The Pike People

The Pike People

By Wes Calvert and Outlaw Don W. (1988 or there abouts) — Edited for the FutureVerse

The Book of Esox

First nothing was.
Nor time, nor space, nor light,
nor water, nor even chaos.
This we know.
And then the Creator awoke. How, why, we know not.
And the Creator said
“It shall be thus.” And it was so.

book of Esox 1:1-3.

The Great Creation
15 Billion B.C.E.

In the first instant of the great creation; before there was time, before there was space, before there was light and before their was water . . . there was Chaos. And Chaos, a part of all which followed, was. And though we do not worship the “Lords of Chaos”; there are times when that would seem the prudent thing to do.

There are no laws, nor rules, nor scientific hypotheses which can explain the first hundred milliseconds of creation. It is not even proper to talk about time in relation to those first moments. But later when space had taken on characteristics we can describe, if not understand, we can trace the development of the explosion which we call the “Big Bang.”

Spreading outward from the common center and cooling rapidly, matter began to be built up from the combination of photons, electrons and other highly energetic particles. The strange rules of quantum chromodynamics began to organize protons and the first hydrogen atom was made.

The hydrogen was flung outward from the center equally in all directions, gradually slowing down, and eventually reaching sub-relativistic velocities. It is prior to this point, however, when the universe is still not yet one meter in diameter, that our understanding begins.

The Names

Fish
*Salvelinus^fontinalis Eastern brook trout Killed first Saurian on Esox
*Salvelinus^malma Dolly Vardon Killed on Esox
Salvelinus^namaycush Lake trout
Salvelinus^alpinus Arctic Char
*Sunapee Groupleader Saurian war
*Oquassa Com-spec Saurian war
Salmo^clarki Cutthroat trout
Salmo^trutta Brown trout Leader Saurian war
*Salmo^gairdneri Steelhead Rainbow trout Leader to Earth
*E^Fernow Scientist during the Exodus
*Tymallus^arcticus Arctic grayling Fleet Admiral
*Esox^lucuius Northern pike Supreme Leader Ape plan
*E^reicherti Siberian pike Leader River People
*Onapee Great scientist
*E^mukwa Teacher of apes
*E^onzebawka Ape expedition leader
*E^vermiculatus Pickerel Assault leader saurian war
Stizostedion^vitreum Walleye
Cypselurus^heterurus Flying fish
Percidea Perch family
Esocidae Pike family
*Exocetidae Flying fish family
Ship of the Exodus
Garfin the Great
Dorsal
Panish

*Aqsquish

The Saurians
*Allesaur Killed on Esox
*Pilistasaur First Saurian on Esox
*Drugosaur Commander Saurian home squadron Taytradon
Cleandradon
*Aristasaur Father of Petradon
*Petradon Young Saurian on Saur
*Deladon Petradons same year sister
*Mikladon Petradons same year brother
*Plebesaur Aristasaur family retainer
*Krellasaur Instructor at the academy
*Midassaur Wealthiest Saurian
*Richidon Son of Midassaur
*Terrasaur First son of Midassaur
Colodon
Morrodon
Visidon Student at the academy

8.5 Billion B.C.E.

In the void there was a vast cloud of slowly condensing gases and dust. The cloud contained the remnants of stars which had been born, lived, and died, during the initial stage of the galaxies evolution. These stars had formed a huge globular conglomeration several hundreds of thousands of light years in diameter. For a billion years these first stars burned then flared in nova and super-nova explosions, converting lighter elements into heavier ones. Now, still primarily hydrogen but enriched with elements forged in the death throes of its’ progenitors, a new star was forming.

As the cloud cooled the minute gravitational fields of its individual atoms were attracting other, near by, atoms and small clumps were formed. And the aggregation began collapsing towards a common center. Very slowly at first; the cloud shrank in size. As it shrank, and as its’ density increased, two things happened. It began to rotate and it began to get hotter.

It continued to collapse and after a few hundred million years the pressure of the infalling matter began heating the interior of the proto-star.

Due to the complexities of orbital mechanics the matter falling in from the polar regions missed the central mass concentration and formed a disc rotating around the still collapsing interior. Out of this disc, at varying distances, formed a number of aggregations, which lacked sufficient mass for internal forces to break down the atomic structure of the matter contained by and forming them. These planetesimals, over time, collided with one another until the large bodies of matter were formed.

The gas cloud was composed mostly of hydrogen, over 97%, with perhaps 2% being helium. The final 1% was composed for the most part of elements up through Iron on the periodic table. But because this was a second generation star, it also contained a scattering of even heavier elements left over from the explosive deaths of members of the first stellar generation. In the central region of this collapsing cloud the gravitational forces were of such magnitude that the building heat and pressure stripped the electrons from the atomic nuclei and a fire was lit which gained its energy, not from combustion as we know it, but from the death of matter itself.

Located about 12,000 light-years from the galactic core, this newly formed star and planetary system had hundreds of neighbors. Some larger many smaller. They orbited around the galactic center once every 30 million years or so. In the process their gravitational fields swept the void between these nearby stars clean of any matter which might eventually form additional new stars.

Stellar type and size was determined by the local random mass concentrations. Those stars which had formed first and could grab the most matter would burn brightest. But those forming later though smaller, colder, and burning with a duller fire, would outlive their larger and brighter neighbors by hundreds of millions or even billions of years. On a small percentage of the worlds circling these longer lived stars something exceedingly strange would happen. Something the laws of physics still can not explain.

The Mother of all Waters
4 Billion B.C.E.

The rains came and the waters fell not for days, or weeks, or even years. But for centuries, and for millennia. While Esox revolved around its sun ten thousand times the water droplets would condense high in a cloud masked sky and begin a perilous descent. Barely would they escape the shelter of their lofty home, and still miles above ground, the searing heat of the rock below, would force them to return from whence they came.

As year followed year the water crept closer, ever closer to the surface below. And finally the first drop joined with the highest peak. It was immediately sent to rejoin its brethren on high. But time was on the side of the rain. And it wasn’t long, in the cosmic scale of things, until the drops began lasting seconds, then minutes. And soon the water was reaching the surface of these lofty crags, fast enough to insure its’ foothold was permanent.

The water began to collect in ever larger pools, though still only at the tops of the mightiest peaks. As the pools grew and overflowed the hollows and pockets that contained them, the water began the torturers trek slowly and ever downward towards the planets surface many thousands of meters below.

There were minor setbacks. Volcanic eruptions or rents in the planets surface releasing molten magma might for a time stay the inevitable. Yet it was inevitable.

By the time several hundred million years had passed Esox was no longer a world of hot and molten rock but a world of warm seas and cool upland lakes and streams. And in the shallows of the mineral enriched seas, seemingly ruled only by the Lords of Chaos, a miracle occurred and life began.

Molecules able to collect other molecules and arrange themselves in ever more complicated patterns gave birth to one celled organisms. Cells which were self replicating and had an internal pattern and code which would be slowly mutable providing for adaptation to a changing environment. These cells were able to spread throughout the worlds seas and eventually establish themselves on land.

At first, and for many millennia, there was only plant life spreading ever further until it covered the planets entire surface. The plants were miniature chemical factories, taking in reducing gasses and using energy from sunlight to spark complicated reactions, giving off oxygen thus changing the planetary atmosphere and permitting another more energetic and mobile type of life to develop. Then a second miracle occurred, perhaps inevitable in the struggle for survival, intelligence began to develop. Species which could react to changes in their surroundings in time measured not in generations and as a result of natural mutation, but in seconds, driven first by instinct, and then by learned behavior, began to dominate the planet and were the early, simple precursors of the life forms that would follow.

The Esox
700 Million B.C.E.

Strange are the ways of the Lords of Chaos.
book of Esox 3:24

The swimmers were of many types. Some large and slow. Other small and fleet. There were battles ferocious to hold and expand ones place in the food chain. Each species evolved from unique habitat and the pressure of competing lifeforms. Each was continually at risk of extinction. An ending which might be caused by geophysical or climatic cane or by other more ambitious species trying to displace them. The struggle for safety into the fresh waters of the high uplands by the Salmo, Percidea, and Esocidae was a result of just such a struggle for survival anti put them on the river to mastery of their planet.

Weak and defenseless, only able to flee from the predators evolving in the ocean depths, and with nothing but instinct to guide them, in those high clear salt free waters fed by rain, the radiation from the sun slowly changed the Esox. They adapted to their surroundings, adopting survival strategies based on breeding great numbers so that at least a few would survive to carry on the race. Eventually they learned to leave the perils of their watery home, for ever increasing periods of time, and live on land with its relative safety.

The natural pace of evolution would have determined which life form would eventually become the master of Esox. The additional and varied mutations, caused by the suns radiation at the high altitudes the Esox reproduced at, were final keys insuring that the Esocidae along with the related species of the Salmo and the Percidea would be those masters.

This was not a rapid process but one which took place over many millions of years. Even after they had come to rule all that nature had to offer, evolution, first without their knowing, and later at their own hands, continued to guide their development. They eventually were not only dominant over all other species but also over the forces of nature which had shaped their very being.

And still the battle for supremacy did not stop. Inter species and even inter school warfare continued without end, as each group of the Esox sought to attain the pinnacle of success; the right to the number one position on the food chain.

As the means of struggle became ever more violent, and with the possibility of destruction of all facing them, the Esox finally learned to cooperate in a limited fashion. Underneath the surface, though, each and every one of them still looked for advantage whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Civilization:

As the inhabitants of the high mountain lakes evolved physically, the patterns of behavior became more complex. Their neurosystem evolved rapidly and eventually became their most important physical characteristic. Unlike claws or teeth the mind could react to change at once and in real time, rather than over tens or hundreds of generations. With the development of speech information could be passed from generation to generation. Survival became a process of learning and passing the results to the young. Where before evolution favored species which adapted to a biological niche now selection turned towards those flexible enough to learn survival under different circumstances.

For the Esox, survival of the fittest, applied to groups and social systems rather than to individuals. The Esox learned to shape the environment to their needs and over a period of a few million years, the merest blink, on the cosmic scale, developed the abilities to make tools, first of bone and shell but eventually of metals and complex carbon compounds. They lived in cities and kept written records concerning subjects they called science and history.

The rise of civilization Esox was both exciting and turbulent. It was filled with success and failure breakthroughs and relapses. They had reached a point where the ability to alter their own genotype and the structures of their brains was within their grasp when an event of ultimate importance occurred.

The Esox had learned to leave the planet of their birth and were venturing out to explore other planets within their solar system when out of the infinite depths of space came a vessel of Alien construction and for the first time they encounter Beings completely different then themselves.

The Saurians were inhabitants of a nearby star system who in some areas were more advanced technologically than the Esox and behind in others. Although different in shape and structure their biology was based on many of the same chemicals and Trade in goods, knowledge and philosophy soon flourished.

For each race the new science and Ideas were a catalyst for rapid development and change. The society of the Esox was built on Individualism and seemed like total anarchy to the Saurian whose society was rigidly authoritarian and based on caste. Both worlds were rocked by the changes and there were factions on both planets that felt threatened by anything new. Friction was inevitable.

The War
680.11 Million B.C.E.

The first Saurian War
The Saurians attack upon the Esox had been both sudden and vicious and almost fatal. The outposts that the Esocidae maintained on the outer worlds of their solar system had stopped reporting, seemingly in unison; as if a switch had been pulled. It was less than a revolution later that the orbital defense satellites came under attack.

If it weren’t for those orbital defenses the Saurians would have taken over all of Esox in a matter of days. It had been the inability of the various schools of the Esocidae to cooperate with one another that had caused those defenses to be built and orbited in the first place. They certainly had not been launched with the idea of holding off an invasion fleet yet they were the thin red line by which that first attack was beaten back. But not before a landing had been made in the territory of the Salmo.

Pilistasaur braced himself for touchdown. With less than 40% of the landing crafts aerodynamic control left intact this was going to be rough. Like the rest of the pledge, his fourteen Saur force, he felt the crash webbing tighten up as they neared the surface. Slower and slower, seeing only gray mists, till they finally broke through the cloud cover——there it was!

The claw shaped lake glittered with reflected light in the distance. The lake was much narrower than it was long, deep in the center and north then shallowing out to a sandy beach at the southern tip. It was surrounded by steep hills leading straight down to the lakes edge except for that small southern point where a stream exited and drained towards the sea. Pilistasaur was supposed to set down a short distance from shore and let momentum and low thrust steering jets take the landing craft onto the beach. It had always worked out that way when the rehearsed it. He could tell he would be in the water much farther from shore than had been planned for; as the ship now seemed to have the glide ratio and flight characteristics of a falling egg.. Damn, how he hated water!

There was only an instant of calm between the time the buffeting of atmospheric passage stopped and the craft hit the water with jarring force. They had been going too fast and at too steep an angle. The ship struck, throwing up a cloud of steam, and then submerged completely. There were rumbles and sharp cracks as their descent subsided but the hull held. Just barely. Water had begun to leak inside even before they popped back to the surface. As the water cleared from the view screen in front of him, Pilistasaur could just make out the beach in front of him. He kicked in the thrusters and hoped they would maintain power long enough to reach it.

No such luck. The thrusters output was erratic and the sharp smell of ozone underscored the fact that the leaking water was shorting out the control systems. The landing craft came to a halt short of the beach. The wind and wave action were pushing them further away from their destination.

Pilistasaur ordered his pledge to prepare to disembark and make for the beach. They made haste while water slowly rose inside the cabin. In a few moments all was ready and he blew the hatches. The Saurians piled into the water and in a state of near panic began to stroke towards shore.

Salvelinus^fontinalis along with the other three waiting Salmo watched the fire ball streak out of the north and saw it plunge into the waters of the holy Salvel. The Salvel had been the mother waters of his school since before memory and would be defended to the death if need be. They saw the craft bob to the surface and begin heading towards them, throwing a plume of spray, and then saw it sputter to a stop a hundred meters out from where they lay in wait. Signaling to the others he dove into the water and swam towards the ship which was settling ever deeper as he approached.

He could hear the noise they made and see the kicking limbs of the creatures above him as he neared. How ungainly they looked and acted. Now was the time and Salvelinus^fontinalis gave the signal for attack.

