Meanwhile, in a settlement a few hundred metres from the MoonShip Waist of Space…
Tarquin was unusually upbeat. Unusually, because he actually hates sardines. I mean hates, loathes, despises. Even the name is abhorrent to him. Given, however, a simple choice between that which one finds supremely distasteful and starvation, what is one to do?
“Tarquin,” Merry said, “remind me again. Why did we end up with nothing but sardines in the larder?”
“Simple,” he replied, “it’s because we’ve eaten everything else.”
“And why have we eaten everything else?”
“Because I don’t like sardines.”
“And yet you’re eating them now.”
“Needs must when the bell tolls, Merry; needs must.”
“I think the expression you’re looking for is ‘needs must when the devil drives’.”
“Yah. Okay. But I don’t believe in the devil, so it has to be something else.”
“And you chose ‘when the bell tolls’.”
“Yah. Seemed appropriate.”
“Shut up and eat your sardines, Tarq.”
Arty entered the room and removed his suit. His father followed and did likewise.
“What’s that awful smell?” Tarquin asked.
“Sorry,” Arty replied, “we had one of the wealthy settlers for lunch. Rich food always gives me wind.”
“Couldn’t you have left it outside?” Merry asked.
“What, my lunch?”
“No; your wind.”
Arty and his father laughed.
“I don’t think you’d want that floating around inside your airtight spacesuit,” the larger alien guffawed.
“Anyway, what are you here for?” Merry asked him.
“I’m going to let you out of your cage—”
“Oh, goody,” Tarquin enthused, “can we go back to our moonship? Will you help us to build a habitat?”
“I’ll do better than that,” Arty’s father [I really must think of a name for him; any ideas?] said, “I’ll build you a habitat inside our compound. When I let you out, my son and I will observe you to gauge your level of activity. That will give us an idea what size enclosure you need. We’re very excited to have a pair, and we want to give you ideal conditions to encourage you to breed.”
Tarquin blushed. Merry’s face displayed a similar colour, but it wasn’t through excitement or embarrassment.
Tarquin looked at Merry in a way that she didn’t like.
“Merry,” he drawled.
“I’m getting a bit of a—”
“Shut up, Tarquin. Don’t even think about it!”
Merry was not. Merry, that is.
“We are not a pair in the way you’re thinking,” she said.
“Are you one male and one female?”
“Then you are a pair. Given the right conditions you will breed.”
“Do you have any idea what you are asking?”
“We have successfully bred many different types of animal. It’s just a question of providing the ideal environment.”
“Tarquin and I will not breed. Is that clear?”
“Can I just say—” Tarquin started to ask.
“No you may not!” Merry emphatically replied.
“No problem,” the large, as-yet-unnamed alien said.
“That’s it? No problem?” Merry was relieved to see the light at the end of this particular tunnel. She was plainly unaware that it was attached to the front of an express train careering headlong toward her.
“No problem,” he repeated, “we shall simply keep you in separate enclosures and wait for others to arrive. Perhaps one of them will be more compatible.”
Tarquin started singing, “♫Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with; I just need your♫—”
“SHUT THE HELL UP, TARQUIN!” Merry requested as politely as she felt able.
“Sorry,” Tarquin said.
“And stop apologising all the time, you wimp.”
“Yah. Okay. Sorry.”
The cage door opened…
I wrote part one of this tale in response to Kreative Kue 39, issued on this site earlier. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.