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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Time Saving Agency By Christina Engela Characters: 6495

Updated: 2018-06-29 12:02

His dark eyes had glazed over, as he plucked the last petals from the flower and twirled it thoughtfully between his scaly fingers. A rectangular, furry, llama-like creature bleated in the distance, taking a few awkward steps on its thin little legs. The red-horned wildebeest were strange animals, things that belonged in the lab they were created in. One had overbalanced and fallen over a few minutes ago and he'd just got it back on its feet again so he could sit down and return to his ruminations. Another of his charges came close to him, lowering its funny furry little face, fluttering its long black eyelashes. The horns were small, short little sharp bumps on top of the creatures head, and yes, they were red. The cow blinked her big brown eyes at him and gently took the de-petalled flower from his cold fingers with her lips and munched it. Gentle creatures, he thought. So un-Ruminarii, so weak and vulnerable. So… square. Just like Jenny. Except that she didn't fall over so easily. (Wee-eell, he guessed that depended on how much – what was it called – beer she'd consumed?) No corners on her either. She was soft and warm – not cold and hard like Ruminarii females, who would arch their backs and hiss at him when aroused – violent things that would scratch and bite in the heat of passion – and always looking for a weak spot to stick a knife into, or a way to advance the cause of another, or their own. Humans were softer, gentler in their approach to life. At least human females didn't draw blood – well, at least not on purpose – and not much. Well, he didn't know for sure, but he was starting to get that idea. Their internet was very edutaining. This was a weird planet, even by Ruminarii standards.

One morning a few weeks ago, while he'd been minding the herd – sitting almost in the same spot – a human-sized plant had walked past, carrying its own pot. It seemed to be heading across the ranch toward a hilly area over yonder. The fact that it was whistling a tune he didn't recognize and had paused to cheerfully say 'Good Morning' to him hadn't helped improve his mood any. He wasn't sure which was more disturbing – that, or the fact that it had seemed to completely fail to notice that he obviously wasn't from around here.

From where he was sitting he could keep a bad eye on the herd. No, he corrected himself, good eye. The juxtaposition of Good and Evil in this culture was something he had been trying very hard to get to grips with. Good meant bad, but Good was not Evil. So it was good to be here, not bad. And Evil was bad. But of course it was. Hmm. So good to see you, he thought, practicing. Bad was something like when he ran over an obsidian crow last Wednesday and had to replace the tire on the Jeepo.

The Ruminarii were the only known culture to adopt Evil as their primary deity. That they had survived this long without annihilating themselves was amazing in itself. He was rapidly beginning to question his upbringing. Ruminarii advanced themselves by means of assassination, and the fact that – for the first time in years – he no longer had an overeager First Officer lurking over his shoulder waiting for an opportune moment to remove him from the realm of the living, was a bonus!

Out here he was at ease. He could think out here, really think, basking alone in the sunny silence. He plucked another flower, one the grazing wildebeest had missed. There was a barely audible 'ouch' sound and a clump of Crabby-grass separated itself from the other grass and marched away angrily waving its seedpods – and a little green stump – at him. Good is bad, he reflected. Right, that concept he could handle but some things, he mused, would take some more getting used to.

* * *

A considerable distance away, Captain Horst van der Ku, current commander of the Imperial Star Ship Antares was reviewing sensor logs for the morning. Nothing worth reporting had happened during the night – or for the last two months for that matter. There was no sign of any impending Ruminarii invasion, nor any sign of an enemy fleet or movements whatever. Well, never mind, he consoled himself – at least he and the crew had got two months' worth of visits to Deanna, and face it – a lot of free time goofing off. ISS Antares had been posted to watch the colony till further notice, until Space Fleet Command had determined the extent of the potential threat in the sector. So here they were, high in a parking orbit over the planet, doing nothing much, except watching and waiting – and relaxing. His crew certainly had no qualms about that, apparently – but not him!

He was a man who took pride in his achievements. He had devoted one wall in his office to military memorabilia, including framed certificates and military class photos which hung in perfect formation on the simulated wood paneling. Along one part was a set of chrome and glass shelves which he'd decorated with defunct old weapons and other items of interest he'd collected on his travels. Among these was a heavy looking flintlock pistol. It lost pride of place after it had nearly cost him a fingernail (accidentally caught his left thumb under the hammer). The current pride of his collection was a curiosity, a thing that reminded him simultaneously of both human ingenuity and stupidity. It was a dark gray oval blob, made of durastress alloy. It looked like it was shaped to be held by a human hand and had a small display and a control panel on top. The company that made it, had pitched the concept to the military a hundred years ago, believing it was a perfect compromise between functionality and economy. It was a blaster, a sensor and a com-link, all combined into one device. This allowed members of starship mission teams to always have one hand free to operate other devices under most conditions. It seemed a sound idea, and would've worked as well – except for the fact that some inept crew members in the test group accidentally blew their own heads off while answering incoming calls. (This led to funny jokes including the phrase 'your phazor is ringing'). The proposed model was eventually dropped because of poor battery life and also probably because the company got sued into bankruptcy by relatives of the victims shortly afterwards. Ah, he sighed. The human entrepreneurial spirit! It just goes to show that no matter how good an idea may seem, there's always some schmuck who'll find a way to blow his head off with it just to make a quick buck.

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