Why do we fight?

Humans and the Vaslisa have been fighting since humans entered the galactic scene over 300 earth years ago. Nobody knows how it started or by who, but the hatred between the two persisted. After a few major battles and a lot of lost lives, they made sure to leave each other alone and stay in their own space as they were evenly matched and a drawn out war would result in minimal gains and great loss. Any species that traded with both was smart enough to schedule them apart, and for over a hundred years things were peaceful even though no official peace treaty had been declared. But anytime the two species would run into each other, it usually resulted in an immediate fire fight breaking out, as neither trusted the other to not shoot first.

Carnas 3, as the humans call it, or Namisma, as the Vaslisa call it, is a small planet located between their two territories. The planet has no mineral value, nor any strategic value and its only use is that it is habitable for both species. It is eighty percent covered by water, but it is almost all salt water. There are few freshwater lakes and there is almost no weather cycle to create more. Both species have set up settlements on opposite ends of the only continent and they have an agreement to stay on their side and leave each other alone to keep the peace. The water filtration systems are controlled by cartels that, through water contracts, effectively own everything that needs water. This is true with both species and makes it very costly for a new settler to try farming or any other water intensive endeavor.

Mark Bingham brought his family out to Carnas 3 in an effort to have a better and safer life after having lost a daughter and a sister to riots caused by starvation on their overpopulated home planet. As a farmer, his family was overrun when the starving people left the cities in a mass exodus in an effort to find food. They devastated the crops that were not ready for harvest, and raided their supply of food. His sister and daughter were hiding in a closet and when the mob found them, they thought they were hiding food behind them and killed them trying to get to it. When things finally settled down, he decided to leave to get away from the memories, no matter what it took.

Mark believed the lies told by the cartel recruiters about their being abundant water, and not being told they would have to become indentured servants to get access to it. Once he arrived and found out the truth, he realized that he would not be able to farm. Initially he tried creating and selling mud bricks, the main cheap building material in this environment, but it was still too water consuming and they ran through their savings quickly. With no money to leave and not wanting to go into slavers debt, Mark looked at surface scans for any possibility of venture elsewhere. He found a small lake nestled in a little valley in the middle of the continent surrounded mostly by a desert. It was at least four days travel, so trips to the cities will be limited, but it looks like they could farm there. They packed all their belonging in their transport and started making their way.

Parsonmo moved his family to Namisma to try to keep his second son from becoming a soldier as there was no recruitment center on this planet. Even though they were not actively fighting, he knew the death rate was still high as he had already lost his first son. He thought raising this one to learn a trade would be a better life for him. He had trouble finding work that would suffice to raise his family without going into insurmountable debt and started looking into options. Looking over aerial surveys, he noticed the small lake in a far away valley and decided to take his family there despite the many days travel. They would be able to raise crops and cure meat from the animals they trapped and hunted, and sell it back in the city. The Vaslisa is a snake like species with two arms that end with a hand having five digits with sharp pointed nails.

They would each travel along the mountain range that bordered the southern side of the desert. At the base of the mountain range was sparse vegetation, a tree here and there, a few bushes and some low grasses. After three days, they arrived at a crossing that has vegetation lining the way following an underground stream. Even though the planet has no weather there is still moisture in the air from evaporation and mountains like the ones they are following are just the right height to collect the water. This is what feeds the underground stream that leads to the freshwater lake they are headed to.

Both families arrived at the crossing at the same time, appearing from around large boulders blocking the view. As soon as they noticed each other they were only twenty meters away. They stopped their vehicles and both sets of parents each grabbed their weapons, neural disruptors. Neural disruptors were the weapons used now as they are considered more humane because they create no mess, little noise, and less chance of permanent wounds for survivors. They would disrupt the nerve signals in the area they hit, hit an arm and it will be paralyzed for a short time, but a hit to the heart or brain would still be lethal as those organs would stop working. They exited the transport and started shooting at each other. Whether by luck, skill or a combination of both the four shots resulted in four dead parents, each hitting their mark. The oldest son of each family jumped out of the transport and grabbed a weapon the parents had dropped and started firing at each other. They each got two shots off before each one scored a lethal hit.

Jimmy was asleep in the back of the transport when the shooting happened. He had not heard anything as he was surrounded with all their belongings. When he woke, he grabbed his blanket as he climbed out of the transport and made his way to the front to find his parents and brother all laying on the ground. He tried to wake them and when he could not, he realized they were dead. Even though he was only six, he knew what death was having lost his sister and an aunt in the past year. He laid down across his mother crying.

Liasma was also asleep in her family’s transport during the fighting. She exited to find her family all on the ground and unresponsive to her attempts to wake them. She too had familiarity with death and understood what it meant despite her only being five. Her species reaches maturity faster than humans, so she was closer to a ten year old in terms of human development. She wept as she hugged her father’s body.

Their grief was soon interrupted by the sounds of howls/growls coming closer. Liasmas instincts kicked in and she started to slither away. She had not noticed Jimmy crying and laying across his mom until she rose to get away. She got twenty meters and looked back to see Jimmy still laying down and not trying to run. She yelled to him in common “Monsters coming, get away!” He looked up to see her and just looked at her trying to realize what she was and what she had said. She repeated her yell “Monsters coming, get away now!” He understood what she said that time and got up and grabbed the blanket he had carried with him and started running toward her.

They travelled for hundreds of meters before finding a tall tree that Liasma felt she would be safe in. She stretched her three meter long body out and reached up to the first branch and pulled herself into the tree. Jimmy stood at the bottom unable to reach the branch. He tried to jump up to grab it but was unable to get enough height to hold on. Liasma saw that he could not reach and climbed back down to help. She coiled herself around the second branch and reached down to grab Jimmy’s arms. Once she had a good grip, she coiled herself around the branch as a winch to pull him up to the first branch. When he was safely on the branch she climbed back up the tree and he followed her up as high as he could. Liasma whispered “Be quiet. We do not want them to hear us.” They stayed there, still able to hear the growls and fighting going on with the monsters, for the rest of the day and into the night. Jimmy straddled a couple of close together branches and was able to sleep without falling while Liasma coiled herself around the trunk and a branch to hold on.

