An offer you can refuse

Tarkos frowned in confusion.  He had never seen a being of this kind.  Through its translucent skin he could see its blood pulse through pale organs.  It appeared to be naked, but for a belt around its waist that carried several black pouches.  Rotund and laterally symmetric, it stood on two legs, and had two arms with which it repeatedly touched the floor as it approached.  Tarkos suspected it could move equally well on four or two legs.  It lumbered forward, waddling slightly, making its flesh jiggle.  It walked as if under gravity, and Tarkos wondered how it managed to keep its feet on the hull.  Two huge eyes, yellow but for a tiny star-shaped iris, gave its flat face a surprised appearance.  The mouth was a slit, proportionally small for the big face, and over that its nose was a long lambda that opened and closed as it breathed laboriously.

“Human, Sussurat,” it said, speaking Galactic in a gurgling, low voice.  It stopped a pace away.  “This atmosphere is suitable for both of your species.” ….

… When Bria did not answer, the Guide gestured at Tarkos with a pudgy hand.  “Perhaps it would shame you to join us, with the human watching?  You could kill the human first, if that facilitates consideration.  We could wait while you ate it.”

When Bria did not reply, the creature reached into a pouch on its belt.  With its short, pudgy fingers it pulled out a small black box.  “If you prefer, I could kill the human for you, and then you could eat it.”

Bria lowered her nose and hissed.  She said, “Seek permission.  Five citizens.  Go to surface, talk to Ontonomers, return to Neelee ship.”

The Guide’s big watery eyes turned to Tarkos.  “You fear the Sussurat?  We can guarantee protection if you seek asylum.  You could survive as a free being on the Shroudworld, where this Sussurat could not harm you.  The Shroudworld is large.  The Harmonizers have no power here.  Or we could kill the Sussurat if you prefer no witness that you sought asylum.”

Tarkos wanted to tell the Guide to put the weapon away, whatever it was.  He couldn’t tell if it aimed at his head or Bria’s head.  Most likely it was a laser with internal targeting systems and it now targeted both of them.  It could decapitate them both in a millisecond, if so.

Tarkos forced his voice to be calm as he said, “Together we seek permission for five citizens of the Galactic Alliance to take the elevator to the planet surface, where we will ask questions of the Ontonomers, before returning to our ship.” ….

… “That was very strange,” Tarkos said.

Bria blinked in agreement.

“I’m a little insulted that it didn’t ask me if I wanted to eat you.”

“Flat teeth,” Bria said, as her armor opened to let her step out.

Tarkos reached up and touched the square ends of his molars.  The ceramic metal of his gloves clacked against the enamel.  “Omnivores get no respect.”

He told his armor to open.  He stepped out of it.  It closed up and followed Bria’s armor, walking to the back of the ship to stow itself.

“Well, in any case, I’m glad you didn’t want to kill me and eat me.”

“Already ate today,” Bria said, pulling herself toward the cockpit.  “Not hungry.”

From the prologue of Question Zero (Predator Space Chronicles volume 6). Start the Predator Space Chronicles for free with Well of Furies.

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