I think I overdid it yesterday. Between spring rising, and house guests at the end of the week, I’d decided it was time to do a big cleaning. So today I’m sore and stiff and just a wee bit cranky. Did I mention I have midterms all this week? Yeah. So I’ll be studying. However, next week is Spring Break, so I do have a light at the end of the tunnel. Expect posting this week to be light, sorry.
I also have a question. I’ve had this story in my head wanting out, and I plan to finish it over spring break – it’s a short story. The problem I’m having is with a title. You see, I stuck it with a working title when I started on it (almost a year ago, ow) and I can’t think of it any other way. I’m going to snippet the beginning, and I welcome any title suggestions! Winner gets… I dunno. Carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting? LOL
Puppies in Spaace!
Bobby hefted the crate, ignoring the vehement hissing the Altarian lizard inside was emitting, and waited for the door to Peter’s warehouse to slide open. His gut was in a knot. This was not only his first trade expedition alone, but Peter was Walter’s brother.
The door slid open, emitting a palpable cloud of scent and sound. Bobby swallowed his gorge and stepped inside.
“Shut the door! Were you born in a barn?” and that was Peter, irritated as always. “You’ll let out all the heat. Why should I pay to heat the whole station…” He came around a rack of cages and stopped dead.
“I have your lizard, sir.” Bobby offered. He shifted awkwardly on his feet. The cage was heavy, but Peter’s gaze was heavier.
After an eternity, it seemed, Peter sighed. “Come on in, boy and tell me about it.” He pointed at a gap on the rack. “Set the damn thing there.”
Bobby followed him to the office, panting slightly in the hot, humid air of the Pet Emporium: Odd, Exotic, & Rare! that Peter ran, providing the rarities of the galaxy to only the wealthiest clientele. It always smelled to Bobby of animal droppings and bizarre creatures. When he was a boy, it had been the best place on the route to visit, where he could prowl the racks as long as he kept his fingers to himself, while Walter and Peter talked.
In the office, Peter sat slowly on his old chair behind the desk. He swiveled around to face Bobby. “Sit, sit…” he waved the young man to the other chair. Bobby moved a box of freeze-dried mealworms and did as he was told.
“So when did it happen?” the old man asked.
“You knew?” Bobby blurted, and then felt himself blush.
“I knew he was ailing. And I knew he intended you to take over the ship when he was gone.”
Bobby nodded. There was a lump in his throat. He’d been with Walter for the last five trading seasons, and the old man had been the closest thing he had ever had to a father. He stammered, “Two… two stops ago. I did what he’d said to do, and then came straight here.”
“You skipped a stop?”
“You did fine.” Peter fell quiet and studied him for a long moment. “So, what are your plans now?”
Bobby lifted his chin and took a deep breath. “I’d like to stay on his route.”
“Yeah, I don’t need anyone, I can handle it all.” He frowned, then added, hesitantly, “this last season, I’ve done it all, really.”
Peter nodded. “He was failing fast.”
“I’m sorry,” Bobby offered after a pause.
“It was his time.” Peter passed a hand over his face, smoothing the wrinkled skin back into a friendly mask he wore for clients.
“So, lad, what are you going to take a gamble on?”
“What’s hot right now?”
“Jewel lizards from Sirrocco, but that’s not what you need. C’mon.” Peter grunted as he levered himself out of the chair and Bobby stood, letting him go out first. Peter charged into the head-high racks of cages, muttering to himself. “Let’s see…”
Bobby would have liked to stop and look at the various creatures that were housed here, some in stasis, others alive and fascinating. But he knew if he didn’t keep up with Peter, he could get lost in here. Peter’s assistants, rumor had it, carried special location devices keyed to the station to help them find their way in and out of the ever-changing maze of racks. Peter came to a halt and bent over.
“Ah, here we are!”
Bobby looked down. “What is that?”
“‘That’ is the next big thing.” Peter proclaimed proudly. “I’m not talking it up to many traders yet, boy, but I want to give you a leg up.”
Bobby crouched down and took a closer look. The creature was in stasis, and it seemed to be a loose bundle of fur. He could see a snout, and paws, but everything else was covered in brown and white folds. He felt dubious that any rich kid would find it cute.
“That there is a pure-blood Basset Hound.” Peter told him. “It’s a kind of dog. There’s only a few hundred left in the galaxy.”
“I’ve heard of dogs.” Bobby admitted. “In old story books, but I never saw one. They used to be common?”
“Yep, before we became a space-faring species. But when we lifted for the stars, they got left behind. Too little room, too few resources. Cats made the cut, dogs didn’t. Which means, young Robert, that mankind is primed for this old pet to come back in a big way.”
“Well,” Bobby scratched his head. “I suppose if they used to be such a everyday thing that they wrote books about them, you might be on to something. I’ll take him, if the price is right.”
Peter bellowed with laughter. “You are a chip off the old block, all right.”
Bobby left a little later with the stasis box tucked under his arm and a small hover pallet of jewel lizards in tow behind him. The Basset Hound was not very big. He’d declined Peter’s invitation to stay to dinner and a night in a ‘real bed.’ He needed to get used to being on his own again. He’d been used to it before Walter, and even the seasons with the old man hadn’t been too bad. He’d let Bobby stay to himself pretty much, as long as chores got done, and studying. Bobby remembered how he had resented the studying, at first, and the old trader had to practically stand over him during lesson time. But that had changed, until Bobby outstripped the lessons on board.
As soon as he got back on the ship, he latched down the box on a steel rack, then inspected his cargo one more time before lift. This station had little to offer him, a specialties man, but Peter had been his first stop after Walter was gone. The real deals happened on Adressa, the next planetfall. The jewel lizards with their tiny precious metal harnesses would go over well there, as living jewelry.