I watch from my bunk as first one scout and then, not much later, another scout is summoned. A prickly sensation rises on the back of my neck. Have I developed a heightened sense of awareness in my end days to notice how apathetic we are after so many generations? There’s not just one Commander, there may not even be a single Nosram in charge. We believed the Nosram altered their voices so we couldn’t mimic them. While there might be some truth in this, it is also a cover up. I realize now that there are more than one Nosram present during a session. That’s why the personality shifts between accusatory tone and analytical. What else are the Nosram withholding from us about life and everything else?
The Nosram have manipulated entire communities. They have used whatever means necessary to take over planets and systems even if it means taking on the role of a deity and using the people’s faith against them. Cultures have been destroyed through the culling of indigenous people. Families are broken apart all for the success of their missions. At the thought of how they could use this prophecy against the Cayas a warm sensation begins to build within me. Who are the Nosram to decide? Their takeovers only benefit one race, their own. Is that what happened to my kind? Were there more of us and we’re all that’s left? Or, were we simply created to carry out their orders?
A burning sensation flashes across my skin. I look down to see my hands balled into fists that are glowing red. I want to pound something, smash something, break something. Looking around I see that there is very little in this room that is unattached. What is loose will not go unnoticed if broken. If any of these furnishings can even be broken. Instead, I smash my hand into the padding on the bunk. As my hand makes contact I let the feelings of the moment take over. The transformation begins with my hand changing to that of Blin’s. As the change ripples up my arm I feel a surge of power from the quickly forming muscles.
* * *
Elder cuts the Caysatoil meat into chunks with a ceremonial blade carved from stone. Juice from the meat runs freely across the flat rock on which it rests, pooling around it and running down the side of the rock in red rivulets. Placing a chunk on the flat edge of the blade, Elder offers it to Nemel who picks it up in silence.
“By eating this, you have proved your worth,” Elder informs him. “When you eat this, you are forever a Caysa.”
Nemel pops the meat in his mouth and chews, his gaze never leaving Elder’s face. Already Nemel’s lips are slightly redder than before, stained from the initial consumption of the meat.
Elder turns back and places another chunk on the blade. It is now my turn to eat of the meat. Inexplicably, my heart is beating fast and my palms are sweaty. I barely hear Elder’s words when he holds up the blade in front of me. I too take what’s offered without a sound and place it in my mouth. I can feel a droplet of the juice running down my chin and force myself to leave it, rather than wipe it away.
As I chew the chunk, the raw and somewhat bitter flavor explodes in my mouth. I try to analyze the texture and break down the components, but am distracted by the cheers from the other males as they welcome Nemel and I as full Caysa males. Initially, I wonder what expression I should be wearing on my face in reaction to this moment. Glancing over at Nemel and seeing his smile, his mouth outlined in red, I mimic him. As the other males take a chunk of meat to eat as well, I watch them as though in a trance. Where there was silence and ceremony before, there is noise and camaraderie now. In the dim glow of the source light, the Caysa males appear changed as though what was once docile has become … fierce.
I remember back to when I first saw the Caysa males eating the meat. With its juice running down their chins, I immediately thought of the grimgor, an animal I observed during my mission on Tongelie. The grimgor is a docile creature until it is within scent distance from its combatant, the rascular. Once it picks up the scent of a rascular, the grimgor goes through a transformation. The plush fur that covers it from head to tail becomes needle-like prickers. Long, wickedly curved claws protrude from the grimgor’s paws and serrated teeth line pulp-inducing jaws. The plush tongue, with which the grimgor normally uses to bathe its young, hardens into a cone shape with a long, piercing point at the end.
The rascular is an ugly, lumbering predatory beast that often steals other animals’ kills. A thick hide covers its muscular body. Powerful limbs allow it to walk low to the ground for surprise attacks or to raise its body up and then drop quickly for a crushing blow.
Although the rascular is larger and stronger than the grimgor, the two are equally matched in viciousness. The rascular’s scent infuriates the grimgor to such a state of vengeful madness that its initial shrieks over its enemy’s scent draws the rascular to the grimgor’s location.
It is always a close match with both creatures slashing and tearing each other. Watching the duel is exhilarating and frightening — life will end for one if not for both.
I had the honor of observing a match. As it drew to an end the rascular clenched its massive jaw around the back of the grimgor’s neck. It looked as though the grimgor would suffer an agonizing death. Then, with a ruthless, blood-letting twist of its head, the grimgor swung around to face its opponent. The grimgor, gasping for breath, opened its mouth wide and jabbed its tongue into the rascular’s nose, the only sensitive part of its body. The grimgor’s tongue holds a poison that is the only means to kill a rascular. This poison created a reaction in the rascular’s body, rendering it into a gelatinous mound. Barely holding on to life, the grimgor fed on these remains to heal its wounds.
With blood from the rascular’s carcass dripping down its muzzle and soaking its paws, the grimgor slowly recovered from its wounds and transformed back to its docile condition.
* * *
I imagine now how I must have looked with the Caysatoil juice dripping down my chin as the surge of its proteins coursed through my veins. I want to see the Nosram destroyed. I want to blow this ship apart. Since I don’t know the dimensions of this ship, nor the identity of the Nosram to imagine their carcasses littering the floor before a final explosion, I focus my anger on the Bormeas instead as they must also be eliminated. What would create the most pain for them? What would wound them enough to destroy them altogether? The answer comes to me immediately as though waiting for this particular moment to be released. A giant ball of fire. An all-consuming fire would destroy their excess and burn up their pollution. The Bormeas despise heat and dryness. Burning them in a fire would be a fitting end. All those tapestries and rugs comprised of combustible fibers, especially when saturated with an explosive like sard. Why didn’t I light up their compound with a torch as I left?
This is the first time since returning from the mission that I smile without tearing up afterward. There is something different though about the “joy” I feel in coming up with this plan. There is a darkness in this plan. I remember seeing such a dark smile on the Bormeas, before and after they did something evil.