Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“Brigitte! Slow down!”
I thought I loved Adrian. I really did. I even fooled myself for the first year of our Outer Reaches tour. Then on Certys I had to stop him turning the planet into a game reserve so he could quietly harvest the luxurious pelts of the quasi-feline Pelmuk.
“Brigitte! Run faster, it’s gaining!”
He was a predator who had groomed me into giving him a free ride to the heights of our profession. My trust-fund supported his petty side-projects whilst plagiarising my work got him through university and our early tenures. I was naïve and besotted by the visions of our wonderful future that he spun.
“Brigitte! How far to the ship?”
The tour is ten years with no opt-out. Who would want to? Every planet that has indiginous large fauna is on the itinerary: a xenobiologist’s dream. Except when she’s stuck with a smooth-talking gold-digger who only wants an easy life and gonzo sex on demand. Not that he got much of the latter after Certys.
“Two kilometres.” Replying on the exhale as my years on the treadmill pay off.
The final argument occurred on Tangentia, where the Martonsee’s gold-flecked ivory carapaces sent him into a frenzy of greed. When I vetoed the fraudulent cull order, he told me what he really thought of me in his fury. Afterwards, his apologies rang hollow and his touch revolted me.
“Can’t you shoot it?”
“Would only annoy it.”
The Dangtrazian Sun Ferret is not a product of natural evolution. A long time ago forerunners with life-splicing skills we can only dream of created a polar-bear sized monster. It has a hide that acts like hyper-Kevlar covered in a double coat of refractive fur that fragments energy beams before they impact that hide. That hide wraps a physique that is hailed as the perfection of predator development. The intelligence of a dolphin guides this beast with two hearts and the forerunners coloured their masterpiece in shades of gold. It is beautiful, deadly and can eat anything not tougher than its claws. So far, that’s proven to be two things: spaceship plating and bedrock.
The ‘ferret’ name comes from a scaling error during satellite image analysis. It stuck, despite the first landing team discovering the error and becoming entrée. The sun ferret’s immunity to energy fields was discovered by the second team moments before being the crunchy scientist special. The third team discovered the bullet- and beam-resistance, then were dessert.
We were assisting in establishing a new sensor-web to gather more data on Dangtrazian’s infamous residents when one of them spotted us.
“Use the gun to lead it away while I make a dash for the ship!”
I draw my pistol and slow down. Adrian catches up to me, that smug smile smeared across his sweat-sheened face.
“Me saving us again! I’ll come and pick you up.”
How exactly are you going to find me, you lying bastard? You never bothered to learn how to use the locator array. I smile and he frowns. My eyes must show how I feel.
I shoot him in the calf. A clean through-and-through, no bone damage. As he screams and topples, I holster the gun and sprint for the ship.
“What did you do that f-”
The sentence cuts off with a wet crunch.
An alpha predator in a closed or limited environment will usually fall fast when it is introduced into an open environment that has established alpha predators of its own. Conversely, prey that has learned to flee finds that single skill is always applicable, if applied soon enough.
Good riddance, Adrian.