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Dome Monkeys

Dome Monkeys (Published in Space Opera :
Writer’s contest anthology.  Fall 2016) 

            Ralotarans appeared on the control room screens;
slow and stupid and thinking they could simply demand
surrender of the Xa'ethian space station.  Lan'to Paun gave a
derisive sniff before choking as the last of the shadows
resolved.  Humans.  The Ralotarans had Humans. 
            Lan'to Paun spun to her deputies.  "Where did they
obtain Humans?"
            Deputy Tu'lli Po stepped forward.  "Be calm,
Station Master.  Human allies or not, they cannot enter the
range of our defenses.  The Humans are
not magic, Station Master.  They are flesh and
can die." 
            Lan'to Paun's other Deputy, Mi'ole Tula, an ancient
crone with long teeth and more years of institutional memory
than anyone else on Lan'to Paun's  staff, shouldered
Tu'lli Po aside. "We have Humans as well, Station Master."
She turned her neck diffidently. "I did not see it before now.
The bugs brought them when we awarded the dome
maintenance contracts."
            "The dome monkeys!"  Lan'to Paun had seen
the small creatures climbing amongst the girders with
their tool belts and dirty overalls, always supervised
by the Kiptukict whose wide shells made it difficult to
reach station mechanicals.  It was impossible.
            "Consider, Station Master," Mi'ole Tula
continued.  "Don't the dome monkeys look very like
those Humans? When the Kiptukict arrived with their
small helpers, did our safety and well-being not
improve?  Our air is clearer and we no longer
fall ill.  Our humidity is constant and we no longer peel.
We paid gladly and thought the bugs were brilliant
contractors, and all this time their success was
because they had Humans."
            Lan'to Paun stared, lost in her contemplation
of the good fortune of discovering Humans on board
her station.   Everyone knew that if you were in a
tight spot that Humans were lucky.  With Humans
aboard it was no wonder that the dark ship that
rested beyond their defenses was confident enough
to demand the station surrender.   But there
was no way the Ralotarans could possibly know
that Lan'to Paun had Humans, too. 
The Station Master's smile grew.
            "Go," she snapped at Deputy Tu'lii Po.
"I want a Human here in no more than ten
            The station began an eleventh revolution
as Tu'lii Po returned with one of the Kiptukict
mechanics who pushed a scruffy dome monkey
complete with a double belt of tools into the room. 
The Human's flesh was blotted with spots of purple
and green.  A brown stain covered one side
of its face.  Up close the creatures were
not attractive at all.  It stumbled.
            The Kiptukict rose up majestically. "Mender
Latua Chait'le, at your service."
            "Tu'lii Po, escort the bug out," Lan'to Paun
ordered. "I need the Human."   
Lan'to Paun now knew the secret of Kiptukict
success.  They cheated.
            Tu'lii Po left with the protesting bug.
            Station Master Lan'to Paun observed
the dome monkey.  It was staring at
the display.  At least three Humans moved
back and forth behind the Ralotaran Captain
who was repeating what it termed
"conditions of surrender." 
            Lan'to Paun slapped open
communications and crowed.
            "Surrender to a single Ralotaran ship! 
I will never do so.  And I will show
you this, you slothful behemoth, I have
Humans, too!"  She jerked the dome monkey
forward and thrust it before the Ralotaran. 
            With a cry the Humans in the Ralotaran
command room rushed toward the display.
            Lan'to Paun's Human stared at the
display, at the Humans and at the
Ralotaran Captain.  It slowly pulled a tool f
rom its belt, a narrow thing with a grip on
one end and rod on the other which was
flattened at the very tip.  The Human turned
the tool in its hand.  One rotation.  Two. 
It looked around the control room and then
back at the display, it nodded its odd head
at something and became still.  
            Station Master Lan'to Paun got tired
of waiting for the ragged creature to do
whatever lucky thing that Humans did. She
pushed her Human aside.  It tumbled farther
than the push warranted, ending under the
auxiliary control desk along the wall in a
cascading tinkle of loose tools and electronics.
            "And now we know where we stand,"
she announced.  The lights in the control
room began to flicker.  
            Dome monkeys were maintenance.  
Lan'to Paun turned.  The Human was
now standing next to the control desk. 
"Fix it!" she commanded. Its little hands
obediently flew across the controls and then
it sprinted to another control panel.   
            The Human slapped a communications
toggle and let loose with a string of
Kiptukict language: clicks and whistles
and slaps.  The Station Master smiled.
The Human had broken from its stupor and
would rally some miraculous defense.
            But the old crone spoke Kiptukict.   
"It has dropped our defenses!"  Mi'ole Tula
roared as she charged the Human, her long
teeth bared and savage.  The Human thrust
one of its two thin arms into those open jaws. 
Blood fanned outward and the Human and
crone disappeared behind the console. 
            Lan'to Paun scrambled for the blaster
at her side.  She would not attack with teeth
like a savage.
            When the Human rose it held Mi'ole
Tula's energy weapon.   Blood flowed freely
from its wounded arm and the weapon
            Lan'to Paun's desperate shot went
through the Human's shredded arm like wind
through a wet rag.
            The human clicked twice, whistled
once, and fired.

            The Human and Ralotaran landing crews
met no resistance from the Xs'ethian
residents.  Teams moved through the corridors
stepping over an occasional Kiptukict slaver
with a screwdriver thrust precisely into its brain. 
In the station control room they found two
Xs'ethian bodies, scaled and cold, one with a
screwdriver in its ear and one with an energy
burn through its chest.  A living Xs'ethian sat
between them.  The adolescent they'd seen
in the transmission lay along the far wall,
            The survivor lifted claws dripping with
blood and turned them, as if in wonder. 
It spoke in a ragged, hissing whisper. 
"I told the Station Master that Humans could die,"
it said. 
"I thought it would be harder." 


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