Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The double doors whooshed open and an impeccably dressed elderly man strode into the conference room. He was instantly greeted by Sebastian Macy, who firmly gripped his outstretched hand. “Nickolas, you old dog,” said Macy with an affectionate smile. “You’re looking well.”

Nickolas returned the jovial smile. “Thank you, Sebastian. It’s been a good Season,” he said as he patted his round belly. “Perhaps too good,” he added with a hearty laugh.

“So, tell me old friend,” asked Sebastian, “are those contract laborers from Alpha Centauri everything I said they would be?”

“They’re absolutely a godsend, Sebastian. Inch for inch, they’re the finest craftsmen in the galaxy. In fact, before I leave, I’d like to extend their contract for another year, with a 30% increase in pay.”

“Excellent! I’ll have my assistant prepare the extension request. But that’s not why you’re here, is it? Your message said that you were interested in buying eight adult Svev’hjorts.”

“That’s right, and I’m coming up against a hard deadline, so time is of the essence. Were you able to find a first-rate breeder?”

“I have,” replied Macy as he stepped to one side to reveal an attractive young woman with long blond hair, dazzling hazel eyes, and an endearing smile. “Let me introduce you to her. This is…” but Nickolas cut him off with an upheld hand.

The old man surveyed the young woman with the eye of a detective trying to match a name to a face. “No need, Sebastian,” he finally said. “This is Melanie Rider. I’ve known her since she was a child.”

Startled, the woman asked, “I’m sorry, sir, have we met?”

“Not officially, my dear. But in my business, you get to know a lot of people. But I thought your true love was Arabian horses, not Svev’hjorts.”

This kind of intimate personal knowledge would have alarmed most people, but the white haired man was so amiable and charming that she knew she had nothing to dread. “I consider Arabians my terrestrial favorite,” she replied coyly. “But there is nothing in the universe like a Svev’hjort. In the high gravity of their native planet, they can leap half a mile and land as gracefully as a ballet dancer. On a planet like Earth, they can practically fly.”

“So I’ve heard,” said Nickolas with a wide grin. “Well, then, I need eight of your finest animals. Can that be arranged?”

“Not a problem, sir. I maintain a stable on Pegasi V.”

“Ah, yes, Pegasi V. The ‘Galaxy’s Arctic Play World’. I’ve been there many times.”

“It is a beautiful planet,” conceded Rider. “The Svev’hjorts love the cold almost as much as I do.”

“Then I’m sure they’ll enjoy their new home. So, how soon can you deliver them?”

“I can have them here in three days. Will that be satisfactory?”

“Perfect,” he replied. “But, tell me dear,” he added as though he suddenly remembered another task. “Is it true that some Svev’hjorts are, what’s the word, bioluminescent?”

“Actually, that’s only partly true. The entire animal is not bioluminescent; the characteristic is limited to a few body parts, and the trait vanishes around the age of three.”

“That will work out just fine,” he said with a nod and a twinkle in his eye. “I shall only need his ability for one night. They’re predicting a particularly thick fog later this week, you know. So, in addition to the eight adults, please include one young Svev’hjort. And be sure that he has a bright shiny red nose.”

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