Crashing and splashing onward, his pledge in a fairly tight cluster, Pilistasaur still did not fully realize the extent of his immediate predicament. It was not until he heard the wail from Allesaur, who was slightly ahead of him, and watched the brief struggle as the Saurian was pulled under, that Pilistasaur felt fear change to terror. There
were sixty meters to go.

Salvelinus^fontinalis felt bone break and the taste of alien flesh as his jaws clamped on the flailing leg. Holding tight he pulled the first of the invaders under the water. He knew immediately that this one was no longer a threat, and ignoring the pain from the slicing wound delivered by the Saurians wrist spike, headed for another of the creatures. Allesaur, his rudimentary swimming ability destroyed, sank gasping and screaming in silent agony as water filled his lungs. A spreading red stain marked the Saur’s progress towards land.

The Esocidae found the Saurians to be nearly helpless; mere bait fish, still one of them, Salvelinus^malma, was killed when a Saurian hand weapon discharged. The device exploded the instant the firing stud was depressed. It had not been designed for use under water.

Had the Saurians ship stopped just a little further from the beach; Salvelinus^fontinalis’ victory would have been assured. As it was two of the reptiles, bleeding and exhausted, made it to shore.
Salvelinus^fontinalis, along with the two remaining Salmo, left the water and rushed the Saurs, headlong, in order to finish the kill.

Instead of waiting for death, the Saurians sprang forth to meet them. As the two groups came together, even in their injured and exhausted condition, the Saurs gave a good account of themselves.

“Fast, my how fast they are.”, thought Salvelinus^fontinalis, as he left the scene of battle … the lone survivor.

The Saur
680.10 Million B.C.E.

The old ones had gone off for the day, taking the seconds along with them, presumably to train these elder siblings, home at the nest for the past few days, the proper procedures to use when hunting for food. This was a singularly useless skill in this day, though much admired by all. At least they were gone and out of the way and he could count on their late return. Petradon prepared for his first great adventure. This was not a spur of the moment venture but something he had been planing for since yesterday.

He pushed the rock, that he had often used for a seat, over towards the edge of the nest, then climbing atop it in an unsteady fashion, poked his head above the rim and peered for the first time at the world outside. This place had some size to it. He overlooked a vast plain covered with vegetation of many kinds. In clumps, widely spaced, and dominating their surroundings, were tall treelike fronds reaching for the sky. Covering most of the land remaining was a thick carpet of low growing ferns. The were however, at widely scattered intervals, patches which showed long, narrow strips of green separated by even narrower lines of brown.

To an educated eye this would have been a sure sign of cultivation though it conveyed nothing at all to Petradon. The colors predominating were shades of green, brown, and muted purples.
The nest was located at the top of a pile of granite boulders about twenty meters high and twice that in diameter at the base. Petradon didn’t know it at the time but the pile had been built up over many years by its’ various occupants. The old ones, Petradons parents, were the last in the long line of direct dependence and ownership of the nest which Petradon had been hatched in. On the horizon at great distance there were other such rock piles all separated by many kilometers.

The structure contained numerous chambers and interconnected passageways buried within its depths. Petradon had, along with the other firsts, already explored these in great detail. He had even been down to the lowest levels which were unlighted and used only for storage. It was time to take the next step.

There was only one opening into or out from the nest, a practice inherited from the remote past. This was fine for security but it meant that Petradon would have to scramble down the steep and rocky slope to the ground below. This trip, which was only a matter of a few minutes for an adult Saurian, took Petradon better than half an hour and along the way he collected quite a few bumps and bruises to remind him of his efforts.

The fern like growth which surrounded the base of the mound was in no place taller than one meter yet even this was a head higher than the height Petradon could attain when fully extended and twice the eye level of his normal walking posture. A fully grown adult would of course see easily over these obstacles. The comings and goings of generations had beaten a trail which branched out in several directions from the base of the mound. Even where there was no such path the undergrowth was not thick enough to severely impede the progress of one such as Petradon. But where to now? It didn’t matter. When one has no destination any path will take you there. He headed of on the great voyage of exploration.

The sound of the breeze rustling through the ferns and the buzzing and chirping of the insect like creatures inhabiting the undergrowth accompanied Petradon as he traveled, in random fashion, ever further into the world. In the distance he could hear the calls and cries of animals which were familiar to him as their sounds had carried both night and day to the top of the nest. As he traveled everything he saw was new and of great interest.

There were slow brown worm like things, that didn’t taste too good, resting in the damp ground underneath fallen leaves. There were tiny, many legged, crawling bugs scurrying in all directions. These were more tasty but hardly made a meal. He caught occasional glimpses of creatures which looked like smaller versions of himself, though he could never get closer than about ten feet from them before the ran away, at speeds he could not duplicate, and disappeared into the bush. Twice he came upon small rivulets where he stayed for a while, drank and watched animals no larger than his wrist spikes darting to and fro under the surface. Curious they were, but quite tasty.

After several hours or so spent wandering amidst the stems of the fern grass; he had left the trail rather early, Petradon began to feel a little apprehensive about being found missing from the nest and decided he would head back towards home. A few minutes after that it occurred to him that he was lost. Being lost was certainly a new experience and he paused for a moment to consider the situation.

A plan, that was what he needed. Surrounded by ferngrass taller than his head Petradon could not see far enough in any direction to make out the tall mound of the nest. He tried jumping as high as he could in order to see over the vegetation but try as he might Petradon could not clear their tops. There were, however, a short distance away taller growths which, if he could climb them, might give him a view of his home. With this fact in mind Petradon set out towards the nearest of these trees.

It wasn’t long before he reached a suitable specimen and began the climb. His wrist spikes and the claws on his hind legs gave ample purchase and it took only a few feet of elevation to clear the ferngrass at the plants base. With his view unobstructed the little Saur could easily make out his nest perhaps a mile away. But how would he keep his sense of direction once he was back on the ground and heading towards it?

There were several clumps of the tall tree like fern much closer to his nest and Petradon made the nearest of these his first destination. By heading from tree to tree and pausing at each to get the next bearing Petradon made it back to the nest mound while the sun was still high in the sky. He scrambled up the path towards the top and finally tumbled inside making a great screech of relief.
The noise of his arrival brought Deladon, his same year sister, out from inside and on to the top of the nest, where she looked at him and said in disgust.

“Where have you been.” she squawked, “Mikladon and I have been looking for you all day long. We have even searched the lowest levels and you weren’t anywhere.”

“Aaawk, awk, awk awk”, Petradon exclaimed, “Of course I was somewhere. Everyone has to be somewhere. You couldn’t find your tail if you stepped on it and the Lump would never find his toes if they weren’t attached to his feet.”

“Don’t talk about your year brother that way.” Deladon screeched, while dancing around Petradons recumbent form.

Just in time to overhear the last remark, Mikladon entered the picture and immediately jumped on the back of his year brother, pinning him to the ground. He had had enough lately of what Petradon passed off as wit, and fully intended to inflict a measure of punishment for the implied slurs and the waste of an afternoon at play. Unfortunate, from Petradons point of view, the fight was short lived and inconclusive. Before he had even time to squirm out of his brothers grip, the old ones, just returning from the days work, stepped in and separated the two combatants.

“Time enough when you both are thirds to finish this dispute.”, said Aristasaur, their father, “Go now and get ready to eat, both of you. We shall have no more of this today.”

That was all Aristasaur needed to say, for showing any lack of respect or disobedience to ones’ elders was unthinkable, and the small ones went dutifully back into the nest.

They were twos now. Petradon had been told that long ago, in what was ancient prehistory, that to be a two meant that you were two years old and that threes were three years old. What it meant now was much different. Petradon, his sister Deladon and Mikladon the lump, would be leaving soon for schooling outside the nest. They would naturally, be attending the school for the children of the Saurian overclass. In fact the had never even seen, except at a distance, any young Saur who did not belong to one of the ruling families of the planet. And their only contact with underclass adults was with the servants of their father who had occasionally come into the nest in order to perform some specialized or physically demanding task.

Their home, which they like all Saurians called the nest, in the customary fashion of those of their station, was located in one of the few expanses of open space remaining on Saur. Such land was reserved only for the families of the overclass. Most of the planets’ land area was devoted to the farms and factories needed to sustain the huge native population.

There was a time, long ago, when much of the home world resembled the region around Petradons’ nest. At that time the class distinctions were not nearly as strong as those in Petradons times. The planets population was also small enough to permit each Saur to hold and maintain all the land he and his family were able to tame.

Over the centuries, as population pressure increased, the stronger and more aggressive families fought with and conquered when possible their weaker neighbors. The defeated family would become slaves to the victors and all their lands and properties would be forfeited.

School:

Petradon stood shivering in the cold wet drizzle, his same year brother Mikladon to his right. He was surrounded left, front, and back by his Pledge. The warriors in charge of this training school had chosen for its’ location an area near the small northern latitude sea. A region which was guaranteed to have distasteful weather at least three quarters of the time, and they always started a new Pledge at the height of the rainy season.

They had been standing like this, at attention, for the better part of the morning, ever since the land sled had dropped all of them off. They had boarded the sled at the marshaling depot in the city of Crelneor which lay at the southern tip of the sea. It had been a five hour journey all of which had taken place while it was still dark.

The miserable group of young Saurians suddenly ceased their murmuring. A tough looking adult Saur had stepped out of the tent in front of them and now stood in front of them. If looks could kill then they were all dead.

He was not the biggest or most imposing Saur that Petradon had ever seen, but there was an aura of power and immense strength surrounding him. Although Petradon refused to be frightened by the Saur before him, his calculating mind was deciding that he too must develop this ability to dominate by his presence.

“I AM KRELLASAUR!” Said the Saur with a roar. “I have been intrusted with the dubious honor of turning you young gentlemen into Saurian warriors. IMPOSSIBLE!! I’ve never seen a more pathetic bunch of feeble, over pampered runts in all of my days!” Krellasaur paused in arch dramatic fashion, for a moment, while glaring at the front rank, “You!” he pointed at a young Saur who seemed to be trying to shrink into himself and thus avoid the instructors attention, “Tell me, just who or what are you, and what you hope to accomplish here?”

“Awk.. I’m ahh.. Richidon sir ” came the weak voiced reply. “My father, he..”

Krellasaur’s eyes blazed with fire “Sir” he exploded ” I’m no Sir!”, and addressing the entire group said, “From now on you will all address me as Training Master!” He turned his attention back to Richidon. “And as for you.. You look like you still have you’re Egg-fat on you. Well I’ll either whip you into shape or break you trying and send the pieces back to your father In a sack.”

Krellasaur paced back and forth in front of the Pledge picking on one or another of the young Saurian turn. Petradon’s initial tendency to fear this Saur was rapidly turning into admiration. He began to study the Training Master carefully.

Krellasaur, after perhaps 15 minutes of individual verbal abuse, stopped at the far end of the line and spoke to all of them. There was a hint of self pity, along with a taunting challenge when he said.
“Isn’t their anyone here with the guts to stand up to me and show me that I’m wrong in thinking that there’s not a one of you who belong in a Military School?”

Petradon knew this was his big chance “Someone ought to put that tyrant in his place” he whispered, and so saying he reached forwards and gave Mikladon a small shove in the back. Mikladon, who had been leaning forward to watch to proceedings suddenly, lost his balance and could not stop himself stumbling forward into the open area before the front rank.

“Aha!” said Krellasaur ” So there is one who’s thinks he’s a fighter”
Petradon could barely contain himself as he watched the battle scared old veteran walk up to his year brother. Mikladon was a bit taller than the warrior and almost as stocky, but Krellasaur’s hide looked hard as Paga rock and his polished claws appeared able to take the head off a bull Tiraq with a single swipe.

“What’s your name hero” Krellasaur said sarcastically, his sharp fangs only inches from Mikladon’s face.

“Mikladon, Training Master,.. from the nest of Aristasaur”

“Mikladon, yes Mikladon…” In a low tone of voice, “I’ve seen your file” spoke Krellasaur. And then with a roar “BUT I’ll WAGER YOUR FATHER SIRED YOU ON A WHORE FROM THE SLAVE PENS OF CRELNEOR!!” and saying that, to the amazement of all present, the training Master leaned back on his tail and actually laughed.

Mikladon felt the blood rush to his head. He reared up on his toes, his own sharp claws seeking purchase in the muddy soil. He was overcome now with anger, and ready for attack. But before he could lunge the canny old instructor, still leaning back on his tail, lifted both of his feet and kicked outwards. They were so close that Mikladon never saw what happened or knew at the time why all of the sudden he was face down in the mud, the breath knocked out of him.

Krellasaur stared downwards for a moment and then walked back to his position at the front center as though nothing had happened.

“To be a War leader You must learn not let your temper make you drop your guard.” He spoke for the benefit of all ” And because Mikladon, pitiful enough though he is, was the only one of you with the spirit to stand up for himself, I’m appointing him temporary leader of this Cadet Pledge”

Petradon let out an inaudible groan as his secret amusement disappeared. His practical joke had backfired and now as Cadet Pledge Leader his year brother would be in the perfect position to extract vengeance. He would have to practice that trick of leaning back on your tail and kicking. It looked like he might be needing it.

The Cadets didn’t see much of their Training Master during the next several months. This Academy was meant to provide the next group of senior officers for the Saurian Armies. Admittance was limited to the Twos of the elite Saurian families, and only the most able would be allowed to put their lessons into practice. Every day began and ended with Physical fitness training with the middle part of the day devoted to classes and study.

Mikladon did indeed use his position, as Cadet Pledge Leader, to make life miserable for Petradon. The first thing he did was to arrange for Petradon to share a living cubicle with Richidon. A mismatched pair if ever one existed. When, and it was only a matter of time, the Instructors chose to make an example of Richidon, the extra duties and work somehow managed to at, least in part, spill over onto Petradon.

The days were kept busy with classes, study, exercise sessions, and the seemingly endless barracks inspections and stints at guard duty. Petradon did not enjoy spending almost all of his time with Richidon, but he had to admit there were some advantages.

Richidon came from the wealthiest family on Saurios and somehow they had managed to provide him with two personal servants where Petradon had to make do with only one which was according to regulations.