The next morning, Jimmy woke to see Liasma already awake and looking out at the surroundings near the top of the tree. She says, “I can still hear monsters, we need to get far away.” Jimmy replies “Ok.”, not fully understanding what was going on, but he knew monsters were bad. They climbed down with Jimmy having to jump from the bottom branch causing him to land on his butt with a thud. This caused Liasma to laugh as her species does which is more of a hiss-hiss-hiss. “That is not funny.” said Jimmy as he stood up and rubbed his butt. “Yes it was.” she replied still laughing.

As they continued following the vegetation away from the monsters, Liasma quietly asks “What is your name?”

“My name is Jimmy, what is yours?”

“I am Liasma.”

“That is a pretty name.”

“Thank you” she replied acting bashful and trying to hide her face.

They walked for several more hours when Liasma takes off into some of the surrounding vegetation. She returns to Jimmy with a small rodent like creature. She raises it up, drops it into her mouth and swallows it whole. An hour later she does it again. Shortly after that she gets another, but this time she offers it to Jimmy. “You want to eat?” she asks handing it to him.

“No, I can not eat that, it’s not cooked.” he replied.
“What else can you eat?” she asks.

“Fruits… vegetables… and bread.” he said pausing between each one thinking about it.

She would go ahead and eat her catch, which would finish filling her up quite nicely.

Shortly they would run across a larger raccoon like creature drinking out of a short cactus plant it had dug into, and it ran off as they approached. Liasma bent down to smell the liquid and taste it with her tongue. “It is good.” she announced. They were able to get a few sips each, before the level was too low, but as they waited, the liquid level would rise again to allow them to drink some more. They were able to repeat this three times before the liquid level would no longer rise.

As they continued on, Jimmy saw a bush that looked like it had some berries on it, but as he got closer he realized they were grasshopper like bugs. He grabbed one, and looked at it. His hunger being great, he ate it. He had tried something like it before at a market, but did not like the taste and this one was not any better. But it satisfied a basic urge, so he ate a few more. While he was doing this, Liasma was using her claws to try to cut into one of the cactus like plants that provided the water. She managed to get one open, but lost a lot of the liquid in the process so they were only able to get a couple of sips each. Jimmy used his last sip to wash down the last of a bug.

“Were bugs good?”

“No, but they were not bad.”

She just looked at him tilting her head a bit. They continued moving until it started getting dark and they saw a bush that had a clear spot underneath it. They crawled under it, one on each side, and laid down to sleep. As they laid there they could still hear the howls of the monsters and after a while Jimmy looked over at Liasma to see her still awake. He asks her “Did the monsters kill our families?”

“I think so.”

“Do you think they will get us?”

“I hope not.”

“Me too.”

They next morning they continued their trip. After a few hours they started asking each other questions about what they liked, did not like, what they did at school, and how they played. Neither one of them asked about family. Occasionally, Liasma would spot something and take off chasing it, most of the time catching it and eating it, and Jimmy would find some insects to eat. They would find a few water cacti to drink from, and before they realized it they were at the valley entrance.

The valley was between two nearly straight walled cliffs like the mountain just split open to create it. There was a small lake against one side with the rest full of bushes and grasses. There were numerous overhangs and small caves along the cliff walls at various heights. Several different type of small mammals run around the area, and the lake is full of many different types of fish.

When they got close enough to see the lake, they both quickly moved to it and started drinking. As soon as they had their fill, Liasma slithered right into the water letting it soak in and around her scales. “This feels good, you should come in.”

“I can’t swim.” replied Jimmy.

Liasma looked down to see how deep the water was and saw it was too deep for someone who could not swim. “Maybe there is better place over there?” she said pointing down the lake shore.

“That’s ok, I don’t want to swim anyway.” he replied as he started to wander over to a bush that was close by. He saw that it contained berries, but most of them were still green. He found a few that were red and ate them, then started to go from bush to bush eating any more he could find. There were also a cane plant that produced a raspberry like fruit that was a bit tart, but still edible.

As Liasma swam around she noticed the fish and asked “Jimmee, can you eat uncooked fish?”

He thought about it and remembered eating fish that his dad said was uncooked. “Yes, I can eat uncooked fish.”

She dove under the water and in a minute surfaced with a fish in her mouth and one in her hands. She slithered onshore up to Jimmy and handed him the fish from her hands. He took it from her, not sure what to do with it. She took the fish from her mouth and set it down on the ground and started dragging her claws down the fish trying to remove the scales. Her father had shown her how to clean a fish on one of their last fishing trips, explaining that the scales and guts cause digestive issues, but he had used a knife.

Jimmy saw what she was doing and started mimicking her. She was having a hard time removing any scales with her pointed claws, getting only a few loosened each pass. Jimmy was able to remove a lot more having broader nails, and in just a few minutes had his fish cleaned of scales. Liasma had removed less than half a side by this time and he asked “Do you want me to help?” She nodded her head and pushed the fish toward him, which he took and made short work of the rest of the scales.

He pushed the fish back towards her and she picked it up and used her nail to cut the stomach,  gutting the fish as her father had shown her, and threw the guts into the water. And finally, she rinsed the fish off. She saw Jimmy try to use his nail to cut the stomach of his, but he was unable to break through the skin, so she asked “Do you want me to do it?”

He hands her his fish and nods his head and she guts it for him and hands it back to him. She then swallowed her fish in one gulp. Jimmy did not know what to do, so he took a bite getting mostly skin. He chewed it, but did not like it. Next he pulled it open and took a bite of the flesh, and ended up getting a bone that poked him in his gum. He reached in and pulled out the bone and looked at the fish where he took a bite, and could see where the bone came from so he could avoid them with his next bites.

He got another drink of water and sat down in the grass near Liasma. They sit in silence for a while before Jimmy asks “Can you use your tail to hold things?”

“No. Our tails are only used for one thing.”

“What thing?”

