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The Greer Agency

Harris Tobias
The Stang

Harris Tobias
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

Jeromy Henry

Timothy O. Goyette

The Ungulate Abduction Mission

by John Henson Webb

It was a dark night; a thick bank of cloud obscured the moon.

Phroz tapped the visicaster with a pale green finger and frowned. As he possessed no eyebrows, this slight gesture involved movement of his left ocular bone shield – it pressed the skin above that eye into a faint crease. 'Hmmm...'

Ever mindful of his partners' vocalisations of confusion and distress, Kroom considered it appropriate to intervene. 'What?'

Phroz's large eyes remained focussed on the visicaster. 'The target ungulate is standing motionless. The mouth-parts aren't moving and I'm registering no gaseous emissions'.

'Is it sleeping? Maybe it's sleeping. The lifeforms on this planet spend a good deal of the planet's rotational period asleep. So maybe it's asleep.'

'Possibly. It matches the visual profile of the target species within stated parameters. It's with the behavioural parameters we're lacking confirmation.'

‘Well, it’s the correct shape and it’s standing in an open area surrounded by the vegetative food staple normally consumed by the target species.’

‘It isn’t moving!’

‘Two out of three is better than none out of infinity. I say we continue with the mission.’

Phroz frowned with his right ocular bone shield. His forehead was now a slightly concave cyclic quadrilateral. ‘The parametric adjudicator hasn’t pronounced a verdict. I’m not sure we should proceed.’

While the pair waited for the machine intelligence to provide definitive instruction, Kroom directed the life-form scanner across the rest of the field beneath their hovering craft. The results were inconclusive.

On the visicaster it was possible to see a total of six animals, all ungulate; three large, three small – presumably three of the adult form attended by three juveniles. None register either gaseous emission nor a body temperature significantly greater than the ambient level for the surrounding environment. It was Kroom’s turn to frown.

With a querulous bleep the parametric adjudicator gave the electronic equivalent of a shrug.

‘Frognuts! I say we suck the damn thing up!’ Phroz fingered the relocator beam controls. A strident hum and eerie crimson glow announced the machine had sprung to life. Beneath their saucer a thick beam of red light stabbed toward the ground. Utilising the directional compensator, Phroz shifted the illuminated circle thus created to encompass the stationary target ungulate. Flicking the big button marked ‘UP’ (translated from the original glyphs) he waited for the creature to be drawn into the receiving chamber.

The strident hum became even more strident and the saucer listed badly to starboard. Kroom glanced at Phroz; the latter increased the strength of the relocator beam. Strident became painful; the list increased by 20 degrees. Kroom’s mug of jilbar (possibly translatable as ‘coffee’, assuming coffee beans started out as ambulatory, multi-cellular lichen-like spores) slopped part of its contents down his shiny ebony uniform. Kroom considered intervening, but hesitated when he glimpsed the big pulsing vein in Phroz’s temple.

Phroz twisted the strength adjustment to maximum. Painful passed into inaudibility. The saucer lurched back toward the horizontal.

Bathed in blood red light the motionless creature began rising from the grass. It arrived within the testing chamber canted badly to one side and promptly fell over, with a crunch that caused the whole saucer to momentarily vibrate. Kroom looked toward Phroz. The abduction manual hadn't mentioned such noises – the target usually emitted a lowing sound (often accompanied by further gaseous emissions) and just occasionally, if the relocator had been set to the wrong frequency, a wet splattering as the digestive system everted its ruminated foodstuff. This particular black and white ungulate specimen merely laid silently upon its side, legs held stiffly away from the torso.

Perplexed, but now committed to following stated procedure, Phroz activated the biometric recorders and unleashed the probes. Side by side, Phroz and Kroom watched on the interior visicaster as the shiny metallic arms unfolded from their stations to sample the target.

When the fluid removal tool failed to penetrate the creatures' hide and the bowel intrusion probe reported that it could not locate an opening, Kroom pre-empted Phroz by hitting the field reverser control and dumping the creature unceremoniously out of the ship. It dropped twenty metres and embedded itself head first into the earth. Though inexperienced with this particular species, both saucernauts knew this to be unusual.

With a whooshing sound and a pulsing light-show, the saucer passed up through the clouds, exited the atmosphere and headed back to the advance reconnaissance base located on the far side of the Moon, in the crater referred to by the human designation Tsiolkovsky.

Ship log reported the mission inconclusive and recommended an immediate review of all known biometric samples. There was, however, some suggestion of incompetence on the part of the crew. They were re-assigned just in case.

Supplemental data: In 1978 the Milton Keynes Development Corporation, UK, contracted Canadian-born artist Liz Leyh to provide modern sculptures to decorate their new development. Constructed from items of scrap covered with fibre glass reinforced concrete, the six statues were sited at the southern end of an area of green space called Bancroft Park. On the night of December 10th 2005, one of the Concrete Cows was moved from its usual spot and partially buried. Local authorities assumed it was a prank.

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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
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Harris Tobias
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