Ferandis was pleased with the way the interview was going. The commentator had prepared well. Her questions were knowledgeable in general and, when specific, showed she'd studied his breeding program and careful diet structure as well as his training methods.
"Sir Ferandis, Feran Stables' Tut Boy is your first entry in the Stellar Pageant. Would you please explain why?"
"The breeding and diet program I have designed has now been thoroughly tested in lesser competitions. Tut is the culmination of six generations of development. Even if he should only place, his progeny will be in demand. I, of course, hope he wins and not just because of the difference in profit."
"Second, third and fourth are traditionally served at the breeders' banquet and first is retired to stud, a major difference in selling three or four solars of collection for artificial insemination and thirty solars standing at stud."
"Yes, but I'm just plain fond of him. If I didn't believe he had a real chance of winning, I wouldn't have entered him."
"Your objection to the banquet tradition is well known."
"I think it's a detriment to the improvement of the breeds. The loss of those solars at stud is a tragedy. An outstanding breeding achievement may be relegated to the banquet table because he wasn't GROOMED properly on one particular day. Perhaps five solars later he would be in perfect form. It also prevents one from entering young studs to train them to the pressure of the competition. I have two young studs which I haven't entered BECAUSE they might place and I don't wish to risk several solars of collection."
"You aren't alone in your objections, Sir Ferandis."
"No, I'm not. This issue was heavily debated again this solar at the Breeders' Association meeting, as it has been for several solars. This solar is the first, however, where opponents of the tradition of slaughtering the placing entries were in the majority. So far, the Stellar Pageant ruling committee has not responded to the Breeders' Association resolution."
"Do you expect a response?"
"Honestly, no. At least not until after this solar's competition. Come, let me show you Tut's preparation."
"How large is your stable?"
"I have seventy-four males at stud and ninety-three which show promise. There are one hundred forty-two prime brood females and nearly three hundred which comprise my training herd. Some of them will be worth a great deal if Tut does well. His sire is still at stud and many of the females are his offspring. Six share Tut's sire and dam."
"I understand Tut is the only male of that line."
"One premium stud resulting from a particular pairing is quite enough. Unlike some, I do not breed for slaughter to offset the cost of competition."
"Some say you would stop all slaughter if you could."
"Please, Tebian, I enjoy a good meal as much as anyone, but breeding for slaughter and show are two different endeavors. One is NOT looking for intelligence in dinner."
Ferandis enjoyed showing Tut being put through his paces and groomed. He was magnificent. He discussed Tut's musculature and the program of exercise and diet, which showed so clearly in his strong teeth and the shine of his mane brought out by the careful brushing of the groomers. He pointed out how well Tut was trained when he stood quietly while the vet checked him and took samples of his body fluids for testing.
He stroked Tut and reminded him to be careful not to disturb the tube attached to his leg. He explained he disagreed with those who believed personal involvement with stock reduced their competitive spirit. He quite believed they actually strove to please a known and caring owner. He headed for his box with pleasure. Tut was in perfect form and the interview had gone extremely well.
Tut pulled Mim against him and held her. They were careful not to let her tears fall on him. The groomers wouldn't be pleased at having to brush him again. They'd be quite aggravated if they had to clean him as well. They spoke very softly of their hopes, fears and the sorrow of both.
"I have a chance or he wouldn't have put me in it, Mim."
"I know. You're too valuable to risk in any... Oh, Tut, I really want to ask you to try for sixth."
"Sixth won't win me a permanent stablemate, Mim. I can only get you if I win. What news?"
"Yes, I carry the mutation. Bint is very excited. He's done it, Tut, but without you..."
"I can't believe the breeders haven't seen it."
"We've been careful. Bint says the trait will be universal by the next generation."
"No child born unless WE will it. Three hundred years of secret research and genetic surgery brought to successful completion in our time. Ferandis will never know how much he helped."
"Women carrying the mutation are now in every breeding herd and every child will inherit."
"The first mutation is spreading very fast. Genetic change by blood ingestion and a rebellion they won't recognize as such."
