Saving A Friend
“Witherspoon!” said Commander Manuba waving impatiently. “Have a seat.” Beside him sat Captain Reese, looking dour.
Lieutenant Witherspoon made a conscious effort to walk normally. He couldn’t help feeling nervous. A mere lieutenant being called before the Captain and XO was rarely a good thing.
“Relax Witherspoon,” said Reese, running a hand through silver hair. “You’re not in trouble. We need your expertise.”
Another briefing room door opened and in walked two Tooarlik.
To humans, they looked like living predatory dinosaurs. About 5′ at the hips and over 6′ to the top of their heads, the former enemies of humanity were lean and preternaturally graceful. They seemed birdlike, but the recurved teeth in their 22-inch heads belied the notion. It was easy to discern individuals in their mottled blue, brown, and white skin. Ereef was leader of the six Tooarliks aboard the human warship, John Paul Jones. Beside him stood Fanhool, his second in command.
“Gentlemen and…” Reese shot a questioning look at Witherspoon.
“Haka, sir,” supplied Witherspoon. “A male Tooarlik.”
“…and Haka. Since the Human/Tooarlik alliance formed six months ago we’ve enjoyed good relations. The transfer program within this anti-piracy task group has been outstanding. Our Marines really like working with you. But now I must give you news that I believe threatens relations in this still young alliance. I’ve brought this command group together so that the events of yesterday afternoon can be discussed among us before anyone else. I hope that we can find a resolution that stays upon this ship.
Reese gave a look at the group that said no one could ever know what happened here. Reese looked at Ereef and said, “First of all, let me apologize for the behavior of 2nd Lieutenant Ogden.” Reese lifted a clicker and started a video on the briefing room screen. It showed the Tooarlik, Choolida, in a compartment leaping from mattress to mattress and ripping them apart, slashing at nothing with his foot-claws.”
“Koopal! cursed Fanhool. “He is mad.”
“Perhaps that explains what happened next,” said Reese. He started the video again and it showed 2nd Lieutenant Ogden entering the compartment. Though there was no audio, he was clearly screaming at Choolida. Then Ogden grabbed at the sensitive sensory clusters, like antennae, on Choolida’s lower jaw. Choolida responded suddenly and explosively. Within a second, Choolida bit through Ogden’s arm and removed it. The two separated, Ogden going into shock as blood spurted, Choolida in shock at what he’d done. Choolida lay on the deck and began to keen.
“Ogden is dead,” said Reese. “Bled out. This is Choolida now.” The screen lit with a view of the brig. Choolida lay on his side, eyes looking dull and drool dripping from his jaws.
“He is insane,” said Ereef. “Captain, there are those that will claim working with humans drives us insane. This is a grave threat to our alliance.”
“And if word gets out that a Tooarlik killed a human ally,” said Commander Manuba. “Some humans will try to use it to dissolve the alliance. We like working with you, rather than fighting you.”
“Agreed,” said Ereef.
“Witherspoon,” said Reese. “Choolida worked for you in maintenance. You’re friends too, I understand. What can you add?”
“I remember him complaining he had constant dreams of hunting,” countered Witherspoon.
“Not unusual,” said Fanhool. “On Tooarlik ships we literally hunt our food in large rooms. It is our recreation.”
“But have you hunted here?”
“No. We still eat. Our ship’s have this only as stress relief.”
“Then it’s important?” probed Witherspoon.
“The Tooarlik combat team isn’t insane. Choolida is weak.”
“Captain,” interrupted Ereef. “The answer is simple. I will kill Choolida and report that we fought. This will prevent issues on our end.”
“No!” shouted Witherspoon.
“We’ve already reported Ogden as a maintenance accident, Captain,” said Manuba. “This could save the alliance.”
“I know he’s your friend, Witherspoon,” said Reese.
“Ereef, when was the last time you hunted?” said Witherspoon.
“Before we left our ship. Same as Choolida.”
“But Choolida is the only Tooarlik that works in maintenance. We’ve had four engagements with pirates in the last two months. Tell me, isn’t fighting pirates a lot like hunting? Kind of like stress relief?”
“You could say that.”
“Captain,” said Witherspoon. “Any chance I could borrow the ship’s rec room for a few hours?”
Days later Manuba enthused, “You saved the alliance and cured a disease even Tooarlik didn’t know about. Outstanding! How do you feel?”
Witherspoon smiled. “Like I saved a friend.”
Written for the Speakeasy at Yeah Write. This week, the prompt sentence is: “No one could ever know what happened here,” which can be located anywhere in the story. To join the fun, find the prompt page here: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/148-open/