Tom Purdom





Ulman Benrazzu was a scholar who studied organized violence in pre-human societies.  He had traveled 832 light years so he could study organized violence in a non-human society.  He was lounging inside an orbiting rock observing a battle on the planet humans had dubbed Sagittarius One—the first inhabited planet humans had discovered in the section of the sky pre-human astronomers had dubbed Sagittarius when pre-humans had been doing the dubbing.  The pre-humans thought they were humans.  They thought their successors would be post-humans.  They were wrong.

Ulman worked with limited funding, like all scholars seduced by unpopular subjects.  He was watching the battle through a satellite feed that gave him a silent top down view.  He couldn’t observe all the details he was interested in but he could follow the general course of the battle.  The two sides were conveniently color coded.  The raiders from the highlands were a brownish mass dressed in skins and rough cloth.  The urbanites adorned themselves with clothing decorated with bright colors that differentiated the sexes.  The urbanite “females”—the childbearing sex—wore yellow scarves and head covers.  The primary “male” sex sported blue upper garments and decorated their head gear with white symbols.  The secondary “male” sex wore red uppers and fancied black symbols.

The urbanites had pinned the highlanders against a river.  The highlanders were trapped inside a disciplined semicircle of thrusting spears.

It was the first time Ulman had observed a battle that looked like a determined fight to the finish.  He had watched three other clashes between highlanders and urbanites.  They had all followed the same pattern.  The highlanders came in from the wild country, attacked a few farms, and loaded their wagons with grain and meat.  A military unit marched out of the urbanite city in response, the highlanders retreated toward home, and the urbanite military force took a few stragglers prisoner.  The urbanites chased the highlanders away but they didn’t make a serious attempt to catch them.

Ulman’s internal display was feeding his nervous system an image that filled half his one-room living quarters.  A text box popped into the upper right corner.  It looks interesting.  But we don’t have the resources right now.  Sorry.

Ulman erased the text with a sweep of his hand and pinged a message.  Can we talk?  I can use a favor.

Three urbanites had taken up a position on the edge of the river and started throwing spears at the highlanders trying to swim out of the trap.  The spears had bulky iron points and the urbanites hurled them with a technique that looked like it made the maximum use of their long arms.

The top down view obscured some of the eerie alienness of the combatants.  The sagis were flat-faced bipeds like humans but the similarities only underlined the differences when you saw them up close.  From this height you were less conscious of the cubical heads, the extra-long arms, and the torsos that rested on thick legs and leaned forward, like the bodies of some kinds of terrestrial dinosaurs.

The engineers who designed anthropomorphic robots had learned that you shouldn’t make them look too human.  At some point, people would see your creations as deformed humans and be repelled by them.  The sagis would have seemed less alien if they had been six-legged, four-armed lizards.

A woman’s face popped into an image box.  “You want a favor?” Sharda said.  “I can do you a favor?”

Ulman smiled.  “Can I show you what I’m watching?”

“Ping away.”

Her face changed seconds after the battle appeared on her display.  “That’s serious.”

“The other times I’ve watched raids, the urbs just chased them away.  This time they’ve acted like they’re engaged in a real pursuit.  They marched further in a day and a half than they usually do in three.”

“And this is the only view you’ve got....”

“I asked Rando if they had a fast flyer handy.  I didn’t put a flyer on this myself because it looked like it would just be a replay of the standard raid scenario.  He claims they don’t have the resources.  They’re concentrating on the festival.”

“I don’t have anything close to you, Ul.  This thing will probably be over before I could get something there.”

“I can’t see their facial expressions.  Their body language.  I can’t hear them.  Are they feeling something they haven’t felt before?  I can’t get that kind of information with this kind of view.”

“Have you got any thoughts on why they suddenly changed their tactics?”



Copyright 2018 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.8

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