2007.11.13 "I hate Trops"

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"I hate Trops."

I swivel one ear towards my Human comrade while I cock the other to listen for threats from behind. "Do you mean the various Trop species in general, or is there an individual of concern?"

The Human tilts its tankard of Anurian ale and takes a deep swallow, then makes a face as the swallow sinks home. "A bit of both, really. See the trio in the corner?"

Instead of giving away my attention, I query the Human a tightbeam access to his sensors, and I'm given the same view. "Aye. I think they're not really a threat to us, though."

"Yeah, well, they look like they think they could be. They're having some sort of heated discussion, just not vocally, and their eyestalks keep tilting in our direction as if they're constantly reassessing us."

I watch the dynamic for myself through the Human's too-bright sensors. "Kind of an odd grouping, that trio. A Trolian, a Yiptak, and a Tuskat. The three kinds of Trops are usually not very compatible."

"Neither are Humans and Massetins, usually."

I sneer, showing a fang in mock frustration. "Good point." I pick up my own tankard from the bar top and contemplate the mysterious truth of ale. "Things get complicated when dealing with specific circumstances, but that doesn't mean there aren't some pragmatic uses in careful application of generalizations."

The Human grins at me with it's infuriating human-ness. "Generally speaking, that's not something you'd normally hear from a Massetin." Then the Human squints and hunches over, and uses an abnormally hoarse tone of voice. "GRAR! Zarking human too noisy! Die human die! I KILL you now! KILL!!" I think it's impersonating a stereotype of my species.

I sense the bar getting a bit quieter, and can well imagine the various patrons watching my comrade for further signs of dementia. Or whatever. I try to ignore the metaphysical spotlight. "Actually, I think you'll find that most Massetins wouldn't say that much, and instead would just growl at you or howl as they attacked you."

"Exactly my point. How come you're as verbose as a Human, and almost never attack anybody for no reason?"

I crook a talon at the Human. "Watch it." I find myself remembering a similar conversation a couple decades earlier, though in that one I ended up howling and shooting my ex-partner in the face. It felt good, but it caused more problems than it was worth.

"OK, what I mean is that you seem a lot smarter than most Massetins." I suspect the Human caught a good gist of my agitation, because there's a distinctly increased glow of heat from its face. Blushing, I think they call it.

"I'm not though. If I were at all intelligent, I'd find some real work or develop some meaningful technical skill. Instead, I'm just a goon with a talent for strategy."

My Human comrade surreptitiously makes its filament rifle ready for use. "Speaking of which, the Trops seem to have moved past the planning stages of their interaction with us." It makes my spines start to stand up, and I have to fight down a growl.

I turn on my bar stool to take a proper look for myself, and sure enough the Trops are completely failing to look nonchalant as they spread out. I give the big Yiptak a particularly baleful stare for a moment, as I visualize shooting it in the forehead. Suppressing the urge to snatch out my old NST pistol, I say to the Human out loud, "Drop the Yiptak."

The Yiptak's eyestalks go wide as it gets ready to duck, and I can see it contemplating charging us with its force blades as planned or diving for cover. My comrade snaps its rifle to its shoulder as it rolls off the bar stool into a balanced crouch, and takes aim. The Trolian Trop is actually the one to shoot first, but in its haste we barely have to duck. The Tuskat has disappeared. I tell the Yiptak, "Run away."

It doesn't. Instead, it lunges forward in an impressive charge. Stupidly, it's charging at me. I just back up out of its reach, and my comrade snaps a filament into the back of the Yiptak's skull. The tall Trop tumbles headlong at my feet. After a pause, the other Trops bolt for the door and the outer gloom.

The Human and I exchange glances, and sit back down to address our ales.

"Apparently you think I need practice."

I finish a swallow. "No, not really. I just figured we only needed to take out the Yiptak to scare off the others, so we wouldn't have to kill them too. Generally, Yiptaks are a source of aggression, while Tuskats are a source of discretion. Reduce their group's aggression and let discretion become more primary."

"That still doesn't explain why you didn't do anything."

"You didn't need help."

"I guess I feel like they all deserved to be killed. You should have taken care of the Yiptak when it charged while I sniped the Trolian, then we could hunt down the Tuskat and maybe eat it."

I find myself involuntarily gagging at the thought of eating Tuskat Trop. "You're disgusting! They taste terrible."

"I was just kidding. I thought that was just anecdotal."

"It's not."

The Human took another long swallow of ale. "Well, that's another reason to hate Trops: they taste bad. In addition to being either cowardly or dangerous. Plus they always seem to be the ones that want to try to jump me in bars. I hate Trops."

"Yeah, me too." I say it with a rumble of amusement.

The Human snorts, "Like that means anything. Massetins hate everybody."

A new voice says, "Excuse me." Both the Human and I are startled. It's the Tuskat, just a few meters away. "S-sorry. Didn't mean to make you spill your drinks. Do you mind if we heal our friend?"

I wonder how difficult it would be to wipe the ale off my leg spines using the Tuskat's face. My Human comrade speaks up instead, "Sure, that would be fine."

We wait with forced calm while the Trops work to revive their friend. And they appear to be successful; the big Trop scrambles to its feet, possibly only suffering mild brain damage, and they leave.

"That was pretty damn brave, for a Tuskat."

I tip my head in agreement. "That was pretty damn tolerant for somebody who hates Trops."

"I like bravery more than I hate Trops. Besides, you've got to acknowledge exceptions to the generalizations. Otherwise the generalizations could overwhelm your thinking."