By E.J. Shumak
Nomel and Emil are full in the sky, shining yellow and green across the plain. Kees touches the release on her uniform and it drops to the ground. She leaps forward, losing herself in the run. She is lithe and quick. Nearly flying, her claws are the only part of her body contacting the ground. Her ears fully extended, her vision tightens to a narrow cone.
Small herbivores scatter as she runs past and, at times, through them. She turns left, then right, her claws ripping clods of dirt from the red grassed plain. She has no desire to hunt, her belly full. She wants nothing more of this land than to become one with it.
She stops, out of breath at the edge of a riverbank. The golden water flows quickly past. She bends down and laps from the river in much the same way her ancestors had once done. She is at peace with the air, land and water. She is one with her home.
Her communion is shattered by the roar of a flitter passing overhead. She regards its course as it heads towards the compound. It reminds her of the many metal boxes she has spent her life in. The boxes that have stolen her family, made her litter mates grow old--while she remains in her prime, and somehow taken the soul she shares with this planet.
She crouches, and drops to her forepaws. Her claws churn wildly as she runs back towards the compound, back towards civilization. She stops at her uniform, puts it on, stretching upright. Her short furlough has just ended. They have come for her.
As she approaches the compound, the gold and black striping of the Pride Defense Authority flitter reflects back at her, the reflective glow out of place in this natural environment. The two warrant officers approach her as she reaches the compound entrance.
"Kees Nys, we must insist you accompany us," says the taller warrant officer, a dark furred male.
"I will be advised as to whom I am speaking with?" asks Kees.
"I am commander Norak, this is commander Jesk. Do you submit?"
"I submit to nothing that is not first plainly set before me," is Kees' reply.
Jesk speaks, "Captain, we are only doing what is required of us. This is no more pleasant for us, than for you."
"I doubt that. Regardless of your alleged discomfort, I do not cede my birthrights."
"As you wish, captain. In service to the pride, I am honor bound to escort you to council chambers. I subjugate myself to this duty, and in so doing, claim the authority granted my elders. By that authority, I take you, my greater, into custody," replies Norak.
"I require the charges and specifications," says Kees.
"And I require the ancient delivery," continues Kees.
"As you wish," replies Norak. "I place myself at your service, in service to the pride."
Kees approaches Norak, she unsheathes her claws, "As our ancestors judged truth."
"Let it be judged now," continues Norak.
Kees places her open claws on the commander's shoulder, gripping tightly. Norak does the same. Both uniforms are stained by blood, blotting up through the material.
"Speak now, and I will assess your right to judge me," says Kees.
Norak winces under the pressure of Kees' claws, "You are accused of denying blood right to Marn pride. You are accused of interfering in the lawful challenge to your mate, Gatran, and of taking the life of his lawful conqueror, Esh Marn."
"I feel truth pass between us. You not only have accurately defined the charges against me, but you have spoken the truth of the incident. I accept judgment here, as is my right," states Kees as she disengages herself from Norak's grip, releasing him as well.
"Please, captain, this is not necessary. Have we not grown past this?" pleads Norak.
"I think not. Not when you come to me in condemnation of my mate's defense," challenges Kees.
"You will submit yourself," orders Norak.
"I defecate on your order. I cackle at your combined abilities. I defy both your right, and your ability, to capture me in life."
Jesk hisses. Kees turns towards her, and Jesk steps back. Kees turns to Norak, "I fear your partner will be the cause of your death."
They stand facing each other a long moment. Norak draws his disrupter. Kees touches the release on her uniform and it drops to the tarmac. She turns slowly and walks towards the compound exit.
She reaches the edge of the plain, drops to all fours, and trots off. She heads towards the rising sun at an easy pace, still well within range of Norak's disrupter.
Norak turns slowly towards the flitter, Jesk growls and grabs his shoulder. He shakes her off and continues, his walk slow and deliberate, his ears up, head erect.
Jesk follows, ears flat back and teeth bared, "You are a fool."
Norak stops and stares at her, "Do as your honor commands."
They climb into the flitter and it rises above the tarmac, out onto the plain. They do not speak.
The flitter passes overhead, and this time, Kees ignores it. She will allow nothing to disrupt her communion now. The flitter banks north, and is gone. She is left, alone, and finally one with her planet.
- - -
I am a full time writer and hold full, active membership in S.F.W.A.. I have sold four books, three fantasy novels to Baen and one non-fiction along with several dozen short science fiction pieces and non-fiction articles.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
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