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What Happened to Moschops

Adam Knight is a writer and teacher in northern New Jersey. His debut novel, At the Trough was published in 2019 at NineStar Press. He has also had fiction published in Escape Pod, Arcturus Review, and other magazines and anthologies. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamKnightBooks or visit his site at adamknightbooks.com. He is currently seeking publication for two very different works: A memoir about his friendship with a Holocaust survivor, and a cosmic horror novel about the sinking of the Titanic by an undersea god.

Dobodo glided down the corridor of the science vessel Stardust. His amorphous form could bend and stretch in the tubes, but his quarry's could not. The specimen, linked to him with an electron tether, was unlike any organism they had yet encountered. Dobodo knew that his teacher, Gleet, would be impressed. Dobodo was the worst student in the class. He was always forgetting something, always giving wrong answers, always finding the dullest bit of asteroid or moon to study and looking like the class fool.
But not now. If Dobodo had had a chin, he would have held it high.
Gleet glided out of the science bay.
"What do you want" he asked as he blocked Dobodo's path. He was distracted, analyzing reports from other students, spread out over the star system.
"I have a specimen!"
"Of what?"
Dobodo beamed as much as a being made of plasma is able.
"The dominant form of life. You asked for--"
"Where are you stationed?' Gleet interrupted.
"My field work is on the third planet in this system. The one with all of the water. It supports life! I mean their atmosphere is a nasty mix of nitrogen, oxygen, and--"
"I have cautioned you not to make value judgments of other systems. What is the specimen?"
Dobodo pulled the tether, and the creature bounced forward. It was a Moschops, large and solid, with four heavy legs and broad shoulders. Its long tail would have helped it keep balance, had there been gravity. It did not struggle, but that was because Dobodo had administered a paralytic.
Gleet, horrified, shimmied backward.
"You brought it on board?"
"Well, yes, to show--"
"Is it still alive?" Gleet asked.
"Yes! It is immobile but its vital signs are all--"
"Did you touch it?"
"Well, yes, so I could place the electron tether on its neck--"
"Has it been scanned for parasites?"
Dobodo paused. Yet again, he had forgotten something.
"No."
Now Dobodo had Gleet's full, exasperated attention.
"That organism could infect everyone on this ship! You don't know what it is. You don't know if it carries disease. If it IS a disease. These are basic, basic procedures. When will you learn?"
"What should I do?" Dobodo asked, crestfallen.
"Take it back! Take it back to that puddle planet, return here, and begin disinfection protocols."
Dobodo slid back to the docking bay, stuffed the dinosaur into the back of a shuttle, and made the trip back to the third planet. He felt badly for the Moschops, and didn't want him to wake up in a strange place, so he returned to the same coordinates where he had found the creature. Or at least pretty close.
On the planet's surface, he released the tether. The Moschops slumped to the ground. Dobodo checked again to make sure the vitals were still fine. The paralytic would wear off in a few hours, and hopefully the creature would return to its life with no more than a very strange memory.
The lonely shuttle ride back to the Stardust gave Dobodo time to reflect. He wished he could have told Gleet more. How vibrant forms of life filled the water, land, and air. Talk about a stable ecosystem! How those tectonic plates kept bumping up against each other in a titillating manner and putting on such geological shows. How cute their star looked, hanging up in the big blue sky.
Oh well, he thought. It is a stable ecosystem. We can come back in a few million years and I'm sure it will all still be the same. Then I'll show Gleet and everyone else that I'm not such a screwup.
Hours later, the dinosaur came to. It stood on shaky legs and looked around. Nothing looked familiar, but there seemed to be adequate food. Life moved on.
Then, the Moschops sneezed.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 6th, 2021


Author Comments

Though the Cretaceous Extinction 65 million years ago gets all the attention for its crashing meteor hoopla, the Permian Extinction of 250 million years ago caused far greater devastation to life on Earth. 95% of marine life and 70% of terrestrial life died off, including the goofy-looking Moschops. Science has never been able to identify the cause of this mass extinction event. Well, now you know. You're welcome, science.

- Adam Knight
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