Author : Debbie Mac Rory

The thing shrieked like a badly tuned violin.

“It’s been making those sounds for days now”, the woman said. The white-robed man nodded absentmindedly; he was unable to tear his eyes away from the creature on the examining table.

A lumpy looking creature with gray-brown skin which was strangely cold and gravelly to the touch lay there, three of its six legs pushed weakly against the stainless steel surface of the examining table.

“I… em… well, you see… eh…”

The woman nodded her understanding and bent down to speak to the young boy at her side, whose attention had been given solely to the animal before him.

“Peter, why don’t you step outside for a moment? Mommy and the animal doctor need to talk about grown-up things”.

The small boy nodded his head slowly, and reached out to stroke the small creature. His mother gave him a moment or two, then ushered him out into the waiting room. Taking a deep breath, Will prepared to explain what he could.

“You see, Mrs. Langdon, it’s just.. I can’t really do anything. I’m not a vet, I’m a xenobiologist-”

“Oh I know”, Mrs. Langdon interrupted. “But we’d already tried our zone doctor, and she was the one who suggested we come to you”.

Will nodded, letting his gaze stray back to the animal for a moment. He could swear that some of the spots of its back were turned towards him, listening as he condemned it to leave once more without aid.

“Mrs. Langdon, there is nothing I can do. To be honest, I was surprised when we heard the announcement telling us that the base was going to be accepting colonists and even family units, so early in its launch. We’re just not equipped yet to deal with it all. That” he swung an arm to point at the table, “is not even something I’ve encountered before, and my whole purpose of being here is to catalogue the native fauna”.

Mrs. Langdon nodded. “I just don’t know what I’m going to tell Peter, he’s gotten so attached to the wee thing. I.. I don’t suppose I could say that you’ve kept it in for tests? Maybe that’d give his father a chance to catch another one”.

“Certainly, Mrs. Langdon, that’s no problem at all”

Will shook Mrs. Langdon’s hand, and showed her to the door, closing it again on the beginning of her explanations on “special tests” that Spot – he shuddered, he simply wasn’t able to think of that thing as a pet, especially not one that shared a name with a dog he’d long since left behind – was going to need.

Returning to the table, he stood looking down at the animal. With a speed and agility that belied both its shape and apparent illness, the animal lunged for Will’s hand. Will leaped back, clutching the hand that had only barely retained all its fingers to his chest.

“Vicious little bugger…”

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