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by Colin P. Davies

Table of Contents
Part 1, Part 2
Part 3, Part 4
appeared in issue 233.
Part 5

Snitzel moth-winged dachshund: somewhat smaller than the bowyer dachshund, this tiny, fast-moving but harmless creature is fond of squeezing into confined spaces and is often found between the pages of books and inside wallets. Frequently heading the top ten list of fluttering phobias published in Underbelly Magazine, the moth-winged dachshund has an established value as a component in high-risk entomological medicine.

Once a week, Parvo would ride the cable car up the cliff to Plateau to get his booster shots and take in a musical. If he had the time he would eat slowbeef steak at the Pesthouse Inn, get drunk and make abusive calls to strangers from the com booth. Today, however, when the curtain dropped for the interval, he slipped out of the Starlight Theatre, called in Kwik Kleen to get a five minute steam on his coat, then headed directly to the cable car terminal, impatient for the descent. He needed to know how far Gregory had progressed with assembly of the cage — and, besides, he’d seen Pests three times before.

He took a cab across the city. The traffic was heavy, but he would beat the rush hour gridlock. His route took him past the archway to the Avenue of the First Fools, which led to the Palace, and he disembarked at the Academy Gardens Cliffside Restaurant, for old times’ sake. He walked the rest of the way.

As he approached the delicate nuovogothic filigree structure of the car station, he stopped at the railing which closed off the sheer cliff. The sun was orange and swollen and appeared to squat upon the horizon. The haze over the swampland lakes fluoresced the colours of flame, guttering with reflected sunfire from a school of marmaduke mirrored dolphins. All deceptively beautiful; deceptive because those swamps were deadly. Deception was in the very nature of this planet.

His attention was snared by a light high above him in the darkening sky. He knew what it was. Sure enough, he could see the distant slowbeef, thousands of them, each dull-minded creature suspended on its huge helium bladder. Tiny lights like illuminated dust scooted about the herd. These were the beefboy drovers on flycycles, driving the herd south towards the market centres of New Rome and San Benedict.

More High Lord mischief! The agreed route for the slowbeef drives was kilometres clear of Screetown, over the turnip fields and cereal crops. But the Lords could save time and lira by instructing the short cut over Parvo’s parish, whilst carefully skirting the perimeter of Plateau. What did they care about the risks and inconvenience caused to those below...

Extending to left and right eight hundred metres below him were the sandrock dwellings of Screetown divided into precincts by the dark squirming veins of the Spaghetti river system.

One day things had to change. Things would change!

But that was for the future. Today, Parvo was pleased with himself. He was certain his idea would work. The cage should be finished before tomorrow night and then they would add the special ingredient.

His nose twitched. The breeze carried a smell... He knew someone was nearby, closing in silently. The scent was of thompson fanger pelt; the wings made excellent blade-resistant waistcoats for the Plateau Constabulary.

“My papers are in order,” Parvo said without turning. “And I assure you there are no illegal pests upon my person.”

No-one answered.

Parvo turned... a full circle. He was alone.

Then he spotted a constable a good hundred metres away, planting a ticket on a sporty six-wheeler which sat astride the sidewalk.

Parvo checked the breeze. It was the right direction. Had his olfactory abilities developed so far? He wondered what further surprises awaited him. He’d always had great confidence in his skills, but now he felt invincible.

He would replace Lord Pestmeister Dimitri — and soon.

* * *

Proceed to part 6...

Copyright © 2007 by Colin P. Davies

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