One day when Zax was sixteen years old—and he really was a burly, strong man now weighing eighty-six kilos—he was again escorting Gigi into the city. And as they were walking down the street Zax’s eyes fell upon an appalling sight, for opposite them an elderly hekir woman was approaching, carrying in her hands a large basket containing a human head. A woman’s head. The woman’s face was distinctly beautiful, although her expression betrayed that her death had not occurred without significant pain. The stump of her neck was bloody, though it was clear that there wasn’t enough blood to conclude she had died from this. She had probably been killed some other way, and only afterwards had her head cut off.
Zax recoiled, and turned towards the hekir woman so suddenly that she became frightened, fearing that this human would attack her. She shrieked, dropped the basket and ran away.
Zax did not pursue her. He bent down and closely examined the woman’s head, which had toppled out of the basket.
“What is this?” he asked Gigi.
“Come on now, don’t cause a scene.” Gigi tugged at his hand.
“But what is it?!”
“I’ll tell you, but please just leave it!”
Zax moved away, and Gigi said, “I’m surprised that you haven’t heard about it yet. The Human Breeder Corporation has been breeding batches of humans for consumption—for their meat and fat. Many hekirs find the meat of humans very tasty, especially when flavored with various herbs. Others swear that there is no better fat than human fat. This has long been thought of as a delicacy, as human meat is quite expensive. Only human pets whom hekirs had lost interest in could be slaughtered, or if the carcass was still usable for food purposes after some human experiment, but this privilege was only for the staff of the scientific institutes. But the Human Breeder Corporation has recently put thousands of these consumable humans on the market. They still aren’t cheap even now, because by the time a human reaches adult size it is at least fourteen to sixteen years old, but it is worth it for them as they fetch a good price, and their meat isn’t tough from old age but tender and crisp. And what’s more, the males are castrated in early childhood so their meat won’t smell like boar.”
“I see…” muttered Zax.
“Don’t take it to heart, Zax. Remember that these aren’t HS’s, they’re not intelligent beings. They just have a similar form to you.”
“That’s not true. This woman’s head was exactly the same size as mine, and she was very pretty too. I found her attractive—much more beautiful than you hekirs.”
“Well, it’s possible that her head was that big, but only because consumable humans are bred from large-headed humans. For we hekirs are very fond of eating brain. It’s nice and soft like our favorite slugs, so it is beneficial for a consumable-human to have a decent-sized brain. But this fact isn’t important as I’m sure she wasn’t intelligent, Zax. Don’t get worked up about it. She couldn’t possibly be intelligent, because if a HS turned up somewhere, nobody would be foolish enough to eat them as they would be far too valuable.”
Zax didn’t say a word, he just trudged along gloomily behind Gigi. But then they passed by a door, above which was written: BUTCHER. Suddenly he removed his hand from Gigi’s wrist and simply walked into the store.
“Hey, you are not allowed to bring animals in here!” cried the butcher as Zax entered.
“Zax, Zax, come out of there! What are you doing? You don’t want to cause any trouble!” Gigi shouted at him in despair.
Zax strode forward to the counter. The butcher took hold of a big knife, but nevertheless ran in terror to the farthest corner of the store. He had no doubt at all that this wild beast was drawn here by the smell of blood. And it had neither a muzzle, nor handcuffs on—how terribly irresponsible. He resolved to obtain a gun license, and from now on go to work with a pistol in his pocket.
Zax looked around. There were remnants of all kinds of animals here. But farther along there was a long rod that reached across the entire length of the shop. Many hooks hung from it, and suspended from each of these was a gutted human carcass, held there by the hook perforating the lower jaw. There were all kinds of humans hanging there, but mainly beautiful young girls. It seemed that hekirs found the meat of females even tastier than that of castrated men. But there were still a few human males here too. He even saw two small children around five or six years old. These must surely have been a special delicacy, as they were labeled with a price three times higher per kilogram than what was being charged for the meat of the larger humans.
A big box was piled with bags of hands, ankles and ribs, thus meat containing many bones. This was the cheapest meat. On a large pot was a red label, advertising that it was full of the finest human fat. In the corner, above some kind of big, brown reel stood this billboard: ‘ROPE MADE FROM HUMAN HAIR – SUPER STRONG’.
Zax just looked around for awhile as Gigi frantically yanked at his hand. Then without a single word—much to the butcher’s relief—exited the store.
“Zax, you must understand, these humans are not like you, they are not intelligent, you can’t feel any affinity with them…” Gigi explained to him.
“Then with whom should I feel an affinity with, perhaps the hekirs?”
“Of course, because intelligence is the most important factor, and we are equally intelligent.”
“But I am not a hekir. Hekirs don’t accept me into their society. And besides, it is not possible for me to find a wife among the hekirs either.”
“I love you as if you were my partner,” Gigi said quickly.
“Is that so? Would you sleep with me then?!” Zax snapped at her angrily.
“Well… er… I haven’t really thought about it before, but… ultimately… I have heard that some hekirs have been known to mate with humans… although I haven’t watched one of those porn films yet… so, let me say first of all that I don’t consider it to be impossible, but I would still have to really think about it, because… er… you understand, right?” and Gigi felt very embarrassed indeed.
“Gigi, I might be able to talk you into this, but I don’t want to. Perhaps you would do this for me out of friendship, and I’m certain you would do it out of fear if I were to threaten you. You might even suggest it yourself out of curiosity. But I’m quite sure you wouldn’t do it because you felt a true desire to do so, because you saw me as your life partner. And even if by some perverse miracle you began to feel this way, it wouldn’t make any sense because you could never bear a child from me. Your partner can only be a hekir and mine only a human. I am not able to behave as though I don’t have strong feelings when I see a human slaughtered, especially if the human is, in my opinion, an incredibly pretty woman. I can only think about how good I would feel in her company.”
“But you wouldn’t be able to speak a single word to her, because she’s not intelligent.”
“At least I could mate with her, it would feel good, and afterwards she could bear children, whom I could educate to be intelligent. Anyway, the only reason she isn’t intelligent is because she wasn’t educated. You must understand Gigi, that I feel lonely!”
“But keep in mind Zax that you already have thirty companions who are being educated by Trinci, and some of them are pretty girls too, you told me yourself. In fact there are more girls than boys in the group, and they’re not all babies—at least half of them are over ten years old.”
“Even so, I would still have to wait years for them. And this can’t erase the fact that humans are being massacred every day.”
Gigi’s arguments were spoken in vain, and Zax remained gloomy for days, his temper softening very slowly. Gigi almost began to fear him, although Zax always behaved very friendly towards her, even after this. In any case, she warned Trinci not to allow any food into the house that was prepared from humans, because it would not end well. Trinci reassured her that they hadn’t eaten any such food as yet, nor did she intend to.
She had discussed this with Zax a lot too, and as a result of these conversations she ascertained that nothing special had happened—only those fears eventuated that were already conceived when Zax was in early childhood. The fact was that Zax was an adolescent, and he was gradually approaching adulthood. His hormones were running wild, he was becoming increasingly drawn to human females, so naturally he had strong feelings when he saw a dead girl who he would have gladly accepted as his wife. This was totally understandable, whether he was a hekir or a human. It shouldn’t be seen as a flaw in Zax, but rather make him even more hekir-like, even more intelligent, because a hekir would surely think in the same way if put in a similar situation.
Unfortunately however, this also meant that as far as the creation of the HS was concerned, the project was doomed to failure. Because either the education of a human to become intelligent was unsuccessful, or it was successful and the human would become overly intelligent, far more intelligent than was admissible, for when they became adults it would be impossible to keep them in slavery. As soon as the males became men, their thinking would become increasingly independent, and they would be much more difficult to manage. Unless this could be solved, only human females should be raised with intelligence. Perhaps they might be more subdued. But must they then always mate with men without intelligence? Besides, they would feel awful when they suddenly realized how vulnerable their position was. They would feel humiliated.
Trinci came to the decision that she would not mention anything about the success of her experiment to Mr. Arlek. Even if they fired her because of the failure. And she would not raise any more intelligent humans. This many was harmful enough. She would keep these ones here in the house as long as they were still living. She could do this because as a hekir she had plenty more years of life left in her, while the human lifespan was relatively short. This would be the first and last HS generation. She would ensure then that these did not reproduce. It would not be difficult to achieve—she would x-ray them all in secret, with such strong radiation that it sterilizes the males. A perfectly painless and imperceptible method. She would not let her name be associated with the development of a new age of slavery.
Trinci had firmly made up her mind, although she did not speak about it to neither Zax nor Gigi. They were not scientific researchers and were very emotionally affected by the issue. But unfortunately, despite Trinci’s decision being rock-solid, fate intervened and completely altered her plans.
What happened was that on one beautiful day, she had gone into work a little later than usual—around midday—when Mr. Arlek greeted her with the following:
“That’s it, we’re finished, done for!”
“I don’t understand,” said Trinci, raising her eyebrows.
“Our business has gone bust, we must pack our bags. The competition has won.”
“The Human Breeder Corporation?”
“Who else? I have just had them on the phone, and they suggested that I keep an eye on the television, because today at two o’clock they’re going to make a huge announcement. They will introduce to the world the Human Sapir, which has finally been created after many years of experimentation. Well Trinci, you know what this means… they were smarter than us. Than you. But I don’t blame you for it, because it couldn’t be helped. Our company will go bankrupt within weeks and I’m sure that won’t do you any good either. But I believe you did the best you could.”
