Confrontation by David Macfie
Jamie rapidly led his colleagues to the canteen. They collected their food and sat round their table. Brian Faulkner was first to speak.
“Their attitude to us is insulting,” he commented. “They are treating us like possessions or perhaps assets that can be used or abused as they see fit. I will not cooperate with them if they continue in this way. I will do anything I can to disrupt their plan and I will escape back to earth as soon as I’m able to do so. As far as staying for a year if I want to go back is concerned, I consider that suggestion preposterous.”
The murmurs of assent round the table made it clear that the others shared Brian’s views. Jamie was about to reply, when Teacher appeared and came quickly to his shoulder.
“Jamie Calhoun, come with me. I am instructed to immediately escort you to Komando-Ka’s space.”
The response from the table was instantaneous and negative. Jamie held up his hands and the captives quietened down.
“Relax, guys,” Jamie said, quietly but firmly. “I think I need this meeting with Komando-Ka just as much as he needs it with me. Stay here until I get back. Don’t agree to go anywhere else. Do you hear that, Teacher?”
“I hear it, Jamie Calhoun. I will accept your wishes unless I receive a specific instruction to the contrary.”
“Make it clear, to who-ever might be unwise enough to issue such an instruction, that it will not be willingly complied with. I’m sure the Taurians do not wish a rebellion from us at this time. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Jamie Calhoun, I understand you. I will make it clear. Now please accompany me.”
Jamie got up and followed the robot. They walked to the left past the ablutions and away from the meeting space. On the way, Jamie noticed five spaced doors. Teacher saw him looking at them.
“Yes, Jamie Calhoun,” he said. “You are correct. Those are the doors to the accommodation for yourself and the others. I think you will find the spaces acceptable.”
Jamie looked closely at Teacher.
“Are you able to hear my thoughts?” he asked, suspiciously.
“No, I cannot do that, but your actions seemed indicative of your thoughts so I reached a deduction as to what was in your mind.”
Jamie was silent, while he got to grips with this further evidence of just how advanced these robots actually were. Teacher led for about five hundred meters in a gentle curve of unmarked passageway. After the five doors, Jamie couldn’t see any further evidence of other rooms. Finally they arrived in a large circular space with four other passages leading off it. There were also openings into box shaped cubicles that looked like the insides of lifts. They were much bigger than earth lifts but, then, the Taurians were much bigger than humans. He was proved correct when Teacher led him into one and pressed a button. The lift was smooth and rapid and in no time it stopped and the pair stepped out. The space was circular and very large – at least eighty meters in diameter – and completely domed in a see-through material that presented a panoramic view of the starscapes outside of the spacecraft. In the center of the circle were five work areas, each occupied by a Taurian at a circular desk surrounded by equipment including large monitors and many surfaces with buttons and dials. The imposing figure of Komando-Ka strode about looking over the shoulders of those at work. Teacher led Jamie to the Taurian leader’s side and retreated to the entrance of the lift.
Jamie remained silently waiting until Komando-Ka chose to speak.
“Jamie Calhoun, I find you discourteous and hostile and I would like to warn you not to continue in this way,” were the commander’s opening words.
Jamie immediately bristled with irritation. He thought carefully before he spoke but decided that he must confront the Taurian now rather than later. He figured if he left it alone for much longer, the superior attitude would just get worse.
“And, Komando-Ka, I find you arrogant, superior and condescending. Not to mention insensitive and perhaps a little stupid,” he replied.
The Taurian turned sharply and rushed towards the much smaller human, who didn’t flinch. Jamie looked right into the towering figure’s eyes.
“As I said, perhaps a little stupid,” he repeated, quietly. “I am a superbly trained warrior and I have plenty of experience against much larger opponents. Unless you have a weapon that can stop me in my tracks, I know about fifteen ways to kill you instantly. Do you want to take this confrontation into a physical one or will we be civilized about our exchange of views?”
