Chick looked round, and before anyone could start to speak he piled up his plate from the free buffet.
Moe was still in bed, sedated by Clarissa to stifle his whining, but Anwyn was present, scoffing Mars Bars he noticed, from what appeared to be a supply kept in one of her ammo pouches. What was even odder was that the scratches and wounds she had recieved earlier seemed to have largely healed. He had heard stories but hadn’t believed them till now.
Also sat around the table were Toppinghouse, Mr. Burnes, Smithers and Dr. Halffrunt. Chick wasn’t sure what a beatnik was, and so was unable to confirm whether or not he looked like one.
Dr. Halffrunt was probably middle aged, and the top of his head was bald as a coot. He wore thick glasses and still had a semicircle of uncombed hair, somewhat resembling a dirty scrubbing brush, circling the middle of his head from ear to ear. The effect of his eyebrows almost made it appear like there was a perfect circumference of wiry hair. Absently he noticed that while this hair was a salt and pepper grey/ black, the copious hair growing from his nostrils was an alarming red.
“So Dr. Halffrunt”, concluded Mr. Burnes, “These are the facts as we know them. Perhaps you could now deign to inform us of your half witted opinion?”
“’Zis iss all very interesting”, said Dr. Halffrunt. “Zer Preying Zorg iss Native to Fundi. Normally ’zey average some 3.5 metres tall, und zho I can only conclude ’zat ze vuns you encountered ver still in ’zer rudimentary stages off ’zer life cycle.”
“But how did they get here?” asked Clarissa, “And why have they re-appeared now?”
“Ah vell. I can only hypothesise of course” said Halffrunt. “’Ven ’zis vorld was terraformed some thirty years ago, it iss possible ’zat ’zere was some contamination: ’ze process was somewhat rougher and readier back ’zen. Alternatively ’ze zorgs might haff been imported on an early colony supply vessal: I fear biosecurity iss not always a priority in such circumstances. Eizer vay,zey arrived at Eerie Caller some time ago I suspect.” Here Dr. Halffrunt paused, and gripped the lapels of his shabby checked jacket, leather elbow patches shining dully.
“Ze natural prey of ze Zorg are ’ze small, tree-dwelling marsupials of Fundi’s jungles but ’zey can readily adapt to larger prey-including lone miners. Fortunately thirty years ago ’ze miners were few, and zroo fortunate circumstance ’ze mine was abandoned, depriving the nascent Zorg colony of its primary food source. At ’zat time the planetary population was mere hundreds, and settlements scattered, so ’ze colony must have started to prey on vun anozzer, before going into hibernation. It iss established zat ze Zorg can do this.”
“And now?” asked Clarissa.
“Now is different situation” beamed Dr. Halffrunt. “Zere are many mines and small settlements, und a population numbering over ten thousand. Zer iss ample food available for ’ze colony to expand and prosper. Also ’zer wind patterns are now much more temperate, so an airborne migration is far more likely to succeed.”
“Wait a minute!” interrupted Mr. Burnes, “Airbourne migration you say?”
“Ah yes. If ’ze colony produces a new queen in und her drones, ’zese will have a short lived winged stage to facilitate establishment of a new colony.” Here he paused and started fiddling with a slide rule. “I estimate ’zat if a new queen is established in a hidden location elsewhere, and if… yes…. and zo….Hmmm.” He continued to calculate
“Yes. It is extremely probable ’zat ’ze colony will be largely overrun in… what… seven or eight months?”
“WHATT?!” exploded Mr. Burnes. “But that is completely unacceptable. We’ll never be able to ship in replacement workers at that sort of rate.”
“What do you suggest Sir?” asked Smithers, looking panicked.“We need to destroy these enemies!”
“Zere are no enemies in science Mr. Smithers, only phenomena to be studied.” lectured Dr. Halffrunt. “’Ze spread of ’zis species has neffer been studied in ’ze necessary scientific detail before, and ’zis situation offers a unique opportunity to study the phenomenon and ’zer rate of destruction of ’zer colony. I vould be grateful if you could assign me a team of your mining staff to assist me in my field studies.”
“Are these things intelligent?” interrupted Clarissa.
“Zey have a rudimentary intelligence but ’zey are essentially ruthless killing machines,perfectly adapted to their role. No emotions, no feelings. no pleasure, no pain… no emotion, no heart. Our superior in every way. It will be most fascinating to monitor ’zer effects on ’ze colony.”
“You blathering lunatic!” exploded Mr. Burnes. “Smithers, call Boris and Lurch to to stuff this imbecile into a wastepaper basket! And call my personal shuttle.I need a vacation.”
“Ach. I am afaid ’zat will not be possible.”said Dr. Halffrunt. “I haff already filed my report with the SCA and ’zis world is now under quarantine.” He shrugged.
“Rattling Boobykins! Smithers! Bring me the rubber truncheon!” gasped Mr. Burnes, incandescent with rage.
“Careful Sir. Careful!” said Smithers soothingly, "Your heart remember?
“Er, can I say say something?” asked Clarissa, sticking up her hand.