“What? They also have a HS?” marveled Trinci. And immediately it occurred to her that this of course changed everything. It seemed that despite her benevolence she could not avert the course of the history.
“What are you saying? What do you mean by also?” Mr. Arlek pounced on this small word excitedly.
“Well, er… the truth is that actually… Can we please talk about this later, boss, I want to see the press conference too.”
“You can’t come, only reporters have been invited.”
“Then I’ll watch it on TV.” And with that Trinci jumped up from her chair and ran out.
“Hey, don’t run away! You’re behaving very suspiciously… tell me what you were insinuating here, Trinci!” shouted the boss behind her, and he chased after her. But Trinci was much younger and faster. She reached her car without giving any response to Arlek and raced down the road towards home.
She arrived just in time, at five minutes before two. Trinci didn’t know which channel to select—Arlek hadn’t told her—but she soon realized that this was irrelevant, because the news was so big that every channel was broadcasting the Human Sapir story. They had already given advance notice in the commercial breaks of what was going to be shown at two, and by this time her whole family was sitting ready in front of the television, even Zax and all the other intelligent human children. All of them gaped at the screen with great excitement.
When the broadcast had finally begun, a mass of hekirs could be seen crowded in a gigantic conference hall, each one either a cameraman or journalist, and before them stood a kind of stage platform. Now a hekir man walked into the hall, and a few steps behind him came a human female. She was naked, so they could take a good look at her. It was not necessary for her to be clothed now because it was obviously nice and warm in the hall, and there was no danger of her catching a cold. She had neither handcuffs on, nor a muzzle. The woman’s eyes were very large, in fact almost as big as the hekirs’. This made her seem even more attractive to them as she was much more similar, moreover because these two eyes were almost at a forty-five degree angle, slanting back towards her ears. So although she was able to look ahead like primitive humans and utilize binocular vision, if she wanted she could move her eyes to the side as well, as hekirs do. Her hair reached down as far as her waist, almost to her bottom, and it was beautiful and blonde. Her body was slim but athletic, and in all respects she was an excellent human specimen, who would have qualified as being exemplary to even the most rigorous human breeders. But not only to them—as soon as Zax caught sight of her, he was already wolf whistling his admiration.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” began the man’s words. “My name is Inoa, and I am president of the Human Breeder Corporation, as well as being the main shareholder. I have the pleasure of presenting to you this HS standing beside me, whose name is Mucia. Yes, yes, yes, she is not just an ordinary female of the human race, but is unequivocally a Human Sapir. She has just one minor flaw: although she undeniably possesses a similar intelligence to ours—we verified this with several examinations—she is unable to speak as we do, with radio waves, because she can neither perceive nor emit them. But don’t worry, she can still communicate with me, you, or anybody else, even with her own race.
“You should know that she is not the only HS we have—there are around six hundred of them on our human farm. More specifically there are four hundred ninety-two females and one hundred twenty-three males living there. The majority are still children, of course. Mucia is the eldest, she is seventeen years old. And so ladies and gentlemen, because humans are unable to perceive radio waves, they communicate instead with sound waves. We have taught them a communication system, which is similar to that used by our mute hekirs. It is not exactly the same, as unfortunately some of our sounds can’t be pronounced by humans and they speak rather slowly and drawl, but even so, their speech is definitely understandable by anybody who is familiar with our hekir deaf-mute speech. That’s why I asked for such reporters as are among you. And that’s why I’ve brought a female here, because in our experience human females have a higher voice than males, so it should be easier for a hekir to understand.
“But I promise that those who are not familiar with our deaf-mute speech will not be left out of the subsequent entertainment, because in Mucia’s ear is a special device that will translate our radio wave speech into sound waves. She can already hear all our words, and her laryngeal microphone will translate her sounds to our radio waves. Now please feel free to ask anything of her, challenge her to do something and she’ll do it. But only one at time. As you can see, here is a blackboard and chalk, so Mucia can even write for you because she has learned the skills of reading and writing. In fact she also knows the fundamentals of mathematics, even basic analytical geometry, so… let’s begin! And during this, don’t forget that you are talking to someone who is property of the Human Breeder Corporation, as is verified by the emblem branded on Mucia’s bottom. We are the only ones who have a HS.”
Then the reporters instructed Mucia to do many different things, for example to go this way or that, turn around, walk backwards, scratch herself in various places, kneel down, lie down, and more serious things too, like writing the current date on the blackboard, writing text that was dictated to her, or multiplying two large numbers and showing her workings on the board. Mucia did all this. They applauded her over and over again.
At home in front of the TV screen, Trinci’s family was of course not as impressed as the journalists. After all, these behaviors weren’t a novelty to them. Mucia did no more than Zax could also do at any time. Zax abruptly declared, “Mucia is afraid.”
“Not only afraid, but terrified. This Inoa doesn’t treat her well.”
“What makes you think this?”
“I can see it on her face, Trinci.”
“I don’t see anything strange.”
“But I certainly can. It’s not surprising—all humans seem the same to you hekirs, but not to us. Then again, it is difficult for us humans to differentiate between hekirs. But rest assured that as far as Inoa is concerned, Mucia can at least recognize him at any time, because I can see it on her face that she hates him. The hate emanates from her eyes every time she looks at him.”
“Then why doesn’t she kill him?”
“I don’t know, but… I need this girl.”
“What are you talking about, Zax?” Trinci paled.
“Shh, I want to hear what he’s saying!”
For now Inoa had begun to speak again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are convinced that Mucia is indeed a HS. And you must keep in mind that although our company has established the breeding of HS’s, this process will not happen quickly, because humans grow relatively slowly. Therefore our supply of them at present is very limited. The latecomers will have to go without. In any case, we will endeavor to ramp up our production as soon as possible. For the time being, our plan is to sell exclusively males who have been sterilized, to avoid others breaking our monopoly and starting their own HS breeding. Later on, when we no longer need every HS female, then we will also sell females, but even they will be infertile.”
“You see Zax, Mucia cannot be yours, they are not selling the girls,” Gigi said to him.
“It’s okay, I don’t want him to sell her to me if she is infertile. I need her to be healthy and fertile.”
“I am glad that you’ve let her go.”
“I would be a fool if I let her go!”
“Then what do you want?”
But Zax didn’t tell her, because on the screen Inoa was speaking again.
“Do you have any other questions? Not for my HS, but for me?”
“Yes,” said an elderly reporter. “What guarantee do we have that these beings, the HS’s, won’t develop their abilities when there are many more of them, and become not only much stronger than us, but even more intelligent?”
“I’ll tell you,” Inoa smirked. “We have also thought of this. The guarantee is that every HS will have, in early childhood, a small apparatus implanted into their right leg, on the inside of the thigh, placed directly onto the bone near the hip. It will be roughly the size of a human thumb. When it detects a certain radio impulse it will give off an electric shock to the muscle, which is extremely painful for the human, so great that they won’t be able to take a single step. Their leg will then kick spontaneously. This is the reason we didn’t build the apparatus into their arm, because even if they have enough self-control to bear the pain, they won’t be able to attack their owner or come anywhere near them for their right leg will be incapacitated as long as the button is being pressed by the owner. Each HS disciplinary apparatus is triggered by a different frequency code, to avoid the discipline of somebody else’s HS. Take a look, this is the apparatus,” and he pulled it out of his pocket. “The energy reserves of the built-in battery are enough to last one hundred years, the full lifespan of the human, so it doesn’t need to be replaced.”
Now Mucia started speaking:
“Master, please don’t hurt me, I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“Did you hear that? She began to speak without permission, so now I will punish her,” smiled Inoa, and then pressed the button. Mucia collapsed in the middle of the stage, her right leg kicking wildly. She clutched her thigh with her hands, but she couldn’t extract the pain. The sound of her squeal was heartrending.
Inoa had held the button pressed for almost thirty seconds, so that everyone could have a good look, before ceasing the discipline. Afterwards Mucia lay there on the floorboards weeping.
“Stand up!” ordered Inoa, and she staggered to her feet. Her legs were trembling.
“You see, this is how it works. There is no need to be afraid of her. Those of you who had any concerns about keeping wild humans as pets in your apartment will no longer need to worry. We will even discontinue all our previous breeding lines, and specialize exclusively in HS’s, because they are the most useful and there is no need to fear them as long as the button is in our hands. The HS is the human of the future, and the Human Breeder Corporation is the company of the future—in fact, it is already here in the present!”
“I’ll kill him! I really will, I’ll kill him!” Zax stood up in front of the TV, his face pale.
“Don’t be ridiculous, how do you imagine that you could kill him?”
“I’ll find a way, I’ll rescue Mucia, she’s mine!” and he started off towards the door.
“Zax, they’ll kill you if you try it, you will be killed! What are you planning…?” Grandmother Brixi leapt between Zax and the door.
“Get out of my way, or I will have to resort to violence!” Zax snarled at her, and he looked at the hekir woman in such a way that at that moment she could understand the difference between a smile and a snarl. Despite the teeth being visible in both facial expressions, they were very different from each other. She didn’t dare stay in the doorway and stepped away from it, knowing that she would never in her life forget the face Zax had displayed. Now she would no longer be afraid of Zax’s smile if she saw it, because she knew what a real sneer looked like.