Plebesaur, one of his fathers old family retainers, could make his meals and keep the nest clean and handle all manner of domestic duties, in an efficient and utilitarian manner whereas the culinary expertise of Richidons servants, was nothing short of extraordinary.

Although Richidon was less than outstanding in classwork, and did not seem to study as hard as most, he always seemed to perform excellently when it came time for examinations. Finding a further use for Plebesaur Petradon instructed the old Saur to secretly shadow Richidon and to report anything unusual. Plebesaur was quite good at this type of task as it did not physically overtax his old body and he had much experience performing similar tasks for Aristasaur over the years of his employment.

The old Saur’s efforts were soon rewarded as only two day later, while following Richidon, who was leaving a lecture hall after the rest of the pledge had departed, stopped to talk to one of the cleaning servants. Behavior such as this was most peculiar. Watching closely from a shadowed alcove, Plebesaur saw Richidon exchange several platinum Emerons for a large groto nut.

The nut was surrendered by the female Saur who cleaned floors in the hall of learning. Since such a sum would suffice to purchase a loader full of groto nuts, and was more than a cleaning servant would be paid for several months labor, this event certainly qualified as unusual. After being informed of the curious happenings, Petradon made preparations for an investigation of his own, which would take place that same evening while Richidon, conveniently, stood the early watch.

Each Cadet had a private storage bin set up against the wall at the foot of his sleeping rack. Richidon’s was secured by a lock of the finest craftsmanship. Opening the lock in an undetectable fashion was obviously out of the question.

Petradon levered the heavy bin back a foot or so and then pushed against its’ top until it leaned against the wall at a thirty degree angle. With the bottom thus exposed he began using the small cutting laser he had, “borrowed”, from the weapons lab that afternoon. He carefully cut around the entire perimeter of the base of Richidon’s Bin. He set the laser to its’ lowest power setting, so as not to completely burn through the lockers bottom, or risk charring any of its’ contents, and traced the outline until only a foil thin layer of metal remained. This layer he cut away with his field knife and access was secured.

Luck was with him, the Groto nut was in the lowest compartment and hence Petradon did not have to attempt the time consuming task of removing the shelves in order to reach progressively higher areas of the bin.

The oddly light groto proved to be nothing but a shell with some rolls of film inside. quietly placing the film in his study machine he was not at all surprised to discover a list of questions and answers to all of the tests and the final exam for this phase of training. After returning the film to the nut shell, and having found a stack of letters from Richidon’s father, Petradon could not resist the impulse to read them. They proved to be far more informative and entertaining than any mere test answers.

Petradon set the bottom back in place then lowered the bin back onto its floor, shoving it back against the wall knowing that he could help himself to it’s contents at any time.

As he curled up in his nest, prior to sleep, he reflected to himself that it was only proper for nestmates to share.

Time went by quickly at the academy, and soon the combat training classes began. Learning to fight with or without weapons; alone or as a pledge, the cadets gained strength and confidence. Mikladon worked hard and maintained his position as leader despite the strange accidents and mishaps that always seemed to plague him. He was certain that Petradon was behind all of his troubles but his year brother was far too clever to leave any proof.

For six long years, with only occasional short breaks for trips back home, the training continued. As proficiency grew so did the standards one was measured against. Each year the lowest ranking 15% of the class was dropped from the rank.

During this period of time Petradon’s performance was likewise outstanding, and in some ways he even outclassed Mikladon, but the margin was too slight for him to displace his brother as Cadet Pledge Leader.

The superintendent of cadets, though blind, observed through surrogates everything that happened within the Pledge. He was well aware of the rivalry between the two young Saurs. One day, just prior to graduation he called Krellasaur to his office in order do discuss their common dilemma.

“What can we do about the sons of Aristasaur, how can we choose between them?” he asked the Training Master “Yearbrothers that can each qualify to enter the academy are rare indeed, but both standing at the top of their class; it has never happened.”

Krellasaur was slow to reply ” I don’t know.” he said, and then paused to gather his thoughts once more. “Mikladon is the natural leader we expected him to be. He was the first to challenge me just as we predicted he would. But Petradon is something different that we did not anticipate, and my instincts tell me that he may be both more valuable and more dangerous to our cause than any Saur I have ever known.”
“How so my friend?” asked the Senior Leader.

“Mikladon, the older, leads boldly and forcefully just as our
great leaders have always done. Petradon, the younger, is quiet and
calm, yet others always seem eventually to do what he wants and get what he wants of course within the constraints of our rules and system here. He never seems to make mistakes. I don’t understand how he does it, but… he can give orders without giving orders, but he can. He leads not just by example but by some subtle force of personality. I wouldn’t know how to judge or perhaps even how to fight an enemy like that..”

“Krellasaur you know that the stakes are very great. We must determine which of these is the one to lead and bring us victory in the struggle ahead. All the teaching of the Book of War, and all of my own instinct and experience says that Mikladon is the best we’ve ever had. He fits into the natural order of things; that the elder of equals shall lead. Because of this he will be accepted readily by our troops. As you well know, or last tangle with the Esox did not turn out well. Would you suggest I not appoint Mikladon, that I risk everything on a hunch? Can we afford to risk all on a Battle Leader who we cannot understand?”

Krellasaur slumped slowly into his chair as though a great weigh was pushing him down. “I am only an old foot soldier.”, he began. “I was there when we landed on the Waterworld for the first time. I don’t know how they could have blunted our attack,.. but they did. We had almost total surprise though our numbers were small. The reaction, and struggle put up by the Esox was far in excess of what was predicted. There ferocity and will to survive is such that they will expend any number of their people in order to avoid surrender. In Petradon I see the same will to win no matter what the cost. Unlike in the old days, our race, except for the ruling classes accepts slavery and servitude. Even the powerful recognize both as necessary for the advancement of our civilization.”

“When the Pledge is in the training pit, and it is time for hand to hand combat, none can defeat me and few care even to challenge. Of those few it is more often than not Petradon who will be the first to step forwards. I feel he is studying me, learning how to beat me. I sense he views every match as a test. And someday he knows I must fall. It is this determination and single mindedness of purpose that makes me feel he is the one to lead us to victory over the Esox.”

The Superintendent stood and faced Krellasaur and looked towards him as though he could see through the scar tissue that was that was left where his eyes once were. “Very well” he said “I too, as you well know, was on the expedition, and I pray that none may pay for their lessons as I did. You speak of Petradon testing you. I propose another test. If Petradon can beat his brother, in a contest with the odds stacked heavily against him, where he is outnumbered and attacking defended positions, than we will know he is the better warrior. But even so will he be the better Leader? Prepare the test Krellasaur.”

War games:

Krellasaur was obviously not in one of his better moods, and many of the cadets were reminded of the first time they had stood on this field and almost all felt a sense of apprehension, but none felt any of the fear experienced on that first occasion. Those who would still be afraid had long since been sent home. The formal inspection had gone well and the Superintendent had praised them for the first time ever. Naturally no one could understand the reason for the Training Masters strange demeanor; No-one but Petradon that is.

Petradon stood at attention in the front ranks of his Sub Pledge, arrayed as the others in his finest ceremonial uniform, thinking that he was coming to know the old Saur almost as well as he knew himself. Just an act he thought. Just like the words of the Superintendent, no blind Saur older than even Krellasaur is likely to find much fault with me, or to understand my motivations, he thought.

Krellasaur paced back and forth in front of the pledge. “So you’re all so proud of yourself, are you?” he said, “Well I’ve got some news that should take all of you back down into the mud where you belong. You didn’t come here so I could teach you how to dress like pretty young females looking for a mate. You came here to learn to fight!”

Richidon who was just behind Petradon whispered furtively ” I’d settle gladly for some young females rather than that old Tiraq.”

“I heard that you spineless spawn of an Esox.!” bellowed Krellasaur “And for speaking in the ranks all leave is canceled for the next two weeks. You only thought you passed inspection. Now its time for the real inspection. The final War Game!”

The Pledge, eyes forwards could not turn to look at each other but all were thinking the same thought. “What final war game?”

“Mikladon come forward!” Krellasaur ordered then paused until the Cadet Pledge Leader advance three paces. “You will command the main body using four of the five Sub Pledges. Your mission will be first to defend MT Brexoil from attack by the remaining pledge and secondarily to eliminate that Pledge as an effective fighting force.” This he said while pointing at a small flat hill in the distance. “The plans for its defense shall be your own, with help as you see fit from a staff of your own choosing.”

“Yes Training Master.” said Mikladon, who then turned and stepped back into the ranks.

“So.. who shall we choose to be the aggressor? Are there any who wish to volunteer?”

Krellasaur expected no one to speak out and was taken by surprise when Petradon stepped the requisite three paces forwards. Petradon who had not once volunteered for anything in the 6 years he had been here. The plan had been to chose Petradon as a last resort. But no plan survived engagement with the…”

“Training Master,” spoke Petradon, “I feel that I can prepare to lead the attacking forces.” There was a aura of confidence and inevitability in the way he spoke the words. “It is what I have been trained to do and I would consider it an honor to lead any of this Pledge no matter what the odds I know I must win. Training Master, may I use my own Sub Pledge for this exercise?”

“Of course you’ll have your Sub Pledge.” spoke Krellasaur barely able to contain his amazement at so bold a speech. And still in character “Are you such an arrogant Saur as to think that we would permit you the opportunity to lead another group into almost certain defeat? But even with your pledge” he cautioned, “You will still be outnumbered five to one. What makes you think that it will be so easy?”

Petradon swollen up with pride by the subtle compliment the Master had paid him by referring to him as a Saur could hardly have answered in a fashion more calculated to anger his Year Brother. ” Because they are to be commanded by Mikladon, who I know so well.”

Mikladon’s lunge towards Petradon took everyone by surprise, including Krellasaur, and the Training Master had to intervene between the Year Brothers separating them. He turned to Mikladon and said, only half believing, “I am sure that no insult was intended by Petradon by his remarks, he was just reiterating the tenant that to know ones foe is half of the battle.” And turning to Petradon, “Is that not so?”
And Petradon knowing when to retreat said, “Yes Training Master, no insult was intended.”

And on that note Krellasaur ordered them all to the barracks to prepare.

Richidon hated the rain. He hated the cold and the mud and the smell of the wet ferngrass as they walked across the valley. “I don’t see why we couldn’t just attack that stupid hill and be done with it” He complained bitterly “after all they dropped us off right in front of it.”

Petradon was getting tired of the constant whining and replied in terse tones. “Someday you’ll have to fight the Esox,” he said “A little exercise now may reap big rewards then. It might even save your life.”

“My Father and I think the rewards would be greater if we were to trade peaceably with them. War is a waste of resources.” Richidon said for perhaps the hundredth time since He had known Petradon.
Petradon knew that there was much truth in these words
and that Richidon’s father was already making a fortune on trade.

Petradon also knew that Richidon was sure he would sit out the war safely at home. Petradon had other plans, He knew that only by becoming the General in Charge could he gain the power he desired. That without war he would never be more than a poor relation to Mikladon. Richidon would be useless on such an expedition he thought, except as a hostage against the behavior of his clan. Of course Petradon certainly didn’t need him now. He had little choice. As leader of the pledge Mikladon could not prevent Petradon from being appointed a sub leader, but he had loaded Petradon’s sub Pledge with the poor students and loafers.

” We stop here” Petradon said. They had come almost around the entire hill until they reached a grove of trees beside a wide slow moving river. The dozen or so tired Cadets all plopped down in the grass.

” Don’t crush the grass” Petradon quickly instructed “Rest on the sand by the side of the water” Petradon knew that eventually even his brother would send out patrols. His troops would leave no clues as to their presence. After a brief rest He detailed several of his pledge to begin searching the riverbank for the nests of the Aryach.

The Aryach was a flying lizard that fed on stream creatures. To the horror of everyone he explained that in ancient times Saurians had eaten the Aryach eggs and so could they. Soon the whole pledge had filled their bellies and most were asleep on the warm sand. Today was one of the rare occasions when the Blue Sun was not hidden behind thick clouds and it was pleasant to sleep in the sun. Petradon was standing on a little rise nearby when he noticed the reflection of sunlight off metal a short distance away.

“Wake up ” he said, quietly moving from one to another
of the sleepers. “quickly we must hide in the trees to escape the enemy”

Richidon could hardly believe his ears “In the trees! How can we hide in the trees?”

“Don’t speak so loud” Petradon warned “Climbing trees is easy I will show you how”

With a little work all the Cadets were soon in the lower branches of the trees although several had to be pushed up from below. When Mikladon’s scouts walked by none thought to look up and Petradon silently laughed to himself when two of them paused only a few feet below him.

“We should be heading back soon” the first spoke “or we will miss the evening meal”

“You’re right ” agreed the other ” those weaklings could never have made it this far in combat armor and all that gear. I doubt if they will be in attacking position before late tomorrow or the next day”
“I’m sure that’s true ” replied the first “Although I for one don’t look forward to sleeping in a tent for two more nights”

The scouts wandered slowly away and only then did Petradon signal his pledge to come down. He was both amused and annoyed when Richidon fell from his perch and landed on his head.

Later that evening as the moon climbed out of the sea to the east Petradon arose and began to prepare. the laws of Orbital mechanics had not been kind to Saurios; each year the planet revolved around its primary which was a small red dwarf. The star provided ample warmth but very little light.

The Saurians called it the red sun and it was in turn in orbit around the blue sun in a 6 year cycle. It took a long time for Saurian astronomers to work this out for themselves. Needless to say Saurian mythology was quite elaborate. It was for this reason that young Saurians were counted as ones or twos. Saurian females although sexually active year round were only allowed to lay eggs once each 6 years. when the two suns reached their closest points young Saurians born at this time would be unlikely to come at times of bad weather and poor harvests. for hundreds of generations this system had worked to stabilize the population and had resulted in the race being divided into separate groups each about 6 years apart. By now all uneducated Saurs assumed this was some sort of natural law and anyone attempting to have children out of the cycle might expect to encounter the rage of the peasant mob.