“I do not know. My mother said I would learn when I got older.” and with the mention of mother, they both started thinking about their loved ones and how they missed them.

“I miss my mom.” said Jimmy as he started to cry.

“I miss my mom too.” answered Liasma as she also started crying.

They sat there in anguish and heartbreak until it started to get dark. “We need to find a place to sleep.” said Liasma as she straightened herself up and started looking around. She saw a large overhang nearby with a ledge that was a meter off of the ground and said “That would be good place.” as she pointed in that direction. They made their way over to it and climbed up, with Jimmy using some fallen rocks to help him. Liasma laid down one one side and Jimmy on the other covering himself up with his blanket as much as it could. As they laid there, they could hear howls in the distance that kept them from going to sleep. Jimmy noticed Liasma shivering and wrapping her arms around herself as she lay on the cold rock floor. “You can share my blanket.” he said while raising his arm and the blanket. She slithered over and huddled her back up next to him and he placed the blanket, that didn’t even cover himself, over the both of them as much as it would fit.

“You are warm.” Liasma said as she snuggled in closer and fell asleep pulling her body in tighter, and without her realization, her tail wrapped itself around Jimmy’s ankle.

In the morning, Liasma woke up and started to move and did not become conscious of her tail unwrapping itself from Jimmy’s ankle. She stretched herself up and made her way out to get in the sunlight and soak in the warmth. Jimmy woke up and realized that he needed to go to the bathroom. He climbed down and realized that Liasma was nearby so he moved farther toward the valley entrance. He started to go when Liasma noticed him missing and saw him over where he was. She slithered toward him until she got close enough to see what he was doing and immediately turned back and yelled “Bury it when done.”

“Why.”

“My father said to do it to keep animals away.”

“Ok.” yelled back Jimmy.

They spent the day exploring the area, sometimes together, sometimes alone. They would eat whatever the would run across and get drinks of water at the lake that ran down most of the length of the valley. The valley was fairly small taking less than an hour to get to the end moving casually. They explored several more of the caves and found evidence of someone else having been there in the past. At the end of the valley was a lot of mud and Jimmy played there for a while. He started building brick shaped mud piles about the size he remembered his dad making, and in the end he made about a dozen bricks. The end of the lake also provided him with a way to get into the water standing up and he did so to wash the mud off of himself before heading back toward the entrance.

When he got back he found Liasma in the water swimming around. He stood there watching her and how she waved her body back and forth to swim through the water. He was mesmerized by her movements and her dark charcoal irridescence scales [Liasma’s Color] that shimmered with all colors of the rainbow. She saw him and said “You are back. Do you want to eat fish?”

“Ok.” Jimmy replied as he sat down next to the lake.

She shortly surfaced with two fish a blue one in her hands and a red one in her mouth. She hands Jimmy the blue one and he takes it and starts removing the scales. When he is done he looks at Liasma’s fish and she’s barely tried to remove any scales. He reaches out to accept it and she hands it to him. She then picks up his fish and guts it for him. He finishes descaling hers and hands it back to her and she says “Thank you.” as she hands him his gutted fish. They eat and talk until it gets dark, then they make their way to their sleeping area. They lay together as they had the previous night with Jimmy covering them up. He falls asleep quickly as she snuggled closer to make use of his warmth and her tail will wrap his ankle without her realizing it again.

The next morning they both wake up at the same time, and as Liasma stretches to get moving, she and Jimmy both realize her tail is wrapped around his leg. “Why is your tail around my leg?” Jimmy asks.

“I do not know. I can not control it.” she replies. As she starts to move away, her tail comes unravelled allowing her to move freely. They would spend the next couple of days the same way they spent the past one, with them both exploring and Jimmy making many more bricks. At night they would lay together and Liasma’s tail would wrap Jimmy’s ankle, but now they were both aware it was happening.

One day Jimmy thought the bricks he made the first time had dried enough, so he tried to move one. As he picked it up, it broke into several pieces and he dropped it. He tried another, getting it picked up ok, but it broke as he carried it. He kept trying and was able to get three of the initial dozen moved over to the ledge they were sleeping on. Liasma asks “What are you doing with those?” pointing to the bricks.

“Making walls like for a house.” he replied as he repositioned the brinks, lining them up along the edge.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because houses need walls to be safe.” Each day Jimmy would get three or four bricks to the ledge and line them up in a row.

One morning a couple of days later, Liasma remarked “We have not heard monsters howl in two nights. We could go back.”

“Why?” asked Jimmy.

“To get things. I would like to get Vilky.” she replied.

“What’s vicky? Jimmy asked in response.

“Vilky!” Liasma said correcting him. “She is my friend.”

“Ok, lets go get your friend.” he replied and started walking toward the valley entrance. Liasma quickly caught up and they spent the day walking and talking. Liasma would tell Jimmy about the adventures that she and Vilky would have playing together. Jimmy would tell her the times him and his brother Billy would play together. When it got dark they found a bush to sleep under and that is when Jimmy realized he forgot his blanket. They huddled together to keep each other warm and Liasma’s tail would wrap Jimmy’s ankle causing him to giggle. “I think it likes me.”

“Maybe.” she replied not knowing what to think of it.

The next day they arrived back at the transports. There was no trace of their families except a couple of stains in the dirt and a few scraps of material scattered around, but they did not know what that meant. The each went to their transport and found the interiors in disarray where the monsters had searched for anything edible. As Jimmy searched through the mess, he grabs his backpack from school that had his coloring books and crayons in it and stuffs the ones he had been using during the trip back in. He pulls out his wagon and sets his backpack into it and continues looking for stuff to take. He finds a knife and fork and a couple of bottles for water and grabs the suitcase that contains his clothes and places it in the wagon and continues looking. He runs across his dads form that he used to make bricks. With the form he sees some pieces of straw and it reminds him that his dad told his brother that adding straw to the mud makes the bricks stronger.