"And the "spicy piquancy" of your blood IS the mutagen. I ache for Dook and Pabe and more for their loves."
"We all do, Mim. They know. They've known they'd probably place for more than a year. I think, if I win, Ferandis may make one last try at stopping their slaughter. If I place, he can't."
"Your life and it's just a matter of sportsmanship."
"I love you too. I must go. They need time to brush me. I seem to be quite without need of other preparation. It's why they bring me to you. Two minutes with you and a quick brush is much easier than forty minutes manipulating me to arousal."
"Gently, Tut, bitterness and anger change the body chemistry. Oh, my love, come back to me."
"I hope I will, Mim, but every man holding the woman he loves at this moment has the same hope. Remember me, beloved, if I do not return. And teach my children the words."
"Freedom, Earth, human and love spoken in the old tongue of our kind."
"Someday those words will have meaning again."
"Love always has."
"Yes, my love, it is the one which always has. And the one thing we can't hide, but the owners have never understood."
"They're still trying to isolate the "pheromone" which attracts a stud to a particular female."
"Tut! Here, boy! Come on, pretty boy, time to make your showing. Now, just look, you're all mussed. Well, not badly. There we are, all brushed out and shiny. Heel, Tut. Good, boy. Now, don't you let Andonen's Black Rom show you up. Your copper mane and pretty little spots are much more unusual then his black curls and lack of markings. Show off those pretty pale green eyes of yours."
"Vanas, you do carry on."
"I think he understands, Peranse."
"Oh, he understands it's a show, pretty and good boy for sure, but don't get carried away."
"I'm not. There's no danger I'll join one of those oddball groups lobbying for animal rights and intelligence testing."
"Have you heard the latest? Marashan has stated he believes they're PEOPLE."
"You can always trust that crazy to come up with something good for a laugh."
"He thinks their mumblings might be speech of a primitive sort and some might even be trained to TALK."
"Oh, my, he's going to end up in treatment yet, Peranse. He's getting farther out every solar. I heard he threw a steak he was served at a banquet at his host and shouted he wasn't a cannibal."
"Cannibal. Crazy. Everyone knows mammals can't develop sentience."
"He's still trying to prove those artifacts were BUILT by these mammals."
"Oh, come ON, Vanas. Lorvanis proved conclusively they were constructed by a technological race which used trained mammals to test them. We did the same when we began to explore space. One of these days, we'll meet the builders."
"You seem to think they'll be friendly."
"I like to consider the possibility."
"You always were a dreamer, Peranse. That's why we agree on so much."
Tut thought over what he'd heard. So there was a group that was advocating intelligence tests and an individual who thought mammals could be sentient. He didn't know if he should be pleased or frightened. Perhaps a few members of the owners' species were becoming civilized enough to approach when they were ready. Vanas and Peranse didn't seem to be as totally xenophobic as most of their kind. He shook off the thought. He didn't have time to consider it and deep thought was liable to cause him to lose his erection. He thought of Mim and loving her. If he didn't perform exactly as expected this day, he never would.
He wished he could get close to Rom so he could pass it on if he was the survivor, but they wouldn't be allowed to get close. The breeders took no chances their prized studs would get into a fight. The ruse had worked to keep the most valuable members of the scientific community out of the shows and off the table in the early years, but it had resulted in men being confined to stalls and corrals. Sometimes he actually wondered if it had been worth it. He sincerely hoped the three hundred years of freedom from attack had been well spent on Earth.
He put aside doubts the people of Earth remembered the "noble sacrifice" of the personnel of the scientific research outpost and prepared himself mentally. The judges would examine all of them for 'suitability as studs' before they took their places in the judging booth. The studs were not expected to maintain erections while they performed the show requirements. He stood very still on the platform while the five judges examined his testes and penis, then pranced a bit when he was led off and Rom took his place. Show studs were expected to exhibit eagerness for competition.
Tut leapt the barrier, then went cleanly over the hurdles. He settled into the steady jog called pacing. He managed the five gait changes smoothly when they were called. He trotted up to the judging stand for the last test.