Petradon of course understood all this but was concerned only with the knowledge that allowed him to plan his battle. Even though the red sun was in the sky it was still night and the coming of the moon provided most of the illumination he would need for this evenings proceedings.
Although Saurians normally went to sleep at dusk and awoke at dawn. He had learned the value of nighttime activities. Many of his successes at school had come about in this fashion. Petradon woke the others and helped them load up their gear. Even though they had left there armor at the Academy along with much of the equipment a combat squad normally carried he could not afford to leave anything behind now,

The squad was soon on it’s way and when they reached the base of the hill the light of two moons was sufficient to allow him to find the path he had carefully plotted on his maps. They had brought ropes with them and everyone held on to Petradon’s so that none would stray off the path in the dark. The group made frequent stops and at each critical turn on the path Petradon would place a oil filled lamp so that looking back the way they had come he could see a string of dim flames to guide them home.

As they reached the crest of the slope he instructed his troops to tie ropes between bushes or rocks. At the top of the path he posted Richidon for although he needed every cadet he knew Richidon was too clumsy for this business.

As they approached the camp from the rear he whispered final instructions to each warrior. “Colodon your job will be to disable the power transmitter , Morrodon You and Visidon tip over the arms locker and drop your smoke grenades next to it Our mission is to capture the ancient sword of King Bellasaur which is the symbol of leadership I will take out the first sentry and snatch the sword.”

Even at night a Saurian camp would have sentries posted but nobody actually expected an attack at night and Saurian tactics consisted of frontal assaults and little else so it was no surprise to Petradon when he saw only one sentry on this side of the camp and he had his back turned.

As he got closer then sleepy guard began to turn around but Petradon was ready. With a quick motion he tossed a tiny stone over the sentries head and that poor fellow leaned forward to listen for any other sound. A quick motion with a larger stone and the guard was unconscious. Petradon caught him and eased him gently to the ground before signaling to his followers. Although there would certainly be one or two more sentries, they would be in front of the camp and so unlikely to detect the intruders.

The others did their work quickly while Petradon crept into the command tent. Standing over his brothers curled up body with the sword of Bellasaur in his hand We can only guess what Petradons thoughts were ” Not this time lump” he spoke aloud. and then he reached into his belly pouch and took out a flask and carefully laid it next to his year brother’s head.

As Petradon emerged from the tent Pandemonium broke out in the camp. The arms locker tipped over with a crash and a bright cloud of smoke erupted from where it stood. At that moment seven of the eight tents collapsed and the night was alive with the noise of 80 young Saurians suddenly awake, thrashing about under the canvass and struggling with one another to escape.

“Gather to me!” Petradon shouted as he led the retreat from the camp. He carried a lighted flare in one hand and the precious sword in the other. As he looked back one last time he saw Mikladon stumble out of his tent his head covered with a sticky mixture of Aryach egg yoke and sap from a groto nut tree. This concoction would be very difficult to clean off and when exposed to air hardens rapidly and gives off a horrible stench.
Richidon woke up suddenly when he heard all the noise but he remembered to light the flare that would lead the warriors to the right spot on the hillside to begin their descent. Soon all were assembled and Petradon gave his simple orders.

“Douse your flares and stay close to me. We must move quickly to gain a good head start. Visidon you bring up the rear and knock over the candles as we pass.”

The tightly bunched Saurs shuffled downhill as quickly as they could and were almost to the bottom when they heard their pursuit begin down after them. The screams of the enemy slipping on the steep rocks and falling over the triplines so carefully placed had them all laughing as they ran through the ferngrass toward the river.

They were far ahead when they reached the grove and Petradon explained the rest of his plan. Earlier they had cut down ten trees and lashed the trunks together on his orders. Now it took considerable effort and a couple kicks to get all of them onto his makeshift raft.

“The current of the stream is slow but still twice as fast as we can travel on foot. We may get a little wet but we’ll be back in our own nests before nightfall.”

When demoralized elements of Mikladon’s little army reached the river just as the sun was rising there was no trace of Petradon’s warriors. still they spent the next two days searching the valley before the land sleds came to take them back to the academy.

All heads turned skyward as the stratocruiser descended over the Training center. Such sights were very rare for only the most important Saurian leaders could travel in this type of craft. One such person was Aristasaur.

The Air In the office of the Superintendent was charged with tension. The Head of the Academy knew it was unwise to argue with Aristasaur, but his career was almost over and his duty demanded he try.

“The ruling council has given me this appointment and I take my Task seriously. for many generations the very best offspring of the most powerful clans on Saurios have been taken from their families and trained here. This was done to insure that those that wield power are truly qualified and to eliminate nepotism This system has succeeded in improving the quality of our leaders with each class to graduate. Certainly you ; Aristasaur being a graduate yourself, and a member of the council must realize this.”

Aristasaur had obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about this matter for he answered quickly. “This system worked well long ago when all the great baronies were much the same. Each with its fields and herds, slaves, soldiers and the ruling clan above all. If a weak or foolish son assumed the mantle just because he was first soon his neighbors would attempt to annex the land and general wars broke out amongst the clans.” he paused and took a long draw off his narco-stick.

“But it is time to realize that we live in a modern age. My clan manages mines and mills, factories and shipyards. other clans are just as specialized, Midassaur has his banks and trading fleets; Pallisaur manages his Tinsel Tree forest. The schooling of our sons must become specialized to allow them to carry on after us.”

The superintendent answered. “Your father was an industrialist, but the training you received here in military leadership seems to have served you well. Besides you can’t believe that specialization has made war between clans obsolete”

“If I might be allowed to voice an opinion” spoke Krellasaur ” I remember not too long ago when Midassaur’s neighbors noticed he was so specialized that he had practically no army, they almost overthrew his clan. And I think they would have if Midassaur Had not hired mercenaries.

“As I remember” said Aristasaur “You were one of those so called soldiers of fortune. Disgraceful to fight for money rather than honor.”
Krellasaur slowly and deliberately began to get up from the couch on which he was reclined when the superintendent spoke harshly ” Enough bickering! You both forget we have a higher imperative here, We are at War with a foreign power. We must begin to prepare a new army to send against the Esox, and that army must have the best possible officers, and the best possible general… Petradon!”

Aristasaur paced the length of the room and spoke. “All the reports you sent me told of Mikladon’s ability. I was resigned to give my first born to the glory of Saurios and to bring Petra home to learn the business. Why do you now demand I give up another son?”

The old blind Saur settled back on his couch” Krellasaur please explain” he said. “According to all the Manuals of strategy we have compiled Mikladon was the perfect choice. But We Began to notice something very special about Petradon. It was very hard at first but we began to think that just as the ancient ways of your clans have become modern so perhaps it was time for the Art of War to become modern. Although none of us knew what that meant It seemed the Petradon might be the modern warrior we had imagined.

We staged a war game with Mikladon representing the best of the old way against the modern Petradon. Even with the worse of the cadets available, and outnumbered 5 to 1 Petradon was able to inflict a humiliating defeat on Mikladon’s forces.

I believe that We must place the welfare of all the Saur ahead of our own and nominate Petradon for the supreme general.

Aristasaur was not easily dissuaded ” I am not ready to ignore all our ancient wisdom because of a minor demonstration. once a supreme general is chosen he will have to spend years training the army. This is just the sort of Task Mikladon will be good at. and I repeat I can not afford to give up Petradon.

Although the arguments continued Aristasaur was not about to give in and it became obvious that Mikladon would be the next supreme general.

Graduation:

The Academy was pulsing with excitement. The cadets were all formed up in ranks for the last practice parade before the graduation ceremony. At the head of the line were the 94 cadets of the first class Petradon, Mikladon and Richidon among them. Next came the several hundreds of the second class. Many of these had started as students of first class rank but had been unable to keep up with the others and had been let back. Last was the 2 or 3 thousand of the third class. All were very aware that after Graduation they would be threes and would replace the last syllable of their names which was don with the adult form Saur.

Many would begin careers as officers or technicians of the new formed army While The rest would go into Science or the professional world.
The list of visitors both official and unofficial was extremely long Because many of the parents had brought their daughters to meet the soon to be eligible bachelors.

Earlier that morning Midassaur had a special meeting with his Son Richidon. “Young fool!” he cried “how many times must I tell you, You are no warrior and I can not afford to let you go off and play these games. Your Brother Terrasaur; now there was a fighter, and good at business If He had not been killed by those filthy traitors I would not need you to take over from me.”

He paused and his anger turned into malevolent pleasure, “Yes but now my revenge is near. Our friends ships are coming in… terrible how they stole the identity codes of my last trading fleet. Tonight all our enemies will be assembled here to celebrate the graduation of their worthless sons. In one stroke The safety of the clan will be assured.”

“But Father that means there will be no war!” exclaimed Richidon.

“Of course there will be a War, but with so many of the young officers killed and half the council dead; It will be even more of a failure than the last one.” Midassaur leaned close and whispered to his son “Listen I have made an arrangement with Aristasaur, You are to be Married with his Daughter Deladon.”

“Oh Father how wonderful! The clan of Aristasaur is ancient and noble, and Deladon is such a fiery one.”

Midassaur’s anger returned “Think with your head for a change. They are as bad as the rest, They hate me for my wealth and brains. Aristasaur would have joined the plot against me If he thought it could have succeeded. But if any thing were to happen to him or his sons, I would become guardian of my daughter in laws clan. I will control the shipyards and factories, Think of the profits!”

Not far away Petradon put away the ear piece he had been holding against his head.

“And who are you spying on now youngster?” said Plebesaur.

“Just listening to music old friend” Replied Petradon.

Plebesaur knew he would not get the truth so he changed the subject “How went the meeting with your Father?”

“Badly” Said Petradon “He still favors the lump over Me. He wanted me to attend the big party for the sons of the council tonight but I refused. He would have insisted but fortunately my stupid sister interrupted. She is already planing ways to spend Midassaur’s money. It is the perfect match, Richidon and Deladon, both are too disgusting to marry anyone else.”

Plebesaur pulled his cloak tighter around his shoulders “You should not be so critical. Your father only does what is best for the clan.”

“What He should have done was to wipe out those greedy
usurers when he had the chance. Then the clan would be in no danger now.”

“Perhaps with your father leading it the war against Midassaur would have turned out the other way, But Aristasaur would not do a dishonorable deed” said Plebesaur “What is the danger you speak of?”

“Do not worry about that Old friend” answered Petradon “I need a favor of you. Tonight I am throwing a party of my own in the Armory. Just after the rise of the red sun I want you to go to my father and tell him I must speak privately. Tell him it is very important, He trusts you. Bring him to the armory.”

“I will do this for you Petra..” Said Plebesaur” but I wish I knew What Mischief you were up to.”

The Graduation Ball:

The great hall of the Saurian Military Academy had never seen such a brilliant crowd. Ancient Weapons and banners captured in long forgotten wars went unnoticed amidst the shiny ornaments of the male Saurians and the vibrantly colored tunics of the females.

The clans represented here tonight were the wealthiest and most powerful on the whole planet. At one end of the hall was a long raised dias on which reclined the senior instructors, their chest covered with the badges of honor won in all their campaigns. A thick cloud of narco-smoke hung above everyone’s head. Nearby Aristasaur stood with his oldest son enjoying the party and missing no opportunity to greet other prominent Saurian leaders who would come near. “Have you met my son Miklasaur?” he would ask “Leader of the first class you know” His pride overcoming the modesty and aloof dignity he was so famous for. But tonight was special and no-one held anything against Aristasaur for every Saurian Lord in the room was celebrating the success of his or her own progeny.

Only Midassaur had failed to share the festive mood, He had spoke of deals and profits concerning his trading fleet. Everyone had been secretly relived when He had left Early taking Richisaur with him.

In the Armory which was set apart from the main structures at the base The celebration was just beginning and was far more subdued. Petrasaur had made the arrangements and had invited several hundred of the better warriors of the second and third classes the fathers and mothers of those who could attend were more often than not from the warrior and police classes.

Oddly enough Petrasaur himself was the only member of the aristocracy present. Petrasaur spoke to Plebesaur in a quit tone ” Tell my father that there are many of the loyal veterans and their sons and daughters here and that before the common people begin their party it would be a noble gesture for a great lord to give them his blessing.”

Plebesaur frowned “You would take him away from his own celebration would you? I don’t know what your selfish plan is but I will bring him for whatever your motive these Saurs do deserve the honor”

Although the meal was over and many of the guests would have liked to partake of pasquil wine and narco-sticks all were willing to wait for the great Lords entrance before giving in to the powerful spirits.

Soon Aristasuar arrived and although a little unsteady He began to mingle with the crowd offering congratulations and sometimes a few special words to Saurs he recognized from many years of service.

Suddenly a tremor shock the whole room and was quickly followed by another Petrasaur and his father who was still close to the entrance were among the first to emerge from the building. Few seem to grasp what their eyes beheld. ribbons of green and red that stretched from the sky to the ground seemed to sweep across the plain. they would dance across buildings, walls and other objects leaving a trail of small fires behind. Far in the distance a vast cloud seemed to rise from the place where the port city of Crelneor had been. Strangely lit as though a great purple lamp were concealed inside only a handful of those present had ever seen it’s light before.

Petrasaur spoke loudly in a tone of natural calm and authority ”
We are under attack! Everyone go back inside and break out Battle armor and weapons. Have the females take shelter below ground.”
Petrasaur took Aristasuar by the elbow ” Father you must Warn The Planetary Defense force. Plebesaur can show you to the communications center.”

By now many of the barracks and other structures were burning. only scrap metal was left where the neat line of sky cruisers and land sleds had been. The upper levels and towers of the great hall were in ruins and a mob of confused and intoxicated Saurians was spilling out of the lower levels. Only the armory was intact although it’s massive walls and dome were criss crossed by dark burns. As the Inhabitants of the armory began to emerge from within this time wearing Battle armor and carrying various type of missile launchers and energy weapons three unusual spacecraft descended from the sky and came to rest on the far side of the parade field. the hot exhaust from the retro rockets scorching the ground and setting numerous small brush fires.

Petrasaur moved quickly through the group giving instructions to the full adult Saurs who showed the coolness that only combat experience can bring. He appointed them his lieutenants and ordered groups of the new graduates to form temporary pledges around them.