Liasma was going through her family’s transport gathering anything she thinks they could use, a knife, a couple of bottles and plates, and her fathers tool case. It was not very big but anytime her father needed something important he would get it from there. She also found Vilky. She gave her a big hug and said “I missed you.” She grabbed a few other toys, placing them into her satchel and heads over toward Jimmy.

Jimmy had grabbed a few more toys and placed them into his backpack and placed a pillow and blanket on top of the wagon. When he saw Liasma get near, he asks “Did you find Vilky?” She says “Yes.” and holds out her arm holding her doll. “This is Vilky.”

“She can ride in the wagon if you want.” Jimmy replied.

“No, I want to carry her.”

Jimmy picks up the blanket and pillow so Liasma can place her other stuff in the wagon and put them back when she is done.

“Are you ready to go back?”

Jimmy looks around for a couple of seconds and says “Yes, I think so.”

They start back but do not make it far before the blanket falls off the wagon. Jimmy picks it up and places it back on top before they continue and shortly the blanket snags on a passing bush and falls off again. Liasma says “We need to fold it.”

“I don’t know how.”

“I do. I help my mom do it.” She grabs it and hands him one end. She shows him how to take the two corners and place them together and pick up the middle and repeat. Then she had him walk to her and hand her the ends in his hands. She lowers it to the ground and folds it one last time and then placed it neatly on top of the wagon. She then placed her dad’s tool box on top of it to hold it down.

They travel until it starts to get dark, stopping on the way to eat and get some water when they could find it. The knife makes opening the cacti easier and allows them to get more from each plant, plus they put the top back on the plant which, without their understanding, will allow the plant to continue to live. They take turns pulling the wagon or sometimes they both pull it, and they talk about the toys they grabbed. When they lay down for the night, Jimmy gets his pillow and the blanket and they lay together under a bush, fully covered with the big blanket. Despite Liasma going to sleep with her tail up closer to her head, she wakes with it wrapped around Jimmy’s ankle.

When they wake, they fold the blanket back up and place it back in the wagon along with the pillow and continue their journey. As soon as they arrive back at the lake, they both get water and Liasma dives in and catches a couple of fish. They eat, this time using a knife to scale and gut the fish, and Jimmy used a plate to hold them and a fork to try to eat them. Afterward they clean the dishes and take the wagon to the ledge where they unload everything. They would spend the next few hours playing with their toys until darkness crept in and they laid down for the night with the big blanket and pillow.

They would spend the next few days playing and eating, with Jimmy trying to make more bricks, now using dried grass mixed in with the mud and his fathers form. He still didn’t know the proper way to do it, so he had marginally better success with half of the bricks being usable. One day, as he was in the shallow waters washing off the mud, Liasma swims up to him and asks “Why can you not swim?”

“I have never been in lots of water before, so I have never tried.”

“I can help you, if you want to.” she said as she floated her body in front of him and turned belly up.

“Ok.”

“Lay across me and I will hold you up so you can float.” Jimmy does that laying his chest across her body and holding himself up with his arms. He slowly picks up his legs and floats with Liasma holding him up. She starts floating out to deeper water causing Jimmy to tense up, gripping tighter. “Do not worry, I float easy.” she said alleviating Jimmy’s fears some and allowing him to ease his grip. They would float around for a while with Jimmy learning to kick and getting comfortable with floating in the deeper water. They would practice every day and in a few weeks Jimmy would be able to swim by himself.

A few weeks after learning to swim, Jimmy was making bricks at the end of the lake, when Liasma rushed to him grabbing a hold of his arm and dragging him toward the water. “Hurry, we need to hide, monsters are coming.” As Jimmy enters the water he starts trying to get the mud off of himself, but Liasma is insistent in pulling him into the deeper water to swim. “Follow me.” she says as she swims out towards the far wall. As they swim, Jimmy can hear the growls and howls coming from the desert getting closer each moment. When they made it to the middle of the lake against the far wall, Liasma tells Jimmy “Climb up here.” Jimmy could see a ledge about a meter above the water level, and was able to use the rocks to climb up. Once on the ledge he could see a bunch of Liasmas toys against the wall in the back. Liasma backed up a bit and swam toward the wall, leaping up to the ledge landing with a thud.

Liasma and Jimmy are not up on the ledge long before they can see the monsters approaching the lake. They are fairly large creatures about the size of a large boar, but with claws instead of hooves, a large mouth full of teeth, and horns curving back. The monsters stop at the lake to get a drink and then they roam around the valley. A few of them climb up onto the ledge where the blankets and other stuff lays and rummage through the items. A few others go down to the end of the lake where the mud is and start rolling around in the mud. Jimmy asks, “Do you think they can get us here.”

Liasma replied, “I do not think so.” As darkness approached, Jimmy sat with his knees up to his chest, trying to stay warm, still wearing wet clothes. Liasma curled herself around him to help warm him up, but to also receive warmth from him, with her head resting over his shoulder. They would sleep in this position throughout the night, with her tail finding Jimmy’s ankle under her body coils before the night is through.

They are awakened in the morning with the sun shining directly into their cave, lighting the entire area. As they peered out, they could see that the monsters were still around and that they would be stuck there longer. The beasts did take notice of them and made noises in their direction, but they did not seem interested in swimming to get to them. Later in the day, Liasma jumps in the water and catches a couple of fish for them to eat while they waited. Eventually the beasts would be done with their exploration of the area and would leave, but Liasma would want to wait a few more hours until they could no longer hear them before returning to the other side.

Seeing the mess the creatures made and having to clean it up, Liasma now agreed that the wall will be useful and she would start helping Jimmy create bricks. With the two of them working and changing up how the bricks were being made just by their cooperation, they were able to create twice the bricks with most of them usable. It would take three more weeks for them to have enough bricks to complete the walls on both side of the doorway. As Liasma places the last brick, she remarks “There are still gaps at top and sides.”

“We can fill them with mud.” replied Jimmy. The next day they would load the wagon up with mud and Jimmy would hand it up to Liasma so she could pack it into the cracks at the top. It would take three trips and the entire day to get enough mud to complete the job.

“We need a door to keep the monsters out.” Liasma would remark as she finished.