Tut cocked his head so his long auburn hair drifted across his shoulder and showed off the matching color of his freckles. He slowly blinked to show off his long lashes, then opened his eyes wide to exhibit their unusual light blue-green color. He watched as the valve on the tube in his leg was opened and five small glasses were filled with his blood. It was the most crucial part of the judging and the only one which he could not influence by his performance.
"Mmm, excellent color and aroma."
"I'm almost tempted to disagree just so I could taste a bit of that flank."
"Perfect. I don't think I've ever had better."
"A bit spicy, but quite interesting. Since I find I want to try a slice of liver, I must admit I like it."
"Nice bow to the judges, Tut. Good, boy."
"Well trained and well formed. His color is most unusual."
"Sir Ferandis is breeding a light colored show line, Sir Tavenus. For all his size, Tut is easily controlled and trained. The line is spirited, but exhibits the desire to please prized in the best show breeds."
"Now, Vanas, no advertisement or lobbying for your employer at the judging."
"I'm sorry, Lady Lourevin, it seems to be an occupationally triggered disorder amongst trainers. We're ALL sure our employer's methods are great and the animals we train the best."
"The disorder may be a prerequisite to BE a trainer, Vanas."
"You may be right, Sir Gelaris. Thank you Sirs and Ladies."
"Oh, isn't that cute. He bowed when you said thank you."
"He's a smart animal, Lady Tolanis. I've seen that type of associative behavior exhibited before, Vanas."
"He is a smart one, all right, Sir Gelaris. I think he's decided my saying thank you and the bow go together."
Vanas laughed and patted Tut. He'd bowed again when she said "thank you." She led him away and he fought back tears. If his performance had saved his life, it had cost Rom's. Was it worth it? Were the three hundred years they'd played dumb and followed the plan worth it? Would their careful adherence to it pay off? Would the slaughter stop when it was learned no woman but a stud's chosen mate would bear a child by him? Had the shows become so popular they were of more importance as performers than meat animals? Had the people of Earth developed the defenses that they had lacked three hundred years before? Or had they forgotten the generations who had accepted slaughter to give them that time?
Ferandis accepted the prize for Tut and made his move. He declared he would attend no dinner which was a calculated financial disaster for his fellow breeders. He stated the AVERAGE cost of breeding, raising and training a show quality stud was four hundred thousand credits and a ten thousand credit steak was too rich for his digestion. He stated that he, personally, thought Andon's Black Rom far too valuable as a breeding stud to be hastily slaughtered for a few moments gastronomic pleasure, and wondered why even the least expensive cut was carefully "aged to perfection" and the "finest of the breed" were slapped on the table without ANY. He said that if the 'tradition' was so important, then it should be followed completely and chunks of raw, unskinned, meat should be dropped in front of diners to gnaw on without benefit of utensils.
He was afraid he'd gone a bit too far until all members of the Breeders' Association rose and began to stomp their applause. When the assembled trainers and groomers joined, he began to hope. But even he wasn't expecting three of the judges to join in. He suddenly realized he'd won. The wasteful practice was over.
Vanas grabbed for Tut's leash and missed. Suddenly she realized all the studs were running loose. She gasped in horror, then burst into laughter. The studs were show animals and applause meant show off. Tut and Black Rom were leading the entire top twenty qualifying group through the required program. The crowd roared and stomped its approval as the twenty magnificent animals performed a totally unprecedented group run.
Marashan switched off his receiver and wept in relief. Ferandis had taken away the horror of the event. His reasons were of little import. Only the result counted. And it had been obvious and spectacular. A few would have seen and understood the run was a celebration. The studs had understood EXACTLY what had transpired. He was sure of it.
"I saw it, Marashan. I just hope most people didn't understand it."
"Because they'd slaughter every one of them to keep from facing the truth."
"I can't believe that. I WON'T believe it."