The Taurian stopped and glared at the unresisting but completely immobile human. He barked an order to Teacher in his own language, then remained as he was, still glaring and clearly very angry. In a short while Teacher returned with an even bigger Taurian that looked like a fighter. Jamie sized him up and saw that he was in perfect physical condition and decided if he had to fight this Taurian, he’d have to be quick and clinical. He waited quietly. Komando-Ka took the fighter to the side and spoke to him in the Taurian language. Jamie made a mental note that he must learn Taurian as soon as possible. He watched carefully and saw the fighter straighten up as if coming to attention. The two returned, both staring fixedly at Jamie. The commander’s next words came as no surprise.
“Jamie Calhoun, this is Pantando-Ka. He is the best warrior on this ship. He is also my son. I have instructed him to combat you and see if you are any kind of fighter. My instructions are clear. He must render you helpless as quickly as he can, without doing you fatal damage. I issue the same instruction to you with regard to him. Let me see if you can earn the respect that you demand.”
He led the two to the largest empty space in the room and they faced off. Komando-Ka and Teacher stood well to the side to watch. Meanwhile, Jamie had been studying his adversary closely and had noticed a slight hitch in his stride when he was standing on his left leg. He wondered if he was being misled, but decided it was worth the chance.
“Begin,” instructed the commander.
Pantando-Ka charged with inhuman speed, but Jamie was ready and stood his ground, in a completely relaxed posture and staring into his opponents eyes. He saw a moment of doubt cross the Taurian’s face but the intimidating figure relentlessly and rapidly advanced. At the last possible moment, Jamie ducked and drove his shoulder as strongly as he could into the shin, just below the knee of his opponent’s left leg. The result was even better than he’d hoped. Pantando-Ka’s impetus carried him forward but his knee buckled and tipped him off balance so that he, almost horizontally, sailed over Jamie’s body. Jamie was on his feet in an instant and reached his opponent’s body as it crashed awkwardly and heavily onto the floor. He followed it down, reached an arm around the Taurian’s throat and locked the grip to apply suffocating pressure. At the same time he sat on Pantando-Ka’s back and braced his legs on each side to prevent his adversary from turning over. He dragged the Taurian’s head back into a lethal position. A quick yank would break the neck and Pantando-Ka was already struggling to breathe. It was very clear that Jamie was the victor and the commander instantly intervened.
“I think that you have proved your claim, Jamie Calhoun. Please release my son.”
Jamie did so instantly and helped the Taurian to his feet. The knee was clearly a problem and the fighter couldn’t stand on that leg. Jamie turned to the commander.
“Please tell your son that I’m sorry to have taken advantage of his previous injury. It was the quickest way I could see to win the contest. Please tell him that I would be honored if he would agree to train with me and teach me to speak your language. If that is acceptable of course.”
Jamie saw a reaction on the commander’s face that might have been approval. He waited while his words were passed on. He saw a similar reaction on the son’s face but was surprised when Pantando-Ka faced him and bowed like a Samurai. Then he was even more surprised when his hand was taken and shaken in a human gesture of congratulation. At the same time Pantando-Ka nodded in a clear acceptance of Jamie’s suggestion. He then turned and limped away. Komando-Ka faced Jamie.
“Jamie Calhoun, I learned something valuable from this display. You are a man of courage, skill, insight and, above, all honor. You mastered my son in an instant by recognizing his weakness and exploiting it. You also knew that you could not match him in strength and so used guile. You did not kill him when you had him at your mercy. All of these prove that you are worthy of respect and so I will brief my crew of what has transpired. From this moment we will treat you and your colleagues as equals in a great endeavor. You and I will have regular meetings to discuss anything and everything pertaining to the human involvement in this project. I have thought again about the things you have told me before and I have made two further decisions. First, we will not try to force breeding amongst you. The pairs will still live together but nature will be allowed to take its course. Second we will approach future candidates in a more amenable way. Perhaps one of the pairs from your group could act as intermediaries once we are ready for more recruits?”
“You are most gracious Komando-Ka,” replied Jamie, with a bow of respect. “I do not think you will regret these decisions. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you. I will relate what happened to my friends. I think they will be pleased and reassured.”