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by Danielle L. Parker

part 10 of 11

Milton Rutgers laid his two sheets of paper down on the table. “How did you know?”

Blunt glanced up from his gun. He laid down the oily rag he had used for cleaning. “Just a guess. For one thing, Spit It was the hot spot for both deaths of zooks and appearances of crab monsters. For another, the survey teams don’t miss much. It wasn’t likely they’d have missed these crabs if they were here then.”

Rutgers sat down heavily. “I’m a biologist, specializing in plants. This DNA is surely the strangest I’ve ever seen. But it’s identical in both zooks and... er... crab monsters.”

“That’s what I guessed,” Blunt said. “Adaptive, highly reactive, whatever you want to call it. Kill a zook, birth a monster. Kill a monster, get a nastier monster. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

The biologist shook his head. “So how to resolve this? The colonists cannot be left unprotected from these terrors!”

“Singing a new tune now, Professor?” Blunt inquired sardonically. He shrugged. “Well, they could adopt zooks. Pet the little pests. So what if they defecate on the floor and squeal all night? Or we go back to the classic solution. Communication. Do a deal. Work something out.”

Groban, pausing in his work of endless hide preparation to listen, snorted derisively and shook his head. “All zooks want to do is eat and mate and poop and squeal. Oh, they can be clever; they’re damn good at figuring out locks and latches and doors, and getting into things you don’t want them to. But they ain’t interested in communication, Captain. Nor are those crab monsters. They just want to eat us!”

“I hear you. I didn’t say it would be easy.” Blunt tipped back his hat. “We’ve got a portable radio, Professor. You’d better talk to Dr. Greene and his friends. They need the news.”

The biologist nodded. “I’ll be happy to. I wish I could offer a solution. But right now I can’t think of any.”

The porch creaked under heavy boots. Teddy Bremner stuck his head inside. “Bart Nugent and his sons are missing,” the old trapper called. “Dey boys tinking to go looking. Dink maybe, de monster got dem too, last night. Armitradge’s forming a posse.”

Blunt rose to his feet and holstered his gun. “I’ll go,” he said.

Tom Groban laid down his scraper and took off his apron. “You’re a big man, Captain,” he said. “Maybe, just maybe, we both be big enough, eh? I’ll go, too.”

Proceed to part 11...

Copyright © 2010 by Danielle L. Parker

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