From a work in progress.
Sheshak sat in his quarters on the Jin Long, sipping at the human beverage known as tea. Biochemists had pronounced tea safe to drink. And while the tea did nothing, not even provide taste, to Eres, the lemon that humans sometimes added acted as a mild stimulant to Eres physiology.
On his screen he read from the book of Jekat.
“The Art of Politics is the art of the hunt,” Shekha had written. “It is a hunt played out with words and ideas rather than fang and claw. When Eres play the game of politics, their drive to hunt is satisfied. It is hunt, but it is also challenge. And so, in its form of challenge, it is the only hunt where it is lawful for Eres to hunt Eres. As hunt and as challenge, it is no less deadly for no blood being spilled.”
Sheshak closed the file and leaned back in his seat. In his position as Lesser Stalker, he read much human writing, not just their news and histories but their stories and legends. Humans responded to politics with all the savagery of their response to the Great Hunts. But better to stalk them, to pounce and be pounced upon, in that field, than among the stars in ships of blood.
Humans did not hunt Eres. They simply killed. Shekha understood. So many others had not, still did not.
Even without those others, to continue the Great Hunts would,at the last, have meant the end of the Eres.
Sheshek placed his claw on the computer, contemplating the Book of Jekat held within. The Way of Jekat was right. He knew that now. He would bind his pack to that sect and to alliance with the humans and their other allies.
As he was making his silent vow the door to his compartment opened.
Surprised, but not startled, Sheshek looked toward the door. The small human female, Coll was her name, stood in the doorway. Her right hand tucked behind her back.
“I thought I secured that door.”
Coll simply looked at him. Of course, Sheshak thought, she was their chief engineer. The whole ship would be open to her. “Is there a problem, Ms. Coll?” He asked.
“Oh,yes,” Coll said. Her voice carried agitation and excitement, fear and…was that mania? “A big problem. But that’s okay.” She removed her right hand from behind her back. In it she held a large pulse pistol. She pointed it at him. “It won’t be a problem much longer.”
Sheshak studied Coll. He could cross the room before she could fire. Probably. Maybe. He had just sworn Jekat so humans were not lawful to hunt. Did her pointing the gun constitute challenge? Sheshak did not believe the humans would think so. What did his inner being, the Heart of Eres, tell him?
Yes, Challenge, but, was it a lawful challenge? He was a Great Pack Leader, one who bested the Greater Thisok Hunt. And she? She was not. He clung to that thought and let it guide him. Challenge was not lawful, but she did not know.
“May I know the reason you threaten me?” He modulated his vocoder to produce soft, calming tones.
“Reason? You’re a monster. That’s reason enough.”
“I have done you no harm.”
The gun shook. “No? In the war my ship…my ship was captured. I was taken to one of your prison camps, your…hunting preserves. Every day I waited, waited for my turn, my turn to be dragged out and made to run. Would I take a spear through my guts? Would I be driven over a cliff? Would I feel your fangs on my throat before you ripped it out? I waited. Eventually I started praying you would take me just so it would be over. And still I waited. I almost went mad.”
“We did no honor hunts.” Again, Sheshak kept the sounds from his vocoder soft. “Our hunt was in the stars, ship to ship. Taking your people was the coup, not hunting them after. Honor was in the number we held, not the number we killed.”
“You lie! Tell me you do not. Are you going to tell me your honor forbids you to lie.”
“No,” Sheshak said. “I am a thinking being. All thinking beings lie when it suits them. But there is no need now. We knew. Two other Great Hunts had taught us. If we continued the honor hunts, your people would extract a price too terrible to contemplate. We…dared…not.”
“Then what happened to those they took out of my pen? They’d take people out and I’d never see them again.”
Good, Sheshak thought. She was arguing, thinking. He opened his mouth to respond.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I can kill you.” She raised the gun and pointed it at the base of his throat, where the control center for his autonomous functions resided in its armored box. “I can kill you.”
Her finger tightened on the trigger.