The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.
“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”
“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”
“Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”
“Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)
Still in her humanoid form, Qap gestured, “One place is not far off of our straight-line path along this body of water.” We drove on a hill now, to our right, the ground dropped away to a wide river below. The Mississippi River.
“Why would the Kiiote maintain a medical clinic this far from the Cities?”
She shook herself, the way an Earth dog would. In Kiiote is was the equivalent of Humans shrugging. She said, “I do not know; it is not common knowledge, but I can smell the place on the air. Its marker is distinctive.”
I looked at Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (retired) – in my mind, Lt. Retired – and said, “Why would they have a clinic up here, Sir?”
I slowed the truck down to take a sharp curve. Winter still held on to our part of the world, so the trees were leafless. It was dark and the only apparent light came from some of the objects the invisible headlights of the truck hit. Instead of visible light, I was driving by some sort of sonar image projected on the windshield. It was working really well this far away from the Cities. Travel was most likely restricted, and no Human in their right mind would go driving around at night. They’d be targeted by the Kiiote or the Yown’Hoo in a nano. The far shore of the River was dark as well and it was cloudy, so there was no moonlight. Some light reflected from the clouds above and even though I was pretty sure it was freezing cold outside, it was warm in the truck. Lt. Retired said once I was on a straight-away again, “It’s probably not a real clinic. More likely a mobile surgical hospital.”
“A MASH?” Kayla said suddenly from the back.
Lt. Retired turned and exclaimed, “What do you know about that?”
Her voice took on the sharp edge of her Attitude response. It was one of the things I’d learned to avoid when I could. Retired didn’t know about it obviously. She said, "I'd been watching historical documents regarding the Korean Police Action. They led me to an ancient drama-comedy program." She paused. "I don't see that there's much humor in people killing each other, though, so I'm not sure what the comedy element is."
Lt. Retired was silent for a moment then started to laugh. At first it was just a low "ha ha ha", then it grew until he was slapping his knee and howling. Strange as it was, the Kiiote joined with him just then, the high-pitch yips of the young overlaying the deeper, song-like sound the adults made. We'd traveled nearly three kilometers and were slowing down as we reached a ferry river crossing. He'd calmed down by then and when I stopped the truck to wait for the ferry to come back to our side of the river, he wiped his eyes and said, "War is hell, kid. That's why it's funny."
"Was the war you fought funny?" she asked.
A dark silence fell over the group. No one moved. I'd started to figure out some things about Lt. Retired -- he was in active action against the Kiiote -- which had to be the place he picked up gelp. It didn't exist on Earth as far as I knew; it grew on Kiiote starships; Dao-hi, the Yown-Hoo Herd mother told stories (I was pretty sure they were tall tales) about the adventures of her ancestors. They hadn't always fought the Kiiote, she said. Sometimes they were explorers going to weird alien worlds. Humans had once been that way -- we were just on the verge of launching full-force into space.
Then the Kiiote-Yown'Hoo war dropped down on top of us. Xurf was an historian and usually kept his mouth shut, but said, "War is never funny. It is the stuff of lament and the gnawing of dry bones."Lt. Retired said, "True -- but Humans find humor in everything."
The Herd Mother, Dao-hi snapped the tip of one tentacle -- her people's expression of irony. "Humans are a deviant Order. Most intelligences we have encountered have no sense of humor -- at least not in the way Humans uniquely express it."
"So there no aspects of your war with the Kiiote that you find humorous?" Shayla asked, incredulous.
Lt. Retired held up a hand for silence, then gave me another signal that clearly meant "slow down". I did, moving forward as the ferry slid across the slow-moving water. Shayla whispered, "Is this still the Mississippi?"
"What?" Lt. Retired made a chopping motion. I could practically feel Shayla bristle. She hated when anyone cut her off. I figured it was because she held her personal advice in higher regard than the rest of us did.
"I'll have you..." she began as the night lit up in brilliant fire outside the truck.