| Written by Stephen Cavanagh & David Such |
|First published in The Specusphere |
Friday, 09 November 2007
'Door goes swit!' cried the creature in delight.
'Must be alien-wearing-a-hat week,' muttered Jimbo as he gazed at the scene before him. Aloud he said, 'Give me my bloody security key back, you crazy space monkey.'
'Not a space monkey, am a snortler, you well know, Jimbo.'
'Well, snortler, you're killing me. I may feed you to the Death Slime.'
'Snort feels angry person coming,' whispered snortler, looking dolefully at his feet and swaying slightly.
Jones made the mental translation from angry-person to dock-manager-who-wears-his-pants-too-high — uh oh. 'OK, snort, out of sight, quick as you can, leave the key on the desk, and this is for you.' He tossed a fruity bun towards the creature.
The Snortler whirled in the doorway to the hidden room that formed the secret section of Jimbo's office area, grabbed the treat out of the air with a grin, and vanished into darkness inside. Jimbo thought he could just hear the snortler squeal, 'door goes swit!' as the secret door slid shut.
'Jones!' shouted the dock manager, Harold Hilton, as he stormed down the corridor outside the office waving a sheaf of Jimbo's reports around, and fairly frothing at the mouth.
Time for a coffee, thought Jimbo as he grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and made a break for the maze of attractively stained and dirty partitions that made up the office area outside his cluttered office. Too late!
'Not so fast, matey. I want to know what the blinking heck you think this rubbish is? You put three customs officers inside an alien creature last night, and all you can do is fill in reports?'
'Two officers, boss. Dawson managed it all by himself, the damn fool. Now I've stored the death slime in sub-basement 9, where it will quickly and safely perish, regurgitating our friends hopefully no worse for wear, if a little angry, possibly even very angry. Ah, perhaps much like you and your high pants.'
The dock manager's face flashed through the full visual spectrum of colours. It reminded Jones of the Andelucian cuttlefish found on Sirius V — currently a popular nightclub decoration. Harold was very sensitive about his high waist.
'I'm having an overwhelming urge to throttle you!' shouted Harold, 'but instead, I'm just going to suspend your arse. Report to the brig immediately!'
The Rock Dog gave a low growl at the three customs officers as they slowly backed away from what looked like a boulder on short legs.
'This place is a zoo,' said Stoikalizky. He, Dawson and Blake had just been decanted from the Death Slime and were on their way to find a good hot shower.
Blake looked over the destruction caused by the beast and decided to call it in. 'Chief? We have a problem here.'
Hilton's strident tones rang over the comm-unit, 'Can't you vapour-brains handle anything without me?'
'There is a thing that looks like a rock eating its way through the server room, sir.' The lights started to flicker and then went out. Blake continued. 'I think it just ate the environmental system controls. The life support systems are located in the next bay. If it eats those we are going to be sucking vacuum. Have you seen Jimbo Jones? This looks right up his alley. I would also like to have a few words with him about pushing me into that Death Slime!'
'Where the hell do you think you are going, Jones?' shouted Hilton to Jimbo's retreating back as he headed down the darkened corridor.
'Just reporting to the Brig Chief, as ordered.'
'Get your arse down to the server room. We'll talk about this later.'
It was hard to see the Chief's expression by the dim light of the emergency lights but he didn't sound happy. He probably needed more fibre in his diet, thought Jones.
When Jones arrived at the server room, the three officers had their Desert Eagle Mk VII rail guns roughly pointed at the creature that was contentedly chewing on a motherboard. It was hard for them to bring their guns to bear due to the fact that they were all crowded into a utility closet.
'A rail gun won't stop one of those,' Jones observed.
'Jones, I have a bone to pick with you!' said a muffled voice from the back of the closet.
'Don't tell me that you are still upset over the Death Slime incident? Human flesh is the only way to kill it. You guys just happened to be handy.'
'Maybe we could settle this at another time,' suggested Dawson. 'It looks like Rock Face is starting on dessert.'
There was a sudden whine followed by an eerie silence as the circulating fans wound down. The space station was never silent; the ever present hum of machinery was the beating heart of Dockland.
'That doesn't sound good,' said Blake. 'What do we do now?'
'Well, what we have here is a species of Rock Dog,' Jones said. 'They are very rare; I've only ever seen one before. As they are a silicon-based life form, they are almost indestructible and obviously have an appetite for computer chips. Rock Dogs are pack animals, so it is probably lonely.'
'You idiot! It's lonely? Lonely! It's eating the life support computer. We are all going to die! How do we get it out of there?' spluttered Stoikalizky.
'Is it conscious? I mean, can it think?' asked Blake.
'I think it can think. And what I think it's thinking is "I'm lonely".'
'Man, you are obsessed.'
There was an uncomfortable pause.
'I think I'll call him Pookie,' Jones finally said.
An alert tone began to sound, overlayed by the dulcet tones of the station's main computer. 'There is an emergency on the station due to falling oxygen levels. Could all oxygen breathing entities please proceed calmly to your evacuation station? Have a nice day.'
'Jones, we need to do something now!' said Dawson.
'Right you are.'
Jones pursed his lips and let out a piercing whistle. Suddenly an access panel in the roof flopped open and a hairy shape dropped onto Jones's shoulder. Stoikalizky screamed and tried to climb over Blake to get to the back of the closet.
'Relax,' Jones said, 'he's with me.' Patting the space monkey fondly, he continued. 'Snort, I need you to go and get me your litter tray. Can you do that for me?'
'Snort thinks Jimbo's a banana short of a bunch.'
'There's a fruity bun with your name on it if you are back in less than a minute.'
Jones had barely finished his sentence before the space monkey had disappeared back up the access panel.
Blake said, 'I'm with the monkey. How is a litter tray going to help?'
'Watch and learn chaps,' Jones said as Snort returned with his litter tray. He handed Dawson some monkey poo. 'Here, hang onto this.' Dawson looked down at the mess in his hand and frowned. Jones continued. 'Sand as you know is mostly silicon dioxide and is considered a delicacy by Rock Dogs. It is much better eating than computer chips.' Jones held the tray out in front of him and began to move slowly towards the rock dog. 'Here, boy, get your nice sand. Good dog.'
The rock dock gave a cautious growl but then it starting sniffing and it bounded over to the tray of sand. As it excitedly ate, Jones scratched its lumpy hide. The Rock Dog wagged his little stump and squinted up at Jones with love.
Jimbo smiled back and said, 'You are one ugly dog.'