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Traders Risk   By: (1914-2004)

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Keeping this cargo meant death to jettison it meant to make flotsam and jetsam of a world!

Illustrated by MARTIN

The Ciriimian ship was passing in hyperdrive through a classic three body system, comprising in this case a fiercely white sun circled by a fainter companion and a single planet that swung in precise balance, when the Canthorian Zid broke out of its cage in the specimen hold.

Of the ship's social quartet, Chafis One and Two were asleep at the moment, dreaming wistful dreams of conical Ciriimian cities spearing up to a soft and plum colored sky. The Zid raged into their communal rest cell, smashed them down from their gimbaled sleeping perches and, with the ravening blood hunger of its kind, devoured them before they could wake enough to teleport to safety.

Chafis Three and Four, on psi shift in the forward control cubicle, might have fallen as easily if the mental screamings of their fellows had not warned them in time. As it was, they had barely time to teleport themselves to the after hold, as far as possible from immediate danger, and to consider the issue while the Zid lunged about the ship in search of them with malignant cries and a great shrieking of claws on metal.

Their case was the more desperate because the Chafis were professional freighters with little experience of emergency. Hauling a Zid from Canthorian jungles to a Ciriimian zoo was a prosaic enough assignment so long as the cage held, but with the raging brute swiftly smelling them out, they were helpless to catch and restrain it.

When the Zid found them, they had no other course but to teleport back to the control cubicle and wait until the beast should snuff them down again. The Zid learned quickly, so quickly that it was soon clear that its physical strength would far outlast their considerable but limited telekinetic ability.

Still they possessed their share of owlish Ciriimian logic and hit soon enough upon the one practical course to jettison the Zid on the nearest world demonstrably free of intelligent life.

They worked hurriedly, between jumps fore and aft. Chafi Three, while they were still in the control cubicle, threw the ship out of hyperdrive within scant miles of the neighboring sun's single planet. Chafi Four, on the next jump, scanned the ship's charts and identified the system through which they traveled.

Luck was with them. The system had been catalogued some four Ciriimian generations before and tagged: Planet undeveloped. Tranquil marine intelligences only.

The discovery relieved them greatly for the reason that no Ciriimian, even to save his own feathered skin, would have set down such a monster as the Zid among rational but vulnerable entities.

The planet was a water world, bare of continents and only sparsely sprinkled with minor archipelagoes. The islands suited the Chafis' purpose admirably.

"The Zid does not swim," Chafi Four radiated. "Marooned, it can do no harm to marine intelligences."

"Also," Chafi Three pointed out as they dodged to the control cubicle again just ahead of the slavering Zid, "we may return later with a Canthorian hunting party and recover our investment."

Closing their perception against the Zid's distracting ragings, they set to work with perfect coordination.

Chafi Three set down the ship on an island that was only one of a freckling chain of similar islands. Chafi Four projected himself first to the opened port; then, when the Zid charged after him, to the herbivore cropped sward of tropical setting outside.

The Zid lunged out. Chafi Four teleported inside again. Chafi Three closed the port. Together they relaxed their perception shields in relief

Unaware in their consternation that they committed the barbarous lapse of vocalizing, they twittered aloud when they realized the extent of their error.

Above the far, murmurous whisper of expected marine cerebration there rose an uncoordinated mishmash of thought from at least two strong and relatively complex intelligences... Continue reading book >>

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