Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“Pack, pack, package.”
I jump, then look down.
Seated neatly by the fallen trunk I’m lying on is a trifox. This one’s got amazing green eyes, the pair offset to the right of the long nose, with the third pretty much dead centre in the forehead. It’s wearing a Post Office coat, and it’s tails are wagging slowly, almost in time with the rise and fall of its chest.
“Hello, postie. What’s coming?”
“Pack, basket, snacks.”
Of all the races we’ve come across – or have stumbled across us – only the Panduluryacth make homes outside of dedicated colonies on Earth. They’ve come to be known as trifoxes, because they look like long skinny vulpines, despite having three eyes and six legs. Well, actually it’s two legs in the middle and a pair of multi-purpose limbs front and back. They’re arboreal, love all creatures below horse size, and have an unerring knack of being able to find people. All they need is a cherished possession, or for one of their kind to have met the human in need of being found. From there, they will lead whoever accompanies them – usually via drone, because trifoxes are quick and regard every surface as pavement – to the one they seek. While assorted agencies and organisations are keen on engaging their services, they only take long-term employment with postal services. They find the idea quaint, plus they consider the occupation honourable, unlike tracking fugitives and similar.
The few early incidents with fox hunters and suchlike are never mentioned. However, for those interested, the score stands at Trifoxes 138, foxhunters 3. It’s a situation that almost cured itself, being as hunting hounds and suchlike invariably side with the trifox involved.
Trifoxes also make superb beer, and delight in growing orchids.
All in all, we get on well with our quirky neighbours, except for tastes in music. They have a much wider hearing range than humans: what they consider refined tunes can be painful to us, and what they consider raucous is best avoided.
“I’ll take delivery here, postie.”
“Good. Yes. Confirmed.”
Moments later, a drone descends to drop a picnic basket next to the trifox. I jump down from the branch.
“Can I offer you a drink, postie? You’ve had a long ramble to get here.”
“Yes. Thirsty. Thanks.”
I offer a carton of berry juice. The trifox sits, rotates it’s fore-shoulders to handling mode, then takes it. With a little bark, it holds the carton up and bites into it, sucking the contents through four ‘drainfangs’ as they’re called. A long time ago, the ancestors of the trifox were the apex predators of a forest world. How they went from that to their FTL-capable needle-prowed vessels roaming the galaxies is a story we’ve yet to get. One day, I hope to hear it.
It puts the carton down next to the basket, then gives me a little nod.
“Delivered. Away. Time.”
I nod back.
After rotating the fore-shoulders into running mode, it spins about and is gone – quite literally in a cloud of dust. I grin. Something about them… It’s just right.