Days would turn to weeks as they continued living in the valley and they started noticing the temperature getting colder and the days getting shorter. One night as they laid down to sleep at taking a while to warm up due to the cold rock they were laying on, Jimmy remarked “We need more blankets.”

“Did your family have more in their transport?” Liasma asked.

“Yes, we each had one.”

“We should go get them tomorrow.”

“Ok.” Jimmy replied as he snuggled up tighter to Liasma as he was finally was starting to warm up.

That next morning they started getting ready to go when Liasma suggested they eat first. She would catch a couple of fish for them to eat while Jimmy removed some dried mud from the wagon. After eating they would fill their water bottles and head out on the three day round trip. During the journey, Liasma would grab a bite to eat when she could and one time Jimmy asks her, “Why do you not remove their guts like fish?”

“Fish guts and scales cause stomach aches, so I do not eat them, but mammal guts do not bother me, and my mom said they are good for us.”

When they arrive, Liasma heads over to her families transport and Jimmy heads to his. As she was looking for anything else of use, she heard Jimmy start yelling. “Get out. Go away. Go.” She made her way to him to find him yelling at a family of the racoon like creatures that have taking up living in the transport. They were just hissing at him and ignoring him until Liasma peeked her head around the corner and then they took off. Jimmy grabbed some blankets and a couple of sheets, and with Liasmas help folding them, placed them into the wagon. Liasma went back to searching her transport and Jimmy continued looking through his. He would find a white box with a red cross on it, and when he opened it, he remembered that his mom would get bandages from here and use the spray to make cuts not hurt. He would also grab his brothers suitcase with his clothes and some of his toys, and place them in the wagon. Lastly he put on a coat of his that he would wear when it was raining.

We he is done, he meets Liasma half way between the transports and she places a few things in the wagon. She also has on a shawl that he mother would wear when it was cold. It brought back memories of her mother and family that caused her to feel sad and hang her head low. Jimmy asks “What is wrong?”

“Thinking about my mom and feeling sad.”

This made Jimmy think about his family and caused him to think about how he misses them. They walked in silence for a while, when Liasma grabs an item and shows it to Jimmy “This is a magnifying glass that my dad used to start fires. You can use it to cook your food.” With that Jimmy started running back toward the transports and Liasma yelled to him “Where are you going?”

“I’ll be right back.” he yelled as he continued running. It took him a while to return and when he came running back he was carrying a pan in his hands. Out of breath he said “Need… a pan…to cook.” He set it in the wagon, grabbed a bottle of water and finished it off before they continued on their journey. They would only get a little farther before darkness set in and they settled down for the night.

They got up the next morning to continue the trip home and arrived back just before dark. Liasma catches a couple of fish for them to eat before going to sleep. Afterward they unloaded the wagon and laid down a big blanket on the ledge and set the other blankets on top. They would stay much warmer at night from that point forward.

The next day they tried to start a fire using dried grass and old canes and was able to get one started, but was unable to keep it going for long without any wood. It would take several more tries over the next few days to figure out the timing on having everything ready and getting the fire going fast enough to cook the fish before running out of fuel. Jimmy would find a few sticks from the bushes here and there and realized quickly that they burned the longest so he would use just a few of them each fire.

One morning after a extremely windy night, Liasma used a hammer and a couple of nails from her dad’s toolbox to put a sheet up over the doorway. It helped keep the wind out but it did not stop the beasts from entering the next time they showed up. They would come around every hundred days or so, which would cause Liasma and Jimmy to hide in the cave above the lake until they left.

After the first spring like weather started, which on this planet was just a little more daylight and a slight increase in average temperature, Jimmy was on shore one day watching Liasma swim around trying to catch some fish, when he noticed that her scales were not as bright as normal. When she comes over with the fish she caught, he asks her “Are you ok? You look sick.”

“I am going to shed soon.”

“Shed?” Jimmy asked not having seen any creature shed.

“I shed a layer of my scales as I grow.”

“Does it hurt?”

“No. It itches a little.”

A few days later, Liasma dives into the water, finds a couple of rocks near shore and uses them to help her shed. Afterwards, on shore Jimmy remarks “Your scales are so shiny.”

“Yes. I like how they look after I shed. I feel so new and clean.” she says as she spins around to parade off her new sheen. Jimmy walks over to the water and pulls out her shed skin and looks at it. “It looks just like you.” He says as he sticks his hand inside the head area and starts waving it back and forth.

“Stop that!” Liasma yells at him. “Leave it alone!” she continues as she grabs it from him and pulls it away.

“I’m sorry” Jimmy replies “I was just playing with it.”

“It is not a toy. It is, it was, a part of me.” she says as she takes it away to a small cave in the middle of the valley.

Time will pass, the kids will play, eat and survive the best they can. During the first few years they will learn the beasts migration cycles of when they will pass through and be prepared for them, blocking off the doorway to their ledge home. They will make a few more trips to the transports getting anything they might need including Jimmy’s family’s suitcases. Liasma sheds every hundred and fifty days or so while she is still growing. She would occasionally go out of the valley to hunt smaller mammals, and every once in a while will get a larger raccoon like creature to bring back to Jimmy. They would cut it up and Liasma would eat raw pieces whole, while Jimmy would cook his, sometimes using the pan, sometimes just using a stick and holding it over the flames.

One evening after eating some of the raccoon meat, jimmy started getting sick. He spent several hours throwing up and having a high fever. Liasma asks him in between one of his puking spells “What is wrong? Why are you sick?”

“I do not know. The meat tasted a bit funny, but was ok.”

Liasma thought about it for a moment and realized what had been done. “Poison. This one was trying to fight back too much so I bit it and injected poison, instead of just strangling it. Poison must be making you sick.”

“Well, don’t let me eat it again. This is making me feel real bad.”

Liasma would not use her poison anymore, unless it was necessary to subdue an overly aggressive prey, and then she would let Jimmy know not to eat it.

