Ojos Amarillos: La Defensa de Panama

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Boredom was for a time of unending routine. Boredom was not for the time after word had returned telling of the outright massacre of the first fleet to reach the new world of the threshkreen.

Face buried in the Aldenat' mush, Guanamarioch sensed something new in his messmates, similarly feeding around him. It was not anticipation, this new thing. It was something . . . something . . . something Guanamarioch remembered only dimly from his time in the pens as a nestling.

The Kessentai thought back, trying to recall memories he had long suppressed, memories of his small nestling hindquarters against the wall of the pen, fighting for his life against a horde of siblings who had decided he looked much like lunch. He remembered the flashing needlelike teeth, the yellow blood that flowed from a dozen tiny slashes on his face, neck and flanks. He remembered a lucky slash of his own that had disemboweled one of those who sought to eat him.

They had turned on that other one, then, turned on it and ripped it apart. That feeding had taken a long time, with the wounded one's pitiful cries growing weaker as dozens clustered around, each taking a small bite.

Guanamarioch too had eaten, lunging in to sink his teeth into his brother's hams before shaking his tiny head and tearing a bloody gob of warm, dripping meat from the body.

The God King had retreated to a corner then, bloody prize locked in the claws and jaws. There he had sat, trembling, alternately chewing and looking up to snarl and warn off any of the others who might seek to steal his prize.

He remembered being afraid then, afraid that someone would take his meal and afraid, even more, that in the frenzy he might too be ripped apart while still living.

Guanamarioch lifted his massive head from his mush bowl and looked around the mess room. No, there was no tremblings of fear among his clanskin. But then, neither was Guanamarioch shaking.

Then something happened, something in itself trivial. A God King of about the same rank as Guanamarioch nudged the mush bowl of one slightly superior. The latter then immediately turned and tore the throat from the clumsy one. All the others present immediately grabbed their bowls and backed up towards the nearest wall or other vertical surface, each one snarling as he did so.

Guanamarioch did the same, and realized, as he backed his haunches to the wall, that the news of these new thresh had them all terrified.

He understood though. Never before had a fleet of the People met serious resistance from any but their own. To have a fleet, even a small one, almost completely destroyed was terrifying indeed.

A door into the mess deck slid open with a slight whoosh. Through the door passed an oddly shaped robotic device. This glided across the deck silently. It then hovered lightly over the yellow-blood-soaked area of the mess where the clumsy Kessentai had had his throat torn open by another. The device fit the dimensions of the ship's corridors and compartments well, leading Guanamarioch to think that this, too, was Aldenat' technology.

Singly and by twos, the others cleared out from the mess and formed in the corridor adjacent the mess. In a few minutes, only Guanamarioch and the killer remained, the latter staring madly at the corpse, apparently in contemplation of eating it. This was not, in itself, forbidden, of course; the ethos of the People demanded that thresh not be wasted.

It was, however, forbidden to kill aboard ship during migration without permission.

A senior God King, not the lord of the clan but a close assistant entered the mess, followed by two cosslain, the superior normals that filled the job of noncommissioned officers within the Posleen host. The senior took in the entire compartment in a single sweeping glance before resting his yellow eyes on the corpse and the nearby killer.

"Did you see what happened, Junior?" the demi-lord demanded.

Guanamarioch bowed his head in respect. "I saw it, lord, but I did not understand it."

The senior turned his attention back to the killer. "For what reason did you break the shiplaw and kill this one?" he asked calmly.

With apparent difficulty the murderer looked upward, away from the corpse, answering, "He nudged my feeding bowl."

"It is my judgment that this is insufficient reason to break the law of the People. It is further my judgment that this conduct merits termination of existence. Have you anything to say?"

Sensing death, and unwilling to die without a struggle, the killer launched itself at the senior Kessentai, claws outstretched and fangs bared. The senior, however, had not reached his position within the clan by being slow and indecisive. Even while the lower God King began his leap, the senior had drawn his boma blade and begun to swing. The blade passed through the thick neck almost as if it were not there. When the body struck it did so in two pieces, dead.

The senior looked at Guanamarioch as if measuring him for the recycling bins. At length, he decided that Guanamarioch had more value as a future leader than as a current meal.

"This is not to be spoken of further," the senior announced as he turned to leave.

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