“Do you get my point now?”
The knife had gone in through the eye, buried to the hilt. The enormous fighter fell to his knees, and then face forward to the ground. Unmoving. Dead.
The alien delegation showed little if any emotion. They were stoic at the best of times. Indifferent most of the time.
After such a taxing week, this outcome was not what he had envisioned. He had tried, again and again, to negotiate, but to no avail.
Finally, his alien counterpart had asked if he’d be willing to try their negotiating style. Frustrated, he had agreed before asking what was involved.
The aliens do not negotiate, it turns out. They follow a weird ritualistic series of champion combats until only one of the participants is left alive, and that is the party that determines the outcome of the “negotiation”.
He should have known better.
Getting the Saurians to agree to meet was difficult, at the beginning of all this. Communicating the peaceful intentions of the human race took many tries. Convincing them that it was not a trap cost many lives. On both sides.
Finally, both parties hammered out a fragile truce.
Both races agreed to meet on a bearly habitable planet, conveniently located in a system between the neighboring areas of influence.
It all started a couple of years before. A chance encounter in a new world.
His task, to negotiate a peace treaty with the Saurians. He tried to explain that they wanted to avoid killing. He tried to explain that the human race had not known they were intruding in their space. He tried to explain that they were simply explorers. He tried to explain that once they found out the Saurians claimed the planet and sector of space as theirs, they were perfectly willing to explore somewhere else. He tried unsuccessfully to explain that they wanted a peaceful relation, commerce, and cultural interchange. He tried to convey that war was most definitely not the desired outcome of their exploring that sector of space.
His counterpart met all his arguments and declarations with absolute indifference. The Saurian simply reclined on the other side of the negotiating table and stared at him through yellow, slit pupil eyes.
At one point, he asked if they understood what he was saying.
The guttural sounds were promptly translated. Yes. They understood what he said, they didn’t understand what he wanted.
“Peace.” He said, trying hard to keep his emotions in check. “We want peace. We want a good relation with you. We want to be your neighbors, to learn from you, to trade with you.”
“What is trade?”
“The exchange of goods. If there is something you have we want or need, we offer something of ours you may want or need.”
The Saurian delegation looked at each other and a lot of grunting and hissing was followed by a stunning declaration.
“We do not trade. We take what we want. We have others take things from us if we can’t keep them. We do not trade.”
He sighed in frustration.
“Then, you can learn from us. We can trade and avoid violence.”
“Violence is the way. Violence determines the best. Violence eliminates the sick, the weak, the unfit. We are the best. We know this. Trade does not seem to be a valuable concept.”
“You only have to give it a chance. Once you see that you can obtain things without violence or conflict, you will see the benefits. Your numbers will grow and—”
“Our numbers grow when there is a need. When we expand our influence, when we fight others, when we fight among ourselves. Otherwise, we are a stable, triumphant society. If we are threatened by a larger force, we grow as a single people. There can be many of us made quickly if needed. We have yet to find it necessary in the last thousand seasons.”
He didn’t fully understand what the Saurian said. He shook his head and plowed on.
“My point is, there is no need for violence between our people. We want to trade without the loss of life or damage to property or goods.”
“Life can not be lost. It is triumphant or it is vanquished, it is never lost. Goods are used. If they are no longer useful, they are changed or abandoned.”
“You are missing the point. We do not want to fight you. We do not want war. Do you want war? Do you want violence?”
The Saurian took some time before answering these questions, perhaps he had finally made a dent in that thick lizard skull.
“Wanting has nothing to do with violence. Violence is or is not. The way to resolve conflicts goes through violence. Conflict is violence.”
He shook his head. It was like talking to a wall. Or, perhaps, the translation was not being effective? He was saying something and the message was getting lost? Maybe the Saurian’s words were being translated wrong?
“Do you understand war? Do you understand that… violence… leads to war? That we will destroy you and yours and you will destroy some of us and, at the end of it all, we will both have suffered casualties and destruction?”
“It’s the way. Those triumphant take what they want. The vanquished serve their purpose. It is the way.”
The thick-skulled lizard… wait…
“What do you mean the vanquished serve their purpose?”
“When vanquished, they are either food or servants. They have been vanquished, so they have no purpose other than what the triumphant gives them.”
Weird. “And… what do the… triumphant have them do? Do you take them in as servants? Are they part of your household? And, what do you mean when you say they serve as food?”
“Some, we have in our fiefdom so they can be of use. The stronger ones, we use for training and physical chores. The females, we consume.”
“You eat the vanquished females?”
“Of course. They are unfit for reproduction. They are weaker than males. What else can we do with them? We can not let them go to waste.”
He sat back on the chair. He was appalled. They were cannibals. They ate their own for the sin of weakness. Not even weakness, the sin of losing in a conflict. He was starting to revaluate if this was a good idea after all.
“My point is, we do not want a conflict between our people. We do not want violence between our people. We want peace. We want to know you and your society, to understand. To learn from you.”