She didn’t know whether Zax would rescue Mucia, but was certain that he would kill quite a few of the Human Breeder Corporation staff. And it was quite possible that Inoa would be among them.
“I’ll kill that bastard! Nobody can say that Mucia is no concern of mine because she’s not intelligent. Of course she is. And this is known even by this motherfucking asshole! He still hurts her, and for no reason! He not only holds her in captivity, but even tortures her!”
“Try to be understanding, after all they created her, she is their property…”
“And this gives them the right to torture her?!” snapped Zax at Trinci cruelly. “Do you believe Trinci, that just because you created me, you have the right to torture me? Because I tell you now, you can forget about it. I don’t grant you the right to do this. I don’t care how we HS’s were created, or who our creator was, the point is that we already exist, and therefore I think we have rights too. We have a right to at least remain alive without being tortured. If the hekir society wants us humans to regard hekirs as kindhearted gods, because you created us, that might even be okay, but then be fair to us. Treat us as partners, and not as slaves!
“Take note Trinci that I don’t even feel any particular gratitude towards you, because I know full well that you didn’t give me the gift of intelligence out of altruism, but because you were only interested in your own career and the money you are receiving from the institute for this project. Even if you became attached to me later on perhaps, you weren’t motivated by these feelings initially. And I don’t even feel this small amount of gratitude to the rest of hekir society because it has been clear to me for some time that the entire human project was driven exclusively by profiteering. First you were interested in our delicious meat and fat, and so those who kept humans as pets could flaunt their wealth, and now you want to train us to be obedient slaves! Okay, right now there are still few of us, we are powerless and therefore can be slaves, but don’t forget Trinci that slaves have a habit of rebelling against their owners, and one of those slaves is already doing this now, at the very beginning, and it is none other than myself. I am going now to get Mucia, and I’ll either die, or bring her back here. And I recommend that you don’t become my enemy and betray me, because this is a matter of life or death for me, and if you give me away then it will also be for you too.”
“I won’t give you away, Zax, but not because you’ve threatened me.”
“Then why? Perhaps because you like me?”
“Maybe for that reason too, but more importantly I believe you are right. And I don’t just think this now but have done so for a long time. Why do you think I haven’t said anything to my boss about you till now?”
“Because I didn’t want them to take advantage of you. For years now I have preferred them to see me as an unsuccessful researcher, as being incompetent. But now there is no turning back. If others have already bred Human Sapirs, then it can also be made known that I have HS’s. It will soon become apparent anyway. You are well-known around here Zax, and before long it will occur to somebody that the reason you are so intelligent is that you are a HS yourself. I only object to this because I’m afraid of what might happen to you. You can’t stand up against an entire company alone, especially one as powerful as the Human Breeder Corporation. In any case, whatever you do, Human Sapirs will always exist from now on, even if you do kill Inoa.”
“I may not kill him,” huffed Zax. “My goal is not his death, but to rescue Mucia. I’m quite sure that I’m in love with her. It seems we humans are quite capable of this feeling too. I will free her and bring her here.”
“But she will be identified as being Inoa’s, because of the stamp on her bottom.”
“Then you’ll surgically remove it. Besides, there are many humans here without such a stamp, so she won’t attract attention. But I won’t argue with you further—I’m going and that’s that.”
“Are you crazy, it’s still broad daylight!”
“Relax, I’ll go by car. It has tinted windows, so nobody will be able to see that it’s being driven by an animal—a human.”
Zax ran out of the house, jumped into the driver’s seat of the car, and drove off. It was not as if he had a driver’s license, but he had often observed Trinci and others driving, in fact he had even driven himself a few times around the garden. He didn’t have much driving experience, but was sure he would be able to trundle along carefully wherever he needed to go.
He had already been sitting in the big black car among the town’s traffic for quite awhile when he thrashed irritably at the steering wheel, realizing that he had no idea where to go. It was possible that Mucia was still in the press conference. Darn, he should have waited until the end of the TV report! In fact, he didn’t even know where this press conference was located.
That settled it. He must go to the base of the Human Breeder Corporation. It was certain that Mucia would be taken back there tonight. He must rescue her then. Anyway, it would be much better to attack in the evening. He long knew that hekirs could not even see the end of their beaks at dusk, while he could perceive clearly the distant hills. Of course, at the base they were sure to have artificial lighting. But then this could be a big advantage for him. They would never conceive of being attacked by a HS from outside. Even so, it is likely they were prepared for hekir thieves.
Although nobody had ever heard of a hekir trying to steal a human, no matter how valuable they were. Because even if the thief managed to dodge the hekir owner and succeed in capturing the human, he could still easily be destroyed when the human doesn’t recognize him as their master and attacks him. Many kinds of pets had been stolen in the past, but not yet humans. This would be like—a few hundred thousand billion years later, on the planet Earth—humans not being very eager to try and steal a tiger from someone, no matter how gentle and tame it was.
So first Zax needed to find out where the base of the Human Breeder Corporation was. Because of course he didn’t know this, how could he? Eventually he chose a simple solution: to stop his car on the edge of the road next to a phone box. He got out and intended to go into the booth. But inside was a hekir making a phone call. Zax wasn’t terribly concerned about this. He pressed his shoulders up against the booth, upon which it began to rock. The hekir looked up from his intense conversation, and when he saw the creature that was staring at him, especially because Zax was snarling, he immediately dropped the receiver, flung open the door and fled in terror.
Zax now entered, grabbed the phone book, and with a single tug tore it off the cord. Well, it was designed to oppose the strength of hekirs, not humans. Then he got back in the car with his loot. A few passersby watched him in amazement, but they did not suspect anything, as they believed that Zax’s owner was sitting in the car. Nobody noticed that Zax had sat down in the driver’s seat. This was so incredible that it simply did not catch anyone’s eye.
Nevertheless, the siren of a police car could now be heard, and it pulled up beside the car. The policeman tapped on the darkened glass of the window.
“Hey, you’re parked in a no-parking zone,” he said. He could say this because he spoke with radio waves, which could penetrate the glass.
“Go fuck yourself!” was the response heard by the policeman. Well, Zax wasn’t very fond of hekirs at the moment, because all he could think about was Mucia being tortured by a ghastly hekir. At the present he didn’t even like his own hekir family very much, let alone an unknown police hekir. And the policeman understood what Zax was saying, because Zax’s voice was now faithfully interpreted by his emitter into hekir radio waves.
“What did you say? Get out right now!” shouted the policeman angrily.
“Okay, if you wish…” came the reply. But Zax didn’t get out, he just wound down the window. Then he reached out his hand, and with a single blow to the policeman’s radiophone it became as flat as a pancake. Zax roared at him and the policeman almost fainted from the unexpected force. After this Zax wound the window back up and drove away.
The policeman didn’t dare pursue him. He could hardly believe a human was driving the car, but he wouldn’t have followed it even if the human’s guardian was in the car with him, for he valued his life.
Zax drove out to the edge of the city, and already feeling calmer looked up the address of the Human Breeder Corporation’s base in the phone directory, which also contained a map. It turned out that the company wasn’t far from his current location. He drove to a spot nearby, and stopped under the protection of a clump of trees, waiting for nightfall.
Meanwhile of course, he had a good look at his surroundings. He could see a rather high fence in front of him with three rows of wire, and every ten paces there were big signs in the middle, proclaiming that it had high voltage. And Zax believed it. How would he manage to get through?
He had already been thinking that it would be best if he could break into a police station, for weapons. Surely he could find a grenade launcher there too, and demolish this wretched fence with it that separated him from his loved one. But then he gave up on the idea. It would be best if he could creep in unobtrusively.
He racked his brain for a long time about what to do, and finally came to a decision. Camouflage would be the best option. He had to disguise himself as something that would not draw more attention in this place than was acceptable for the employees of the Human Breeder Corporation.
So when it became dark enough for the hekirs to require the assistance of electric light in order to see, he walked up to the main entrance and simply knocked on the window of the gatekeeper’s cabin.
The look of astonishment on the gatekeeper’s face could not be expressed when a human had appeared before him. Moreover, Zax even spoke to him:
“Please let me in, I want to come back… I’m hungry! I escaped in vain because there is no food out there. I don’t even mind if I’m punished, just give me something to eat first…”
The gatekeeper completely believed that Zax was one of their humans who had somehow escaped from the base. There was no reason to doubt it, because everybody knew that they were the exclusive owners of intelligent humans. But what was he to do now?
“I’ll call the boss right away,” he said, fumbling nervously with the control panel.
“Okay, okay, but please let me in because I’ll soon freeze to death,” and Zax’s body was shivering. This was indeed real, because he had come here naked. His clothes lay in a pile in the shadows, barely a meter away.
Of course the gatekeeper didn’t want a valuable HS to freeze on his account, because then his bosses would end up blaming him—so he opened the front door and let Zax in.
In the next moment he had dropped dead onto the ground, for Zax had grabbed his beak and wrenched it, without even using his full strength, but this had immediately broken the gatekeeper’s neck. He didn’t even have time to scream.
Now Zax went out, put his clothes back on, and took a look at the control panel. He didn’t understand much of it, but finally found at any rate the most important thing he was searching for—the main switchboard. There were more than three dozen switches, with labels such as ‘main building’, ‘water tower’, ‘garage’, ‘sector 1’, ‘sector 2’, and other similar things. Without hesitation he promptly turned everything off.