"You DO believe it. We've wiped out every species which even showed a potential for sentience. They attacked us. Never mind we were serving their children as dinner. This species could be MORE intelligent than we are. Could we maintain the fiction we were dumb animals for three hundred seven solars? I wonder why they did it and shiver when I look into the night sky. Somewhere out there their species is preparing to meet us. These have successfully prevented us searching for them for more than three hundred solars by their individual willingness to die for their species' survival. Something in me says the end of the pretense is near. I just hope the few of us screaming in protest will save SOME of our species. It may be the only chance we have of surviving."
"You really can't imagine meeting another species in peace, can you?"
"Shall we invite them to dinner? "Here, this is a prime steak. The young animal was a very fine example of your people. Note how tender the meat is. It's best served with fresh blood as an aperitif." Somehow, I doubt they'd appreciate our hospitality. I suspect these are actually conducting their own breeding program under the curtain of ours."
"They couldn't run or jump as well before. They're more than a third again as big as they were. The largest 'wild' male caught in the first thirty solars we were on this planet was less than one hundred vels. Tut Boy and Black Rom are both over one hundred thirty. They live longer by an average of twenty solars. Males and females mature later, not sooner. Colts are kept with the brood stock until mature. Perhaps it requires twenty solars for them to complete their education so it now requires twenty solars for them to mature."
"You're talking nonsense, Daleruss."
"Am I? How many 'wild' ones are there? Once in awhile one is caught. They're just as big and basically indistinguishable from the 'tame' herds. I think they allow themselves to be caught to pass knowledge, or maybe even genetic developments. I think our 'development of the breed' is under THEIR control and quite possibly laboratory, not naturally, developed. Fifteen generations ISN'T long enough to change a species that drastically. And I think they're about finished with themselves. And us."
"My digestive disorder is mental, not physical, Daleruss."
"Is it? It's becoming quite common. A physician friend of mine told me he had more than thirty patients he'd had to put on meatless diets in the last two solars. I think they're tired of being slaughtered and are in the process of making it pointless. Personally, I hope they succeed before their people come to see how far we've progressed and decide WE'RE animals and too dangerous to exist."
"Then we'd better start making friends, hadn't we?"
"And just how do you propose to do that, Marashan?"
"I shall start with a visit to the Feran Stables area of the show grounds right now. The 'weird' one would, I think. You come along to soften my 'obvious' extremism and keep me from being a problem, just as you always do. I want to talk to Tut."
"All right, but I rather wish I was the one talking to Tut."
"You're dangerous, Daleruss. I'm merely a crazy old fool."
"Unless he decides to talk to you."
"If he does, I'll work harder at being a crazy old fool. Belief and respect aren't necessary when one plants an idea. It germinates in a fertile mind no matter who dropped the seed."
Tut ran into his stall and circled it. He walked over to the mesh, leaned against it and looked down the aisle. He was surprised Mim wasn't there, but not particularly worried. Until he noticed the blood. He screamed and began throwing himself against the door of his stall.
"Tut! Whoa, boy! TUT! DOWN!"
"Damn, I knew that idiot had blown it!"
"Peranse! What's going on?"
"Mim was sold, Vanas."
"WHAT!? That's impossible! Ferandis was in the stands!"
"The show committee posted her listed price. The fools cut her getting her out of the stall."
"The show committee?"
"It seems they don't have anything for dinner."
Tut went crazy and everyone else went with him. Vanas ran out and caught Ferandis running in. He bellowed his outrage and ran for the slaughtering pen. Posting a price did NOT mean a sale. The committee had gone too far. It was pure spite and TOTALLY illegal.
"Andonen! Come on! The committee has taken Tut's stablemate to slaughter!"
"POSTED her list price and took her! They damaged her getting her out and Tut saw the blood!"
"Then they've got Rom's stablemate too! She's missing!"
"Would you bet Dook's and Pabe's are as well?"
Ferandis and Andonen stormed into the slaughterhouse and THREW people out of their way. They were barely in time. The four prize brood females had been hung to bleed. Ferandis screamed for a vet and Andonen yelled for his attorney.