“Follow the wall around the exercise field until you reach the powerhouse and then take up a defense” he would tell one While to another he would say” Move alongside the parade deck but keep close to the barracks for cover”

Although he alone had not taken the time to acquire combat armor
he assemble the last and largest group around himself. and armed with only a large flash-laser he led them rapidly in the direction of the Great Hall. Dozens of figures could be seen moving across the open space between the landing boats to the same destination. And even though it was quite a distance away it was not difficult to identify them as Esox.

The invaders had already begun to slaughter the hapless saurians both male and female who clustered near the ruins of the great hall when suddenly they were confronted by an armed force of superior size led by Petrasaur.

The Esox, ferocious as individuals; often have difficulty with group operations and the unexpected resistance had a disorganizing effect on them. Some rushed headlong into the guns of the Saurians, Some dashed off across the plain towards the Landing craft which were already under attack by Saurian forces Petrasaur had dispatched there. A few of the Esox raiders ducked into the gapping entrance to the great hall and Saurian warriors began to follow.

“Wait!” ordered Petradon ” We must seal of all avenues of escape before we can dig them out of their holes.” Petradon dispatched Saurians to circle the large mound from each direction and then began to pick warriors he had the greatest confidence in to hunt down the hidden Esox.

By this time most of the fighting was over and armed saurians were swarming the landing craft. A small group of Saurs was approaching from the direction of the communications center. among its members Petradon could make out his father with Plebesaur struggling to keep up and oddly enough Krellasaur. Obviously the tough old veteran had made for the comm center when the attack began and had miraculously survived the bombs and lasers. Although He would have preferred to give the Invaders more time, He could wait no longer and at the head of his Pledge descended into the bowels of the partially ruined structure.

The maze of tunnels and caverns under the great hall were poorly lighted at best. Now with at least two thirds of the glow tube shattered it was a place of shadows and gloom. But few if any knew the labyrinth as well as Petrasaur. He led his followers unerringly through the turns and ramps until they emerged into a large vaulted chamber, at the other end were a group of ten Esox with several Saurians at their mercy. although the Saurs were all wounded and dying from the burns of power weapons the Esox were proceeding to tear their still living victims apart with their powerful jaws and many sharp teeth.

As the Saurian Squad emerged from the narrow doorway they were temporarily outnumbered. When they opened fire the Esox were quick to respond. One leveled his weapon and fired an egg shaped pod at Petrasaur. Before he could react Visisaur stepped into it’s path and the Pod burst on his chest armor splashing him with a powerfully corrosive acid. Although well protected by the chest plates some of the fluid entered through his face shield and the joints at the shoulders and elbows. Flesh and bone were instantly dissolved emitting a foul odor into the room, Visisaur went down.

Petrasaur turned his flash-laze to pencil beam and swept it across the enemies. The beam sliced through flesh like an axe through water and as the Saur Warriors proceeded on their hunt they left only decapitated bodies behind them, bodies that would continue to flop and convulse for some time.

They move rapidly through the corridors leaving burned and broken Esox behind them. By now they could here the sounds of more Saurians joining the hunt from the levels above. Petrasaur knew that nothing could have prevented Krellasaur and his father Aristasaur from gathering soldiers and entering the hall. Stumbling through the unfamiliar corridors they would find few of the enemy left alive in Petrasaur’s wake. Still he had to post sentries to prevent the two parties from ambushing one another.

Petrasaur was now on the trail of a huge Esox. certain that this was the last of the Enemy. He had left his Pledge behind and was tracking this one alone; twice he had come close to The wily prey but the hunted was unbelievably quick and smart. He could hear someone close behind him now but he knew this was a another Saurian and He Ignored the distraction.

There were vertical air shafts through out the mound and Petrasaur entered one to gain quick access to a lower level. As he emerged the sight that he beheld amazed him. The Big Esox stood in the center of the cavern. Piles of old edged weapons lay against the rock walls and at the far end behind an overturned table were Miklasaur and several of the Great Barons of Saurios cringing before the gaze of the powerful Esox. The Esox aimed a weapon Petrasaur now recognized as a pod-thrower and pulled the release lever, but nothing happened. The Invader quickly recocked the weapon and fired again. This time a pod was thrown into the cowering Saurs and as it burst a cloud of oily green gas was emitted. Petradon watched as his yearbrother and the others were jerked erect and began to choke as the chlorine based poison started to sear their breathing passages and their lungs filled with blood.

Petrasaur stepped into the open and the giant Esox whirled to face him. The two adversaries faced each other and almost as a casual gesture Petrasaur played the beam of his weapon down the side of the enemies torso. Amazingly the Big Esox remained on his feet as his entrails emptied onto the floor in a puddled of slimy fluid. With all his remaining strength The Esox attempted to lunge at Petrasaur, but with all his vitals gone he was only able to flop face down in the wet pile of his own guts.

Petrasaur walked to the far end of the chamber and stood over his brothers prostrate form Bile and blood oozed from Miklasaur’s mouth and other bodily openings but the eyes were still active and looked to Petrasaur as though to plead for a quick death. Petrasaur turned and for the first time saw Plebesaur standing in the corner near the airshaft, silent witness to all that had transpired.

” So sorry Plebesaur” He said “It’s For the good of the race “and the glare of laserlight filled the room once more.

The second Saurian War:

Cooperation was almost impossible for the Esox. Yet Salmo^trutta knew that unless he could unite all of the schools his world was surely lost.

—The sky was falling.

You never heard the explosions, muffled, far away, till long after your position was struck. You never heard what was coming till it was gone.

And now lancing up the side of the hill, towards the ridgeline where Oquassa was dug in along with the rest of his squad, were dazzling streamers of green light coming from high in the western sky and only tailing to a duller orange as the ablative coatings wore away. The squad couldn’t have been spotted but still the fire was getting entirely too close. A piece of isax; weren’t they all, a quiet drop from high orbit, a quick surveillance and then pickup and out. A routine mission; just like in training. Something had gone very, very, wrong. The Saurians were prepared.

“We’ve got them on line Sub^leader” Com spec Sunapee intoned while switching control over to Oquassas’ helmet mike. His words went up the tight infrared beam link to the to the command ship.

“This is Oquassa, reply…Oquassa reply.”

From the drop ship, in synchronous orbit, came acknowledgment and word to proceed.

“By the blood of the Lords of Chaos.”, Oquassa swore, “The Saurs know we’re here. They’ve got the landing zone targeted. Our cover is blown and we need immediate pickup.” Even as he spoke the barrage was slowing down and Oquassa knew the reconnaissance satellites would be assessing the damage.

“Groupleader you must hold.” came the reply, “The Saurians coverage of the drop zone by orbital defense cannot be disrupted for another quarter of a rotation. You must hold for five more hours. We will then be in a position to launch an attack and disable the orbiters that will be covering your position. Hold till then and we can pull you out.” And then in a strained tone of voice the last words.

” It is the best we can do. You must maintain.”

Keying the local command channel Oquassa gave the order. “Mission aborted. Mission aborted. Slow burn.” and watched as his helmet screen displayed the shutdown, one by one, of his units combat suits displays, till all that was left was life support.

The standard Esox combat suit provided complete, temporary, protection from infrared detection, but at a cost. It was almost 100% insulating with temperature regulation depending on a built in heat sink. Ten kilograms of sodium circulating through heat exchangers in the suits outer skin insured that the IR. signature of the suit exactly matched the wearers surroundings.

If the internal heat generated by the suits occupant was greater than local ambient, which was almost always the case, than the sodium gradually got hotter and hotter storing the excess. After a time, and when it was safe, the excess heat could be dumped. But there would come a time, if no heat could be dumped, when even the materials used in its’ construction could no longer absorb the excess. Should this happen some of the liquid metal would automatically vent into the suits’ interior, incidentally killing the wearer, and hence eliminating the source of extra heat while protecting the safety of those left alive.

Assuming they could elude the Saurians electronic and optical defenses for the next five hours Oquassa knew that it might not make much difference.

They hunkered down for the wait.

Thymallus^arcticus commander of the Esox raiding fleet knew that no battle plan was perfect, or survived contact with the enemy, but this time that tired old maxim was being stretched well beyond reasonable limits.

The Battle bridge of his flag ship was a huge spherical chamber with a transparent deck dividing it into upper and lower hemispheres. Projectors cast star fields onto the walls so that the officers at the center of the room felt as though suspended in space. Ships and other important objects were holographic symbols. The Saurian planet was a blue and brown globe. There were Green circles for Esox vessels and red circles for saurian Ships. There were entirely too many red circles.
“Comm Leader ** Transmit a priority message to all Assault Carriers.

Fendezvous at Epsilon Pieces 4 and we will hold them off long enough for you to get clear Direct warships to form a cone between the enemy fleet and our troopships” Admiral T^arcticus knew he had just spoken the death sentence for half his squadron. But the 5 hulking troop ships would be like larva against Saurian warships and they carried the best young blood of Esox. they had to be protected at all costs
The stern face of Assault master E^vermiculatus appeared on the intercom screen. “What of my landing party” He hissed “I need time to pull them out.”

“You heard me “Said T^arcticus “Time is what we don’t have. It feels like seaweed in my gills too. They all volunteered and they knew the risks, but it will take the luck of the Ihris for the rest of us to get out of this with our own scales intact.”

“Better to die on a foreign planet than to swim back to Esox with our tails unscared and our ammo unspent” spat E^vermiculatus.
T^arcticus of course had the final word “blindly charging the
shore might work for your infantry , but to try it against a pledge of Saur battle cruisers would be suicide. Your troops would fry in their
bunks before they ever reached the planet.”

The recently formed Esoxian navy had no combat experience,
but then again reasoned T^arcticus the Saurs have never fought in space either. A fight in space resemble a fight under water more than one on land maybe that’s one advantage in our favor.

Watching a battle in space is like watching a few fireflies crossing a wide river at night. Time flows ever so slowly. You see only an occasional flicker of light. And even that much only when a ship dies.
The two fleets occupied a volume of space half a light second across. Eight warships of the Esox against 15 for the Saurians. Considering the number of missiles, particle beams, and auxiliary craft deployed by either side, that volume of space was crowded enough. In the combat centers on the various warships tense fire control techs played a chess game where the rules were dictated by ballistics and general relativity.

Sensor probes were launched to provide greater baseline for radar. Com-beams flashed between ships. Computers created holographic images for the operators and converted their orders into programs for the missiles.

Torpedoes were met by counter missiles. X-ray lasers touched steel and were quickly blocked by molten vapor. When the torpedoes ran out you relied on your neutral beam weapons. And if a warhead hits, or you are struck in the right location, you become a little supernova, an expanding cloud of superheated gases … intensely white and then fading through yellow to orange and then red and finally to black. Ships which are too close to such a blast often have their lenses and antennas coated by a micro thin film of condensed metal which causes those sensors to go blind. Even with the best of shielding, radiation poisoning, from too close of a blast, eventually takes care of the crew.

T^arcticus’ flagship accelerated away from the planet, trying to find the safety of deep space. Bags of metallic chaff were ejected to confuse sensor beams, decoy drones were sent ahead and behind in order to attract Saurian missiles. Sometimes, when a Torpedo would get close, the navigation computer would change course minutely, trying to guide the hyper- velocity exhaust from the main engines across the weapons path. Crew members lurched into their crash webbing and grimly performed their duties.

A plasma cloud of ionized particles struck near the dorsal hanger doors, peeling away armor plating, and entering the compartments
used for living quarters. No atmosphere was lost because the ship was already in vacuum. The lose of a few hundred tons of steel and a small amount of protoplasm gave the ship a slight improvement in speed but she was now blind to what was happening astern. All power was diverted to the drives even the maneuvering thrusters were firing and the reactors edged closer to overload.

The Saurians had the edge in numbers and technology, but the laws of physics favored the Esox. The reptiles had to fly straight into the Esox missiles and debris. They tried to envelope the Esox fleet, but it was too much to ask—-they fell further and further behind.

Drugosaur the commander of the Saurian home squadron was famous for his lack of initiative and literal obedience to orders, but this was not considered a fault in a defensive commander.

“Cold blooded slime dwellers … Why don’t you stand and fight.” he shouted at the blank view screen “I’m as blind as if I were in one of those bottomless pools you live in.”

The officers on the war bridge didn’t bother to correct him, data
poured in from probes and other ships and who would care to test Drugosaur’s temper in order to point out that his lack of a personal view amounted to no more than a minor inconvenience? A hard kick under the tail would be the best you could hope for.

“Where are the enemy nest ships now?” he demanded. Hertzasaur one of the officer pledge answered ” They have just slipped out of range, at least 2 times 14 to the second light seconds ahead.”

“No chance of catching them now..” Drugosaur said but then a smile creased his mouth “but their treacherous sneak attack failed, by
the time they return to Waterworld they’ll find our grand fleet victorious over what remains of their race.”

Eighteen micro parsecs out the Saurians broke off the chase. They had lost five of their vessels, as had also the Esox. Of the three remaining Esox warships, one would be abandoned in deep space leaving the other two to make rendezvous with the remaining troop ships. As For admiral, T^arcticus … his atoms are in a thin cloud moving near lightspeed towards the galactic rim. He knew the risks.

The Saurian academy was almost deserted now. Piles of debris were all that remained of what once were vehicles and the grandstands beside the parade deck smashed and flattened. most of the buildings were damaged beyond repair and a few wisps of smoke still drifted in the bright sunlight. Here and there the hard ground was stained with blood from the anonymous dead.

The blackened walls of the gymnasium still stood, walls that would be the only witness to the meeting within.

“I came to Prey to the spirits of the ancient ones for forgiveness” Began Krellasaur ” We meant to find a Warrior to equal the kings of old. Someone to lead our armies against the enemy, now I sense you will turn your talents against your own kind.”

“Isn’t it obvious that traitors reside amongst us” said Petrasaur “I will lead our armies against the Esox. But first I must make certain that all Saurians are loyal and that every resource is devoted to our cause”
Krellasaur stepped closer and spoke “The council is shattered many of the great families are without leaders. Everyone speaks of Petrasaur the hero. Some say you are a spirit returned to unite the people. They say some god must have warned you of the attack only you were ready.”

