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Interstellar Human Petting Zoo
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The sign on my cage says I am exhibit #42, a real human female.
When Death comes for me, I don’t fight him.
Interstellar Human Petting Zoo is a standalone novel set in USAT Bestseller Loki Renard’s new dark sci-fi universe.
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Chapter One – Taking Care
“ARRRRRGHHH! MY EYES!”
Ten minutes earlier…
“Tarkan, take care of this.”
Usually that phrase means I have to kill something.
It means that this time too.
I have been tolerating the irritating presence of unaware aliens around me, milling about in various stages of consumer sloth. Upon hearing those words, I take a deep breath and smile with pure contentment.
“THERE’S A GIRL IN THERE!”
Reaper’s human screams at me from an ever increasing distance. She is being hauled physically back to our ship before things get messy, dangerous, and generally dismembered. She is desperate to be believed, though Reaper and I both know she is probably wrong. Humans are rare, so rare as to be functionally extinct.
I am standing outside a shabby tent with a crooked sign which reads: INTERSTELLAR HUMAN PETTING ZOO.
This is one of many shitty attractions which throng the ‘entertainment’ sector of this space trading post. The likelihood of there actually being a human here is so vanishingly low we’d have more chance of flying through a sun and surviving the ordeal.
But what if she’s right?
I draw another deep breath in and feel the disguise which covers my body from head to begin to thin, straining with the effort it takes to contain my true form. To the outside world, I am a ten foot tall fluffy lovebug. Behind the fur lurks the reality: I am scythkin. I am one of trillions of vicious creatures born in clutches, hatched from eggs laid in the wastelands of the civilizations our kind already conquered. I am a being made for one purpose: to kill.
Our original plan was to keep a low profile. Reaper, the very same Reaper who just told me to start with the slaughter, strongly impressed on me that we must not draw attention to ourselves. Here on this trading outpost in the middle of a remote sector, the quality and number of law enforcement is dubious. There could be two little old fladgies in a cart driving around wagging their fingers at people, or there could be a hundred devouring orckrills ready to unleash their poison tentacles. You never know.
Don’t make any scenes, he insisted before we left the ship. Be careful to blend in. And remember, our disguises don’t stand up to that much punishment.
He’s right. My suit is about to split at the seams for some one hundred percent authorized violence for an excellent cause: we’ve found a human.
I pay the door creature and I walk in just like any other customer might. May as well keep the element of surprise going – and oh, what a surprise it is going to be.
Unlike One, the naive little human who belongs to Reaper, I’ve been in plenty of these places before. They’re all pretty much the same, dark hovels overselling underwhelming lies to customers too young or too parochial to know better.
I stroll through the sideshow casually, knocking smaller aliens out of the way with my furred legs. Some of them curse at me. They don’t know how lucky they are. They run away whinging after a good boot sends them flying, but they’ll be glad for every step of distance they’ve gained from me once the screaming starts.
HUMANS! REAL HUMANS!
A flashing sign points in the direction of the display.
It’s dark inside the tent, which doesn’t matter to me because my vision compensates for practically all light conditions. I can see rows of cages containing all sorts of bedraggled looking alien animals, most of them non-sentient, many of them food class.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell what is alien and what is animal, but there are guidelines. When alien species first came together to trade and fight, we had to make a distinction between two types of life form. Who could you eat? Who could you bargain with? Who could be farmed? Traded? Owned?
In the end, after much fighting and many regrettable meals, the decision was made to make speech the deciding factor. Any alien capable of communicating via voice, or gesture, is not to be consumed. Of course, that just means a lot of creatures are gagged and bound before death nowadays, but at least there are rules.
After a quick stroll around the tent, I come to a regrettable conclusion. There are no humans here, just a few Tarnisians with their gills amputated, sitting in a corner pretending to be people.
Oh well. I’m a very big boy. I’m used to disappointment.
I turn to leave, but as I do, a scent catches me. It is filtering down a small dark corridor I could easily have missed if it were not for the pungent draft which caught my nose and now draws me down the narrow passage until I find something I never expected to find again.
She looks less human than the butchered aliens on display, but scent does not lie. Underneath those chains and all that filth, behind the veil of grime and matted hair, there is a human female. I feel my senses thrilling to her, locking on to her. My mind is filled with disbelief, but I know what I am seeing, I can make out the shapes of her limbs, the curve of her hip, the length of her leg curled up against her body. She is chained more aggressively than any other exhibit here. There are bands of metal on her wrists and ankles, and at her neck and waist. Heavy chain binds her to the floor and wall. I have never seen a human kept this way, not even during the fairly dark periods of human history. She is not moving. She’s just a little lump of human, curled up against the world. The only indication that she is alive comes from the fact that I do not smell any decay.