Bewildering Stories

Change the color of the text to:

Change the color of the background to:

The Deer Hunters

by Donald Sullivan

The Zorquin starship was in its fifth year of space exploration. Its mission was to search the galaxy for intelligent life and to welcome all peace loving cultures into The Galactic Union. Conversely, planets found to be populated with savage, barbaric people would be considered a threat to The Galactic Union and would be marked for destruction.

Ibyx, the science officer, studied the data supplied by the ship’s computer. “Looks like we’ve found another inhabited planet, Commander.”

“This far out toward the edge of the galaxy? Where is it, Ibyx?”

“My instruments tell me it’s in that group of stars directly in the center of your screen. There’s a star in there with nine planets; the one we want is the third one out.”

“Very well. Let’s go in and take a closer look. The usual procedure. We’ll go in close enough for our instruments to study the planet, but stay far enough out that they can’t detect us.”

The ship entered the star system, and parked near the fourth planet.

“We’re in pretty close,” said the commander. “Are you sure they don’t detect us?”

“There is no indication that they detect us. Apparently their equipment is primitive. At this range, we’ll be able to study them in fairly good detail.”

Ibyx completed his studies of the planet and reported to the commander. “We have completed our studies of the planet, commander. Are you ready for the report?”

“Yes, Ibyx, proceed.”

“The dominant species on this planet is very much like us. They walk upright on two legs as we do and their bodies bear a close resemblance to our bodies. But the resemblance ends at the head. They have no natural adornments on their heads as Zorquins do. Nothing grows from their heads except hair.”

The commander nodded. “Hmmm. Interesting.”

Ibyx continued. “The inhabitants of this world have a violent history of warfare, and even now there is fighting going on in many areas of the planet. At first glance, it would seem that we should just mark them for destruction and move on. But there may yet be hope for them.

“Though they are constantly warring with each other, at the same time they are struggling to attain peace. On the one hand, they are savage and barbaric. But on the other hand, they show a reverence for life and a desire for peace. Our studies on this planet are inconclusive. What do you suggest, commander?”

The commander thought about it for a few moments. “Commander Kryk in Sector Five was faced with a similar situation and came up with a solution. He chose to test a small group, and based his decision on the reaction of that group.

“And it was the right choice that Kryk made. That planet in Sector Five, though questionable at the time, is now a peaceful member of the Galactic Union. I will follow Commander Kryk’s example.

“Find an isolated group of the inhabitants, and we will send one unarmed Zorquin to make contact with them. He will approach them in a peaceful and friendly manner, bowing to them in the intergalactic sign of peace and goodwill. My decision will depend on the reaction of this group when faced with a lone, unarmed stranger approaching them peacefully.”

“A wise decision, Commander,” said Ibyx, “I will locate an isolated group.”

Ibyx decided that a forested area would be an ideal place to begin the search. After some time, he spotted a group moving through the forest.

“I have found four of them moving through a forest,”he told the commander. “They wear brightly covered headgear, and their clothing appears to be camouflaged. They carry strange looking devices that appear to be wooden handles affixed to metal tubes. The devices resemble instruments that our surveyors use to launch markers. They are probably surveyors. They are accompanied by several domesticated animals, probably trained to assist them in their surveying work.”

“Very well,” said the commander. “This group will serve as our trial group. Do we have a volunteer to establish contact with them?”

“I’ll volunteer,” said Ibyx. “I’m overdue for a mission such as this.”

“Prepare to beam down, then. The crew will be prepared to beam you up at the first sign of trouble.”

The ship’s crew watched intently as Ibyx materialized in a small clearing near the group of four. He moved through the brush toward the group, and halted when he realized that they had become aware of him. His presence seemed to cause excitement among the group. He quickly executed the sign of peace.

He bowed low, then raised his head until his stately antlers pointed skyward.

Copyright © 2003 by Donald Sullivan

Home Page