General Talk (primarily non-naturist) > Pitti's Book Club

The Nature of Predators

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Dogoegma:
I can’t get enough of this scifi series. “The Nature of Predators” is a well written story about love, bigotry, overcoming that bigotry, atonement, and redemption. Please consider the audiobook of the same name narrated by Aggro Squirrel Narrates on YouTube.

The first chapter here:

Memory transcription subject: Governor Tarva of the Venlil Republic

Date [standardized human time]: July 12, 2136

There were two known instances of a predatory species achieving sentience in the galaxy.

The Arxur were the first to be discovered, and, as an anomaly, sparked the Federation’s curiosity. By previous hypotheses on intelligence, their existence was impossible. Conventional wisdom stated that cooperation led to higher thinking, which in turn, led to the formation of technological societies. A predator’s natural instinct for aggression should have limited their evolution.

But it turned out that there was another motivator for technological progress; war. The Arxur derived pleasure from killing each other, and in doing so, managed to claw their way to an industrial stage. Their warfare was so deadly that we feared they would become extinct before we could study them.

The Federation saw their cruelty, but in our naivety, we thought we could change them. If we uplifted them, there would be no logical reason for their destructive ways to persist. Thus, we made our worst mistake: we decided to intervene.

It was out of our kindness that we unleashed the galaxy’s worst monsters. We gave genocidal maniacs the means to escape their planet, and all but invited them to our doorstep. The Federation was an easy target to them, and they set out to claim our territories for themselves. They torched worlds, enslaved millions, and bred our children as delicacies. Our pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears; predators had no sense of compassion to appeal to, after all.

The Federation rallied together to fend them off, and began the ceaseless war for our survival. From that point onward, it was agreed that no predatory species could be allowed to reach the stars. Their kind were too great of a threat to the civilized universe.

Little known to the public, scientists discovered a second predatory sapient centuries ago. Much like the Arxur, they slaughtered and committed atrocities against their own; it was visible from their broadcasts. The Federation voted to exterminate them, before it was too late.

But while we spent decades drafting termination plans, hundreds of nuclear explosions were detected across the planet. Our strategists concluded, with a grim sense of relief, that they had wiped themselves out. The species was forgotten, mentioned only as an asterisk to the Arxur’s unique predator status.

Yet now, my advisors were digging every record of these predators off of the internet. There was a vessel inbound for our world, with a subspace trail pointing back to the planet Earth.

“Governor Tarva.” My military advisor, Kam, was growing more impatient by the minute. It was obvious that he wanted to be cleared for action. “Please, I beg you. We must try to shoot them down.”

“Are you certain we cannot evacuate the planet?” I asked.

Kam sighed. “You know the answer, ma’am. They were within orbital range by the time we detected them. It’s already too late.”

I grimaced. Every FTL relay was broadcasting a planetary distress signal, from the moment we identified the human ship. It was in vain, of course; it would take hours for our Federation allies to reach us. By the time they arrived, our world would be reduced to rubble. At least someone would investigate our death, and hopefully, put the pieces together.

Was there any way to stop the coming onslaught? Was enslavement preferable to death? It was doubtful, but I didn’t see another way to bargain for my race’s survival. There was nothing else to be done.

To put it simply, we couldn’t divert resources to another army of predators. Our people didn’t have the manpower or the spirit. Local forces were depleted from a recent Arxur incursion, which was thwarted by the slimmest of margins. The humans caught us at a time of maximum vulnerability; there was no chance to fight or flee.

As difficult as it was to surrender our home, it was the only option.

“Yes… I know. Send out an emergency alert. Get the civilians to bomb shelters immediately.” I stared at my paws, cursing the day I chose to run for office. “Contact the incoming ship. I—I will personally offer our unconditional surrender.”

“Surrender? Without firing a single shot?!” the advisor growled.

“Perhaps they’ll be kinder than the Arxur. My hope is they’ll spare the children.” The video tapes of our children, lined up in front of the gray reptilians and shot by a mass grave, rolled in my mind. It was their way of taunting us. “At worst, we can buy some time. But if we fight, they’ll kill us all.”

