“The ancients among us have always been called the Eldar, son, though considering how strangely some Crestonians behave, Peculiar might be a more appropriate title… Here, give me that dissecting knife. The thin one on the left. Yes, thank you.”
My stomach always lurched at the first incision. Sometimes I wondered if I was really a full-blooded Cresta. I gripped the edge of the steel table with one tentacle, passed the knife to my father with another, and wiped my face with a third.
“One has to pass fifth century mark to be assigned to the Eldar circle, but since advancements in health and fitness has increased our life span, nearly every Cresta has a good chance of becoming Elder, at least for a time… Dark waters! I don’t think he died naturally. Look at that green gelatinous mass.”
“What does it mean, Taugron?”
“It means that we have a traitor among us. Don’t look so surprised. Crestas are devoted to science—not to each other.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Dig deeper of course. Now, about your question. The Eldar believe that Cresta is one of the strongest races in existence.”
“But you don’t?”
“Pull that flap of skin back, please. And open a sample case. I’m going to do a little more research into this poison. It looks like it grew from a seed. I wonder if was served on land or in water…”
“Would it make any difference?”
“Of course. Think! Our senses are nearly perfect in water. Normally we’d pick up an anomaly in a matter of seconds. But on land, we’re much more vulnerable. Also, most aliens we associate with are terrestrials…”
“But you said a traitor. A non-Cresta can’t be a traitor.”
“There are many kinds of traitors. Even a well-intentioned Cresta can become a traitor. It all depends on how things turn out… Ah, I see I have confused you. You see, I do not hold with all the beliefs of our Eldars, and some would label me a traitor if given the chance.”
“Why? What do you believe?”
“See? The pod is still attached and it has a smooth, blue coating, much like the Winnieria seed found in shallow waters. It’s completely harmless so no one would care if they swallowed one or a dozen. But this… This is the work of—”
“No, on the contrary, a very clever mind. Take a look at the face. This dead Cresta is nothing but a shell of his former self, but once upon a time he was a great servant of our race. But he was vulnerable. We all are. If we had new blood, fresh ideas, and adaptive physiology, we could survive even the most nefarious schemes.”
“Is that your plan? Your good intention?”
“Yes, though nothing really grand. I’d simply like to crossbreed our kind with another race and prove it can be done successfully. I’d start with a human; they may be fragile, but they have certain adaptabilities that intrigue me. Eventually we’ll be able to blend our mental acumen with Ingoti strength, Uanyi creativity, and Bhuac adaptability. We would become—”
“Near enough. Even he-I-won’t-name would be impressed. In fact… never mind. You’re too young. Some day perhaps. But in the mean time, take this cadaver to the incinerator. Now that I have the key to his death, we can get on with our work.”
“Will I become an Eldar, father?”
“Perhaps. If you live long enough. But remember, son, it isn’t about living a long life…it’s about advancing. If you don’t advance… you might as well be dead.”
“Are you all right? You look upset.”
“No, nothing of the sort. You may go now. The incinerator will do the rest.”
“If you’re sure… Taug, your father will be missed. He was a noble Eldar with fine vision—even in the darkest water.”
“Perhaps you will carry on his vision?”
“Perhaps… Go ahead now. I need to send a message…”
Attention: Ingal Department of Internal-Security. Private.
The remains are clean and disposed of. There is no sign of the traitor’s work left on Crestar and the lab has been dismantled.
I am, as always, ever at your service.
Taug, son of Taugron