All Creatures Great and Small
Brumyatta have great influence on this world.
I’m afraid that this clo Yondah will be able to figure out
where the Robinsons went, given a bit of time, a few well placed friends
and some bribe money,” Smith said to his wife.
“Zachary, I was
only trying to protect you. I
didn’t think I said anything that would hurt the professor and his
“I know,” Smith
said. “But now we must go
to the spaceport and send a message to him.
You get the car ready and I’ll be right along.
I have some notes that I need to take to the health office
Soon they were
bouncing along in the swamp vehicle, oblivious to the non-descript car
behind them. As they
reached the outskirts of the city, Imothera decided to reapply her
makeup. Holding up the
mirror she noticed a vehicle, closely resembling the rented one that had
stopped at their house earlier.
toward the open air market,” she said abruptly.
He began protesting. “Zachary,
just do it now,” she ordered. He
did. Using the mirror, she
noticed the vehicle making the same turn, almost screeching because of
the sharpness of the angle. “Turn
left here,” she said.
After several more
turns it was evident that they were being followed.
“Zachary, we’re fools, assuming that they would easily find
out where the professor is. clo
Yondah is following us, hoping that we will make his task easier.
And we almost did,” she explained.
“Let’s go see what’s at the market.
We’ll park at the end of this street.”
Smith folded his
papers and tucked them inside his shirt. Imothera slung her purse over
her shoulder and taking his hand, led him into the crowds that always
thronged at the street market. At
first they took their time, looking over the merchandise as though with
a mind to buy something. Finally
Imothera did just that, picking out a ring that caught her eye.
When Smith had paid for it, she put it on and then in delight,
hugged him tightly. “Zachary,
make it look good, my dear,” she whispered.
“We need to make them believe that all we are interested in is
a day at the market.”
He hugged her a bit
closer. “And I thought I had been a good spy,” he said dryly.
Soon Imothera led him
into even denser crowds. She weaved and dodged around Anoxans and aliens
alike, finally coming out on a side street that opened onto a large
she stopped a small vehicle and pulling Zachary in with her, instructed
the driver to head to the spaceport.
Continually looking out the back window, Imothera was finally
satisfied that they had lost their followers.
Soon they were in the
communications building of the spaceport and in front of a computer
terminal. Imothera punched
in the access codes to send an off-planet message and waited for the
signal to compose a message.
In disgust, Will
realized what the little blue alien meant by working with animals. He threw the shovel full of manure into the recycling chute
and then scooped some more. First
thing this morning, the job message had come, giving them barely enough
time to grab a bite of breakfast. In
the next stall, he heard his dad doing pretty much the same thing. Penny had lucked out; she got to help the dog trainers groom
their animals. At least
dogs were the closest proximity to the creatures he had seen.
“Dad?” he called
“Yes, Will?” his
dad asked, his voice weary.
Will felt a sudden
pang of anxiety and wondered how much Dad had actually recovered from
the anot. Suddenly he heard
his dad chuckling and then laughing out loud.
He walked across the corridor and looked in, puzzled.
Dad was leaning against his shovel, still laughing. “Son, I wish I knew how we could transfer out of this, uh,
chicken… outfit, myself. And
where did you learn language like that?
I’m ashamed of you,” he said, controlling himself once more.
Was I that obvious, Dad?” he asked, blushing at his dad’s
perusal of his thoughts.
came the answer, with a great sigh.
“But I must admit, that was a wonderfully humorous interruption
to this otherwise disgusting morning.
This is not what I had when I signed us on this ship.”
Uh, Dad, are you all right?”
“Just tired, Will.
But that too shall pass,” he said, leaning against the side of
“Let me finish my
stall and I’ll come help you with this one,” Will told him.
“Thanks son, but
don’t count your tired old father out yet.”
“I’m not, Dad.”
Will got back to work in his own stall, shoveling furiously, so
he could go to the next one and help his father.
A few minutes later, the door at the end of the corridor opened
and a young man several years older than he came down the corridor
leading an animal that Will could best describe as a furry dinosaur.
It stood as high as a race horse on two very powerful hind legs,
its front arms no longer or larger than his own.
Its head was more horse-like, if horses had two rows of sharp
teeth, no ears and piercing green eyes.
There was a mane; it hung down in satiny curtains that shimmered
as the creature tossed its head, but the tail like that of a dinosaur.
Its whole body was covered with a downy fur that was striped in
shades of blue-green and yellow. The
creature also gave the appearance of a very efficient killer, with
saber-like teeth that showed plainly every time it opened its mouth.
The young man stopped
at the stall his dad was working on and peered in.
In chagrin, Will realized that his dad had dozed off, but the
approach of the boy and his animal woke him up.
Rushing over to the stall, Will saw the young man and his dad
studying each other. “I
was told that these stalls would be ready by now.
Corintle is restless and wants her feed.
It’s past her morning feed,” he said petulantly.
“We’ll be done in
a minute,” Will said hastily. He
and his dad worked side by side.
“I was told that
the new hirelings had the appearance of being able to work hard.
Apparently that is not the case,” the boy snapped as he rubbed
the animal to reassure her.
are very quick and easy to make, young man, especially when all the
facts are not known,” John told him without rancor.
With both of them working, the stall was soon clean and ready for
the prancing animal. “Very
graceful looking animal,” he added, as he and Will left the stall.
“Very dangerous one
if you aren’t careful.” When
the animal was fed and the stall door closed and latched, he turned to
the Robinsons. “I have to
get the other three. That
stall is almost ready; I’ll bring Tarixle next.
I won’t be long.”
