Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The auditorium is full to capacity, aisles filled with standing attendees as well. The rush and lull of a thousand conversations fades as a single figure strolls out onto the stage.
Pausing by the lectern, the figure picks up a remote control and presses two buttons. The lights dim. Text appears on the big screen above.
LIFE ON TARKO
Presented by Votra Darun
Votra, the figure on stage, bows.
“Good evening, gentlebeings. Let me be the first to welcome you to this tropical paradise, and the only one who has to remind you about the dangers of living here.”
They look out at the sea of rapt faces.
“Okay, lets get things started. Who among you are fans of vampire stories and similar horror fare?”
A small percentage of hands rise, accompanied by faint laughter.
“Well, you’ll be pleased to know you’re about the best suited Earthlings to dwell here.”
Votra spreads their hands, then places them down, and leans on the lectern.
“This is a standard speech, so please save any questions until I finish, and do look them up in our digital FAQ before asking me.
“Tarko has one sentient race, the Tarkomene. They are, from our initial point of view, an advanced race that clings to an honour-based society grounded in ancient tribal culture. Once we got to know them, we realised why they’ve never become spacefarers, despite having the technology.
“Although they look like us, except for wider mouths and serrated teeth, they are sensuphages: they eat sentient beings, including their own kind. The honour codes they abide by are what prevents them from tearing their civilisation apart. Confining themselves on spaceships would be tantamount to suicide. It’s also why their oceans are free of deep-sea vessels.
“Please be clear: a Tarkomene will eat you, given the opportunity. They really like how we taste, too.”
They press a button. The image that appears on screen is so awful it takes everyone a few seconds to understand it. Horrified cries and shouting people leaving the auditorium occupy the next few minutes. Votra presses the button. The image is replaced by another, this one of a Tarkomene child flying an eagle-shaped kite.
They continue: “One of the key points of our treaty is that any human residing on Tarko is subject to Tarkomene law. Therefore, if you get eaten, an honour payment will be made to your next of kin. No further action will be taken.”
“You can live here, enjoying wonderful benefits and a fine quality of life, providing you obey a few simple precautions. The fundamental one is that the honour code forbids killing in residences. Therefore, you never go out alone. After dark, four is the minimum number. Also, never go anywhere unarmed. If possible, ensure you have a non-improvised melee weapon within easy reach at all times. Note that firearms and suchlike are forbidden, as the Tarkomene consider range weapons dishonourable.”
Votra pauses while the trickle of people leaving becomes a stream. It’s funny how the idea of carrying primitive weapons puts off more people than the threat of being eaten.
“From the moment you exit this zone – through the red gates you might have seen on the far side of the park – you are a member of Tarkomene society, and may be killed and eaten if you cannot defend yourself.”
They smile, revealing serrated teeth in their otherwise-normal human face.
“Some of you may even fully adapt to living here, like my mother did.”
More people hurry out.
Votra regards the sixty or so who remain.
“Welcome to Tarko.”