mate’s life, as well as that of my . . . colleague . . . Swirl-Stripes and other humans. I have helped explore the swamp, and am well aware of the vast variety of life-forms there, many rare and . . .” it was a strange, difficult word to pronounce . . . “beautiful. Never will I forget watching the creatures of the swamp passing through the water by Marshy’s window—the procession of bright creatures passing was one of the wonders of this world—or the bioluminescent life-forms at night. Further, there are the dolphins, your allies. And our sentient brothers, at least. For them it is hunting ground and nursery. There are land-dwelling animals on the bigger islands, and stretches of blue water. Future generations will thank us for preserving it.”
“Didn’t the kzin burn the heart out of it during the war?” someone asked.
“Assessing the damage was one of the purposes of my expedition,” Vaemar replied. “Although other events overtook us, I am happy to report that it appears to be recovering rapidly. I believe in a few years no trace of damage will remain, if it is simply left untouched. And the expedition team I went on was good training for me in leading a mixed human-kzin team successfully.”
“And you brought out specimens of value,” piped up one old fellow, evidently trying to be helpful.
“Yes. Among other things, the only surviving specimens we know of unattached Jotok on this planet. They are being reared at the monastery.” He had also brought out Karan, but she was not the business of these men.
“There are many other swamps,” said someone. It was true. Frequent meteor strikes had left much of Wunderland’s coast riddled with circular holes like a Swiss cheese. Nonetheless, Vaemar’s words seemed to have moved the meeting. Further, they had forgotten the dolphins, and many felt guilty of their forgetfulness at Vaemar’s reminder.
Vaemar could feel a current running against the interjector. It was not merely a subjective impression. Like all male kzin, he had a rudimentary ability to detect emotions, which with the telepaths was developed into a complete sense. Like most kzin he had felt rather embarrassed by this, precisely because of its connection with the despised telepath caste. Suddenly he realized what a useful political asset it might be.
“We kzin,” he continued, “have at times destroyed species in our wars, but never willingly or wantonly. Even when the Chunquen fired missiles at us from their submerged sea-ships, we only boiled part of their seas.”
“Very nice of you,” someone muttered. Vaemar looked at the interjector, who seemed to suddenly shrink under his gaze. Vaemar was big, even for a kzin.
“But why should a kzin want to go into politics at all?” a heavily built man with a ginger beard sat next to the woman and scowled as he asked his question. The panel were seated around a table, and Vaemar stood before it, looming over them. When he had come into the room, the chairman had invited him to sit in the solitary chair facing the table, and then stopped in embarrassment. Kzin didn’t normally use chairs, and few human chairs would have survived, this one clearly would not. Then he had been asked if he would care to lie down on the carpet, and had politely declined. Nobody argued the point.
“My species is sharing this world with yours. We have the vote, although I do not know of a kzin who has used it. So far we have been somewhat dismissive of the political process, but that must change in time. I am the first to consider standing for public office, but I will not be the last. When the kzin see that they have some measure of control over their own future by reasoned debate, they will start taking an interest. It is not in our traditions, this democracy. But not all human beings have been used to it either. Perhaps it is similar to the way in which Japan on your homeworld came to accept and even embrace what must have seemed a very alien way of