I swiveled my chair away from the advisor, signaling that the discussion was over. An aide propped a camera in front of me, and with a swish of my tail, I showed that I was ready. Fear swelled in my throat as we hailed the vessel on all frequencies. Would these creatures even answer? Predators didn’t talk to prey, except to toy with them. Perhaps they would pick up, just to laugh at our desperation and weakness.

To my surprise, the inbound ship accepted our transmission. A brown-skinned being appeared on screen, sitting in some sort of pilot’s chair. The words of our surrender were almost to my lips when its forward-facing eyes locked with mine. To my horror, it bared its teeth in a vicious snarl. Its sharp, hungry stare halted my thought process, sending my instincts into a primal cascade.

This thing was feral! The hostility was unmistakable in its expression. It uttered a few words in a guttural dialect, which I assumed was an announcement of our impending doom.

The translator tingled by my ear, pressing the meaning into my mind. I took a shaky breath, certain the machine was wrong.

Hello. We come in peace, on behalf of the human race.

I stared at it, lost for words. “Peace? What?”

The translator spit out my question in the guttural language.

The predator closed its maw, tilting its head. “Did that translate wrong? You know, peace? Friendship?”

“Yes…I know what peace means,” I stammered. “Why would you want that?”

“Why would you not?” It seemed almost taken aback. “My people have looked to the stars for a long time and wondered if there was anyone else out there. I’m happy to have an answer, and to know we’re not alone.”

“You speak of peace, but you can’t keep the snarl off your face, predator!” Kam interjected.

“What? I don’t…” it trailed off, as though something occurred to it. “You mean the ‘smile’, don’t you? I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you, really.”

“Smile? What does that word mean?” I asked hesitantly.

“Er, it’s how humans show happiness and good will. Our lips curve up and...” It rubbed its forehead with a soft appendage. “Can we start over? I’m Noah. We’re here on a mission of peaceful exploration.”

Noah really expected us to believe that flashing teeth was meant as a friendly gesture?! No, this had to be some sort of twisted game. Predators didn’t do “peaceful exploration.” They trampled everything in their path and then burned it for good measure.

At least it wasn’t killing us immediately. What choice did I have but to play along?

So I gazed into those animal eyes, and tried to keep my voice steady. “I’m Governor Tarva. Welcome to Venlil Prime.”

“Thanks,” the human said. “I must admit, we were quite surprised to receive your transmission.”

“Y-you were? Why did you come here, if you didn’t detect us?”

“We’re from a planet called Earth, rich in water and oxygen. One of science’s nagging questions has been the origin of life. Our mission was to examine worlds similar to our own, and yours was the perfect candidate.”

“You suspected we had the conditions for life, then.”

“Well, yes, but every reasonable scientist back home thought our ‘first contact’ would be a primitive lifeform. Finding a single-celled organism in your oceans would’ve been a major victory.”

“Why would you care?”

“Um, we were starting to think we were the only instance of life arising. But now, finding a full-fledged, technological civilization; it’s wondrous. One that not only spotted us, but seems to understand what we are too.”

“You keep using the first person, plural. Who is we?”

“Of course, where are my manners?” Noah pivoted the camera to the side, revealing another human sitting at a console. “This is Sara, my co-pilot. She’s logging all of this for our records.”

“That’s right,” she agreed. “I’m not much of a talker. But Noah runs his mouth enough for both of us, anyways.”

The captain’s eyebrows shot up. “I do not!”

For a brief moment, watching their playful banter, I saw a kindred intelligence in them. My logical brain kicked in a second later, and the illusion dissolved with a cold certainty. Those predators aren’t searching for life for ‘science’, I chided myself. They’re looking for prey. It’s an interstellar hunting expedition.

This was the humans’ first realization that other intelligent life existed. All these measured words were a way of testing the waters, searching for any signs of weakness. We couldn’t clue them in to the fact that they were different. Perhaps if we kept it together, with minimal indications of empathy or fear, they would leave of their own accord.

Despite my misgivings, our best bet might be to treat this like an ordinary first contact situation.

“What would you say to seeing Venlil Prime firsthand? As esteemed guests of the Republic, of course.”

Noah’s eyes sparkled. “It would be an honor.”

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