Written on a tablet. Apologies for weird formatting, typos, font, etc.
Edit: Put some spaces between the paragraphs.
I blinked in surprise. “What are you talking about? You mean they were shaped by natural forces?” I looked around the walls, examined the smooth surfaces, ran my hands over them and felt faint marks that must surely have come from chisels or some other tool. “Or do you mean that a network of tunnels and caves already existed when the cavern was discovered and that they were just chiseled out a bit more thoroughly?”
“No,” she said, the irritation plain to hear in her voice. I would have recoiled in embarrassment like a chastised puppy if I hadn’t been so engrossed in the masonry around me. As it was, my mind didn’t fully process her tone until she had begun her second sentence. “I mean that the caverns, as they are, were fully formed by an alien hand before mankind ever set foot on the surface of Pluto.”
It was a bold claim. As an ethnographer, I was no stranger to bold claims from the cultures and peoples I interacted with. People the galaxy around believed in strange things. Perhaps it was some fundamental aspect of the human brain, an atavistic impulse that gene therapy and transhuman cybernetic augmentation had not yet identified and rooted out. In any case, as a professional and as a human being sensitive towards my fellow humans, I had to respond with grace and tact.
“That’s stupid. No alien life more advanced than single-celled organisms has ever been encountered.”
She halted completely. Her hand slipped away from mine and she stepped forward and turned to face me. I stared down into her eyes, kicking myself my awkwardness and my skepticism and her stupid, stupid belief. I tried to keep my face blank, neutral, like my (usually) professional demeanor.
She didn’t. She was smiling. There seemed to be relief in her eyes. “You are not ready for any further wisdom,” she said.