“We do not find this to be of interest. We will continue our exploration and expansion. Our influence will grow. If we clash with you, there will be violence between us. You’ll be vanquished. Or you will be triumphant. From what we know of you and yours, you will be vanquished. At this time, we do not want anything from you. We can tolerate you for now.”
Three days of fruitless arguments had him drained.
“Surely, there is a way that does not involve an all-out war between your people to resolve differences. There has to be. You are not in a constant state of war, are you?”
“It is a foolish question. We do have a way to avoid large scale violence. When strong adversaries face-off, the damage to us can be great. We proceed to minimize the conflict and the result is accepted as would a full-scale war.” The Saurian stood up straight. “Do you wish to resolve this difference thus? Are you qualified to select the participating delegation?” He looked at each of us. “Do you have others you can command, or are these your best?”
“We are the designated negotiating team. I am, indeed, the lead negotiator. We will try your way. Ours is certainly not progressing well.”
“Very well. Tomorrow, then. Be at the valley towards the sunrise, at sunrise. Have three of your best. We will be there then. We will resolve this.”
The lead Saurian turned and left with the entourage.
“So, what do you think that’s about?”
“I don’t know, Colonel, but I think we should have two able body people accompany me tomorrow. This might get weird.”
The next day, they arrived at the valley floor just as the sun was peeking over the mountains. The delegations were on opposite sides of the small valley. A group of three came towards them from the other side. His two companions walked with him the rest of the way, to meet the Saurians at the lowest point of the valley floor.
The three Saurians walked up. They wore bandoliers, all had many knives. They also carried enormous swords. They had metal wrist braces. They looked barbaric and very dangerous.
“Do you not have dueling weapons? Do you think you can face us weaponless?” The nictitating membrane covered the eye for a second. “This is foolish. You will be vanquished in seconds. It would be most unsatisfying.”
“Wait, we don’t want to fight, we want to negotiate.”
“The combat will determine the course of action. If we win, we will proceed as we wish, if you win, we will proceed as you wish.”
“But… this is not what we talked about.”
“It is. Which of you is the first?”
The other two with him were soldiers and were armed, but not with edge weapons. He turned to see them, looking for a way out.
“If you want to fight, we’ll take you on.” The younger one said.
“What are you doing?” He asked, unsettled.
“With those knives and swords? We’ll take them out and that’ll be the end of this impasse.” He smiled coldly. “Call the Colonel. He figured this might end up in a fight, he asked us to be ready.”
The Saurian pointed to the weapons. “You may not use those. You need to use weapons that will draw blood. We will forgive your ignorance this once.”
“Wait.” He was losing control of the situation fast.
“Well, if we can’t use these, what are we supposed to use?” His young aid said.
“You can use one of ours. We will not need them all for the likes of you. Your hide is soft, offers no protection, you will be easily vanquished.”
The bouts were quick. One on one. The first Saurian killed the young man. Then the other aid killed that Saurian and took on the next one. They were both badly wounded, and the human eventually had the upper hand. Then the lead Saurian killed him quickly, although his leg took damage in the bout.
“It comes to us. It usually does.”
“Please,” He said picking up the bloodied knife from the lifeless hand of his aid. “We don’t want more violence. We have lost two already. We need not lose anymore.”
“We are not finished. You have performed surprisingly well. I will vanquish you and we will take your people over. It is the best outcome.”
“You are missing the point. We will not submit meekly to an invasion.”
“If you lose you will forfeit your people’s right to defend themselves. That’s the way.”
“That’s my point! That’s not our way. We did not understand what was at stake.”
The Saurian jumped forward and in a smooth motion tried to skewer him with the knife.
He dodged the thrust and the Saurian was off balance for a second. The injured leg faltered and he failed to regain his footing.
He didn’t think, he reacted. He had experience in hand to hand combat, not to the death, of course, but he did know that you took advantage of the opportunities as they presented themselves.
As the Saurian pivoted on his uninjured leg, the knife arm was exposed. He didn’t hesitate, he made a vicious cut at the joint between the arm and the torso. A fountain of dark, hot blood rewarded him.
“With that injury, you will certainly lose. Please, stop. We don’t need to kill each other.”
“It is the way.” The grunted answer swiftly followed by a faint to the left and a devastating blow on the right.
If it had been the knife-wielding hand, he’d be dead.
“I don’t want to kill you, but you are making it very hard on me.”
The Saurian didn’t respond but slowly moved to try to flank him.
“For the last time. All we want is peace. Don’t you understand?”
The Saurian jumped at him, hindered by the leg. The thrust was strong and carried the large fighter well within his reach.
The Saurian overextended. Easily, he grabbed the lead hand and pulled it, further destabilizing the fighter.
The face was close. The opportunity, golden.
Peace was right there, his for the taking. It would cost a life, but it would prevent many deaths on both sides.
He thrust with his knife and ended the conflict.
He had conquered. He won peace. Not the way he wanted, not the way he intended, but it was, after all, his goal and charge.
Peace was the point of the whole exercise.