“What Do you imply” hissed Petrasaur ” What the peasants say is no concern of mine; I will do what is best for my clan and all of saurios. Perhaps it is time for all Saurs to be united under one leader again.” Petrasaur went to the wall and took down the ancient sword of King Bellasaur ” It may be just a myth that Bellasaur ruled all of Sarios, But this is the symbol of that age and from now on I will carry this sword to remind everyone of our common danger. You do not dare! ” shouted Krellasaur ” I will not let you.”

“Very well” said Petrasaur putting the sword back ” do what you think is best”

The two Saurs circled each other each focusing all his energies both physical and mental on the combat. Without any sound or motion to telegraph his intentions Krellasaur spun and delivered a lightning quick blow with his tail, but somehow Petrasaur was not there diving across the mats he rolled head over heels and returned to his feet lashing out with a perfect double kick. Krellasaur was one of the great masters of unarmed combat. But Petrasaur was more than just his best pupil, he could almost be called a disciple.

The contest continued each executing attacks that would have killed lessor fighters, when one or the other landed a blow the injured one would somehow escape to recover and attack. Both were aware that they had reached a level of awareness higher than they had ever attained. Beyond pain or exhaustion they fought as though time no longer existed.

Petrasaur kicked Krellasaur on the jaw and the old veteran staggered back and stopped off balance leaning back on his tail. Petrasaur dashed in close and suddenly both krellasaur’s feet shot out with the toe claws extended as though to disembowel. Petrasaur twisted out of the way and bypassing the outstretched legs on balanced on one foot himself grasped Krellasaur by the throat his momentum bending the unbalanced warrior further back until one of the vertebra let go with a loud pop.

A solitary figure marched across the wide parade deck. The long rays of the Blue Sun setting cast an enormous shadow across the field . It was the shape of a Saurian carrying a sword.

Salmo^gairdneri gathers the Esox for the trip to Earth
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE PIKE PEOPLE:

The adult Esox when standing measures about 5 foot at the shoulder. Depending on their desire for or need for extended vision the top of their heads may be up to seven feet above ground level. Because they breed before the adult stage all the adults are effectively male.
The metamorphosis to the adult stage takes place in deep cold water when the juvenile stage has reached an age of at least 20 years and attained a weight threshold of about 60 pounds. At this point it will begin storing prey for the long dormant period. An amount of edible flesh equal to their own weight is a minimum for successful transition to the adult stage.

They lie on the bottom eating and gradually transforming into their adult state. They emerge in the spring typically weighing 100 pounds and in the first 3 years of adulthood they gain another 120 pounds. after this growth is slower but a very old adult (200+ years) may reach 500 pounds.

The lower adipose fins become small legs while the foremost set of fins become longer legs and develop grasping appendages. The back bends downward behind the gills at about a 30 degree. angle. When standing the rear legs and tail form a tripod allowing the stronger front legs to manipulate objects. while walking at a normal pace all four legs are used and the body is at about a 45 degree. angle to the ground, when running the front legs do all the work and the rear legs and tail rise up so that the body is almost horizontal with the rear legs only occasionally being used.

The head remains similar to the young stage but with the eyes pointed forward for binocular vision. The gills remain but lungs are developed for use on land although more than a few minutes of strenuous activity will find them out of breath. The skin is covered with a film of mucous which will dry out after a few hours and can then rapidly result in dehydration and death. They must return to the water where they can quickly revitalize themselves. They can prolong their stay on land by carrying water with them and remaining in cool moist climates.
The lung capacity and ability to retain moisture increase considerably with size.

The most important change is that the brain expands greatly in size and complexity. instincts and memories of the pre adult stage rapidly fade. although they remain aggressive predators they develop the ability to communicate to a certain extent cooperate.

Earth Fall
680.1 Million B.C.E.

The world below gleamed in colors of blue, white and brown when viewed from an orbit one diameter out. Salmo^gairdneri had been, once again, first out of the tank. He had been awakened by the ships control system after deceleration to planetary velocity and an orbit being attained around the third planet of the system. For a short period of time he was completely disoriented but soon full consciousness returned. He pulled himself from the single command tank and on unsteady aft appendages strode up the ramp to the observation deck two levels upwards. He could not avoid remembering the three previous times he had made this same exhausting climb yet his excitement did not flag.

Salmo^gairdneri gazed at the surface below for many long minutes and still could not yet pull himself away to awaken the specialists who could determine if this planet was suitable for the Esox’ new home. It looked so much like home. A world of water with a vast continent located at the Southern pole and a scattering of mostly volcanic islands dispersed, seemingly at random, over the rest of the world.

The center of the landmass had tall mountains ranges which would hold snow the year round. There were many rivers and lakes dotting the continent and much evidence of volcanic activity. It was time to release the scientists from there sleep. Salmo^gairdneri would soon know if this was to be the new home of his race.
After activating the controls which would release the revival specialists from their long hibernation, and insuring that all was functioning properly, Salmo^gairdneri went back to the observation deck to rest and gather his strength.

“There are problems.”, reported E^Fernow, “Climatically the planet is ideal, but there is not enough life of a highly developed nature to support us at this time. The concentration of atmospheric oxygen is low and there is insufficient vegetation to support a highly developed food chain. The planet below, with proper help, can one day be all that we could desire. It could resemble closely Water World in the time before it’s industrialization. But for now we might as well be living on board the ship as to set up a colony below. With conditions as they currently exist we would have to live in domes and always using breathing enhancement gear.
Our fry could not survive except in specially prepared breeding tanks which would severely limit their development. Let me stress, however, that we may never find a planet with this potential again. And let me further remind you that our energy supplies are not inexhaustible.”

“Then what must we do? What are your recommendations?” asked Salmo^gairdneri. He knew that the decision he would soon make would seal not just his own, but, the fate of his race.

“We can launch suitable packages of genetic materials into the seas and onto the land masses below. By doing so, the rate of evolution, and hence the diversity of the planets indigenous life will, for a time, be speeded up a thousand fold. While this development proceeds; and I can not say precisely how long it will take, save that it could be millions of years, we must wait in hibernation. When evolutionary forces acted and the world is ready to accept us, we will have a home for the taking. As an indicator of the developmental progress being made, we will be able to rely on the easily monitored level of atmospheric oxygen. When that level approaches 20% it will be time for us to be awakened and descend to the surface of our new planet.”

“One last question E^Fernow, is it possible that the Saur have followed us or that they will discover this system before we can take possession.”

“That, I do not know”, my leader, “But the universe is vast and we may cast only the sand in our hands and deal with the results as best we may.”

The wait:
And so it was decided. They go into a cometary orbit with a period of approximately 2490 years. All on board rest in deep suspended animation while instruments tirelessly watch the status of development on their future home.

Ice ages
That which is built by the Lords of Creation
The dark Lords of Chaos shall carry away.
Are not they one and the same?
book of Esox 4:2

The Proterozoic era
680 Million B.C.E.

Plate Tectonics is the name we give to the process which, over geologic eras, changes the features of a planet. Molten materials from a planetary core, swirl within and driven by the forces of convection flow to the surface, cooling and hardening, and rearranging the planets surface features. This is where all continents and mountain ranges are born.

On the western slopes of the Wasatch Mountains, in what would become Utah, there is a 300 ft layer of smoky gray phyllite rocks which were once tillites. This layer contains many boulders up to 20 ft long which do not belong to the surrounding area. The layer itself lies atop laminated or varved slate.

Glacial sediments have been mapped in detail over a 100,000 sq. mi. area in the Adelaide geosyncline running northwest through central Australia.

The best tillites have been found in Scotland, eastern Greenland and Scandinavia. Others have been found in Belorussia and China. These contain giant erratics of varied lithology.
The Bigganjargga In northern Norway has basal pavement to clinch its glacial origin.

An explosion of lifeforms spread into all geologic areas and climes.

200 Million B.C.E.
The landing:

E^reicherti had watched and waited during much of the discussion and planing concerning the landing. He was content to leave the logistics to Salmo^gairdneri and the scientific specialists at his disposal.

E^reicherti’s position as second in command of the landing forces was secure due to both political and professional considerations. As leader of the Reicherti, the second largest school on board ship, after the Gairdneri, he had pushed, and readily received assent for, the establishment of two distinct colonies. Members of the other schools would be parceled out to the two main groups as dictated first by training and secondarily to keep the numbers relatively balanced.

Though they must cooperate now as they had done while the war raged, neither school felt any desire to continue in close proximity with the other for any longer than was absolutely necessary.

The plan called for the two main schools to be widely dispersed. Thus a threat to one group might spare the other. Salmo^gairdneri would, naturally be in charge of one of the landing sites. As leader of the second group which would land in what would later to be known as the Tunguska River region of Siberia, E^reicherti was only concerned that the planned landings take place without incident and that a few key members of the other schools were included in his school. The parceling out of rewards to those who curried his favor and the certain death of any who opposed him would ensure his complete control over half a world.

In his mind, over and over, he spoke the words, “I can see forever for I am surrounded by midgets…”

After the landings are completed and the colonies established they send their ship the “Exocetidae”, along with Aqsquish, once again, into its’ cometary orbit. Aqsquish will be the ships caretaker and watch over developments on the planets surface.

The Last Dinosaur
60 Million B.C.E.

* When the Esox seeded the earth with DNA they accidentally included some saurian genes. (Possibly part of E^reicherti diabolical plan to gain mastery of the world) Now they feel that the dinosaurs are becoming a threat to them.

155 Million B.C.E.
The Esox civilization decides to exterminate the dinosaurs by using their advanced science of DNA manipulation to produce dinosaur egg eating mammals.

Unknown to anyone a Saurian ship arrived in the solar system about the same time as the Esox, however this ship got too close to the sun and an automatic stasis field went on. The ship crashed on mercury and has been there ever since. This ship is now released ( by the same trigger that causes the Esox mother ship to kill its stasis field when its near the orbit of Saturn)

The Saurs land on earth they are amazed to find giant Saur like animals in the temperate zones it seems to them this would be a nice place to live and they can use their superior technology to destroy the Esox at their leisure. About this time Aqsquish returns In the giant starship.

Knowing that he can not teach the Esox civilization to defeat the Saurs Quickly enough. and that he can’t do the job himself he causes his meteor shield (a large hollow asteroid) to impact the earth in the vicinity of the saurian landing site

The Whales
120 Million B.C.E.

Names
*E^eschrichtius Esoxian who first domesticated Whales
*Salmo^piscius Leader during domestication
*Salmo^tirga Leader during whale wars
*E^cularri Esoxian geneticist whale wars
*S^onamish Squad leader Whale roundup
*S^gutta Member S^onamish squad
*E^trucca Mineleader at Hutelarchi
P^leuticas
Sseawals
Archaeoceti Extinct species of Whales known only by skeletal remains
Mysticeti Baleen Whales
Odontoceti Toothed Whales
*Delphin One of the first Sseawal slaves
(Delphinapterus leucas)
*Balaena Delphin’s Mate
Porppo Land dwelling Whale
Cetacea Land dwelling Whale
Ptera Humpback Whale
(Megaptera novaeanglia)
Mesop (Mesoplodon) Beaked Whales
Physeter catodon Sperm Whale
Kogia Pygmy Sperm Whale
Orchinus orca Killer Whale

The whales might give the pike people competition and are banished to dwell in the oceans. The whales thrive in the ocean but to this day “sing” their song of exile.

“You see.” said E^cularri his concern evident by the rasp of his voice, “It does not matter how we train them. We can no longer be sure of their behavior. The influence of the wild ones is an incurable infection undoing every bit of our work. The Sseawals have learned so much from us that, given a chance, they will eventually attempt to displace us. And yes… I fear that due to their numbers they might even succeed.”

“A race of servants”, grunted Salmo^tirga, with in a tone which showed only scorn. “A race bred to be servants, No!… A race of slaves! Tell me E^cularri, how has this come to pass? How could we have we failed to foresee the results of our labors? For if what you say is true there is nothing we can do but summon again the Lords of Chaos and do once more as they bid?”

“My leader, we have succeeded all too well in the Sseawals creation and subsequent perfection. The creatures have become so adept at survival away from water, and they breed so truly, that unrecovered strays and escapees are able to both leave the shores and head inland or return to the ocean’s edge and contaminate the native population. Their intelligence, which we enhanced to make them more useful, has also made them more, immeasurably more, dangerous. They thrive in regions where existence is difficult or even impossible for Esox. We must put a halt to their spread before it is too late and our race is lost.”

“Again I say,” demanded Salmo^tirga “For some will pay with blood. How has this come to pass?”

From his vantage point on the high dunes overlooking the broad sandy beach, E^eschrichtius looked down upon the small group, perhaps four or five hands, of Sseawals moving slowly below. They were of both sexes and scattered in small clusters near the waters edge. “How much like us they are.” he thought, “And how useful they might become.” He turned to the Military leader of the expeditionary force and said, “Now, Salmo^piscius, now we shall start our great experiment.”

S^piscius extended an arm; raising his meter long nerve whip high above his head, signaling first to the left and then to the right, and finally waving it in an arc aimed out to sea. After seeing motion in the distance his eyes returned to the creatures, who were still unaware that anything was amiss, below.

As the line of Salmo swimming inwards from several hundred meters off shore became visible to all those watching from the dunes he said, “This is not a proper action for a military force.”, he looked directly at E^eschrichtius and continued, “This is a job for farmers, and herders, and keepers of flightless birds.”

“My leader,” replied Eschrichtius, using the submissive mode even though it grated him deeply, “They are not as tame as they appear. Years ago, when my studies first began, none of the Sseawals had yet learned to fear us. They were easily handled and gathered for study. I myself could go into the field and with blandishments of small gifts or bits of food entice a small group to return with me to our research station. That is unfortunately no longer true. They have an intelligence and low cunning that resists the loss of freedom our plans require of them. A few of the early study cases, some released and others who escaped their pens, seem to have spread fear and distrust of us to the rest of their population. This will of course come to naught, but… for the time being at least, your aid and assistance in their capture is indispensable if they are to become the labor pool which we need to propel our race to greatness and attain ultimate destiny.”

