Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

A solitary streetlamp flickered above the gloomy urban street. Few people would venture into this neighborhood at night, but Simon Bodhan strode unsuspectingly down the dilapidated sidewalk, lead by his 50-pound extraterrestrial “pet”. The creature was known as an Uccisore, an indigenous life form from a planet called Ripa, a semi-tropical world in the Dhruva Tara System. The Uccisore was a beautiful animal with long black and silver streaked fur, and piercing phosphorescent blue eyes. It glided gracefully on its six slender legs, head up, surveying the surroundings as it escorted its master through the cesspool known as Ghetar. Suddenly, the creature froze as a half dozen hooded men emerged from the shadows and surrounded the pair. Bodhan quickly moved next to the Uccisore, and placed a reassuring hand on its shoulder. He spoke calmly to the man standing directly in his path. “Is there something I can do for you, ah, gentlemen?”

“Sure can,” replied the man. “We’ll take your asset chip, for starters.”

Bodhan handed over his chip, and started to move forwarded.

“Not so fast, old man,” ordered the thief as he scanned the asset chip. “There’s only five credits on this thing. That ain’t enough to buy your way past us.”

“Well, that’s all I carry on our walks. It’ll have to do.”

Undeterred, the thief pulled a knife and held it in plain sight. He pointed it toward the Uccisore and said, “That sure is an expensive looking dog,” as he estimated its value. “I’ll bet you’d pay a thousand credits to get it back. Roi, take the leash.”

“It’s a tether,” corrected Bodhan. “And I wouldn’t recommend that you take Sandro from me. Uccisores don’t like to be separated from their owners.”

“All the more incentive for you to come up with a thousand credits. You wouldn’t want him to be sad, now would you?” He motioned with the knife for Roi to take the Uccisore.

Roi snatched the tether from the old man’s hand and dragged the reluctant creature into the alley. “You’ve got 24 hours to come up with a thousand credits, or the dog dies. Bring it here tomorrow night, and no tricks.” Then, the remaining five men dashed into the darkness.

Bodhan sat down on a partially collapsed stone wall and opened his link. “Hey, Dora, it’s me. Looks like I’ll be a little late. No, nothing serious. Six hoodlums just kidnapped Sandro. Yeah, I tried to tell them, but I guess they don’t watch a lot of holovision. Their loss. Hey, can you do me a favor, and call the vet? Tell him we’ll be there in about thirty minutes. Thanks, I’ll be home as soon as I can. Love you.”

Bodhan broke the link and waited. A few minutes later, Sandro came scurrying from the alley, and placed his blood soaked muzzle in Bodhan’s lap, his bright phosphorescent eyes projecting sheer joy as his striped prehensile tail coiled and uncoiled rapidly. Bodhan cupped his hands behind Sandro’s horns and scratched him affectionately. “What took you so long, Sandro? Decided to play with your food, eh?” A deep rumble reverberated from Sandro’s mid-section. “Oh my. Sounds like you’ve got an upset stomach too? C’mon boy. We need to get you some shots. There’s no telling what diseases those scumbags were carrying.”

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