Tall and slender, Minnow Smith ran across the beach, gliding over pebbles and barely touching the foaming surface of the water. He was an ephroy, the bastard spawn of the invading humans and a creature that occupied the same ecological niche on Earth as predatory insects such as wasps, and which reproduce through pollination. It is this pollen that embedded in the skin of the first colonists, mating with human stem cells in the epidermis, producing pregnant boils that erupted after six weeks with ephroy nymphs. Most were killed or excised, but since most of the colonists were also scientists, many were curious to see what they developed into. The nymphs were fully mobile and fed on vegetation until they grew to about ten inches in height, when they shed their wings. At this juvenile stage they were extremely vulnerable to the fauna of the planet so some of the colonists took them in and raised them as children. They acquired human speech readily, and were excellent at artistic endeavors but were unable to understand mathematics beyond simple counting on their long fingers. At the end of their juvescent stage, around five years of age, the ephroy stood fifty percent taller than their human parents, but were gentle, caring, agile, and enjoyed singing. They were originally thought to be sterile, but about ten percent of ephroy could mate with each other, even though they lacked specific binary genders. The offspring were genetically more closely related to humans, and subsequent generations were nearly indistinguishable to humans, though they were immune to being pollinated themselves.
Minnow looked back at the humans chasing him. They rode muscular stallions, sweating and neighing with exertion. The humans wore vulcanized suits and thick goggles that completely covered their skin, even though it was not the pollination season. The slick black suits glinting in moonlight and hooves of the horses split the incoming waves into white spray. He knew he could easily outrun a human, but the horses were gaining. The strip of beach was narrowing, with the dark forest and the waves and his inability to swim converging in. One of the humans cracked a whip, and it nearly licked at him. Panting, Minnow stopped abruptly.
The horses soon gained on him, and the humans quickly circled around. One of the humans extended a spear towards Minnow, pointing the business end at his nose.
"Where you going to?" asked the human.
"I'm just out for a jog," said Minnow. "It's a nice night for a jog."
"You think you're funny?" asked another human.
"Yes," said Minnow, after a thoughtful pause.
The human with the spear dismounted. The horses shuffled around in the surf. Minnow fought the urge to sing to the horses to calm them. The horses were well-infected with boils, their skin pocked with repeated infections, and itching, which put the horses in a permanent state of anxiety. All their nymphs were always stillborn. The human with the spear stood toe to toe with Minnow and glared at him from behind his surf-spray dotted goggles.
"I'm going to ask again, and you better answer. Where you going?"
"Nowhere. I'm standing here."
The human punched Minnow in the soft of his belly, and Minnow vomited his green masticated last meal onto the human's suit. Some of the other humans tried to mask giggles. The human looked down and brushed off the mess, then grabbed Minnow by the throat.
"I will end you, you abomination," whispered the human, squeezing tighter.
"I breathe through my skin," said Minnow. "So you can't suffocate me that way, but it does hurt all the same."
The human released Minnow, pushing him so he fell back into the surf.
"Come on George," said one of the other humans, "they never give straight answers."
"We should have just followed him," said another, a female.
"Oh no, that wouldn't have been effective. I knew where you were long before you ever saw me," said Minnow.
"Why didn't you just leave then?" laughed the female. Some of the others snickered. "Man these things are idiotic."
"Because I needed to lead you into the ambush," said Minnow.
The humans fell silent, looking at each other.
"Yeah right--" said the human with the spear.
Minnow clicked and whistled and trilled and yodeled rapidly through the first refrain of his favorite song, above the range of ordinary human hearing. The forest rustled to life and two hundred or so mature ephroy glided out, accompanied by about thirty friendly humans, some covered in boils. All were unarmed.
The group of humans wheeled about on their horses, facing the line of ephroy and their companions. The human with the spear remounted. The ephroy stared at them, barely moving. Minnow walked between the horses and joined his own crowd.
"Is this your encampment?" asked the human with the spear.
"No," said Minnow. "But this is our planet."
The human with the spear balled up a section of the reins he was holding in his fist.
"I think you're mistaken there," said the human.
"We can share," said one of the companion humans.
The human with the spear lifted up the cowl of his helmet and spat into the surf.
"I don't think so," he said. "God never meant for such foul abominations to be born. We'll burn this whole forest if we have to. You humans can leave, or you can toss your fate in with them."
"How do you know what God ever intended? Or that any gods ever existed? Maybe this is exactly God's intention. How would you know?" asked the companion human.
"Blasphemer!" screamed the human with the spear. He threw the spear and it landed inches away from the companion human's feet. She didn't flinch.
"You would turn on your own kind to prove a point?" she asked.
The human pulled a long muzzled gun from his saddle bag, and pointed it at the companion human.
"Yup," he said, pulling the trigger.
She fell in a heap, with two holes in her skull. Her last thought was of the stars in the sky as they skidded across her vision while she fell. Some of the other companion humans gasped or cried out, but the ephroy remained motionless.
"She was my mother," said Minnow. He looked down blankly at the body of the companion human, then up at the man on the horse. "What was the point of that?"
"To show you that we have dominion over this planet."
"No you don't," said Minnow. "You live in an tiny fortified village. You don't go outside without bundling up in excessively hot clothing because you fear the life around you because you don't pay attention to the seasons. You kill and butcher many creatures you think might threaten your meager crops which don't thrive, because you don't pay attention to the seasons. You rely on yearly resupplies from the transport ships, because, again, you don't pay attention to the seasons. And you haven't expanded your population much on your own in the two hundred years you've had your settlement. That's not exactly dominion."
The man aimed his gun at Minnow. The woman on the horse beside him suddenly pulled off her helmet and goggles.
"He's right about the clothing," she said, sighing with relief, her face drenched with sweat. "There's not always pollen in the air, and we can always lance the boils."
The man looked at her aghast.
"Don't worry, I'm not joining them," she said, raising her hands in defense. The man returned his attention back to Minnow.
"You lost before you even began, because you think of this as a fight and it's not," said Minnow, reaching out and pulling up the spear. He walked with it towards the man on the horse, and the man followed him with the gun. Minnow handed the spear up to him. "Take it," said Minnow.
The man looked across the line of impassive ephroy. He snatched up the spear, being sure to knick Minnow's head with the shaft. He glared across the ephroy again, then kicked his horse and galloped back in the direction of the fort. The others turned on their horses and followed him.
When they were out of sight, the ephroy and their companions circled around the body of the fallen woman. They picked her up carefully, singing lowly, and carried her into the depths of the forest. Minnow lingered on the beach for a few minutes, listening to the sounds of the waves breaking across the pebbles.