Now, in silence, they both watched below as the still unaware Sseawals poked short pointed sticks into the sand in a search for edible shellfish and mollusks. When something hard interfered with the prods they would, while holding on to the stick as a crutch, bend over and with several rapid swipes of their free foreclaw, brush away the overlaid sand and examine the object which was below. Often all that they uncovered was an empty shell which they would pitch high above the tide line. On occasion they would eat a find immediately but each would, from time to time, place an item into a woven sack strung from a cord attached to their upper torso. So occupied, it was several minutes after the encirclement had begun, until one of the group happened to look up the beach and see the line of advancing Salmo. He at once emitted a short piercing shriek followed closely by many repeated rapid clicks and grunts.

In seconds and as if made of one flesh, the Sseawals broke for the water only to come up short as soon as they saw the Salmo emmerging fror the shallows who closed off escape in that quarter. Boxed in on three sides by Salmo and by dunes to their rear, resistance was short and pointless. A touch of the nerve whip and whimpering in agony, a Sseawal lay senseless on the ground. Two of the bolder Sseawals made a dash into the water; perhaps by chance to escape in the confusion; for they could not hope to out swim the waiting Salmo, and found as a result of their effort that in that medium the touch of a nerve whip was fatal. The rest were soon bound, one to the other, and under a guard of one hand of the Salmo, set on a forced march inland.

“They have no weapons save those of sticks and shells, not even the use of fire, they do not know of metals, nor even how to shape stone..” commented S^piscius. “Not even a common language do they have. the cetrainly have no knowledge of military matters. What can they hope for but eventually serve. Serve us as a born slave should rightly serve its master.”

“How true My Leader. And I will be the instrument to forge their chains.” Said E^eschrichtius his expression unreadable.

S^onamish on this occasion, as on so many others, cursed his position as Squad Leader. But there was no other way, except for this land locked crawl, to get the stupid animals back to the village. And more importantly, to get them to the research station at Hutelarchi.

Experience had shown that in terms of speed and fighting ability, the Sseawals were not a match for any of the Esox in water or on land. But in the water, where travel was easiest, unless the beasts were bound so tightly that their motion was severly inhibited it would take at least two guards for every captured Sseawal to prevent escape. Though not as fast as an Esoxian their endurance was such that, if in a moment of inattention, a Sseawal could slip away all it would take would be a start of a hundred meters and he would be uncatchable.

“Strange looking animals were these Sseawals.” thought S^onamish as he examined one closely for the first time.

They were like a grotesque carricature of an Esox. They stood almost as tall as he, walking more upright and with shorter forelimbs. Their grasping appendages were not as highly developed and their lower appendages still resembled the flippers from which they had evolved.

Their hairless skin was very smooth and had an overall was greyish sheen. It was cast darker in the back in some cases almost white in front. Their heads, supported by forewardly mobile necks, bulged out over forward pointing eyes. The bulge seemed to indicate a large braincase. They had a narrow, beak about a foot long, and a row of needle sharp teeth. The Sseawals were oxygen breathers from birth.

On the back of their heads, just below their cranial bulge, was located a blowhole for breathing. They were well insulated with a sub dermal layer of fat and weighed perhaps 65% of what a comparably sized Salmo might.

Though the march was tough on S^onamish it was brutal on the bound and burdened Sseawals. A quarter of them would die on this journey, not from hunger or thirst, as they traveled along a broad river and soon reached land teeming with game, but from exaustion and the inability to continue even under the stimulus of the nerve whip.

Delphin, from his position near the rear end of the bound line of Sseawals, could see his mate Balaena becoming weeker every day the march continued. She was pergnant and due to bear her young at any time. Though younger and stronger than many of the other Wals her stamina was being sapped by the need to provide for the two taking their nourishment from within her.

Three of their numbers, unable to summon the energy to proceed, even under the lash ot the whip, had been left for dead… their spines broken by heavy blows from the Salmo guards. There was nothing Delphin could do but remind Balaena, each night while they rested, bound even tighter than during the day, but at least laying in the shallow water at the rivers edge, that this as all journeys must, would soon end. And that here was no revenge for the dead.

It was because Balaena delivered her pups on the night when they both knew she could no longer continue that her life was spared. But at what a terrible cost.

“Over here, Onamish, look at this.” said S^gutta. “Two more of the worthless beasts today than we had yesterday. But I think we could find an immediate use for these two. What say you Great Leader” Intonned S^gutta in a fair imitation of the cerimonial mode. “The squad is tired and if we don’t give the Sseawals a break we will get back to Hutelarchi without any left alive for our effort.”

“Make it so S^gutta. All of us can use a break.” replied Onamish. The thought of the comming feast being more than enough to cemment his decision. Meat from an adult Sseawal was gammy and rancid from the high blubber content. But meat from the young ones was quite execellent. Unfotunately none such were included in the group he was escorting inland. The flesh of one just born should provide a meal to savor, and recount, for the rest of the journy home.

The group stopped and recouperated, resting and gathering strength for three days. Delphin never told Balaena, who lay almost in a coma for the first two of these, what happened to the pups, nor did any of the others. Yet in the midst of this tragedy their strength, and more importantly, their will to resist and survive recovered and grew. They all came to accept the fact, and even to embrace the saying, “In death there is no revenge.” And from this day forwards all of this gam would live only for revenge.

While the various groups of captured Sseawals were marched inland the roundup continued on the coast for several more hands of days. It went on until S^piscius, due to the detachment of guard/escort units, no longer had a force large enough to continue the tactics of the hunt.

Because they had no prisoners to guard, the remaining troops along with E^eschrichtius returned to the mouth of the Padigoic river and in a leisurely swim reached home at Hutelarchi before any of the groups herding the captured Sseawals on land.

The Padigoic River was still just wide and deep enough, to be navigable by the time it reached Hutelarchi. It was still cold, but of course not as cold as it had been before its fall from the higher elevations of the ancesteral homelands. The city was situated at enough elevation to ensure a temperature range sutible for year round living . Though during the hottest parts of the year it was not very comfortable. Further down stream, and especially along the plains boardering the coast, the temperatures were much too hot for any of the Esox to maintain permanent habitation.

When first settled the region around the young city had supported abundant game and a vast upland forest. Much of the game was depleted now but the forests remained and seemed inexaustable. The wood from these forests provided the fuel that drove the Esoxian economy.

Lack of an enviornment with rich enough soil and hence capable of sustaining renewable forest, at the upland ancestral home, was what had caused the industrial powers of the Esox to locate here at Hutelarchi and other similar sites. There was reverence for the old home but few of the ruling Esox at Hutelarchi would have wished to leave.

E^eschrichtius, looking at the Sseawals in the holding pens, knew it was time to begin to prove his theories concerning their potential for domestication. The anchient ones had no need for such as these but then the old ones also had knowledge far beyond his or any of the present Esox. He turned to P^leuticas and said, “Break them up into groups of a hand each. We will begin training in language and obedience.”

And it was so.

Delphin and Balaena were in different hands, but for both the regimen was the same. Up at dawn and physical exercise interspersed with language training, an afternoon meal of the simplest sort; plain but nourishing; never quite enough, a brief rest, then more of the same till dark and sleep. Those who did not hold up under the strain of the daily routine were seperated from the group never to be seen nor heard of again.

In such a situation one learned rapidly or not at all. It was only a few hands of days before Delpin along with most of the other walls could understand a little of the Esox’s speech. Some, such as Baleana, were even able to mimic the long sing-song sylables, so different from the Wals croaks and grunts. Those most able to learn to speak were grouped into special hands and spent much time on language drills.
The next stage in the training, for those not fluent in speech, dealt with what was slated to be their lifes work; the cutting and hauling of the forest trees.

Here Delphin and Baleana’s story describe their lives. His in the forest and hers as a house servant.

In the Mines:

“Copper it is called. And Copper will be your only God and reason for living.” Bellowed the squat Salmo to the new group of mineworkers. “Your life here can be hard but passable or a preview of hell. That will be up to you. I am E^trucca. You, if you address me at all, will call me Mineleader. You, without any hessitation or exception, will do exactly as told and do it at once. If you fail to obey… you will die.”

Porppo entered the mine entrance and immediatly felt the gloom not only blocking his vision but also decending upon his soul. Two hundred meteres down a slightly sloping passage that gradually narrowed and he had reached a small chamber lit by flickering tallow lamps; rock plates about a foot in diameter with a hollow to hold and collect melted fat.

There was a hole near the center of the chamber and above the hole a windlass with a thick rope that attached to a woven basket used for the trip below and for the hauling out of rock and ore. There were four muscular Sseawals leaning against upright handles connected to drive mechanisims used to rotate the drum of thick rope. Another stood on a small platform above where the gearing attached to the windlass drum. They seemed devoid of interest in the new arrivals. Standing watch over them were two guards holding nerve wips in their craddled arms.
“You”, said E^trucca pointing at one of Porppos companions, “Into the basket.”

The terrified creature approached the edge of the mine shaft and stepped into the low walled basket which for now was resting on firm ground next to the shaft.

Next Porppo and two others were ordered into the makeshift elevator and soon all four of them were standing huddled as close to the center of the platform as they were able.

“Haul away.” shouted the overseer to the Sseawals at the winch levers who immediatly began to rock back and forth in a ratcheting moition which was transmitted to the drum and began to take up the slack in the basket cable.

“Sss.” Porppo heard a low wisper from one of the winch hands. “Sit down you fools.”

Porppo immediatly dropped to the floor of the basket pulling the others down with him. Just as all were seated the contraption left the ground and swung like a pendulum several times before it was steadied over the shaft. At that time the Sseawall on the platform near the drum disengaged a pawl and with a light lurch the platform headed downwards. Porppo’s last sight, as he entered the shaft, was of the four Sseawals levers leaning backwards against the levers which must have been opperating as a break mechanism to slow their descent.

After traveling downward for several hundred feet Porppo was rudely jolted as the platform slamed into the ground at the base of the shaft.

4 Million B.C.E.

The greater light had just departed from the sky, and although there was no sign of the lessor light, it was not yet dark. The People waited, floating near the rim of the great water, and gazed at the strange world they would soon enter.

Last in line was E^mukwa as was proper for the youngest. Just like all the other times she had been required to perform some new task, E^mukwa wished they had chosen another. She had only been a person for half a cycle, not long enough to be accustomed to the air
world. The others broke the surface, and left the water casually but to E^mukwa the memories of her life as a swimmer, and the habits she had use to survive for so many cycles, still seemed at times more real than her present surroundings. She alone, of all those gathered on the
beach, could feel the forces of the cycle. Forces which tell swimmers how and what to eat, when to spawn, when to fight and when to flee and all the other instinctual knowledge which is less than useless to a Person.

First in line was E^onzebawka, leader of this expedition to the southern land mass which would one day be known as Africa. He was the only one of those gathered on the beach old enough to remember war with the river barbarians.

The world was divided into four great continents two northern and two southern ones. One hundred and sixty cycles ago, when E^onzebawka was still new to the life of the People, a school of River People, from the other northern land mass, had come across the salt poisoned ocean to wage war against the school of the thousand lakes.

Although not as civilized in many matters, they were very large and strong enough to endure on land for a long time. Only the combined strength of all Lake Peoples finally drove them away. E^onzebawka had been a leader of many during that great battle in which the River People had been forced back to Siberia.

Because of his bravery he had been instructed to attend the grand council of the Lake People at sacred *Burrows* and stand before the ancient wall of wisdom.

Esox^lucuius supreme leader of the thousand schools brought forth the Book of Esox and began to read.

And The Creator was not pleased
And thus it came to be that E^reicherti and the spawn of E^reicherti were banished into the waters of darkness
book of Esox 15:6

“Now” said Esox^lucuius “they who know not the ‘Book of Esox’ have returned at last just as the prophecy foretells and although we have won this battle who amongst us believes we can prevail if next time they should come in even greater strength?” There were murmurs but none spoke.

Waiting for an Elder to speak and resisting as long as he was able E^onzebawka finally could not contain his feelings. “But what of Aqsquish? Is it not written that he will return to save The People in the time of great need?”

“Aqsquish! What of Aqsquish! To us he is little more than a childhood story. If only the tales of his power were true. But even if so we can ill afford to await his return young captain.” said Esox^lucuius “As the story foretells he shall not arrive for another 850 revolutions and we cannot be sure our enemies will hold still for such a long time. The River People are far too strong on the land, and whoever rules the land shall rule the lakes.”

“True, True” in ever increasing volume chanted all The People.

“True True” Over and over, again and again, until Esox^lucuius raised his front grasping member so as to indicate a pause.

As one who was totally ignorant concerning the deeper mysteries of Aqsquish, E^onzebawka could make no reply to this point. Out of embarrassment and self pity E^onzebawka exclaimed. “If only we had allies to fight the enemy on land!”

All the People wiggled their dorsal fins in sad agreement at this point except for old Onapee. Onapee the great scientist who often swam
to the front against all manner of tradition.
Yes!” Onapee cried “It is so simple. We must fight with the help of air breathers.”

The Silence that followed was more from shock than proper respect
for the scientist and her age.

“Listen… In the ancient writings of Aqsquish there is a story of a time when giant demons in the shape of the accursed Saur, terrible beyond our sense of understanding, were loose upon the land. Our ancestors, who were wise in ways that we are not, went and gathered the small, hair covered, creatures of the land, and taught them to hunger for the eggs of our ancient enemies. When the dreaded Saur found out about what was being done, they came to Earth, as the had once come to Esox. They would extract revenge for what we had done. All would have been lost except that though the intervention of Aqsquish, the Lords of Chaos were summoned. And they struck the earth with a mighty club and rid our people of the Saur forever.

“Vengeance of Chaos vengeance of Chaos” All chanted as they had done in so many ceremonies.

After a time Esox^lucuius spoke “Do you suggest We can call upon The Lords of Chaos to smite our enemies? Remember the river people are not of the Saur but of ourselves.”

“No this I do not expect.” replied Onapee “But we can teach the creatures of the land to hunt our foes just as Aqsquish tells us our ancestors once did.”

There were confused murmurs from the group, one old veteran spoke. “Do we dare to bring the wrath of Saur down upon ourselves?”
Another burst out, “The river people are our cousins. If air breathers learn to hunt them might they not turn on us?”

The meeting was getting out of hand. “Order! show respect! ” shouted Esox^lucuius “Onapee can you explain these mysteries to us.”