Huge parts of the base plunged into darkness one after the other. But this was not enough for him, because at the back of the cabin by the wall he discovered a fire extinguisher, which he didn’t need, but beside it was an axe with an insulated handle, for the purpose of—if necessary—being able to break a window in order to let out smoke, or to make way for an escape, or even to cut fire-causing electrical wires without any trouble. Zax grabbed hold of it, and mercilessly smashed the entire power control panel. Now if anyone came in here, they would not be able to turn on the lights in a hurry.
And for him this was a very good thing. Until the morning, every hekir in this place would be practically blind, but not him. It was not as though he couldn’t see better in the daytime, but it didn’t matter because if necessary he could easily get by even under the starlight, and right now there was almost a full moon. It was possible the hekirs might have flashlights, but this was also of great benefit, because he would be able to see their movements from far away. And this way he could evade them or know exactly where the enemy was.
Now he started off, carrying the axe with him ready for any eventuality, and thought about where he should go. As for Inoa, he would probably be found in the main building; of course only if he was actually here at the base. But this was not at all certain. Perhaps he lived in a house somewhere, or in a villa in the suburbs and just drove here each day. In fact, it might not even be every day that he came in… however he was not the main objective. Trinci was right—the point wasn’t to kill Inoa. He would gladly kill him if the occasion arose, but the most important thing was to rescue Mucia.
He gave the main building a wide berth as here and there behind its windows appeared small glowing lights, which may have come from either a flashlight or candlelight. Instead he headed for the more distant buildings. These were lower, although much wider.
He was already quite near to the first when he noticed that it was not only locked, but there were guards in front of it too, three of them, inside a cabin similar to the gatekeeper’s. They were playing some kind of intense card game by the light of a kerosene lamp. The power outage had not disturbed them. They figured it was sure to be statewide, but even if it wasn’t, this wasn’t their job but that of the maintenance workers.
Zax crept up close. He hoped the door was unlocked. Slowly he pressed down the door handle, and it seemed the hekirs inside were not yet aware of any danger. Now Zax abruptly threw open the door, striking left and right with the axe, and that was the end of the three guards. Unfortunately however, one of them fell upon the oil lamp, which knocked over spilling the kerosene, and in moments everything was engulfed in flames.
Zax swore. This was going to lure all kinds of prying hekirs here who wanted to help… it was not part of his plan.
He quickly took a look around. Soon he found a substantial set of keys. He took them with him, stepped out of the cabin and hurried towards the door of the building. He saw that it had four locks as well as a big padlock. After a few attempts he was able to open them all. Now he lifted out the big crossbar on the front of the door, which was not made of wood but of aluminum, and then he shoved the door across the rails.
The blazing guard cabin now faintly lit up the inside of the bunker. And Zax suddenly understood the reason why Trinci had once explained to him that the non-intelligent humans of the Human Profit Corporation were gentler than the humans of the Human Breeder Corporation. It was because of this, what he now saw before him.
Namely he had believed that if he ever found the dwelling of the humans then they would be sleeping all together or separately in beds, or at least on mattresses placed on the floor. Or worst case on a few blankets or on straw. But it was not like that at all.
All he could see was two long rows of cages. The cages were not crammed on top of each other as with the breeding of rodents, they were just in a single row, but everything was built purely of metal bars. The cage’s floor was about twenty centimeters from the ground. Between the two rows on the left and right was a wide corridor, and beneath each row was a shallow channel made of concrete, in which water sloshed somewhere in one direction. Its purpose was understood by Zax right away—namely the floor of each cage was covered in a dense grille, except for a small spot near the back where it was more sparse. This had obviously been designed so that it was never necessary to clean the humans. They could evacuate their waste at any time, and it would just fall through the grille into the water, which would carry it away. No doubt this was an economical method that saved them much intensive labor, it was just so unhekir-like. Or rather, the correct word would be inhuman, Zax thought. It would be awful to live continuously between rigid bars, day and night, even if the temperature was admittedly adequate.
For another thing, the cages weren’t very spacious either. Each of them was uniform, approximately six square meters, and they were far enough apart so that their inhabitants could not reach over from one cage to the next. So the humans were not even able to stroke each other. Naturally a human would become irritable in such an enclosure, and if he saw an opportunity to gratify his need to move he would try to run.
Zax walked up to the first one. He peered in and saw a beautiful girl, but it was not Mucia.
“Hey, who are you? I’ve never seen you before,” the girl inside asked him.
“My name is Zax, I am also a HS, but I was not bred by the Human Breeder Corporation. And I am free—I have no device inside me that causes pain in my leg. I’m searching for Mucia because I have come to rescue her. Where is she?”
“She’s not in this bunker. But let me out too, please!” However she didn’t need to beg, because while Zax was talking to her he had also been diligently trying the keys, and soon he had found the key required to open this cage. And when he was done he opened the second one too. This was even faster, because he quickly discovered that the thoughtful hekirs had attached the keys onto the key ring in the order of the cages. Moreover, by the time he got to the fourth cage he had noticed that each cage was labeled with a number, which corresponded with the number on the key. Yet this was so tiny that towards the end of the bunker where it was dark he could barely read it.
He didn’t labor too long over this task and tossed the set of keys to one of the last humans he had freed, telling them to release the others. Zax himself ran over to the next bunker because that’s where Mucia was. It must be said that even among these rescued humans were quite a number of truly attractive girls, and he liked them all as much as Mucia. He had no doubt either that because he had released them they would be more than willing to sleep with him out of gratitude… although even if they weren’t, he was stronger than the women. But he would release Mucia anyway, because her captivity here was an atrocity. He needed to save her so that nobody could hurt her anymore.
Within moments he was halfway to the next bunker, at which he came upon two guards who had detected that there was trouble because of the cabin being on fire, and wanted to help their co-workers. Without any qualms Zax headbutted them so that they were now laying sprawled on the ground. Then he was already at the guard cabin, and he swung his axe like a sword, beheading the third guard with a single sweep. Afterwards he took the keys and opened the door here too. Next came the cages. This time he could see much better as he had brought the oil lamp with him, which had not tipped over.
It took a long time before he found his Mucia, for her cage was almost the last one. In these cages he found a particularly large number of children, and it appeared that if they were older than three years they were put into separate cages. Only the younger ones were left with their mothers.
Mucia wondered how she had become free all of a sudden. She had barely recovered from her amazement when Zax appeared beside her cage. Here stood a human, not a hekir, with an oil lamp in his hand. He opened the cage, looked around and caught sight of her, his face lighting up. Grabbing hold of her hand, he eagerly pulled her out of the cage, embraced her strongly, and said:
“My name is Zax, and I want you to know that I am going to be your husband and you will be my wife. I saw you on TV, when Inoa was tormenting you during the press conference. You have caught my fancy and I’ve come for you. I have saved you and set you free. You are mine.”
“If you’re so sure of this then let’s get the hell out of here, because I don’t want to be captured again together with you!” Mucia replied quickly, and for the time being she wasn’t even curious about the reason for this miracle, how a free intelligent human could suddenly appear and where he could possibly have come from in order to help her, because she figured all this could be discovered later.
But Zax did not leave before he had opened the other cages as well, and asked, “Are there still any more humans anywhere?”
“No, we were only in these two sectors.”
“Great, then come and follow me. But keep quiet, because although hekirs can’t see anything right now, they still have ears.”
Of course they all came along. It could not be disputed that Zax was their leader.
Naturally they proceeded to the main gate. Along the way they encountered a group of hekirs with flashlights, who were heading for the burning guard cabin, but it was clear they didn’t stand a chance against such a mass of humans. They did have guns, but couldn’t see who or in which direction they were shooting. Only a single shot was fired, but nobody was hit.
They arrived at the gate without any trouble. But what were they to do now? If they left from here on foot, then their advantage would be futile, for it was quite certain that in the morning the hekirs would find their tracks, begin their pursuit and capture them.
But Zax found a solution. Nearby was a parking lot, where the vehicles of the Human Breeder Corporation’s employees parked. It was now pretty much empty apart from a few big buses.
“All aboard!” Zax signaled to them, and because he didn’t know how to open a bus door from the outside, he simply smashed the back windows of the buses with the axe. The humans quickly crammed into the four buses. Now Zax showed three other humans how to handle the accelerator and brake pedal. He ignored the gearbox as it would better for them to stay in first gear. After opening the large gate he jumped into the driver’s seat of one of the buses himself, then drove away.
Of course they moved very slowly in first gear, but still managed to reach a speed of thirty kilometers per hour, and this was much faster than fleeing on foot. They met with no cars along the way. Although hekir vehicles had artificial lighting in them too, it was not common for hekirs to do night shifts, and more specifically night driving. This was guaranteed to be life-threatening for them because of their poor eyesight in dim light.
Zax led the entire party to the opposite end of the city, left the buses there, and then traveled a good two kilometers on foot, down all kinds of side streets until they arrived at Trinci’s house. He didn’t want to park the buses right nearby because he was worried that then the police would immediately suspect Trinci tomorrow.
But when he came home with all his rescued humans he realized that he could have brought them here directly because it would have made no difference at all.
* * *
No sooner had Zax run away to rescue Mucia, then Trinci received a surprise visit from Mr. Arlek, her boss. Though he was not alone. With him was a group of other individuals whom Trinci suspected were soldiers. The reason for this assumption was because they wore a regulation uniform. So they didn’t even want to conceal the fact that they were soldiers.
