So, who the fiddler’s flying fig decided Mars needed alligators?
Turns out, it was more accident than nefarious intent, though I would lean towards idiocy.
Remember the urban legend from Old New York? How these parents gave their brat an alligator and it ‘escaped’ down the shitter into the sewers? That it must have happened more than once because there’s a veritable congregation of them under the Big Rotten Apple? More myth than fact to the legend, I suspect.
No such luck on the Martian colony Neo Amsterdam I call home. Gators abound. They roam the subterranean aqueducts beneath the city. New Beijing reports them now too. Whether they came from my fair city courtesy of the Canals or whether they had their own idiot kids of equally idiot parents, you can make your best guess.
Doesn’t matter much. My job is still the same: catch, spay, tag and relocate. I’ve developed a bit of a knack for it. Don’t need to use firearms or even a team. Just me, a good net and some chemical restraints— all I ever need. The Department of Martian Natural Resources is quite generous. I do my job and collect my bounty.
Most days, anyway.
Today, I’m tromping around the atmospheric generator. The swampy red muck makes for hard going but it’s a damn-sight better than wading through the bog itself. Safer.
It’s hot and I sweat, so I’m not wearing the re-breather helmet. The air is foul-tasting and thick— a far cry from the perfect mix under the city dome. It’ll be an adjustment for the fine citizens when they start introducing Martian’s special brand of air. They have to; domes don’t last forever.
I check my wrist display. No pings. That’s the worst part. Knowing they’re out there but not where. Some ‘Alligator Whisperer’ I turned out to be.
The scientists reported the tags stopped working a week ago. All of them. All at once. Which is weird, because I’ve been bringing gators to this sanctuary for three years. It’s not a power source thing. It’s something else.
Fifty-two animals at last count. A full deck.
I find a rock to sit upon and take a break, scanning my surroundings. I see nothing but swamp fog. I hear nothing but insects— thanks again to whoever brought those along.
They’re out there. I sense it in my gut. They’re watching me.
I wander down to the water’s edge, where the strange flora breaks to red sand. The soil is disturbed in one spot— a small mound where it should be flat.
My stomach sinks as I gingerly move a little soil off the top with my foot. Egg shells. So much for neutering. The sense of being watched, no, hunted, grows and I resist the urge to run.
I see the first pair of yellow eyes rise from the bog and I know I’m cooked. A second set. A third. Growls from behind.
For some reason, this strikes me as funny, the absurdity of it all. I sit on the bank cross-legged and wait.