Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer
“The Vulturi Zoological reserve is home to the most dangerous collection of species within the galaxy…”
The dull-as-Arcosian-Slug-Art tour-guide is a spastic, Mark-VII resembling a stick-figure assembled from recycled gas cylinders, aluminum coils and rubber bands. Whoever programmed it should be boiled in their own gastric juices. It’s yammered non-stop since we left the Deep Space High School three hours ago, droning an incessant litany of factoids as it jerks up and down the aisle of the 0-g passenger hold.
I try to tune it out and simply stare morosely at the scene slowly enlarging beyond my portal as we near the tiny, blue-green moon; our final (thankfully) destination on this tour through the Vulturi system. The lush satellite is dwarfed by its host, a milky-white gas giant, marbled with vibrant orange and yellow stripes, which swirl in intricate eddies around its equator.
As we blaze though the upper stratosphere, every passenger clinging desperately to their crash belts, Mark-VII, suctioned to the forward bulkhead, recites a shopping list of redundant data pertaining to atmospheric pressures, gravity ratios and mineral compositions of the moon.
Once we’re within the lower atmosphere the outer heat-shielded hull is jettisoned and suddenly, we’re all suspended mid-air, strapped to our respective seats and linked to each other via spidery struts and cables.
“The entire crew compartment is encased in a high-impact, transparent orb providing a nearly 360 degree panoramic view,” Mark-VII commences to outline the procedure in excruciating detail. He then points out our odds of survival should we find ourselves beyond the protection of the shuttle craft.
“… If you look left you will see the first specimen on our tour; the Giant Gorger rescued from its home world before its sun went nova. Known for its terrifying speed and ravenous appetite…”
The maroon dragon is a thing of beauty as it wings majestically through azure skies. I snap a few pictures for the kids back home before it dives into the clouds below.
Soon our sky-bus-bubble soars over a lush savanna, teeming with diverse wildlife. A herd of bounding, fluffy monopods is pursued by, what appears to be, dun-coloured blurs, slithering through the grass at dizzying speeds.
“…The Torthian Grass Snake only stops moving when it has gorged upon a sizable prey, in this case…”
One of the monopods bursts into a mist of blood and fur. What remains is a bulging, coiling mass of reptile beginning its long, digestive bask in the hot afternoon sun.
Hours later, we are hovering over an adobe dwelling. Two semi-clothed bipeds stand outside looking up at us, forlornly. Mark-VII informs us that these are the infamous Homo-Sapiens of Earth.
“…These tool users will kill not only for food – often enslaving and breeding their prey in foul conditions before slaughtering them – but will also kill for pleasure, territory, resources, abstract concepts and bizarre religious motives unknown in any other parts of the galaxy. Their misuse of primitive technology was particularly destructive, responsible for the mass extinction of many species and the poisoning of their home planet’s air, land and water.
“This is the only remaining pair in existence, bred in captivity after the survivors of their home world were rescued by Vulturi Zoologists. Alone, or in small groups, they are relatively harmless, but if left to breed unchecked, they are capable of global devastation within a hundred generations. Easily one of the most dangerous species in the galaxy.”
Boring. I snap a few pictures anyway before we bank east.
“And if you look to your right…”