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by Colin P. Davies

Table of Contents
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
appear in this issue.
Part 2

Westlake balancing mallard: an inelegant, one-legged amphibian. A capable flier, though frequently injured upon landing, the balancing mallard is nevertheless an attractive sight when, shimmering green wings outstretched, it cartwheels across the concrete at Plateau spaceport. Harmless unless eaten, the balancing mallard remains invaluable for baiting the underhill armed gundog.

Parvo switched off the Pestmeister Bible and returned it to his shirt pocket. After an early supper of mudtoad eggs and mottled skim — a treat earned from the dead-or-alive bounty on the pugilist — Parvo had retired to the Stygian living room to fulfil his daily swot and consider his options. He now crossed to the one small window and wiped mist from the glass. Screetown spread away down the hill like a collection of tumbled boulders. Near the river, the rounded houses faded into grey evening haze.

The letter had set him a challenge, and he was not confident of the outcome. Yes, he was cunning and fast. He had the wit to lure thompson fangers with pheromonal snaptraps and the speed to flip a kanazawa turtletooth onto its shell without losing his fingers, but this commission from the High Lords on the High Hill concerned him.

Of all the nightpests, the wild benedict was the wiliest and the most dangerous, and the only pest which could have Parvo double-checking his door locks. Gregory had told him that much of the creature’s brilliant unpredictability was a result of Benedict Benoletti employing his own DNA in its creation. It shared his name — perhaps it also shared his madness.

Much of Parvo’s time was spent installing anti-benedict mesh and security locks and erecting roof wires to prevent excessive fouling of the sculpted sandrock facades. The Screetown parish, which ringed the High Hill of Plateau, capital city of Pestworld, had the largest population of benedicts anywhere on the planet. They appeared reluctant to leave the environs of Benoletti’s old hill-top university, the place of their birth. But still Parvo had never got close to a benedict — never seen one outside the Academy’s vague simulations.

Now, however, he had been instructed to capture one.

Parvo went through to the hallway. The walls were bare, save for the hook where he hung his coat and the bounty scorechart where he hung his ego. He pulled on the black trench coat and turned the collar up.

The house they had given him was austere, almost grim. He was sure the Council could have done better. Still, it came with the job, and this was the job he wanted — for now.

He needed to talk to someone — possibly Old Fool Gregory, the retired metal fabricator, who had befriended Parvo. In the unlikely event that the double-octogenarian could mould an original thought, he at least had materials and a workshop available, and the prospect of a slice of the phenomenal bounty on offer should encourage his assistance.

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Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2007 by Colin P. Davies

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