Marashan and Daleruss walked into chaos. Every stud was screaming and battering at his stall door. Trainers and handlers were yelling and throwing water on them to try to keep them from damaging themselves. A vet was in a corner loading a pistol with tranquilizer darts when a trainer ran in, grabbed her and pushed her out the door. About that time, media people began pouring in. Daleruss pulled Marashan into a corner to watch.
The vet was fast and good. She was also furious. Every one of the females had been damaged. All four bore whip marks and the unmistakable signs of being dragged across rough ground. The animals had been deliberately abused. She shouted she suddenly understood the animal rights groups loud enough for the media recorders outside to hear, finished with the blood cuts and began patching the less dangerous rips in the beautiful skins of the prize animals.
"How are they, Vet Miladis?"
"They'll all recover, Sir Ferandis, but they'll all bear scars. This was deliberate cruelty. Every one of them was awake when the bleeding cuts were made. I don't know who ordered this, but I want to see them in court and their faces plastered across the media. Preferably above the question, "Which is the animal?" I'm surprised none have broken bones. They were hobbled and DRAGGED here. All four have rope burns on their necks and, if they hadn't instinctively used their hands to hang on to the ropes, they'd have strangled."
"You! Who ordered this?"
"I don't know anything! I was just told to prepare them for dinner!"
"Without putting them to SLEEP?!"
"That's not my job. I'm a butcher, not a vet. If the committee didn't think it was necessary, it's not my place to argue."
"Butcher, if one of these STOLEN animals had died, the committee would have pointed at YOU when the authorities came."
"Prices were POSTED, not paid, and no purchase agreement was made."
"I didn't know that! Lady Corellis didn't tell me."
"Andonen! Corellis seems to have ordered this. I think the butcher is about to tell us all about it. He's just realizing she didn't tell him part of his pay for fixing this dinner was spending about twenty solars in prison."
"Sounds like her, Ferandis. Class action suit?"
"No, I'm pressing charges. This was theft and deliberate damage to valuable property. I want everyone who KNEW about this barred from setting foot on a show or breeding facility forever and those who were behind it in prison."
"Join in the suit too, Ferandis. I'll back you and press charges, but the theft charge might not hold up and my attorney is practically drooling over the credits she's going to collect as her percentage of the suit."
"All right. Have Talusta and Genamere arrived?"
"Yes, they're organizing transport. The trainers say the studs aren't calming and they don't think they will until they see the females. They hope that will help, but it's just a hope. Your Tut and my Rom are close to either breaking out or damaging themselves."
"Let's get these animals moved!"
Tut hit the door again. It was weakening. He backed for another run at it, then saw the cart being pulled in. "MIM!"
Marashan rushed forward to cover the breach. He started yelling. Daleruss would know what to do.
"See! He shouted a name! I'm sure of it! I heard it distinctly! He shouted a name!"
"Marashan, he just sounded. I know how much you WANT to believe they can learn speech, but don't get carried away."
"Daleruss, I'm just SURE he called out. I am SURE he did. Trainer, is the female's name, uh, Rin?"
"No, Sir Marashan, it's Mim."
"Yes, Mim is what I heard."
"You heard Rin, Marashan. You just said so."
"No, it was Mim, Daleruss. I'm sure it was. Now, now, Tut, she's here and alive. Calm down, Tut. She'll be all right. Yes, that's better. You see how smart he is? He understood me."
"Sir Marashan, he responded to the reassurance in your voice. For which, I thank you, as will Sir Ferandis. I'm Trainer Vanas. This is Handler Peranse. Tut is a very smart animal, Sir, but just an animal."
"But they're capable of learning, Trainer Vanas. I'm just sure they are. Watch. Shoo, Tut. Back away from the door so we can bring her in to you. Shoo, shoo. You see? He's moving."
"He's well trained and back is a command he knows, but he is responding well to you."
"Of course he is. He knows I'm a friend. Come on, pretty girl. Easy now. I'll help you get in with him. Yes, yes, you're hurt, but you'll be all right. That's a good girl."
Daleruss shook his head and smiled at the trainer. She returned both the smile and the head shake.