Trinci’s eyes widened when she caught sight of them. She didn’t even have time to question what the meaning of this was because her boss was already scolding her:
“I am deeply disappointed in you, Trinci. What am I supposed to make of the fact that for years you have succeeded in breeding the Human Sapir, and all this time you have kept me in the dark! How could it have happened that I found all this out from merely a passing comment—the single, short word also, and just when the other company had already announced their own discovery, depriving us forever of the triumph of being the first, even if the case was that we had simultaneously come out with it! Even though your duty was to notify us of your results, because you did your research with our human resources, using our money, you receive a salary from us, and you are under our employment!”
Trinci decided that further secrecy was superfluous. She replied, “I had no intention to conceal anything permanently. I simply couldn’t tell you with a clear conscience that the HS is not dangerous to us hekirs before I have examined whether or not an adult HS is dangerous. To do this I obviously need to wait until the first HS generation have reached adulthood. This takes time. In fact to securely assert such things I still don’t have enough research material to back this up. That is to say the behavior of one of my most promising HS’s has of late been showing some serious emotional disturbances. I consider it absolutely essential to undertake at least twenty more years of research.”
“Nonsense, we don’t have time for such laborious work when the Human Breeder Corporation has already come out with their HS’s!”
“That’s true, but just sit it out for awhile. It wouldn’t surprise me if before long there is a huge scandal. Because from what I saw on television, the relationship between the HS’s and the hekirs of the Human Breeder Corporation seems anything but loving. In my opinion every one of their HS’s holds a deep hatred for hekirs, and this will have consequences.”
“I don’t care if they hate us because those hekirs cleverly invented a built-in disciplinary chip, so it’s taken care of!”
“But boss, don’t think in such a flat, one-dimensional way. First of all, a living being is not some kind of cybernetic machine, that always reacts with the same behavior to a stimulus. A living being progressively adapts, for example the HS can become accustomed to the stimulus so that their pain threshold increases. Over time then it’s possible that the pain level will drop from the constant stimulation of the part of the muscle connected to the chip, and eventually they won’t perceive any pain. Or their body will excrete some kind of calcareous casing around the chip—as clams do around grit—because it is foreign matter after all.
“The chip might even implode. Either through carelessness or an accident they may bump against it, in fact it may even occur that the human cuts it out of himself, for this is not an impossibility either if they are desperate enough. It is my firm belief that my eldest HS would cut it out of himself without batting an eyelid if he had one of these inside him. And this is only a surprise to those who refuse to acknowledge that humans are predators, because predators always have a greater pain tolerance than prey, simply because hunting is a dangerous activity with a high risk of injury, therefore they become accustomed to pain. It is a well-known fact that many wild animals, if caught in a trap, will even gnaw off their foot in order to break free. A human would probably do it too, especially if they didn’t have to lose their entire leg but merely remove some tiny gadget from it. Furthermore, the HS is an intelligent being, so they might steal or destroy your remote control. Or they may attack their owner unexpectedly as their hatred for them grows. This is not in the least a safe solution.”
“Well then, what do you believe is an appropriate solution?”
“Friendship. If we raise them with love, if they trust us and we trust them, if we treat them as though they are our equals, yes, then…”
“Good lord, we don’t need companions but disciplined soldiers!” exclaimed now a general from the group of soldiers accompanying Arlek with a wave of the hand.
“What has that got to do with it?” Trinci asked suspiciously.
“The reason for this,” replied Mr. Arlek in place of the general, “is that for a long time now, seventy percent of the budget of the Human Profit Corporation has come from the War Department. For they have pinned their hopes on the creation of a Human Army.”
“It’s easy to see what an advanced method this would be,” responded the general enthusiastically. “Just imagine Miss, a ten-man team of humans who could effortlessly wipe out a one hundred-man enemy task force of hekirs. Of course only if they are intelligent, which is what the HS is. Humans don’t tire so easily, they’re much more agile, they’re good at climbing trees—at least much better than us hekirs, their bones are much more solid, and so on and so on… and besides, if a HS dies during battle then it’s no problem, because it wouldn’t be a hekir that died. So this in everybody’s interest.”
“It is out of the question that my humans would consent to this!” Trinci shook her head and went pale, because she saw that her worst suspicions were being realized.
“I don’t care about getting their consent, they must do what they’re ordered, because they will also get the disciplinary chip put into them.”
“Dear general, the age of slavery has already come to an end.”
“But only as far as the hekirs are concerned.”
“The HS is an intelligent being, even the name suggests this.”
“Yes, but it’s still just an animal. And please don’t make a fuss madam, because you have already committed a great capital offense by sabotaging the development of the Human Army for years.”
“I didn’t know anything about this being the goal of the Human Profit Corporation’s activities!”
“That’s because it was not made public. Such a goal must be kept secret. But you didn’t tell us your secret either, so you are a criminal,” Mr. Arlek accused her.
“If I had known the army was involved in this experiment I would have resigned from the company.”
“Why, what do you have against the army?”
“Many things… I could go on all day. Just briefly, perhaps it is enough for me to remind you that it is surely no coincidence that in every language without exception the word ‘civilization’ is a derivative of the word ‘civil’, and not ‘warrior’ or ‘soldier’!” replied Trinci with deep sarcasm. “In any case, please recognize that as of this moment I am terminating my employment with immediate effect.”
“This is not possible, we need your experience!”
“Am I a prisoner?”
“Not exactly, but the state’s interest now temporarily requires a partial restriction of your personal rights.”
Then Trinci took a deep breath and chose to make a bold decision.
“Humans, let’s make a run for it!” she shouted. “Let’s get out of here, they want to capture you!” and she tried to run to the door. But two of the soldiers lunged at her and caught her. However Gigi heard Trinci’s shout and opened the door into the entrance hall.
“What’s wrong…?” she began, but then halted as soon as she caught sight of the soldiers.
“They want to take the humans. Tell them why they can’t!” cried Trinci, squirming in the grip of the soldiers.
Gigi immediately jumped back from the door to run away, but then the general pulled out his pistol and fired at her. She fell down onto the floor of the hallway.
“Everybody must be captured, preferably alive!” he commanded. “Humans are to be shot with stun-bullets only.”
* * *
So when Zax arrived there he found nobody at home. That is except Gigi, lying wounded in the hallway. And when Zax bent down and gently lifted her up, she let out a groan.
It turned out that although there was a significant amount of blood on the floor around her, in reality her injuries weren’t too serious. Though the bullet had slightly cracked her skull, it had essentially just grazed it. Gigi felt lightheaded, as a rather large area of her scalp was injured and from it flowed a considerable amount of blood. Gigi was very weak because of this, but by the time Zax had bandaged her she was well on the way to recovery. It might be said that her injury was virtually insignificant, at least compared to being shot in the head.
“Zax, Zax, please do something! Arlek and the soldiers have carried away my mother along with everybody else!” she cried, anxiously gripping Zax’s hand.
Zax didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do now, since he didn’t know where the soldiers had carried Trinci to, but yet he replied, “I will try.” What else could he have said?
He called together all the newly freed HS’s into the backyard, and told them that this is the house where he was brought up. He did not live in such dreadful, cruel conditions as these former prisoners. The hekirs living here treated him fairly. But now they had been kidnapped by evil hekirs. The humans must rescue them. This was particularly necessary so they could acquire weapons from these evil hekirs in order to defend themselves.
“But for this task,” he said, “children won’t be required. So all children must remain here and keep very-very quiet, and while we are gone two adult women must stay and look after them. Let’s say you and you,” pointing to two of them, “because you’re the weakest. And you shall take care of Gigi too, but she shouldn’t be any trouble because she’s my best friend, and anyone who hurts her will have their throat bitten out by me when I find out about it! Everyone must do as I say, for otherwise we’ll be captured and you’ll have to go back into the cages!”
The women and children took note of his admonitions. Now Zax demonstrated how to use the gears, ordered them back into the buses and then started off towards the institute of the Human Profit Corporation. He chose that direction because he suspected Trinci and the others were taken there. But even if she wasn’t, it was very likely that Arlek would be there, and if anyone knew which military base Trinci was being held prisoner in, it would be Arlek.
He knew how to get to the institute, and knew his way around there as well, for Trinci had taken him along previously on more than one occasion. Now he drove straight there, and stopped in front of the barrier. He waited until the gatekeeper came out, then opened the door of the bus and kicked his head so strongly that his demise was instantaneous. After this Zax gestured to the humans, “Get out! Quickly!”
Here the main power switches were not in the gatekeeper’s cabin, but this didn’t bother him. The whole troop followed him as he ran to the main building. He wasn’t even concerned that—as he well knew—the place was full of cameras. There were only two security guards in the building, but by the time they had extracted their pistols the enraged humans were already all over them, and were beating them to a pulp. They clearly relished being able to finally kill some hekirs.
Zax opened the door of Mr. Arlek’s office. He was fortunate, for he had found the boss. Arlek was sitting behind his desk. Before him squatted a secretary, attending to his private member. The poor woman did not know what had happened to her—Zax sprung over, picked her up and threw her against the window so that the glass shattered, and squealing she hurtled down the five floors into the abyss. She died instantly.
Zax now grabbed Mr. Arlek’s beak and lifted the screeching president from his chair. His beak cracked in same manner as the boy’s had who was teasing Gigi a while back.
“Tell me, where have you taken Trinci?” he asked, shaking Arlek. He blinked in terror, not just from Zax, but from the mass of other humans assembled behind him. What was going to happen?
