Chapter 3(ish)


Zorb spent an entire Earth day remembering why he hated working for exozoologists. Suxi had insisted on collecting the two specimens from the primitive craft, of course, but she also insisted in collecting the craft itself. It was her idea, but he was the one who had to figure out how to slide the wreck into the hold. The process involved a lot of pushing and prying and prodding until he could get the grapples into position.

By the time he had hoisted the mangled mass inside the saucer, Suxi had already made preliminary measurements of both the specimens. She had drug them out of their vehicle and arranged them on the planet's surface as soon as the saucer had landed and she had burst out to examine her find. Suxi made almost maternal noises over the pair as she worked. She even used supplies from the saucer's med kit on the aliens, all without so much as asking Zorb if it was okay to use his supplies. Then she wanted the two aliens hauled into the saucer, too.

"I've only got so much room in the cargo hold, boss," Zorb told her, "and you've almost filled all of it with their useless vehicle."

"I'm paying for your saucer transport services, not your complaints," she told him. "Besides," she added with a deep glow coming over her high cheeks, "if I can test specimens from this planet researchers haven't visited for two millennia and bring back an example of their technology, I'll have my pick of tenure track positions! With the funding that comes with those jobs, I'll be able to hire an entire fleet of saucers to take me and my students out into the field for research!" Her eyes gleamed a mischievous far-chartreuse, "Helping me out will be worth your while, Zorb, I promise!"

Zorb tried not to think too much about Suxi making all this truly worth his while. After all, she was an academic with a string of degrees, and he was just a transit saucer jockey. Still, Zorb agreed to fill his cargo hold with both the aliens and with that silly contraption Suxi called "technology." It wasn't like he was about to go anywhere. When he jerked the stick to avoid the unexpectedly airborne hunk of metal piloted by the primitive life forms, the saucer clipped several of the large plants in the area before striking an unfortunately hard rock formation jutting out of the hillside. The gouge in his saucer's outer shell wouldn't keep it from being able to fly, but taking the saucer out into the vacuum of space without a repair was out of the question.

"We're lucky the electromagnetic camouflaging module wasn't damaged in that hot landing," he told Suxi as he dropped the last of the pair of specimens onto the floor of the cargo hold, "otherwise their friends would be able to find us."

"If that was a hot landing, I'm glad we didn't crash," Suxi answered him with a playful punch to his arm. "Don't worry, it'll take me several of this planet's days to test these specimens, and maybe to collect some more specimens. I'm not in a hurry. You've got time to fix your saucer."

It was just like an exozoologist to make light of the situation when there were aliens to probe, Zorb thought. He hoped he could get the repairs done with the equipment he had with him. What he really needed was a plasma fusion welder, but he was pretty sure those hadn't been invented yet, at least not anywhere close to where his saucer teetered on a hillside, invisible to most species that relied upon electromagnetic waves as their primary source of sensory information.


Ready for the next part? Here's Chapter 4(ish)

Need to catch up? Here's Chapter 2(ish)