During the spring of the seventh year of their adventure, Liasma noticed Jimmy sitting by the lake in a spot he was not normally at. She decides to sneak up on him and see what he is doing, being careful to avoid the dry grass. As soon as she was close enough, she sprung to the side of him and stuck her face around and started to say “What are you do…” when she saw that he was ‘discovering’ himself, though she did not know what he was doing.

“Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh” Jimmy yelled being startled as he had not heard her approach, of course he was too busy to notice anyway.

“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” she asked seeing him swollen compared to any other time she had snuck a peek at him.

“I’m fine. Go away. Leave me alone.” he yelled trying to cover himself up.

“Ok.” she said as she left feeling a bit hurt from being screamed at.

Later that night, while they were eating, Liasma asks “What were you doing earlier?”

“I do not know.” he replied as he really didn’t know what to call it.

“Why were you doing it?” she asked pressing the issue trying to understand.

“It felt good.” he answered honestly.

“Oh”, Liasma replied. She would leave him alone whenever she sees him by himself near the lake, but occasionally she will try to sneak a peek if she is already in the water, a couple of times getting caught.

Three more years would pass. Jimmy grew into a strapping young man nearly two meters tall after hitting a major growth spurt. Liasma was nearly fully grown for her species and now reached six meters in length. They noticed the water levels dropping in the lake, and that only one sun was now visible with the other hiding behind it. This had the effect of lowering the average temperature by a single degree, but had a stronger effect on the evaporation levels. Less evaporation means less water for the mountains to capture and less water reaching the underground stream feeding the lake. They did not understand the correlation, but they worried that something was wrong.

Jimmy was at the end of the valley creating some replacement bricks for a few that have broken up, when he suddenly hears Liasma scream “Jimmeee!”. He grabbed the knife he took with him to cut the dry grass and started sprinting toward the entrance to the valley. He would hear Liasma yell just one more time before he reached her and saw what was going on, she was being attacked by four of the boar like beasts. She had one wrapped in her coils and one in her claws and mouth, as she twisted around trying to keep the other two from getting an easy shot at her. As Jimmy approached he dove over her and grabbed one of the beasts by the horns and flinged it a few meters away. He turned to the other one and stood between it and Liasma. It started to lunge at him and he swung the knife, cutting it across its snout. This gave Liasma enough time to stop twisting and drop the one in her mouth as the poison had done its job, and she gave the one in her coils another hard squeeze to make sure it was dead and if not, every bone in its body was broken. She moved over to Jimmy just in time to intercept the one he threw from jumping him from behind. She grabbed it, quickly coiling around it, and biting to inject her poison to end it quickly. The last one jumped toward Jimmy causing him to put his left arm up in the way, allowing the beast to bite down on his forearm. He plunged the knife in his right hand upward into the chest of the beast, repeatedly, until the beast let go of his arm and fell dead.

Jimmy turned around looking for Liasma and saw that she had dispatched the last one. He goes over to her and asks “Are you alright? Did they hurt you?”

“I am fine. I got a few cuts.” she replied as she spun herself around to see the slashes across her body. “Are you Ok?”

“Yeah, I got bitten on my arm.” he said as he held up his arm showing the bite pattern, including a few deep wounds. “I will go get the medicine box.” He ran to the ledge and grabbed the med kit and brought it back to Liasma at the lake. She was in the water washing off the wounds when he arrived. She came ashore near him as he opened the box and pulled out two spray containers, one labelled antiseptic and the other analgesic. He did not know what each one was, but he remembered his mom used both of them when he scraped his knee, after washing off the wound. He sprayed them both on each of her wounds, though she felt no relief from the pain as it wasn’t made for her biology. He then washed his arm off and sprayed the wounds, with the analgesic working to stop his pain. He pulled out some bandages and wrapped up his arm and looked over Liasma to see if she needed any. Most of the damage to her was in scales that were ripped out and only one spot that was cut deeper, and she did not want a bandage on it.

Jimmy puts up the med kit and grabs a shovel and heads out of the valley entrance and into the desert to the softer sands. He digs a large hole while Liasma drags three of the beasts to its edge. “What about the other one?” he asks as he started shoving the creatures into the hole.

“I thought we could eat it. It is one you killed so it has no poison in it.” she replies as she helps him roll the nearly liquified carcass of the one she squeezed to death into the pit.

“It will be a lot of food.”

“We will eat it for days. Fish are getting harder to find, not many big ones left.”

They finished covering up the carcasses and headed back to the lake where the last beast lays. “They were back ten days early.” Liasma says as they travel. “They did not make any noise so I did not hear them.”

“I am glad you are ok.” Jimmy replies grabbing hold of her hand as they walked.

When they got back to the lake, Jimmy started digging a hole near the beast while Liasma started gutting it. She grabbed the beasts heart and swallowed it while Jimmy watched a bulge go down her throat and the front of her body. “I like watching you eat.”

“Why?”

“I guess it is because you don’t have to chew.” he replied as he cut a piece of meat from the rear ham to cook. “And I get to see it go down your body.”

They would eat their fill before going to bed.

That night after they had laid down, Liasma twisted around to face Jimmy and said “I am feeling hot.”

“Then remove the blankets.” Jimmy replied without opening his eyes.

“No, I am hot here.” she said as she grabbed his hand and guided it down to the heated area.

He opened his eyes as she moved his hand and realized she was facing him. As his hand reached the warm spot Liasma let out a soft moan that Jimmy recognized as a sound he would make when he is discovering himself. This excited him and Liasma was quick to notice. It would not take them long to figure out what to do next and they would get a lot of practice over the next few days. Liasma would enter into her breeding cycle every forty days and they would practice, a lot, for three or four days during that time.

One evening while Jimmy was getting stuff ready to start his fire for his fish, Liasma emerged from the water with a couple of fish and yells “Jimmee”.

“Call me Jim, not Jimmy. I am not a kid anymore.”

“Ok, Jim, can you clean these for me please. I left my knife over there.” pointing toward their ledge. He took them and made quick work of scaling and gutting and handed them back to her. She starts heading toward the ledge when she lifts her head backward to face Jim upside down and says with a big smile “Thank you Jimmeeee” causing Jim to just shake his head.

