Gator had thought about eating Andross—multiple times. Unfortunately seriously. He’d had to lock himself in the back of the Boatman’s cargo bay and bury himself in a pile of machine parts, trying to build some new device, which would do something, that would be applicable somehow. He’d only had to snap his jaws at Andross once (who came in bored, irritable, and looking for someone to entertain him) to get rid of him. Gator’s growl followed the retreating meat bag out the door, generated by both his throat and his ravenous belly. Megladytes didn’t have to eat every day. Often they gorged themselves on an animal carcass, and that could last them most of the week—it was true! But in this case, Gator was due for a full on meal. In the end, his little machine only managed to open its arms like an automated spice rack with a pincer complex, and the churning triangular tank tread that was supposed to climb stairs, but instead only rolled in on itself like Gator’s stomach.
While Clidjitt and the others were focused on their stunt arrival (sliding in behind Kaldus Minor, disarming the jammer while masked by the meteor Phaenon—an abandoned satellite of the Kalduses’—and sauntering out like a merchant to rendezvous with the Rival Bay) Gator paced like a wild cat. Finally, in desperation, he soldered chunky, three-meter aluminum silts to his contraption!
After 30 minutes sitting the Rival’s shuttle bay, the alarms finally sounded the all-clear, and Gator even tolerated Clidjitt, Andross, and P’Xak hovering nervously on the back of the cargo ramp for the last five minutes.
At last the ramp hissed and dropped. Gator stood at the top, fingers twitching as the heads, torsos, and legs of Crimson and several others appeared. He stomped down towards them.
“Good work,” Crimson grunted.
“Feed. Me.” Gator growled.
“Right here, Big Guy,” Keffler motioned. Next to his mobility chair was one of the kitchen’s rolling trays. A delicious rack of cattle ribs sat there, raw and dripping. Gator took the tray with both hands and steered it away from the others, before lifting the tender meat, bones, and everything in both hands. Waves of savory euphoria burst in his mouth as his teeth snapped on the ribs and tendons, popping them juicily.
Andross’ grimace followed Gator as he went and crouched over his kill. Turning back to the others the human hunched his shoulders slightly and imitated, “Feed. Me!”
Keffler snorted. “Ha! Made ya’ soup and sandwiches in the Mess.”
“Report,” Crimson asked.
Clidjitt and Andross replied at the same time.
Clidjitt said: “Mission success! We entered Kaldus fly-space without detection and disarmed the jammer in a sensor blind spot. It seems nobody was counting traffic dots.”
Andross said: “I’m much better, thanks. Starving, fer cryin’ out—oh, you mean him.”
Crimson didn’t regard the human, but nodded to the insectoid, “Well done. Get yourselves up to the Mess and have something to eat. I’ve arranged a meet up with Rae’s buyer: a low life called Kaspellidon. We meet him in ten hours.” The pilots nodded and slipped passed her. Crimson continued, “Cort, check on the cargo; make sure it’s all right. We’ll leave it in the Boatman.”
“You got it,” replied the space rodent. He hopped up the ramp and scuttled to the mouth of the cargo bay, where he stopped suddenly, beholding the 3 meter aluminum spider. “What the heck is that?”
From across the shuttle bay Gator slurped his lips. “Spice rack.”
Cort looked at Crimson. She gave a grim shrug of her human shoulder.
Cort went to work.