Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Certain Flavor

A Certain Flavor
by: Nellie Tobey

  Bob was looking in the mirror sharpening and cleaning the smaller hooks of his mandibles.  As mandibles went on his home world, his where quite spectacular and he preferred to keep them that way.  A little polishing every cycle went a long way to keeping them from cracking.
  For the last thousand years the species had moved away from the carnage of eating and ripping the flesh of it's lunch and had developed a taste for a different kind of sustenance. While still flesh, human brains were now all the rage, and it was Bob's job to check the latest crop on Earth to see if they were ripened enough for harvest.
  He had nearly lost his job once, due to bringing back a sample from an anomaly of a human.  It wasn't an exact science as of yet, but apparently the human's could develop in very peculiar ways, and batches had to be done to rule out that one brain had ripened far beyond it's crop.  There were a few members of the board that wanted Bob fired for feeding such a sour batch to the populous.
  And he was about to put his career at even further risk.
  Might as well look good for it.
  Every three years, for the last two hundred and forty three years Bob had found himself admiring these beasts more and more.  They had a certain capacity for intelligence, compassion and self-awareness that suggested it may not be ethical to eat them.
  Today he would gather a human he had been watching for the last five trips and bring it to the board members to discuss this dilemma.
  They'd probably laugh and send him to the prison camps for the mere suggestion.

  He'd lose everything.

  He'd be an outcast.

  He'd never taste that salty maddeningly delicious tissue again.

  The little tingling bell that alerted Bob that autopilot was approaching the planet. It was chiming from the wristband on his smaller left metatarsis. Time to collect a specimen.

 *******************  The wonderful Mistake  ******************

  Chad the sixty something year old human awoke in his sterile holding cell on a large soft surface very confused and very upset.  His dog Molly lay at the foot of the bed alert to something just beyond the radiating green bars on the far side of the room.
  Of course the human thought it an illusion, a dream, some kind of hallucination (as all samples did on the way back to 'CorneFias II'), but Bob had done something out of protocol and brought back with Chad that furry four legged companion of his.

  It seemed to be a good idea at the time.

  Keep the human calm, give it someone so it wasn't completely alone.

  Keep the human from growing to anxious and spoiling what could be an excellent sample of cranial goodness.

  Bob had finished applying his perception suit gel and was headed in to greet and explain to Chad the situation.  Chad wouldn't see a fist sized bug resembling an ant with cricket legs,  but a four foot tall human child.  The offspring seemed really good at controlling the moods of the adults, and Bob hoped the effect rubbed off from mere image alone.  Human's were very influenced by their ocular signals.
  The human had been moving around the room, but now sat in a leather recliner that Bob had acquired on a previous trip for a slightly older speciman.  Molly sat diligently next to Chad, and came to attention when Bob entered.
  Molly could see right through the nano filled projection.  But she did not growl, or raise her hackles, she simply wagged her tail slightly, and turned her head at an angle to study Bob.
  Chad raised from the chair.  "Where am I?  What is this?"
  There was the scent of hysteria emanating from the human.  Molly wagged her tail a few times, bowed her head looking up at her human.   Clearly the dog could smell it also.  Bob was intrigued.  They had studied the human's at extraordinary length. Volumes had been written not only on the primitive culture, but on the many ways to prepare the white matter in souffle.  The domesticated canine however was never on the list to study from this particular planet.

  With the translator giving Bob a slightly Canadian accent, Bob did love that territory, Bob tried to eliminate some of the fear.  "You are safe Chad. You are not a prisoner, and are being given a most prestigious gift of meeting my civilizations leaders and founders."   Human's did love feeling important, probably more so that any other society Bob had encountered.
  Chad pondered for a moment, Molly hesitated then put her head up into the man's hand for reassurance, "Like... take me to your leader?  What are you?"
  There was that intelligence Bob had been documenting.  "Our species is called *gutteral growl noises* but you can call us the Urbecks."
  Chad wobbled sideways and sat on the bed.  "This has to be a dream."  Molly followed Chad and climbed up next to him. She laid her golden head into his lap.
  Chad gently scratched her ears, and stared at Bob for a few minutes.  Bob stood patiently waiting, and watching.  Molly climbed down then and walked over to Bob and to Chad's human eyes, seemed to be sniffing the child's foot.  But Molly and Bob knew she was smelling his largest arm which was held outstretched in response to her curiosity.
  Chad had an angry countenance to him, and sternly chastised Molly.  "Get away from it!"  Molly returned obediently and Chad reached down to hold her by the collar.  Chad realized his insult to this Bob, but was still stinking of fear and confusion.  "I'm sorry, but she's just a dog, she doesn't mean any harm."
  Bob smiled in the projection, motioned for Molly to step away, and nodded. "Oh, I know."  Bob stood for a few seconds and made a decision.  "Why are you humans so violent?"
  Chad snapped out of his anxiety, and a new smell erupted from him.  Self-righteousness. "We aren't all violent, but our world is full of danger, and war, and ..."  Chad stood.  "Am I on trial here?"
  Bob's mandible twitched, and the projection winked.  "Maybe."
  Chad, now holding on to Molly's collar, seemed to be making some very complicated decisions.  "I do not wish to answer any more questions."
  Bob's head nodded.  "Will you allow me to take that thing from off this creatures neck?"
  Chad realized he had been holding too tightly to Molly's collar and she was squirming.  He let go, and Molly went to Bob and wagged her tail some more, then gave a gentle boop to the top of Bob's small shelled head.  To Chad's eyes, the collar fell magically off when Molly stood there with her nose against the child's leg.

  Bob would be sending that directly into the Engine's waste disposal shaft.

*******************   The important things ***********************

Bob had administered the sleeping agent, and moved Chad to a fluid chamber hours later.

  He sat reviewing the video's and news stories throughout recorded human history on domesticated dogs, and even a small section of the Urbecks research on them that had been filed under: "An nonconformity to be further studied." 
Molly sat happily at his side chewing on an old exoskeleton that Bob had left absentmindedly in a basket.
  He came to the conclusion that they had not been 'domesticated' but had evolved.
  "You know, we have a program for species such as yourself that allows for asylum on our lesser populated planets.  I think your fellow canines would be very happy, and a great contribution to our society."
  Molly perked up her head, and panted.
  "Oh yes, food and water are abundant and for all in our society.  And no creature is made servant against their will to any other."
  Molly tilted her head.
  "I know you love them, but on behalf of all our kind, we'd like to make the offer known."

Three years later, Bob would be traveling to Earth not to check on crops, but to be transporting asylum seekers to the colony of Harmony.  Bob had almost made the worst decision in his life.  They definitely weren't ripe yet.



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