"Sir Marashan is quite elderly, Trainer Vanas. He protests the animals' intelligence, then treats them as pets and never even realizes it. He does adore them though, and he has a way with them like no other I've seen. They seem to sense he has only good intent."
"Animals usually do. Oh, he's going in!"
"Calmly, Trainer. Your Tut won't hurt him and he may be able to calm him enough for the vet to check him without tranquilizing him. He's got the same touch with all the animals. He's just decided they're sentient. He's really harmless and probably an asset at this moment. Let's move over there and just watch a bit. You'll see what I mean quite clearly."
Marashan watched Daleruss move the trainer and handler away from the stall and smiled at Tut.
"You almost messed things up thoroughly, Tut. If my friend Daleruss and I hadn't been here, your outburst would have raised more than a few questions. My 'crazy old fool' routine got a real workout on this one. I think I thoroughly convinced everyone they heard nothing by being sure I did. Sweet girl, my apologies for my people. Most will be absolutely outraged by your treatment. For the wrong reason of course, but still outraged. I truly admire your people. Mine couldn't have hidden what we are for three hundred solars while we carried on an advanced genetic research and development program. I'm carefully planting the seed of the idea you're an intelligent species in a non-threatening way. It's my hope you'll intercede with your people when they arrive to rescue you."
Marashan decided the look in Tut's very intelligent eyes was wonder if he could be trusted. He decided to tell him what Daleruss had deduced, and he couldn't argue, to see if he could win it.
"I know you're changing our digestive systems. I don't eat meat by choice, but others no longer CAN eat it. I'm not really pleased you're changing my species, but I do understand it. Three hundred solars is probably much longer than you planned on carrying out this deception. I have to say stripping your ship of all but a burnt out guidance system was pure genius. Tut, eventually my species and yours must meet in peace or one or both will be destroyed. You've managed to keep us on this world far longer than we've stayed on any since our own was destroyed, but we're getting restless. We're a migratory species and the urge to move on increases as our numbers do. Our young have begun to design ships and gaze at the stars in longing. Time is running out. The ships being designed have pens for your people. We have to change things soon. I think we have a generation yet, but I doubt two."
"One is enough."
"Hush, Mim. He's an ally and the only one we've found. We've been working to make ourselves so valuable as show animals they'll stop slaughtering us. We hadn't expected that. Our species hadn't used any but a few specific breeds of animals for meat in centuries. As of five hundred solars ago, all 'meat' eaten has been textured and flavored vegetable protein. We almost wiped you out the day you murdered and ate the first child. If you had done it to more than one, we would have. We're quite capable of it. An adult knows and can understand why we allow it. A child can't. Yes, we're changing you. And ourselves. The mutations are both irreversible and will be complete in this generation."
"I expected to... I didn't really want to believe Daleruss when he said you're more intelligent than we are."
"There are trillions of us and we've been civilized longer. We're an older species and the group you discovered here were not exactly the median. You may begin 'teaching' me. Ferandis' breeding program has produced a 'mutation'. My coloring makes it obvious. Black Rom is also more intelligent than other studs. 'Trainability' has become 'teachability' in the show breed and is probably spreading to the herds as our "desirable traits" are introduced. You should be stunned by it. You thought us teachable and discovered we're eager to learn. You may insist on genetic examination. They'll find obvious mutation. It won't be what they think, but they'll find it. Now, pet me and go. I'll follow you to the door and fuss when you leave. Vanas will welcome you the next time you come."
"Good boy, Tut. You're a smart boy, aren't you? Now, now, I have to go. Take care of Mim. Oh, dear! I don't think he wants me to go."
"I'll agree with that."
"Trainer Vanas, that may be the most intelligent member of the entire species. I could swear he understood much more of what I said to him than just a few words. I'd like to try to teach him to speak at least one or two."
"Marashan, they're not CAPABLE of speech."
