they will kiiillll uuusss!」
「Well, it's the Award for Diverse Innovations, you see.」
Out loud, Sylvester was sobbing for the benefit of her therapist Konoshi.
"There, there," said Konoshi.
"Ambassadors make me sad," she wailed.
「I don't think I should win the Award, even if it is my birthday!」she subvocalised to the Chief of Pomp and Bribes. 「Very kind though! Shall I bestow on myself any knighthoods this year? Or is that nepotistic?」
There was a phrase she had taught Preseron Norts for such situations.「Ma'am,」said Preseron Norts awkwardly. 「I am done with your fucking bullshit.」
「That's the spirit Norts. Is the shortlist finalised yet?」
「Very near. One applicant needs your personal attention. I'll dump it in your intray, if I may. It's a solid pitch, but ... essentially she wants to write some software to apply for the Award next year, and every year thereafter.」
「She – I see. So if we award it to her this year, we have to keep awarding it to her forever. Otherwise it proves we made a poor decision, funding something doesn't work! Oh, that's lovely! Give it to her, definitely!」
「Really? It's not that exactly. The judging process involves ... interviews. If this applicant has proposed to automate an interview...」
「... it would violate my prohibition on personality constructs. Oh dear. You want to know how hard you should come down on her. No! — you want my go-ahead to sweep this under the carpet!」
「Precisely. Poor publicity for the ceremony, for your birthday celebrations, for the House Lorraine. So with your off-the-record permission, I will omit her from the shortlist? No further action necessary?」
Sylvester reached her decision.「This is what will happen. Make it clear that all recipients of the Award must abide by all standard system-wide prohibitions. Then announce ... I will give her the Award, but should she fail, her eyes shall be forfeit!」
「Or tail or something! — put together our anatomy options, Norts! Something I can have as a bracelet possibly! That'll be all.」
「Ma'am. Thank you.」Preseron Norts, Chief of Pomp and Bribes, rippled his respectful farewell.
「Wait, Norts! — how much bank does this vile innovator troll stack? Do we know if she's in it for the funding or the fame?」
「Fame. Background check unearthed a recent pelfie. She's stacking mad bank, ma'am.」
「So is it possible she's already done it? Written the program?」
「No of course n—」Preseron Norts paused and shivered.「I hadn't considered that. You think it won in a previous year? This year might be her big reveal?」
「Somebody's big reveal, anyway. Worth checking out. Analyse the last few awards. Include pitches that almost got shortlisted but didn't. And ... Norts, could this application have been automated?」
「Ma'am. I'll look into all this immediately, ma'am. Thank you.」
「On a bracelet or just on a pole. Props for taking this to the top. Laters, naughty Norts!」