“The Saur is long dead, only a few of his low and degenerate spawn remain. The Lords of Chaos caused them to crawl forever upon their bellies with only stubs for legs. We must once again attempt to train the animals of the land to do our bidding, and this time send them to the eastern continent in order that they should aid us in ending the threat of the River People forever. There, if all goes well, they will spread and fight the Rechiteri on land where we are weak. Because these animals will still be air breathers they will never have the ability to cross the poison oceans and cause us any harm.”

“Though I see many dangers I still believe we must try your plan.” said E^onzebawka “Once when we were in the forest, we came upon a huge beast. It was waiting besides a stream, and we watched it catch young swimmers that were in the shallow waters. We grew angry and fired our weapons at it, but even though the monster was hurt and tired he was still very strong. He came at us and we had to flee into the deep water of the river. The monster later died of its’ wounds yet we were no match for it on land. We must attempt to make this creature or some other, better suited, do our bidding.”

And so it began. The Lake People sent out expeditions which would search the world for native animals which might learn to fight their enemy. Old Onapee led that first voyage to the southern continent, discovering the strange anthropoids that lived near the edge of the great jungle. She and her followers worked to understand the mysteries of these alien creatures. First gaining their trust and later controlling their mating patterns, reinforcing traits which she considered desirable and culling those which would not aid in producing good soldiers.

Onapee did not survive that first trip But E^onzebawka, her young assistant, had learned enough from the great scientist to continue the work.

This was E^onzebawkas forth expedition to the southern land mass,
and he knew it would be his last. Each crossing of the Ocean extracted a terrible toll on mind and body. The people would build a great ring shaped raft of inflated skins. A large bladder in the center would be filled with fresh water and the voyagers would spend much of their time inside. Wind, blowing on ungainly sails, currents, and the tireless swimming of the Esox, would drive the raft to the Southern Continent.

There were times when work would have to be done underneath the raft, work such as setting the rudders or replacing worn lashings or even frayed sections of the float ring. Swimming in the salt water was hard for the People because they needed to wear weights or extend more than normal effort in order to stay under. Exposure to salt would cause damage to their gills and attack the oils which protected their the skin and scales. The sickness and suffering were terrible, but even worse were the dangerous creatures that lived in the depths. The strange and vicious sharks and the even more frightening Orcas. Each expedition had accomplished more than the last and the goal that seemed so incredible at first now was becoming a reality.

As the People began to leave the water and enter the forest they hardly noticed the swarms of buzzing insects. These insects had never evolved to feed on the People though those in their home lands certainly had learned to relish the taste of the People.

E^onzebawka knew the way to the grove where the apes were but his keen sense of smell led him elsewhere. He followed the bank of a river that flowed north from the lake rather than veering west. This small detour would take little time and but could serve to increase his
prestige among his followers and also might ease the ache in his belly.
There were confused murmurs from behind but he paid them no mind. It was only a few more moments until he saw his prey.

“Devilfish!” he whispered.”

Those he led were shocked by what they saw. For they had no ancestral memory of the scent which could reveal the identity of this prey and hence no inkling of the enormous size of the beast.

E^onzebawka could not make this kill alone as he had originally intended but the present circumstances could well would work out better. The others in the school would also share this honor.
Flicking his dorsal fin back and forth he sent silent commands to the hunters. Although they carried weapons none were to be used. This was no ordinary hunt. In front of them was their races oldest and deadliest enemy a full grown Saurian!

The African crocodile rested with his belly in the cool mud which formed the bank of the river. This river would someday be called the Nile. He was hardly prepared for what happened next. Having no natural enemies, and lacking a brain that could understand hatred, it
was seldom that anything but hunger would elicit a response from the
resting beast.

Four strange shapes suddenly burst from the nearby jungle.
Though the were not built for speed on land, the People had powerful legs that could propel them in great ground devouring leaps. The crocodile detected their headlong rush almost immediately and started to come to its feet; in order to face this source of potential danger.

It was already too late, and the reptiles’ fate was sealed. Four powerful sets of jaws locked on to his body. The strongest, that of E^onzebawka, was clamped tight onto his head. Ripping the eye he had fastened on to out of its’ socket. The crocodiles monstrous tail swung in reflexive action but only smashed into a nearby tree stump.
Still the force was enough to knock all of the People, except for E^onzebawka, firmly into the mud. They still they held their grip upon the sinuous body which showed no sign of surrender.

E^mukwa screamed. Being so young she had not been prepared for the fight and was not included in the rush upon the giant reptile. As she gained entrance into the opening along side the river, she saw four of the leaders of her school lying on their bellies with their jaws clamped onto a monster that she was sure could only be the Devilfish himself.

The monster was slamming them, except for E^onzebawka, who still maintained his grip on the crocodiles head, over and over again into the ground. In what can best be described as religious terror she pointed her spring pod at the monster and fired.

A spring pod held gas under pressure. Spring pods were easily and safely made by filling bladders at the surface and then taking them to the bottoms of deep lakes and waiting for the casings to harden. A barrel and a simple valve and trigger mechanism completed the weapon. When fired on the surface the stored pressure could hurl projectiles with great velocity.

A dozen spiral shaped needles entered the crocodile in near proximity and then, taking divergent paths, spun through his innards slicing the impact area into raw meat. E^mukwa, at the time, had no idea of how lucky she had been not to hit any of her comrades… because she had already passed out from fright.

E^onzebawka did not show the embarrassment he felt from this fiasco, he was a seasoned veteran and quick to learn from his mistakes, and disguise his failures as lessons for the uninitiated. Besides he told himself it had worked out fine. If The People remained in Africa long enough they would surely exterminate all types of snakes and lizards, just as they had done in the lake regions of home.

After E^mukwa was revived the big crock was portioned out and the feast began. Eating was a very quick business for The People since they tended to gulp their meals down whole. After a rest for proper digestion then they resumed the march.

When the group finally reached the place where the ape tribe had been bedding down for generations it was near dark and all was quiet. Some of the primates woke and saw the People amongst them but they were accustomed to this and felt no fear and sounded no alarm. E^mukwa, had pointed out to her, the ape they called Og asleep in the bole of a large nearby tree.

He was one of the prize specimens. Having a larger brain than was usual, and hands that could manipulate objects almost as well as she or any of the People could. With the utmost caution she removed a sealed tube from the pouch she had carried all the way across the vast ocean, and placed the tubes contents where Og would find them in the morning. Og would eat the tasty fruits, though he wouldn’t enjoy the unpleasant side effects which the radioactive isotopes would cause with his digestion.

Og would father strange children. Most would be sickly and die, but some would be better developed, in the manner the People desired, than was Og. Many apes were given the same treatment as Og. Other apes would be given food that would cause sterility. Occasionally one would be killed. When the Peoples tasks for each day were completed they would retreat to the cool waters of the lake, to rest, reflect, and plan further courses of action.

Days, nights, seasons and years passed and cool rains carpeted the African continent. These was a pleasant times for The People because they could come out of the lake in daytime and remain on land as long as they wished.

E^onzebawka sat on a patch of forest moss, enjoying the mist and watched his followers at work. E^mukwa was working with a female ape and her child. Kala was one of Og’s mates and Akut was her first child. It had been a difficult birth and at first E^mukwa had thought that the child was defective. After one cycle most ape children could walk, and climb. But this one had been small and still clung to its’ mother.

Only E^onzebawkas’ recollection that Og had also been a weak and late developing child had prevented her from culling Akut out. Now she knew that she was seeing an improvement to the breed.
It was not easy to coax Kala into letting her examine the ape child but E^mukwa moved slowly and Kala was very fond of the little frogs E^mukwa brought her.

Akut clearly had a shorter pelvis and larger brain cavity then Og. The People did not develop their brains or ability to walk until after many cycles of the swimmer stage and hence had a long developmental period preceding adulthood. E^mukwa could no longer remember what it was like to be a swimmer but she had the insight to realize that the air breathers might also take a long time to develop. She was sure they were on the right track. That night the People slaughtered half the apes.

As the cycles passed reinforcements were fewer and the news from home grew worse. The “Dry War” was becoming wetter and raids from the east were coming nearly every cycle. The technological edge that had kept the school of a thousand lakes ahead was becoming ever slimmer. It would not be too many more cycles before the spawn of E^reicherteri would come in force.

Life for The People in Africa was not easy. E^onzebawka felt old before his time. Too many cycles spent in this hot dry land had used up his health. He had taken the ape tribe far to the east of the great lake and away from the forest.

From the cliff were he rested E^onzebawka adjusted the telescopic lens which allowed him to see Akut and the rest of the hunters in the valley below. The apes had surrounded a wart hog that was rooting about in some bushes.

Many of the apes half stood with their hands resting on the ground. Akut and a few others, of the more developed apes, were standing motionless on their legs, heads held high above the grass. Suddenly the hog, sensing a danger, broke and ran. In seconds it was upon the ape Terkoz and was goring him. Akut rushed to the defense, and picking up an antelope bone, which was lying on the ground, brought it down with great force upon the wart hogs head. Hurt, but still with plenty of fight left in him, the warthog turned on Akut.

As the razor sharp tusks flashed towards him, Akut stood his ground. Waiting for the right moment, Akut drove the sharp bone into the neck and through the heart of the enraged beast.

E^onzebawka felt a surge of pride as he watched the grizzly scene. He had created a killer ape. A breed of ape that could use tools and weapons instinctively. He felt that the Lords of Chaos were on his side, and that they would surely provide have a few more generations to which to raise this anthropoid army. He coughed and spit up a bit of phlegm but didn’t care. E^mukwa was competent to finish the task he had begun under the guidance of old Onapee so long ago. His bones would rot in Africa but E^mukwa would take these apes that E^onzebawka had grown to love, after all these cycles, and destroy the River Devils on land. E^onzebawka knew that the victory would be his and that the Great Aqsquish would write his name in the Book Of Esox.

Time passed slowly for the group in Africa. there were only a dozen of the people left now but the work was almost finished soon they would begin to transport the anthropoids to the northern landmass even though they were not a prolific race a few generation and they would pose a threat to the eastern barbarians. The Esox were not a numerous race even in the best of times only 1 out of 100000 swimmers hatched grew to the size necessary to make the transformation and become a person.

E^mukwa was the leader of the Africa school now and felt she knew the apes like she knew herself. Sometimes when she observed the mothers suckling their young she would reflect on the love that the young apes had for their mothers and that of the mothers for their children.

Although these feeling were totally alien to the people, E^mukwa had come to feel that the apes were her children and she sensed that they loved her like a mother.

The twisted limbs of the giant tree above cast shade on the ground and offered some relief from the hot African sun. Some of the apes crouched on those limbs seemly at rest but with keen eyes alert for any motion in the grass nearby. Most of the tribe sprawled about in the shade at rest or idle play, in all at least 60 apes were in sight the whole tribe except for a few missing hunters.

E^mukwa sat in a circle of the young soon to be adult apes, she held a small fruit up for them to see. Nervous glances passed around the circle until Korak spoke “eat?”

“no Korak not eat, food… tree food ” E^mukwa was used to this routine having spent so many hours patiently teaching them ” food!” Korak said. “food!” the rest of the apes agreed although their accents varied from bad to worse and pronunciation was not good these apes had developed vocabularies of from 50 to 100 words. words like food were modified so that fruits were tree food, dirt food would mean nuts and roots. speech had helped them cooperate-operate while hunting and E^mukwa hoped would someday allow them to harass the Reicherti of Europe.

Korak was one of the sons of Akut and her star pupil but lately he had been developing bad habits. E^mukwa wrote in her journal “Korak
is more rebellious lately and what’s worse he so dominates the other young apes that they pick up his bad habits. soon he will be old enough to vie for leadership of the tribe. It may be necessary to eliminate him before attitude affects the others.”

Just at that moment a group of hunters emerged from the tall grass carrying a large striped carcass. excitement spread through the clearing under the giant tree. The tribe gathered around the still warm zebra and began to divide the catch as was their custom. The older stronger males dashed in first and took their share, then the others according to their rank in the pecking order. a few scuffles broke out among the younger apes where it was unclear who was stronger. Korak had taken his portion with the adult males and hunters and none had challenged him.

E^mukwa was annoyed that her class had been interrupted and her students were all caught up in the general Pandemonium.
The other members of the Esox party gathered near “Disgusting” said Poilu “how can these animals ever overcome the Reicherti schools. They spend all their time eating, sleeping or bickering amongst themselves.”

E^mukwa turned from the savage celebration and began to explain “When we came here these animals lived in trees and hunted only small burrowing mammals and insects. we have bred them for size, intelligence and ferocity. Unfortunately this has caused them to breed at progressively older ages but even so this generation and the next might well be a danger to our ancient foes if we lead them.”

“Maybe with our guidance” reluctantly admitted Poilu “but I don’t
see how them could ever defeat an intelligent Esox by themselves”
Korak came near his face and hands smeared with blood. “Kill food!” he said, offering a zebra rib to his teachers.

“No Korak meat… meat food!” E^mukwa habitually corrected for the last time.

An angry scowl came upon Korak’s face. He grabbed up a large stone and with lightning reflexes brought it down on E^mukwa’s neck
“Kill! ” he said “kill!”

The other apes caught on to the idea quickly and in a few seconds
the rest of the people were being pelted with rocks and sticks
as E^mukwa lifted her head and saw Korak bring his rock down again
her expression was one of sad bewilderment rather than pain.
In the fading light of dusk a band of apes could be seen dancing around a flickering fire, their voices joined together in song.

The war between the great schools never came For while E^mukwa
was suffering her ultimate betrayal the eternal tragedy of her race was being reenacted. As the Earth spun around its primary and the primary around the galactic core it once again entered the great ring of cosmic dust. The reactions in the sun would be affected and the ice ages would return to earth. The light of reason would go out for the Pike People not to be rekindled for thousands of cycles. None would be there to greet Aqsquish when he returned from deep space. But the seed that had been planted would take root and thrive, in the great rift valley of Africa at a place called Olduvai.

The Last Ice Age
23 Thousand B.C.E.

When ye think ye know me ye know me not.
When ye know me not we are almost one.

—book of Esox 16:12

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