Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Zoo - A Short Story

Walna glided to the front of the cage with her mother.  This was her first visit to the zoo, and she'd never seen such a varying mix of animals that people said were from the same species.  The first exhibit contained about 30 of the creatures, and several of them were bloody.

"Do they always fight like that, mama?"

"Most of them do.  They're only dangerous under two circumstances - when they can organize their levels of violence, and when they combine that organization with a small measure of technical civilization."

One of the animals threw itself at the cage and started pounding on the window, but a sharp electric shock was sufficient to cause it to retreat.  Still, Walna recoiled at the sight of so much ferocity.

"The ones in this cage look to be organized," she observed.

"Only a little bit.  Notice that it was a sole individual who tried to attack us, not the entire party.  And when they fight each other, it is usually on an individual basis.  However, there are small collectives that will fight for a common cause, such as the protection of a family unit or over food for a community."

Walna peered back into the habitat in awe.  Small groups were pushing each other here and there, but most of them just sat around in their filth.  One of them was beating another with a large stick, but the engagement was ignored by most of the community.

She just shook her head as they walked to another exhibit containing the same animals.  This one looked to be much more civilized - there were rudimentary amenities like plumbing and roads - but they also looked much more docile.  Most just wandered to and fro, barely acknowledging each other.

"These ones look nice," Walna said.

"They are, but they could've potentially been the most dangerous.  They possess a higher level of technology and skill, but our initial forays to their world removed any threat they could've posed."

"How?" asked Walna, genuinely curious.

"There is a chemical called 'testosterone' that the males of this species possess in great quantity.  That is, they possess it in great quantity if left alone, and this chemical can create heightened levels of violence, as well as stir greater rates of reproduction.  That had to be altered before we could properly bring them here for our enjoyment."

"What did we do?"

"We shamed their violent instincts through infiltration," her mother said as one of the beasts could be seen trailing what looked to be a female, its head downcast and its eyes on the ground.  "They once participated in violent games and acted in ways that would be dangerous if coupled with higher technology.  Through our infiltration, we softened these games and made them feel as if they could not showcase such things.  Yes, some resisted, but most were shamed into accepting our softening.  It only took a few males to go along before a cascade effect took place and the rest fell into line.

"Let's remember just how powerful the pull of reproduction is in this species.  When we convinced the female of the species to withhold reproductive activities from most of the males unless they altered their tendencies, it didn't take long for most males to fall into line.  We convinced them that instead of altering the perception of those entering into viewing contests or making social arrangements, the events themselves should be altered to accommodate the new participants."

Walna blinked at her mother.  "And they just went along with that?!?!  Such a disruption eats at the very fabric of society.  How could they not understand this?"

"Because of a trait inherent in the species - they want others to change rather than change themselves when entering a new environment.  And we helped, which aided our taking the species captive."

"How dangerous could they have been?  What if this group kept their tendencies, or the other group gained higher technology?"

"Very.  We may have still been able to count on the fact that many of them do not work well with those unfamiliar to them - a trait that recedes with greater levels of interaction - but it could've been a close call.  This species, bonded together and with access to greater technology and the ability to wield it violently, might not only have staved us off, but they could've eventually come after us as we did them.  Fortunately for us, we mellowed this group and denied the other."

Walna looked to see a group of males sitting around and crying over...something.  She couldn't imagine her own father crying unless her mother passed or his pet died, but this group simply sat and wept for no visible reason.  She nodded approvingly as she understood emotional outbursts of sadness tempered violent tendencies.  Possibly a good thing in a sterile environment, but they never counted on her people showing up.

"Any chance they revert?" Walna asked.

Her mother stroked her face with the end of her tail.  "No, my child.  The other group doesn't have access to anything to threaten us with, and if they get too bad, we'll just exterminate them.  This group is now so passive that I think they'd recoil at the mere inkling of trying to take control again.  Since they thought even channeled violence was a bad thing - akin to the explosive violence that marred their past - they cannot understand the split and will be unable to focus in any way in taking us on to free themselves."

Walna was glad for such things.  These pesky...what did her mother call them...humans(?)...were nothing to fear any more.  That the Frathiana took their world and their freedom didn't matter - the Frathiana were superior and deserved to be on top.  Humanity growing so weak that it couldn't stop them was proof enough.

"Can we look at another cage, mama?  These things are boring me now."

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