Martin Scribb sat in the captain’s great cabin, sweating. Extinction’s air was kept at a low humidity to resist corrosion, but here in Gore’s living space, the humidity had to be 90 to 100 percent, Martin thought. Tropical plants lined the walls, some with huge flowers with exotic scents that matched the thickness of the air. Mixed with the moisture and perfume was a whiff of decaying leaf litter. It was the smell of slow death. The only thing missing was the cacophony of insects mating, killing, and dying in a true jungle. The metal walls and deck were clear of the rust Martin would’ve expected in a humid environment. A special paint or coating fought off the inevitable oxidation.
Gore tapped at a tablet keyboard, his fingers dexterous despite their thickness and covering of tawny hair. The curved claws that the creature showed on Martin’s arrival were retracted, much like a real cat’s. Gore’s green-yellow eyes bored into Martin. “Well, Mr. Scribb. It seems you have saved Extinction.”
“Please, sir.” Martin picked up on the military forms of address favored on the sub. “I’m a brother of the Penitents of Saint Francis.”
“I see… Brother Scribb.” Gore grimaced, which Martin took as a kind of smile, though the teeth were that of a carnivore, not an omnivore. “Allow me to say thank-you. You are the hero of the hour.”
Martin, like most people who act quickly in an emergency, did not feel himself a hero. “If I had not acted, everyone on board might’ve died, myself included.”
“Indeed. And you are responsible for enough death, aren’t you?”
Gore’s remark startled Martin, until he realized that Gore probably knew everything about him, including his responsibility for the Spike. “Yes, I am,” Martin said. “I cannot imagine allowing any more people to suffer, even if they are dissed or murderers.”
Gore grunted and rose from his chair. “I have not eaten since this morning. Do you mind?”
“No, of course not.”
“May I get you something?”
Despite the fearsomeness of Gore’s appearance, and his ability to kill him on the spot in a horrific way, Martin was calm. Perhaps this is how prey felt when they were in the jaws of the predator, though Gore’s crushing jaws around Martin’s neck–at least at the moment–were metaphorical. “A cool glass of water?”
Gore removed to an adjacent room, and returned after a moment with a tray containing a glass of water dripping with condensation, and a large bowl of raw meat.
“Thank you,” Martin said. “You act as your own steward?”
“Luxuries are few on Extinction, even for me,” Gore said. “And stewards in my service don’t last very long.”
Martin did not want to know what Gore meant. But he was by turns fascinated and terrified when Gore took a piece of bloody meat, placed it in his mouth, and tore at it. He worked it not like a ravenous beast, but as if he were a wild predator with table manners worthy of royalty at a state dinner. He wiped his bloody hands and mouth with a cloth napkin.
“Forgive me if I do not offer you a share of my little snack, Brother Scribb,” Gore said. “I’ve not eaten cooked meat for many years and I have none in my larder.”
“Thank you. I’m not hungry.” Martin stared, then blinked.