Over the course of the next year, the drought conditions would worsen with all but the closest bushes to the lake have dried up along with all the grass and canes leaving little berries and insects for Jim to eat. The lower water levels takes away a lot of the hiding spots for small fish so they get eaten easier. With less fish growing it is hard to catch enough fish to eat, forcing Liasma to hunt outside the valley more often. Occasionally she would catch a larger raccoon like creature that they could both eat, other times she would catch a small creature or two to eat herself and then catch a fish or two for Jim if he could not find enough bugs or berries.

At the start of one of Liasmas breeding cycles, Liasma finished eating a fish and was waiting on Jim to cook his. “Hurry uuuuup.” she said impatiently, “I am hot.”

“I cannot make it cook faster.” He replied. As soon as he turned it over using his fork, he started eating the side that was cooked.

“I do not want to wait longer. Lets go.” she said as she draped her head over his shoulder and reached around and placed a hand on his thigh, being careful with her claws. He turned the fish again and quickly ate the other cooked side, just in time for Liasma to start dragging him toward their ledge home. As Jim was being dragged away his foot knocked the pan off of the makeshift fire pit he had built to cook his food.

After a while, Liasma asks “Do you smell smoke?”

“Yes, strongly” replied Jim. They got up and looked outside and saw that there was a fire spreading down the valley. As dry as everything was, the fire spread easily and quickly and before they knew it the entire valley was on fire and quickly burned up all flammable material.

Back in the human city, Brad was leaning back in his chair at his desk lamenting his career choice or at least his current station as the only meteorologist on a planet with no weather. At first he thought this would be a great job with nothing to do, but with nothing to do it has become extremely boring and monotonous. When his computer dings and a alert pops up, he nearly falls out of his chair being surprised and excited that something is finally happening. The alert shows a heat bloom in the middle of the continent where there is nothing natural that could produce that kind of heat. It did not last long, but was long enough to register and any distraction from boredom was good. He types in a few commands to instruct a drone to go take a closer look and in just a few minutes he has video of the valley.

When the drone started flying around outside, Jim and Liasma went out to see what it was. It flew down the valley taking video of everything before turning around and flying back until it encountered the kids and stopped. As they were looking at the drone, it was sending video of them back and when he saw the two individuals in the valley holding hands, and one of them was a Vaslisa, he immediately called the authorities, who saw the situation and quickly got the governor involved.

Governor Tom Halford has lived on this planet for most his life and is well known and well respected by all. He also has a cordial reporte with the current overseer of the Vaslisa settlement, Cissemo. When he sees the video he contacts Cissemo and explains what they found. Cissemo thanks him for calling and suggest that they go themselves to meet with these individuals as something this delicate needs to be handled carefully. They would wait until the next morning and then both head out in their own transports, which were much larger and nicer than most, being used for diplomatic missions. They would take just a few unarmed personnel to minimize the chance of a fight happening.

Tom arrived at the crossing first and saw the transports. Scanning the registration on the human one enabled him to see who it belonged to and immigration records gave him a list of the family members. Cissemo arrived shortly afterward and checked the other transport to get a list of the owners and family members. They both scanned the area to see if they could tell what had happened and found the weapons scattered around and traces of DNA that matched a few of the family members. Tom took this time to show Cissemo the video and looking at the two individuals they determined they must be the two youngest kids from the families. After finishing their search of the area they continued their journey to the valley and stopped for the night about half way.

They continued the next morning and arrived at the valley entrance shortly. As they approached, Jim and Liasma were at the end of the valley looking over all the damage from the fire and seeing if any flammable material was left for Jim to cook with when they heard the transports approach. They hurried to the valley entrance to see what the noise was, as it had been so long they did not recognize it, and when they arrived they saw two transports similar to their families but bigger. The transports were parked about twenty meters apart each with a side door open and ramps lowered to the ground. As they approached Tom and Cissemo exited their transports and went down the ramps toward the kids. Tom asks “Jimmy Bingham?”

Liasma laughs a little bit causing Jim to give her a side eye.

“Yes.” he replies.

“Liasma?” asks Cissemo.

“Yes.” answers Liasma.

“Would you please come with me?” Tom says to Jim and motions toward his transport.

“Liasma, this way please.” Cissemo says and motions toward his transport.

The kids follow each leader toward their respective transport giving each other a look before entering.

Tom directs Jim to sit in a chair at a table as he takes a seat on the other side.

“So Jimmy…”

“Call me Jim.”

“Jim. Yes, I guess you are a young man now. Can you tell me what happened at your parents transport and how you got to this valley?”

Jim told of how he awoke to find his parents deceased and how Liasma told him to run when they heard the monsters howl. He explained that the made their way here and have been living here fishing, hunting and eating berries.

“Well, it’s a good thing that fire happened otherwise we would have never looked here to find you. We can head back to the city and make a few calls to see if you have any more family that you can go to, otherwise you can stay on this planet and start your life. We can get you caught up in schooling and get you trained in a skill that can get you a job.”

“What about Liasma?”

“She will go with her kind back to their city.”

“Then I will not go. I will stay here with her.” he said as he got up and headed out the door.

Meanwhile, Cissemo motioned Liasma to one side of a table as he moved to the other side. Behind him are two younger females, who looked to be Liasmas age, who were busy tapping on their tablets and talking between themselves.

“How did you come to this valley?”

Liasma explained how she woke up and found her family dead and then heard the monsters and started to run away calling for Jim to run too. She told of how they have been living in the valley fishing and hunting.

“We will go back to the city and find your family and send you to them. They will be able to finish your training and get you caught up.”

“What about Jim?

“He will go with his kind and return to his family.”

“Then I will go with him.” The two other girls started talking and typing at a faster pace.

“You can not, they will not allow you to live among them.”

“Then we can stay here.” she says as she heads out the door.

Liasma exits the transport and sees Jim exiting the other one. They rush to each other and meet halfway between the transports wrapping their arms around each other.

“He wants me to leave with him while you go with them.”