“By the way, I’m
John Sims and this is my son, Will,” John held out his hand, then
looked at its condition and drew it back, smiling.
“Jeris,” the boy
said and turned on his heel.
“What a snotty
kid,” Will commented when the door closed at the end of the corridor.
Will?” John said vaguely
as he worked on the next stall. “There’s
something about that boy. Something
They worked together
and finished the next two stalls just as Jeris brought in Tarixle. This creature appeared more nervous than the last one, but
the boy seemed to have a way with the creature and it, too was soon in a
stall, eating. Jeris
left for the next animal.
“Will, you can
finish the last stall on your own.
I believe I’ll go on to the next task.
If I recall, it entails feeding one of the animals.
Nothing taxing like shoveling dinosaur crap,” John said with a
slight smile. He leaned the
shovel in a narrow closet and moved on down the corridor where he
stopped in front of a large cage with a bucket hanging on a peg outside.
Peering inside the
container, John quickly jerked his head back.
Whatever was in the bucket had been dead for a while; the odor
was noxious. He could
only assume that the resident of the cage must be a carrion eater.
Unlatching the door, John stepped inside with the bucket, looked
at the hook on which to hang the meat, and then glanced back in the
bucket in disgust. He
perused the sleeping inhabitant; its head tucked under a wing, and
noticed that the creature was not terribly unlike Talon, but a bit more
Gingerly he picked up
the chunk of meat and hung it on the hook.
A loud, sibilant, hissing noise alerted him to the fact that the
resident of this cage was not asleep, and jerking around he found
himself face to face with a nightmare from Hell.
He ducked, just being missed by the long, sharp talons and
quickly pivoted around to face the enraged creature.
It was between him and the gate and with a cry of rage it
launched itself at him again. John
briefly caught a vision of a hunt by a small pack of these creatures,
the prey a large two-legged creature.
Then an ensuing fight after the prey was dispatched.
In horror, John
realized that he was considered the breakfast, not that disgusting piece
of rotten meat, and he understood its anger.
It didn’t eat carrion; it hunted and ate fresh meat.
John understood this all in the brief seconds before the bat-bird
struck. He held his arm
above his face and the sharp claws made shallow furrows along his
Visions of the
creature’s leadership hierarchy made a brief visit in his mind before
a signal of intense pain did. The
terrible pain began coursing through his veins like molten lava and a
scream of agony tore itself from his throat while the creature prepared
itself for another attack.
Will jerked up from
the door of the stall where Jeris was bedding down the last creature,
hearing his father’s cry in his ears and his mind.
His breath hissed through his teeth at the intensity of Dad’s
telepathic output. He ran
down the corridor, looking for Dad.
Vaguely, he heard Jeris using the intercom to call for help.
Looking in the cage, he saw his dad backed in a corner with a
hideous birdlike bat with a sharp jagged bill and wickedly curved
“Don’t open the
door, Will,” his father snapped.
broadcasting, big time,” Will said, anguished that he couldn’t do
anything to help. The waves
of pain ceased beating in his brain.
“Jeris has called for help.”
building his mental shield as the creature prepared for another attack. Suddenly he saw what had to be done to get out of the
situation. Crouching down,
with his injured right arm held tightly to his chest, John glared at the
bat and held his left arm out straight in front of him, fingers
extended. He tried to
approximate the call the alien creature had made and then advanced,
slowly but steadily. Confused,
the bat made a guttural sound in its throat but it didn’t advance.
He jerked his hand back and then forward again, repeating the
call, keeping his eyes on the animal.
It continued to glare at him, but it hesitated to attack,
suddenly unsure of the change in its prey.
throbbing sensation continued to radiate up and down his arm,
threatening his concentration, but John continued advancing, closer and
closer to the door. Repeating
the cry one last time, John called to Will, “Open the door when I’m
closer to it than this creature is.”
“Yes, sir,” Will
John advanced a
little further, then heard the latch click open. He made a dash for the
gate just as the animal realized that its prey was escaping.
Its claws ripped the bottom of his pants just as he made it out
the door. John
vaguely heard the cage door clang shut as he slumped down against the
far wall, the pain coming to the forefront of his awareness once more.
He glanced at his bleeding arm as Will rushed over.
scratches,” he hissed through gritted teeth.
“The claws of the
Orantis are very painful, John Sims, and this one’s claws have had
time to build up a goodly supply of poison,” Jeris said quietly.
“You were very adept in dealing with the creature, but why
didn’t you heed the warning about the Orantis?”
The instructions simply said to feed the animal whatever was in
the bucket,” John informed him, gasping with the effort to remain
lucid. “But I
don’t blame it for being upset. I
would be upset too, if I had to eat that disgusting trash,” John said
with a laugh that ended in a moan.
Suddenly someone else was at his side and Jeris backed off,
wondering at this new man.
“I would say, my
foolhardy friend, that this shot would hurt, but that would be a
ludicrous statement, so I won’t,” the newcomer said, sticking a
needle into John’s upper arm. The
professor only half heard the doctor and certainly didn’t feel the
shot. “This is a pain
blocker and it should take effect in the next minute.”
Gilbrolen appeared at
his side just as the shot began taking effect.
John took a deep breath and looked the captain squarely in the
face. “Capt. Gilbrolen,
that creature needs fresh meat, not garbage that died last year. I didn’t appreciate being that fresh meat.”
The little, blue
skinned alien jerked back in surprise.
“I want to see you in my office when you are feeling better,
Professor.” Then he
turned and left.
“Uh, you might be in a bit of trouble, Professor Sims,” Jeris said sardonically.