Bewildering Stories

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The Hunt

by Robert Allen

Table of Contents
Part 1 appears
in this issue.


“Look, lady, male or female, when you stop breathing you’re dead. I assume you know that and wish to prevent it from happening. That means that since we are working together any idea that will prolong our breathing, no matter who it comes from, is useful. Do I make myself clear?”

“Do you mean that? Well, that’s different, anyway. OK, I think that we should take the scent tabs, all of them, out of their protective cases and put them in a leaf wrap and drop them into a swamp area. All of them together should cause a real foul-up with the tracers. If we are lucky, they might even put some of them out of commission.”

“If we do that,” Littlebear responded, “we will have those copters here in minutes, way before we can get any distance. With scopes on their rifles they won’t need tracers.”

“Not with these scent tabs. First, they are time released and secondly they slow down their release when in water. That means that, if we drop them now, the tabs won’t release for over forty-five minutes.

“When they get here they will have to get down to the surface to find out what they are tracing and then back up, another thirty minutes. That’s an hour and a quarter. We can get pretty far in that amount of time. We might even be able to come up with another trick or two by then.”

Grabbing several of the large Lorka leaves, Littlebear began fashioning small containers for the scent tabs.

Siddris, watching, puzzled, said, “We only need one of them and it needs to be bigger.”

“I am setting this up for three different packages. I am making them with three sizes and they will fit inside one another. When they are filled with the scent tabs and dropped into the swamp, they will go off one at a time. It just might make the scent develop more slowly, like we were staying in one place hiding.

“If these people are at all smart and this stuff puts out a scent too quickly they might just realize that it is a decoy. But if the scent builds up slowly they could believe we are down there and spend some real time looking for us.”

Siddris smiled at the cleverness of the idea and gave Littlebear more points for intelligence than she had thought him possibly having.

Soon, the scent tabs falling down to the swampy waters below, the two were racing in and out of the covering leaves towards the safe drop.

Barely fifty minutes later they heard the copters heading for the spot where they had dropped the triple package of scent tabs. Knowing that if a tracer, not honed into the scent in the swamps, were to be in the area they could still be picked up, they doubled their efforts in scooting through the foliage.

Hours later, approaching the edge of the shield, they had to watch for a new enemy. The safe drop, a quarter of a mile away, and plainly visible to them because of their special contact lenses, was on the other side of the shield. So were the beasties. “Well, Siddris, how fast can you run?”

“Not fast enough. Why is the drop so far away? Who planned that?”

“Some bureaucrat at headquarters. One of the academic types. Probably some law that nothing technological can be closer to a shielded estate. That means that we get to find a way over there before the guys looking for us get here and before the beasties realize that dinner is heading across the open field. So, how fast can you run?”

“Littlebear, what do those beasties like, besides our flesh on the hoof?”

“They like the swamp in back of us. Smells good to them and there are a lot of uncouth creatures in the waters that taste good to them. These beasties are always ravenous when Lord Malcolm lets them in. They used to crowd right up to the shields around the estate. They stopped doing that when the old boy brought Lady Malcolm home. She scared even the beasties.”

“Then that story that the other maids told me was true. She came and the beasties stopped crowding the force shields around the estate.

“Well, those people behind us will be here soon and it looks somewhat clear up ahead. Don’t you think we should make a try for it now?”

Littlebear removed some decorative devices from his belt, religious symbols he had told Lord Malcolm – and in a way they were, since he often, in his line of business meditated on continuing his existence – and slid them together into a small piece of equipment. Setting it next to the shield, he pushed it closer until it almost touched.

“When it touches the shield we will have fifteen seconds to get through. The opening will be small and it would not be good to touch any of the edges. You have to get clean through and be running immediately. Ladies first.” Using a stick, Littlebear pushed the device until it touched the shield and the opening appeared just has he had predicted. And, just as he had predicted, it was small.

Siddris darted through and started running toward the safe drop. Littlebear was not far behind. Neither, from the sounds of giant feet and hungry growls, were the beasties.

Siddris slowed down a little and Littlebear, passing her, yelled at her to go faster.

Then, to his surprised, it seemed as if the sound of the beasties was no longer gaining on them, but going the other way. As he turned around he saw Siddris jogging slowly toward him, shaking a small bottle behind her.

“You know those beasties are right. Lady Malcolm’s perfume is awful.”

* * *

Quorn Sulti gaveled the meeting to order.

“Quiet, sirs. We must have quiet, please. I now call the 7,357th monthly meeting of the Martio-Jovian Philatelic society to be in session.”

Throughout the Great Hall, all eyes were riveted on Chairman Quorn. All across the system, those not fortunate enough to attend studied his face on their screens. There had been rumors of an announcement.

“Because of the nature of the first order of business, only those in Tier One membership will be allowed to have access to the pertinent information. All others will have their video units put on hold. Pleasant music will be provided. Afterwards, the particular specimen will be on camera for all to see.

“Tier One members, it is our pleasure to introduce our special agents, Captain Littlebear and Admiral Siddris of the Philatelic Fleet.

“They will now explain how they retrieved the 1861 Confederate postage stamp, stolen from us in transit, and that now, finally, graces our universally acclaimed collection.”

The presentation was detailed but not terribly long. All over the system the Tier One members chuckled at how the two agents had fooled their captors with the scent tabs and then warded off the beasties with Lady Malcolm’s overly powerful perfume.

The applause was loud and long and repeated itself when the two agents told the members that they would be joining ranks by getting married on that very weekend.

Then the reward ceremony came that promoted Captain Littlebear in rank to Admiral and accepted Admiral Siddris’ refusal of a more advanced rank than her husband-to-be. They gave her extra money instead.

Then, before Chairman Quorn allowed those below Tier One membership to view the stamp he made the statement that it seemed quite apropos that the stamp was rescued in the manner it was, since it was, after all, a Two Cent Stamp.

Copyright © 2005 by Robert Allen

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