“That is what they told me.”

“I told him I would stay here with you.”

“That is what I said.”

Tom and Cissemo followed the kids out of their vehicles and down the ramps. As they approached the kids in a loving embrace, Cissemo notices that Liasmas tail is wrapped around Jims ankle. As they come together, Cissemo says to Tom “I think we need to talk. Come everyone, lets go sit and discuss this situation more.” They all go into Cissemos transport and he presses a button that lowers some panels in the wall to create a couple of chairs that he has to use when dealing with other species. Jim sit in one in the corner and Liasma curls up next to him and grabs his hand while her tail wraps his ankle.

“Tell me Liasma, when did your tail first wrap around Jims ankle?”

“On second night we shared a blanket.”

“It did it the first night too. I didn’t say anything.” interjected Jim.

The two girls in back started typing furiously and whispering in their language. Liasma could barely hear them and only understood a few words but she could tell they were excited.

“What does wrapping her tail around his ankle mean?” asks Tom.

“Our tails serve only one purpose, too find our soulmate. Some Vaslisa will spend their entire lives trying to find their soulmate, but with over two trillion Vaslisa spread over hundreds of worlds, less than twenty percent will ever find theirs and we can only mate with them.”

“By mate, do you mean sex or procreation?” asks Tom.

“Both.”

“With that few being able to reproduce, how do you keep up your population levels?” asks Tom trying to get information about the Vaslisa, more so than being interested.

“At a certain age, a male can go through a procedure to extract his genetic material for fertilization stock. Females around that same age that want to have a child can go through a procedure to induce the creation of an egg and it can be artificially fertilized. Even though there is only a ten percent success rate at fertilization, most of our population is created that way.”

Cissemo notices the scar on Liasma and asks “How did you get that scar?”

“I was attacked by four monsters. I had one wrapped up and was holding onto one and bit it, that is when one of them slashed me. I started spinning trying to keep them off of me but they still slashed at me. Jim ran over and grabbed one and threw it and then fought one stabbing it. I let go of ones I had then grabbed last one and bit it.”

The girls in back started whispering and tapping quickly again.

“Were you hurt Jim?” asks Tom.

He shows the scars on his arm, “Yes, it bit my arm and cut me a few times. I sprayed it and bandaged it. Then we buried three of the monsters and ate one of them.”

“You ate one of the beasts you killed?” asks Cissemo for clarification.

“Yes, we both did.” answered Liasma “and I ate its heart.”

“What did you do afterward?”

“Just ate and after a while went to bed.”

“Did anything else happen?”

Liasma looks at Jim and doesn’t say anything.

“Did you get… hot?”

Liasma looks at Jim again and answers “Yes”.

Cissemo sat for a moment trying to figure out how to tactfully ask the next question, but coming up with no better alternative, he decides to just ask. “Did you mate?”

“I do not know what that means.” answers Liasma.

Cissemo knew that was likely and was not sure how else to phrase it delicately. “Has Jim stuck his sexual organ into your cloaca?”

Liasma was not sure what every word meant, but she had an idea of what he was asking. “Yes?”

The girls in back were now typing even faster and talking louder. Liasma was able to make out something about completing a ritual.

“What does getting hot mean?” asks Tom.

“When two soulmates, who are old enough, are ready, they will go through a ritual called Tuavaat, roughly translated it means mating preparation. In ancient times they would battle a beast and kill it together, then feast on its remains with the female eating the heart. Now we just kill a small meal animal for each other and the female will drink a cocktail of pureed hearts and some vitamins and minerals to help induce the mating cycle. Afterward they would go to their mating chamber and if the female is ready she will start her mating cycle.”

“Why are those two so excited?” Tom asks gesturing toward the two girls.

“As I said, some will spend their whole lives looking for their soulmate and we believe that there is only one in the universe for anyone. If humans could be the one there would be billions more potential candidates and it would give hope to those who have searched their whole lives for theirs. It has never been known that we could bond with a non-Vaslisa.”

“Humans can bond with all kinds of species. Back on Earth humans will bond with pets, livestock and even wild animals though no mating is done, and there are numerous other species that we have met that have had an individual bond with a human.”

“This is going to change everything between our species.” Cissemo replied as he looked at his tablet and the myriad of messages he was receiving due to the gossip the girls had started.

 

 

Half a year later, in the newly created joint embassy located just outside the valley where Jim and Liasma lived, there was a ceremony for the signing of a treaty to kick off the new alliance between the Vaslisa and Humans. The President of the Human Federation and the High Chancellor of the Vaslisa stood at a podium to sign the peace treaty with video for the event being broadcast to all human and Vaslisa worlds. Jim was sitting behind and to the left of them with Liasma at his side. As soon as his aide indicates that the broadcast has started, the president starts his speech.

“Why do we fight?

Sometimes we are ordered to fight.

Sometimes we fight because we hate.

Sometimes we fight because we always have.

Sometimes we do not know why we fight.

But we have learned, that if we do not know that we should fight, we can become friends, or more.”

The camera pans to Jim and Liasma and especially to her tail wrapping his ankle, adding weight to his words with the Vaslisa, then pans back to the podium.

“With the signing of this peace treaty…”

When the President concludes his long winded speech, he signs the treaty and turns the podium over the the High Chancellor, who gives a much shorter speech much to everyone’s relief before signing the treaty himself. Celebrations commenced, and after a few hours Jim and Liasma decided they had had enough and snuck out the back of the great foyer and down the employee corridor. At the end of the hall they enter the door to their apartment, a small place with windows that looked out into the valley.

They would live here while they finished their schooling and training, working for the embassy, initially as couriers and working through the ranks where they eventually would become ambassadors themselves. Liasma would go through the Vaslisa breeding program and have a male child that they would name Jimmee. A few years later, they would adopt a human girl named Lisa. They would grow up as siblings do and fight, tease and annoy each other, but ultimately they looked after each other until they left to start their own lives. When the time comes, Jim and Liasma would be laid to rest in the valley, and a memorial built to the first union between Humans and Vaslisa.

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