"Just make sure you get it done by tomorrow night," Bob said finally, signaling towards the door with his hand as he gestured for her to leave. And with that, he turned from her, sitting back down at his desk and slipping on his antique wireframe glasses as he began to pore over his notes once more.
But Alice didn't leave. "I can't," she protested simply as she folded her arms, her gaze drifting uncomfortably towards the window on her right. "It can't be done."
The governor ground his teeth with a shake of his head as he rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Nonsense!" he burst out. "You're speaking utter nonsense! You haven't even tried!"
Her frown deepened with worry. "It's not nonsense, sir..." the girl managed, her eyes dropping to the floor.
With that, Bob yanked his glasses off a second time and fixed his gaze on the young woman. "It is nonsense! You're simply afraid to try!" Then, with a cruel, piercing glare, he added under his breath, just loud enough for her to hear, "It's all because of those foolish parents of yours. You're too afraid to try after losing them."
Alice's eyes began to sting as she fought back tears, her lips twisting into a frown. "You don't know these people like I do, sir! I spent my life with them!"
"And I spent my life with mathematics," Bob roared in response, pounding his fist on the desk. "They will listen to reason! My calculations attest to that!"
Biting her trembling lip, Alice attempted to steel herself as she stepped forwards, her voice pitched higher with dismay. "People aren't just numbers and figures! They're more than that!" She uncrossed her arms, her hands balling into fists as they fell to her sides. "They have feelings! They have desires, hopes and dreams, fears and -"
"I've accounted for those!" Bob said coldly, slamming his book shut and getting to his feet. "And I'm telling you now that if you don't have him poisoned before tonight, many, many people are going to die!"
"They won't!" Alice shouted, her pretty face twisted with anger as she brushed the silver-blonde locks from her eyes. "I'm not killing anyone, even if it's their leader! I promise, everything will be fine even if we don't do anything!"
Bob was all but shaking with rage. In a fury, he stormed around the desk, knocking over his chair as he did, storming towards his student. Alice backed away, half in fear that he might hurt her, but Bob seemed to see this and stopped short as he attempted to calm himself. "The mobs are going to tear this station apart within the month if their leader isn't murdered. Psychohistory predicts it."
"Governor, I'm sorry... but that means psychohistory isn't yet complete." Her voice was like ice, her eyes boring holes as she stared him down defiantly.
For a moment, the mathematician did indeed look as though he was contemplated striking her, but he managed to keep himself in check, barely constraining the menace in his voice as he muttered, "How about you tell exactly what you mean."
Alice closed her eyes for a moment, thanking the gods that he was going to listen, and then, opening them, took a deep breath to calm herself. "It's simple, sir... When they think they've overthrown you, they're going to celebrate by taking it even farther and cutting off trade and closing the spaceport. They wouldn't kill you right away - they'd want to mock you first..." She paused, turning slightly from the governor and staring out the window. She could hear the riots in the halls - some of the windows in the next arm of the station were even ablaze with flame - but the sight only spurred her resolve. "When they cut off trade, we won't have any food coming in... they'll abandon their new leader and reinstate you out of desperation to survive. They think they want a rebellion right now, but things will resolve themselves."
Bob seemed stunned, staring at the young woman in speechless surprise as he processed what she'd said. He opened his mouth as though to speak, but closed it again, swallowing dryly. Finally, he whispered, "I'd have to run the calculations..."
"Trust me, Governor," Alice urged, turning her blue eyes back to him pleadingly. "No one has to die. Please," she ended in an urgent whisper, a tear rolling down her cheek, "trust me."