killer_instinct.gif (3406 bytes)

Phillip A. Mucha



A beast crouched, silent and unmoving, in the shadows at the edge of the treeline. Its concentration focused on a path clearing where it planned to ambush its intended prey. The massive creature had been awaiting the arrival of its victim for some time now, all the while, consciously, slowing the body's heartbeat and breathing rate so as not to alert the prey to its presence. With claws retracted and fangs sheathed so their polished brilliance would not provide a warning signal to betray its natural camouflage, the creature used the calculated time available to complete the final preparations for the attack. The beast contracted all of the muscles required to launch such a massive body, to a level so taut that the heavy muscular bands threatened to snap from the tension. Suddenly, the creature's brain reacted to an awareness from outside of the body. Detecting a new scent in the thin air and a strange sound carried on the scant morning breeze, the beast sensed that the time to attack was near.

The youngling emerged from around the brush bordering the winding path. With youthful and careless abandon, he approached the clearing. Looking with the eyes of the young and innocent, he surveyed his immediate surroundings. The youngling took note of the varied foliage bordering the garden path and of the fine red sands, at his feet, being gently stirred by the morning breeze. Looking up, the new day's red sun shone down to caress his face in warmth. He did not, however, observe the peril awaiting him from the shadows. Content with his surroundings, the youngling continued his journey along the path.

With complete control, the predator began to order the body to release adrenalin to all muscles. It had to be extremely careful at this stage. Such a chemical imbalance might cause it to become careless and lose the advantage of surprise. As the adrenalin surged throughout its massive body, the creature experienced a split-second loss of concentration, and a low growl rumbled deep in its throat. Now, the attack must come quickly.

Alarmed by a strange sound invading the garden's tranquil setting, the youngling spun around in his tracks to locate the source of the disturbance. Still unable to recognize any danger he, nonetheless, maintained a cautious attitude and crouched down in an attempt to shield his presence in the surrounding brush. He reasoned that it would be prudent to remain silent and still until presented with more information before deciding on what course of action to take. He sensed nothing near him. But, still he waited.

With red eyes locked onto the young prey, the huge beast calculated the distance separating it from his prize and determined that only one great leap was necessary to reach his quarry. With the youngling now motionless, the predator launched its attack.

The young boy heard the sound of foliage crunching, beneath a great weight, from behind him. He whirled around to face the approaching intruder. Upon completing his turn, he became frozen in panic by a thunderous roar that reached down to the very core of his being. Before he could recover from the onslaught of sound and motion, he was harshly cuffed, from the path into the bordering brush, by a massive paw. The boy's next awareness was of steaming hot breath and a monstrous muzzle descending upon his face. He threw his arms out above him in an attempt to stave off the inevitable ending. But, the creature was too powerful. All was lost.

The great predator dropped its gaping fanged muzzle to the boy's face, and, with one massive swipe...licked the boy's face from chin to forehead.

"I'Chaya, you ridiculous sehlat!!" cried Spock. "I do not have time for this nonsense now!"

With mock annoyance, Spock scolded the great furry beast as he struggled to free himself from under his pet. Finally, the sehlat lazily withdrew from its position over the boy. But, not before affecting one last quick lick to Spock's cheek.

Now able to raise himself from a most unflattering position, Spock set to straightening his clothing and wiping his face dry. I'Chaya sat nearby, tail stub wagging slowly, awaiting his turn for the boy's attention.

"You appear to be insufferably pleased with yourself," commented Spock. And, in a sterner voice, he continued, "Well, I do not find your behavior to be the least bit amusing." Although Spock was speaking to his pet in a berating manner, he was unconsciously scratching I'Chaya behind the ears.

The sehlat, sensing that his young friend harbored no real anger toward him, merely closed his eyes and basked in the wonderful feelings he always enjoyed when Spock petted him.

"Oh, I'Chaya," said Spock in an exasperated tone, "Why do I continually tolerate your illogical ways?" Spock did not expect an answer from the sehlat. Nor did he stop petting the beast.

I'Chaya began to purr from the pleasure he was receiving from his young companion. As he opened his eyes to gaze upon his friend and master, the contented sehlat witnessed a slight smile beginning to form on young Spock's face. While sitting side by side, relaxing in the affection they both shared, peace returned to the garden.

main.gif (14802 bytes)

Free counters provided by Andale.
banner.gif (2815 bytes)

This story can be found in printed form in ORION ARCHIVES 2229-2265  THE BEGINNINGS1
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES -- 2234-2265 The Beginnings.
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES On-Line Fiction.
Click Here to Return to the Orion Press Website