Since Arlek didn’t reply right away, Zax swiftly put one of his fingers into his mouth and simply bit it off.
“Would you rather keep your fingers and answer me, or have me bite them all off?”
“Have mercy! They are in the sixth military base, here beside the city!”
“I don’t know where that is, so you will show me the way. But you won’t escape,” and with that Zax broke each of Arlek’s limbs one by one, then hoisted the director up onto his shoulders like a bundle of feathers and walked back to the buses with him. Once inside, he tossed him into the seat beside him and said, “Show me the way, or I’ll castrate you as well!”
Arlek led the way, and groaned at every bump due to the excruciating pain. And during the entire drive it kept going through his head that perhaps Trinci was actually right. This Zax and his troop, who emerged from god knows where, were behaving just as though they were human soldiers. And they were dreadfully efficient. Yet such an army might not only be dangerous to the enemy, but also to their own hekir bosses. Zax did indeed look as if he would have no problem with cutting a disciplinary chip out of himself.
A military base would mean a much different challenge than the bases of the Human Breeder or the Human Profit Corporation. While he was on his way there, Zax thought deeply about what he should do. And finally when they were quite close to their destination, he smiled. He had found the solution.
They didn’t drive right up to the base, but stopped a good five hundred meters away from it.
“Were they brought over there?” Zax asked Arlek, pointing at the military facility.
“Yes!” Arlek whimpered. “Have mercy!”
“On you? You, who associate with those people who would have killed Gigi?” He then grabbed Arlek by the neck and squeezed it until he no longer moved.
“Off the bus, guys! And don’t forget—every hekir man must be killed, but hekir women only if they attack you because I don’t want you to accidentally kill Trinci or my other hekir friend.”
The humans vowed to follow these rules. Why would they kill Trinci when there were so many other hekirs they could kill?
Zax crept up near the fence, and walked along the fence line in the direction of the main entrance. As he suspected, it wasn’t long before he found a fire hydrant. After all, one of these was likely to be near a barracks because in a place like this a fire could occur at any time. It’s shaft was a good meter in length. Zax lifted its lid, then drove the bus over to it, and slowly pushed against it with the vehicle. Not so hard that it would break, but just bend slightly towards the fence. After this he got out of the bus and quickly rotated the release lever, running back as fast as he could.
What happened was exactly what he had counted on. The water gushed out of the fire hydrant with tremendous force, directly towards the fence. This too was a three-row barbed wire fence, with the middle row being electric. Due to the enormous amount of water it was entirely natural that the high voltage was thereby discharged, causing such a sparking short circuit that nothing more was necessary. Zax was quite sure that because of this dousing, even a few transformer stations would have overloaded and burnt down somewhere in the area of the barracks.
When the fence was no longer sparking, he gestured to them, “Come on, climb over it!”
They climbed over. The height of the fence was after all no more than three meters. Its top was covered in barbed wire, but Zax, being a human, could move much more easily across such obstacles than a hekir could, however it had been designed to keep out hekirs. Even so, occasionally Zax and the other humans received some pricks, but these weren’t particularly injurious.
When they were all on the other side of the fence, Zax said, “Let’s head for the gate. We must remove it because Trinci and her friends won’t be able to climb over this fence. Be quick and you’ll be fine, because the guards won’t count on an attack from inside the barracks.”
Well they certainly hadn’t expected any trouble. Within moments they were all dead, without being able to fire a single bullet. The humans had got their hands on their weapons, although there was no doubt that any of them had sufficient experience in using these. To put it mildly, they weren’t marksmen. Even so, their self-confidence grew considerably. Actually the whole thing was seen by them as a great amusement compared to their former dull life. And without exception they all figured they had nothing to lose, because if they didn’t die now in action, then later on the worst that could happen is that they would become prisoners again. They would not be killed as punishment for they were far too valuable.
“And make sure you hurry, because we don’t know when the next guard will arrive for his shift,” Zax said. “Let’s go there.” He pointed to the highest structure. “Surely that’s the main building where the duty officer resides.”
They hurried over. And because there was no way they could go in unnoticed, Zax had only speed to rely on. He ran up the wide staircase to the door. It was locked. But he didn’t despair, for he still had the axe that was stolen from the Human Breeder Corporation. With this he broke the window, jumped in and swiftly wrung the neck of the non-commissioned officer. His eyes glanced around at the doors. As he caught sight of the inscription ‘DUTY OFFICER’ he gave a satisfied grunt. “Bingo!” and he opened the door.
The officer was just on the phone to someone. As soon as he caught sight of Zax entering, his eyes instantly enlarged in abject terror. His hand moved to his waistbelt, but by that time Zax was already beside him, had grabbed his hand and squeezed it so hard that it cracked. He took away his pistol too.
“That won’t be necessary!” he said, and hung up the phone.
Hekir telephones of course did not transmit sound waves to electrical signals. They converted the weak hekir radio waves to electrical impulses. But even so, the hekir on the other end of the line—whoever it was—became aware that the duty officer was in some kind of big trouble, which is why a few seconds later sirens could be heard in the barracks. This signaled alarm. For the time being, Zax wasn’t concerned with this.
“If you don’t tell me where Trinci is,” he said to the officer, “then I’ll burn off all your feathers, and then I’ll devise further tortures before I finish you off!”
“And if I tell you?” he whimpered in terror.
“Then I won’t torture you.”
“But who is this Trinci?”
“Did you not perhaps notice them bringing a woman here today along with a group of humans?”
“Oh yes, several women, with humans. They are in the biology laboratory.”
“Really? And why exactly over there?”
“Because as far as I know, they want to implant some kind of chip into them.”
“Even into Trinci? But she is a hekir!”
“I don’t know, I don’t understand these things. But they took them there.”
“Okay, and where is this place?”
“Right here above us, on the third floor.”
“Thanks,” said Zax, then took his axe and cut off the officer’s head. Again he felt no remorse. This was just a soldier, and soldiers kidnapped Trinci, soldiers almost killed Gigi, and it is soldiers that want to implant these horrid torture devices into them and their human friends. Anyway, he did keep his promise—he didn’t torture the officer.
They ran up to the third floor. But along the way they methodically opened the door of each room, and whoever was found in there was mercilessly killed. With this method they progressed more slowly, but Zax wanted their retreat to be free from obstruction. Outside the sirens still sounded and dozens of searchlights lit up. But they couldn’t find anything because all the humans were here inside.
Finally they reached the third floor. At the end of the staircase leading here was a big glass door, on which hung the inscription:
BIOLOGY LAB – NO ACCESS
AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
PROTECTIVE CLOTHING REQUIRED
Zax doubted that the hekirs would have protective clothing that was also suitable for humans. But he wasn’t worried anyway. He knew from Trinci that humans were essentially immune to absolutely all hekir illnesses, except for the common cold. But even with a cold, they didn’t contract the same type as hekirs. This was quite simply because humans and hekirs were such different organisms that it seemed such a cunning virus or bacteria had not yet evolved that could establish itself in both races at once.
The door was locked and Zax did not hesitate—he smashed the door to smithereens with his axe. By the time he had jumped into the opening a few nurses and doctors were peering in the direction of the big crash, and were caught by Zax in the wake of an influx of humans. The humans executed them with extraordinary pleasure, in fact some hekirs did not die a quick and easy death, but just for the pure fun had first their limbs and beak broken by the humans, and only afterwards their heads flattened.
They could not be criticized for this; quite simply they were so furious for being treated badly up to this point by the hekirs that they had to vent their rage somehow. Well, there was not a single slave rebellion in the world during which the defecting slaves had been compassionate towards their slaveholders, and they didn’t give much thought in determining which slaveholder was innocent and which was guilty. That’s just the way it was.
Zax had not been brutal. He simply ran forwards while shouting loudly. He figured it wouldn’t increase his risk of being discovered as the slayed hekirs were already echoing everything with their radio wave screams anyway, and outside the sirens were still sounding.
For this reason he wasn’t worried about using his pistol along the way either. When a hekir looked out from somewhere he immediately fired at them. Sometimes he even hit the mark, although it was usually just by accident because he wasn’t very experienced at this. They also fired at him, but only rarely because this was a medical department and consequently there were few weapons here. In addition, those guns were fired by unpracticed hekir hands therefore Zax was not hit. And the hekirs didn’t have much time in which to fire a gun anyway. By the time they had reached the biggest laboratory only a single human had been hit, and even then the bullet had only grazed his upper arm.
Although they had not yet broken into the laboratory, Zax could hear screams from inside. They were not radio waves but definite sound waves being transmitted.
“Zax, Zax, I’m here! Help!” she cried out. Trinci… Zax recognized her voice.
It was just then that the door of the laboratory flew open, and three hekir soldiers charged out. They had machine guns in their hands.
One of them turned towards Zax, but before he could aim his gun Zax had already snatched it from his hand by its barrel, spun it around and slammed it into his head so that his brain burst out against the wall. Then he clobbered the other hekir with it too. The third fired off a round, causing three humans to drop to the floor, but he couldn’t fire any more because Zax now swung the gun—which he was still holding by its barrel—in an upwards direction, and the butt hit the hekir soldier between his legs with such force that he soared all the way up to the ceiling, crushing his head while painting the ceiling red, then fell back to the floor with big crash.
