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    Cia
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Ancalagon - 67. Chapter 67

“You’re not supposed to be here, are you?” That question came from the scientist who I instinctively didn’t like. I’d come across his type before. He still had his helmet on, and he kept several people between his spot in our column and where Garjah and I were walking with Bouncer by my side.

“I am,” I answered indignantly. “My ship was the closest to Ardra when the bulletin was announced. I’m a first-ranked researcher, and this was a prime candidate for new exploration with an eye toward biological research. There was no contact orders, and all the reports stated this would be a safe and potentially valuable resource for the Galactic.”

“That’s out the airlock now,” someone muttered.

“No, the planet has a prior use claim, but the Four Arms are a reasonable race about most things. There’s also the issue of safety for some of our researchers.” I nodded toward the pair of Tlgerics who had a mucous membrane between their hands and webbing their toes. “I would hate to see what that plant could do to your tissues. Or maybe the fluid on your skin would be a natural repellent to it; I don’t know and didn’t have enough time to do more research. That’s something we can negotiate hopefully.”

“Negotiations may take some time; I have researched your Galactic extensively. Some species are very good at managing their use and others are known for removing large quantities. We are very good at terraforming, but we prefer to leave planets natural and harvest only what will not harm it.”

“Admirable,” Dr. Vikrish said. “There are many at the Institute who push for similar policies when using planets for resources. Settlement planets usually come under the governance of the races of aliens who claim them, but planets being shared are not normally settled.”

We approached a rocky area that required a lot of climbing, and the suits were flexible and moved with us but didn’t make it easy. Garjah and I better able to navigate the slope with our extra arms. The humans in the group I saw were visibly drooping as well. The heavy gravity didn’t press on me the same way it did before, and I definitely didn’t miss it.

It also helped me pick out the aliens among the group. Those who moved freely, more easily climbing the slope, were probably not human. Not everyone had removed their helmets, especially the soldiers.

Most of them weren’t human.

Made sense, really, you wouldn’t send someone to protect and defend a scientific team to a planet that would be physically disabling for them. It would also explain their larger size. I was pulled from my thoughts when we got to their camp. They hadn’t landed that far from my skimmer. If they hadn’t come for me, then how had we landed so close together? That seemed improbable.

One side of their shuttle opened when the team neared.

“Oh wow.” I couldn’t help but let out that soft exclamation of envy. They had the mobile lab. It was also full of specimens. I recognized several that I’d studied and cataloged during the few days I’d had before Garjah’s ship had showed up.

Two of the scientists peeled off from the group and entered the lab. They were carrying packs with compartments that could carry multiple specimens.

“You’ve gotten more here than I thought you would by now.” My notes on Ardra would be less than useless. They had more data than I did. Well, about this planet anyway. I looked at Garjah. He was paler than normal, still stressed by the many weapons surrounding us and his inability to ensure my safety. I itched to enter their lab and take a closer look, but I stayed at his side.

“We have spread out and cataloged everything in this region we could safely. Start small and then work up to the larger animals. That’s why we landed here; it is a very rich and diverse ecosystem.”

“It is.” Maybe it wasn’t so unbelievable we’d land so close together then. That was exactly why I’d picked this general area too.

“You wouldn’t consider letting us take a couple of samples from your friend, would you?” one of them asked. “We haven’t been able to get close to… What did you call him?”

“I call him Bouncer. Garjah’s people call them cerops. And no, it would be a bad idea to take samples from him.” Bouncer was definitely keyed into our mood. Garjah was stressed so I was nervous which meant he hadn’t even bounded up the rocky hillside when he could have made it up and back half a dozen times before I got to the top. “And while I have kept notes on behaviors I saw in him versus wild cerops, from what little I saw of them, he’s spent too much time with me. He’s not

“That’s not priority right now.” Soldier One was barking again. He held up a scanner. “Ident.” He looked uncertain. Which wrist would it be in? I held in the sarcastic chuckle. Did he think I grew a whole new set of shoulders, head and neck? I held out my upper left arm and let him scan my forearm for the ident chip.

“Essell Deray. Currently on the Rinta.” He had removed his helmet from his exosuit. He pursed his lips sourly. “Clearly.”

“I’m assigned to the Rinta. Like I said, I was the logical choice to study Ardra.” I crossed my lower arms.

“But you weren’t. Your captain didn’t register any assignment. Nor did he register your absence.”

It was my turn to purse my lips. “It’s not my job to make Captain Sonez do paperwork.” It was thin. There was something off, and we both knew it. I just refused to say it and he wasn’t quite secure enough to accuse me.

Might have something to do with the hulking alien at my back.

Copyright © 2020 Cia; All Rights Reserved.
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I sense something is rotten in Denmark...opps Ardra, more to the point, why hasn't Essell been listed as missing, considering he's the son of eminent scientists???

And then...there's Timok lying in the background....I keep getting an image of a powder keg with a very long fuse...

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I have been wondering where Timok is lurking for a long time. There are so many unanswered questions.

Waiting patiently for next Wednesday.

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This is getting way too fishy. Both sides of the situation are being distrustful, and that's not going to be productive later on. 

Why do I feel like one of the scientists are going to get too close to Garjah, prompting Essell's pair-bond sensitivity? 

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I don't trust any of the scientists, but a few of them would love nothing more than to stun all three of our beloved family and run a bunch of tests.  It goes without saying that the military guys would favor stun first and question later.  Hopefully there is a diplomatic type who doesn't want to piss off a new, technologically advanced race.

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