"Daleruss, even if they weren't before, I think Tut may be. I think Ferandis may have accomplished far more than he realizes, or intended. He's actually changed the species. The other breeders know it. They speak of the "trainability" of the offspring of Ferandis' studs and purchase brood animals from him. I find I'm suddenly afraid that which I've been sure of might be true. I've begun to wonder if we found a group of experimental animals or a sentient species which had regressed to the animal level."
"Sentience isn't possible in mammalian life, Marashan."
"I wonder if a sentient mammal would make the same statement about cephaloid life as they served our children steamed or baked on the shell, Daleruss. I think we may have tampered with a devolved species and reestablished their mental capacity. Their brains are larger than when we discovered them and they're far less aggressive. Take me home, Daleruss. I must plan. If my theory is correct, we need to teach these what bit they can learn before the species which spawned them finds us. And we need to stop breeding them for meat and serving their blood as an appetizer before the practice destroys us."
"Destroys? That's a bit strong, isn't it, Sir Marashan. I mean, even if you're right, it's just begun."
"Destroys, Trainer Vanas. I've known that's what it was doing since one of my grandchildren stabbed another child so her make believe dinner could "start right." Only the stabbed child protested. The other four playmates were waiting to fill their cups. The children were all four solars of age. I have collected over seventy reports of like incidents in the past ten solars, all involving small children. In four instances, a child died. The other children explained they were going to have "steak" for dinner and didn't know it would hurt their playmate. It seems we've told them it doesn't hurt the animals we slaughter. Or that it kills them. Good day, Trainer Vanas, Handler Peranse. Let's go, Daleruss."
"Damn, Marashan, what got into you?"
"A detailed set of instructions and a warning we have little time to prepare for change. They've given us three hundred solars to grow up and either we're ready or we'll be disposed of as intransigent, xenophobic and unsalvageable. We have one generation. They've put up with our cannibalistic ways as long as they could. They were shocked when we began eating them. Their species hasn't consumed flesh for a half millennia. Their science is extremely advanced. Oh, you were quite right. They are changing our genetic structure and theirs. The mutations will be complete in the next generation. They're extremely merciful. They have ALWAYS been capable of wiping us out completely. And all they've chosen to do is make us stop eating them."
"Yes. They didn't because we only murdered and ate one child. Adults can accept death for good cause. Children cannot. Peramis saved our species when she said eating one of their young was a ridiculous waste of two thousand glasses of superb blood over ten solars and a hundred good meals and that they were about tasteless besides."
"Those incidents you spoke of are going to be looked up."
"I hope so. They'll find there have been hundreds. Those people CHOSE to be a 'domesticated' species, Daleruss. They know all about us. They KEPT us here by being an available food source."
"I'm not sure I understand that, Marashan."
"Daleruss, we ate ALL the other life on our planet, then proceeded to do the same on every world we found which HAD life. We'd clean a world of fauna, then migrate to another world and do the same. As our numbers grew, migration became more frequent. We blasted worlds with sentient, or pre-sentient, life. Some fought back or we'd number in the billions, not thousands. It's time you read something besides very carefully edited history, my friend. A solar as central library archivist taught me much."
"I'm not sure I want to learn."
"I didn't either. That's why I made sure I did."
Tut carried Mim to the cart in front of his stall. Rom, Dook and Pabe carried their loves as well. Ferandis noted the upper torso development of the species had always made him wonder if they'd been bred to bear loads or pull transports. Tut just couldn't resist. He cocked his head and watched the two laborers pulling the cart. When they stopped to rest, he trotted up, lifted the two handles and trotted off toward the stable transport, pulling the cart easily behind him.
Rom, Dook and Pabe made a bit of show of the process, turning around several times and moving forward, then backing and turning around again. They were given a bit of assistance with the handles by the laborers and all three trotted out pulling carts. Pabe had to guided to the right transport. He'd followed Rom.
Ferandis was shocked. Vanas told him what Marashan had said about Tut being a mutation. She noted he'd been so shocked he'd become completely lucid. Ferandis nearly ran for his breeding records when he reached his home. Marashan was right about how widespread the products of his breeding program were. He couldn't even cull the mutation out. It probably existed in every herd and stable. He ordered genetic testing and comparison.