Zax jumped into the lab. There was one general and a number of other doctors too. And many humans, all Zax’s companions who had been raised alongside him at Trinci’s place. Almost all of these humans were asleep. One of them, a young boy, was lying now on the operating table, others were farther away, and these had a Band-aid on their right leg. Zax guessed that they had already had the chip implanted into their leg. Not far from them sat Trinci, although she was awake and it seemed they hadn’t operated on her leg yet. But her hands were in handcuffs.
Zax didn’t want to fire a gun because he was afraid that, due to his inexperience, he might hit his friends. Rather quickly he ran here and there, and one after the other slammed into the doctors’ heads who would have fled had it not been for the rest of the humans crowded in here who had followed Zax.
The general whipped out his pistol and fired, but missed Zax. After that he didn’t dare devote any more time to shooting as he was afraid he would get caught, and many humans were bound to defeat a hekir. He had especially had enough when Zax threw the axe, hitting a medicine cabinet right beside his ear and scattering broken glass over him. It would be better to slip out through a side door. A few humans ran after him, but not Zax. He preferred to free Trinci, Brixi and the two other hekir women who were also his friends. Then he introduced them to the rest of the humans, saying that these were the hekirs who must be spared.
“Do you know of any drug that might wake them up?” he asked, pointing to the sleeping humans.
“Yes, I can probably find something, but first I’ll take the chip out of them, that should be easy,” said Trinci, and proceeded to do so.
Meanwhile a few humans came up to Zax with the news that the soldiers had spotted them and were coming up the stairs, already having occupied the ground floor.
“Use the fire extinguisher,” instructed Zax. And this did have an effect temporarily. But they knew that it would only work until the hekirs closed off the fire hydrant outside.
“I only regret that you weren’t able to kill the damned general, Zax,” moaned Trinci, while she injected another stimulant into one of the sleeping humans. “He is the bastard who killed my dear Gigi!”
“Gigi is alive,” said Zax.
“I’m quite sure, because she was the one who told me what had happened to you. But Trinci, do you have any idea how we can get out of here?”
“None at all. But why bother racking your brain over this, Zax? It will make no difference even if you could get out, because the most you’ll gain is a few hours time, and then it’ll all be over. Because they’ll come after you and capture you. You, me and everyone else. So it would be better if you just killed the general. He certainly deserves it for shooting Gigi. Then we can have our revenge, as there is nothing else we can do. You must even fight to the death and not allow them to capture you, for this way nobody can have a Human Sapir!”
Zax grimaced. He didn’t like this option very much.
“This would only be at best a temporary solution to the human situation,” he said, “because within a few decades the military will create other Human Sapirs.”
“But you can’t do any better, Zax. This is it. I’m very sorry, and I want to ask you just one thing—Will you please forgive me if you can, for helping to draw out your intelligence? I believe you would have been much happier if I hadn’t brought you up to be intelligent.”
“It’s possible Trinci, perhaps, but don’t forget that even though I’m intelligent, I’m still just a wild animal. At least according to your ideas. However a wild animal will struggle to fight and doesn’t shrink back from anything. I am not as resigned as you,” and Zax looked at her so severely that Trinci was quite startled.
“Do you have any ideas? What are you planning to do?”
“I have something in mind, but I’m not sure if it can be carried out. However if I manage it then I have no reason to forgive you, because it will be your job to forgive me… There will be plenty to forgive,” and he marched off, walking up and down the corridors in deep contemplation.
He might just be able do it because his humans had already broken down all resistance. Here and there he could see hekir corpses. Occasionally a human corpse too, but there were very few. It seemed that so far no more than seven humans had died during the fight.
Finally he arrived at a remote part of the building, which was protected by multiple rows of bars, numerous padlocks and even magnetic locks. This was the caption above the entrance:
‘ACTIVE MATERIAL REPOSITORY’
Ah, this is sure to be what I’m searching for, thought Zax, and without hesitation he attempted to get in. However this was difficult to accomplish with his axe, and it merely chipped one or two of the bars. What’s more, after the first few strikes red emergency lights began to flash in the corridor, and here too a siren wailed.
Zax hurried back to Trinci.
“Hey Trinci, find an oxygen tank and some protective clothing.”
“What for?” the woman started.
“You’re going to need it if you don’t want to die. And find one for Brixi too, and for the others. In fact it would be good if Gigi had one as well, when we get home.”
“But tell me, WHY?!”
“Ha-ha! Because soon very few of our enemies will remain alive. I think you’ll know what I mean when I remind you that this is a biology laboratory, and…”
“No!” shrieked Trinci in horror, realizing what Zax was planning.
“This is not for you to decide, Trinci. My race has the right to live too, and to live in freedom. And it isn’t a great loss for your race, because not only are you unable to get along with us humans, you can’t get along with yourselves either, because you have wars. You know that I’m right, you’ve also seen the news bulletins on TV, and even more of them than me because you’re older than me. The cause of what will happen here is not my wickedness, not my wild animal nature, because I did not create the weapons I am going to use—these were created by you hekirs against yourselves. Though if one creates a weapon, it can be counted on that this weapon will be used in the course of time. I don’t feel guilty, I’m just defending myself as well as I can. I lived with you in peace before I saw Mucia’s torture, but even afterwards I wouldn’t have come here if those soldiers hadn’t brought you here, those stupid generals. I think there’s some protective clothing in the glass cabinet at the end of the corridor. Put it on and hurry up!” He shoved Trinci’s back.
The woman stumbled pale-faced in that direction. And she could barely even think, because she could only hear these few words pulsating in her head: The stupid generals… The stupid generals… She was ultimately so weak and inert that her mother, Brixi, had to help her into the protective clothing.
Meanwhile Zax scoured about the place for some kind of suitable weapon. He couldn’t find anything in the building, but finally on the flat roof he discovered some big machine guns. These were probably kept here for air defense purposes. He lifted one of these up, and with some difficulty hauled it down to the active material repository. He set it up opposite the door of the lab at the end of the corridor, then began to shoot at it. The explosive bullets soon did their job and the door crashed in, igniting many combustible materials around it. Now Zax calmly walked into the large room without hindrance.
The wall opposite the door was completely demolished due to the force of the bullets. A whole heap of drawer-like containers had smashed to pieces, and from these all kinds of powders and fluids emanated, some of them bubbling and foaming. Moreover, inside the room in several places were pictures of a skull and crossbones, warning that there were dangerous materials here. Of course the shape of the skull was similar to that of a hekir, not a human.
“The stupid hekirs,” Zax grinned. “Don’t they realize that the same thing would have happened if an earthquake destroyed this building, or a terrorist? Or an enemy missile?”
He brought the machine gun closer, and shot at the wall until he had formed a large hole, whose size was at least that of a human head. Through this the viruses and bacteria could easily get to the outside. Then he found his axe and methodically began to break everything in sight. He did this for a while, but then noticed the following label above one of the cabinets: ‘VACCINES’
“Ah, well of course. They are not quite that stupid—naturally they only store here those biological weapons that they have an antidote for.”
He didn’t break this cabinet but destroyed everything else, and then he went out and told Trinci—who was already in her protective clothing—to come in and extract some of each vaccine into a syringe and inject this mixture into herself, through the protective suit, then to repeat this with all Zax’s other hekir friends as well.
Trinci’s hands were quivering like jelly. “Zax, this is outrageous! Now millions will perish, in fact billions, and all this is my fault because I created you!”
“No, this is the general’s fault because he wanted to use your discovery—me—for evil purposes. Didn’t you just tell me before that they wanted a human army? Well there you go, they have one. Killing is what a soldier does. Now I am killing. They wanted to make me kill hekirs, so hekirs I shall kill. They got exactly what they wanted.”
“But they didn’t want to kill the citizens of this country!”
“Is it okay for them to kill citizens of other countries?”
Trinci remained silent.
“Anyway,” Zax continued, “the citizens of other countries aren’t any better either. If they had HS’s they would do the same against your country. The hekir society is just criminal. But please don’t think that I’m making a judgment—I’m simply defending myself. My goal is self-protection, not to punish you.”
By the time Trinci had finished vaccinating everyone the noise outside had subsided. It was suspiciously quiet in the barracks. Although Zax and the humans weren’t wearing any protective clothing they had no problems, in spite of inhaling billions of microbes with each breath, of which a few hundred was enough to kill a strong hekir within seconds.
“Let’s hurry back, maybe we can save Gigi,” Zax said. And this immediately brought Trinci back to herself.
“Yes, yes, of course. The outbreak is spreading with the wind, but now the wind is barely blowing so we should be able to arrive there before it does.”
Trinci was already running down the stairs. And nobody stopped her because by that time every soldier outside was well and truly dead. Without waiting for Zax and the others Trinci jumped into the first car she saw, and at the last minute she realized Zax was shouting after her to wait for him, for otherwise Gigi’s human carers would beat her to death in an instant. So they both traveled by car to reach Gigi, but this time Trinci drove because she was much more experienced at this.
It was only dawn when they arrived. When they turned into the street, Trinci rejoiced because she saw a car traveling in the opposite direction; evidently the outbreak hadn’t reached here yet.
She ran into the garden and the humans almost pounced on her, but just in time they caught sight of Zax, who shouted at them, “Take it easy, she’s a good friend!”
Now Trinci rushed quickly to Gigi’s bed. Naturally she was aware that although the outbreak wasn’t here yet, she had brought it here herself on the outside of her clothing. For this reason she did not hesitate, did not explain anything, but immediately jabbed the syringe into Gigi’s vein and hoped very much that the immunization would take effect faster than the viruses.
She fretted for a good hour sitting there beside Gigi, because her daughter’s face turned red now and again, and then white… but in the end the vaccines prevailed, and Gigi did not die. However by this time the neighborhood had become very quiet.
But this was not all, for suddenly a fierce wind began to blow. A storm was developing. And it was certain that the storm would carry the spores of the outbreak all over the place. On top of all this Zax abruptly reappeared, who hadn’t been around over the last few hours, and he brought her the following news:
“We have randomly launched missiles from the barracks that contain—according to the label—not nuclear warheads but some kind of biological load. And I sent off every human who I deemed to be sufficiently competent with the task of searching for other already deserted army bases, and from there they will fire off every biological weapon they can find in various directions.”
“But… but why?!”
“I want to infect the entire planet as soon as possible, so that it’ll be unfit for hekirs. You my friends, will be the only remaining hekirs here. And because you’re all women you can’t reproduce, so when you die out within a single hekir lifespan, there will no longer be any hekirs. The reign of hekirs has ended, and now will follow the reign of humans!”
“Do you believe that you can create a better world than us hekirs?”
“Possibly. I can’t be certain, but I’m certain about one thing, and that is that it won’t be any worse. At any rate, it’s worth us giving it a try, isn’t it? And don’t forget that we won’t have to start from scratch, since everything on this planet will be our property. Every product of the whole hekir civilization is now ours. The accumulated knowledge from libraries, films, the material objects… everything.”
“Zax, I’m appalled by you! To massacre billions of hekirs, without any regard for there being among them little girls just like my Gigi, who are just as worthy of love…”
“You’re completely right, Trinci, and I won’t defend myself. There is no excuse. I did it, and that’s that. Yet I don’t feel that guilty about it. You said yourself that even if I managed to get out of the barracks, which would not have been possible otherwise, the hekirs would have killed me. Or at least captured me. And I only believe that I too have the right to defend myself with any means available to me. Tell me why I should believe anything else, when I see you hekirs thinking this about yourselves day after day? So I saved my life, saved the life of my beloved Mucia, the lives of hundreds of other HS’s, even the non-intelligent humans, who we will raise to be intelligent, or if not them at least their offspring. And I also saved you, my hekir friends. The others who are dying, they are neither my friends nor part of my race. That’s the way it is Trinci. I had to come to a decision about whose lives to save, and I chose my own and the lives of those who I’m emotionally close to for various reasons.”
Trinci just heaved a sigh. To say anything would have been superfluous—the issue had already been decided. There were no hekirs living on the continent at all except for them. At best there may be military leaders of some countries who have locked themselves into a deep underground bunker. But they would not have an indefinite supply of air, so even if there were such hekirs, it was only a matter of time before they’d have to come out. And then they would inhale the microbes and be done for. Even if that weren’t the case, it wouldn’t help them because by that time the humans—the Human Sapirs—will have multiplied significantly. Whether she liked it or not, the incredible had happened: humans had taken control of the planet Roonya. But of course Zax was right about one thing, that the humans would not have been able to do this alone. They needed the efficacious assistance of the hekirs for this task, because the hekirs had developed the lethal viruses against themselves with laborious endeavor.
Trinci didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do with her life now. For days on end she would just saunter about here and there. Finally one day Zax grabbed her arm abruptly.
“Hey Trinci, come over here!” and when he had dragged her into the room, he switched on the radio.
Trinci could hardly believe her ears. She was listening to hekir speech.
It turned out that living hekirs did indeed exist, and not only in deep bunkers. When the great catastrophe occurred several big space stations were orbiting overhead in space, along with crew. They of course knew nothing about the rebellion of HS’s, and simply believed that a world war had broken out, although they could not determine which country had initiated it. As far as the outcome was concerned, it was irrelevant. These astronauts resolved that because they were the last representatives of the hekir race, and were collectively little more than two hundred in number, they would consider themselves citizens of a single country. Now they were trying to determine whether or not there were any survivors on the planet.
“If you want to Trinci, you could send them a message via radio,” suggested Zax.
“What, so they can also be sentenced to death! They couldn’t land on the planet because they would be immediately infected. Even if they did have a vaccine, they still couldn’t land because it wouldn’t be possible to inoculate their newborns immediately. They would die before the vaccinations could be received. This planet, thanks to you Zax, has been uninhabitable for hekirs for a very long time!”
“But Trinci, just hear them out. From what I can gather they’re planning to join together all the space stations up there into a single unit, and then fly away to some neighboring planet. They think that the neighboring planet of Roonya, which is farther away from the Sun, would be suitable for them. It has no life, but plenty of water and other essentials, and they believe that with a lot of hard work they could transform it into a livable place. And I think you and the other survivors could fly up to them in a spacecraft.”
“But I wouldn’t know the first thing about that!”
“No, but those guys up there do, it’s their profession. They could navigate you and be continuously telling you what to do. I think they’ll be thrilled about you, because even though there are roughly two hundred of them, this group consists of no more than thirty women. And you are all women. You don’t need to worry about contamination because it will be enough to just thoroughly disinfect yourselves before the interchange.”
“Hmm… and how shall I explain to them our reason for surviving the outbreak?”
“It couldn’t be simpler—you were a biologist of the Human Profit Corporation, and you had been working at a time of war. When you noticed the catastrophe, you quickly injected yourself with all the antidotes at hand, in the hope that some of them would work. And lo and behold, it succeeded. You even injected these into your relatives. If you don’t blurt it out, your role in this affair will never be revealed. Otherwise, even if it does come to light, I don’t think they’ll harm you, because on the one hand the astronauts would surely have enough sense to know that you are not at fault but the soldiers, or rather those who wanted the creation of Human Sapirs in the first place. On the other hand, they would never kill you because they have so few women up there. So make your decision Trinci. None of you are in our way—you are our friends, and even though there aren’t many of you, you are welcome guests here. I am just telling you this because I am convinced that one can only really feel good around one’s own kind, and I wouldn’t want you to be unhappy for the remainder of your long life. Not to mention Gigi. This way each of you can bear more children and take part in the reestablishment of the hekir race, which I have no objection to at all. There is no harm in the existence of hekirs. They should exist. A more diverse Universe is a more beautiful one, so it needs to be filled with life. But we both must live on separate planets. Then perhaps we will not quarrel.”
“All right,” sighed Trinci. “I’ll look for a high-powered military radio and make contact with them.”
So this she did. Up in the sky there was great jubilance. For there were survivors down below, and not just one either. And moreover they were all women. This was brilliant.
One month later when Trinci had learned after a fashion how to handle a space shuttle, all the remaining hekirs went aboard. They said farewell to the humans and took off. And they resolved to not say a single word to the astronauts above about the Human Sapirs. Because if they did, they might slay them in their fury. And so for the last time, Gigi and Zax had hugged each other. Then even Trinci had embraced Zax, but while doing so had whispered to him:
“I can’t help it Zax, but I still resent you. This massacre you carried out was horrendous! And I also feel guilty for it.”
“But Trinci, what makes you think that even if you were responsible for it, which I don’t believe, then purely bad things arose from your actions?”
“Well weren’t they? After all, an entire planet was destroyed, an entire civilization!”
“No, civilization wasn’t destroyed because we didn’t fall back into barbarity. We continued right where you left off. And the hekirs weren’t even wiped out, because now you will have your own planet, and soon be able to proliferate there. You might be glad if your race doesn’t multiply too much and have to live in separate countries, because you may all start killing each other again. It is true that many hekirs have now died. But please take note Trinci, that this is the price for enriching the Universe with a new intelligent race—us humans.”
“And is this of such great value?”
“I don’t know,” sighed Zax. “It is definitely of value if we consider a more diverse Universe to be valuable. It’s a kind of aesthetic value. And why shouldn’t we think like a worthy artist, especially because not one of your religions teaches that God created the world for the express purpose of taking delight in it.”
“And if I don’t accept this argument?”
“Then at least admit that you can’t know everything, and you can’t see into the future. I believe that in the long run things balance themselves out. According to this viewpoint, nothing terrible has happened. But it is even possible that this incident was part of some greater plan. After all, you never know whether or not there is some hidden reason that my race came into existence,” and Zax suddenly chuckled. “It may even turn out that in a few thousand years my race becomes the most loving, intelligent race in the entire Universe.”
“You really think so, when you have commenced as predators?”
“You are also predators Trinci. To slugs and other worms you are invincible, horrible predators, because you eat them.”
“But you humans are much bigger, much more dangerous, and particularly more violent predators.”
“We still might be capable of love.”
“You? So capable that you could be the most… huh, I can’t even say it because I don’t believe it. It’s completely absurd!”
“Why not? There were not many who believed that we humans could become intelligent, and look at us… yes, why not?”
“Well Zax, then do everything you can for this noble aim, and atone for your crime.”
“I will endeavor to,” replied Zax, and he embraced Trinci, kissing her forehead.
“Let it be so.” Trinci bowed in assent, and was the last to climb into the space shuttle. A few minutes later it rose up into the sky.
And although Zax himself wouldn’t have believed it either, he turned out to be right. Despite no longer being alive, a few thousand if not a few million years later, his race did indeed become the most loving and kind beings in the Universe, in fact in several universes, because they became the elves.
But for the legend of the elves, another story must be told.