This story about Dinara and her pet shop, Rendezvous Pets, on the Rendezvous Space Station is my entry for the Aug 2019 WEP Challenge. Dinara’s shop provides pet daycare and grooming for the citizens of Rendezvous and its many visitors, humans and aliens.
A plump woman in a business suit entered Dinara’s pet daycare shop, Rendezvous Pets.
“What can I do for you?” Dinara asked.
“My pet, an Aelurian dragon.” The woman’s lips crimped in distress, but she composed herself. “Peke. His name is Peke. I can’t find him. He has never run away before. If anyone catches him, they might kill him. By mistake. I need to find him.”
“Yes,” Dinara said. “Unescorted pets could be hazardous on a space station. Especially Aelurian dragons. They eat metal. People usually call pest control if they find a dragon in their tech ducts. How did he escape? How old is your dragon?”
“Fifty.” The woman’s voice hitched.
“A big one.” Dinara winced. A fifty-year-old Aelurian dragon would be at least a meter long, probably longer. He wouldn’t escape the place through the ducts, wouldn’t fit into their narrow apertures.
“I had a party,” the woman continued. “I got a box of Red Wheelbarrow chocolates for my guests. We had some for dessert and then left the dining room for a few minutes. When we returned, the box was on the floor, empty, all the chocolates gone, and so was Peke. I think he ate the chocolates. Will they damage him? I know they are not supposed to ingest organics.”
“Oh, dear,” Dinara said. “Could he open the door of your apartment?”
“Yes. He is very intelligent. What would happen to him if he ate the chocolates?”
“I’ve never tried any Red Wheelbarrow chocolates,” Dinara murmured. As far as she knew, they were the most expensive candies this side of the Milky Way. Produced on Earth, they contained gold dust and were considered an exclusive treat. Her visitor must be very rich to be able to afford them. She also owned one super-lucky dragon.
“Those chocolates have gold among their ingredients,” she continued. “Organics won’t damage your dragon, but gold is a powerful aphrodisiac for them. When you got your dragon, did they warn you not to wear gold jewelry?”
“Yes,” the woman whispered.
“That’s why. Your Peke is probably out looking for a mate, horny as hell. Maybe rampaging.”
“He is very gentle.”
Dinara shook her head. “Not now. Not while blind with lust. You really need to find him.”
“I have something that might help, but it is not legal outside Aeluria. A dragon mating call. If Aelurians catch me with it, I’ll be in a lot of trouble. And we have an Aelurian delegation on the station right now. Drat!”
“Why is it illegal?”
“Because it works as a mating call for any Aelurian male, no matter the species. It’ll call your dragon to us, but it’ll also call all the males of the delegation. And they won’t be happy campers.”
“I’ll pay anything,” the woman breathed, her eyes huge. “You have to help me find Peke.”
Dinara typed in a code, and a holographic form rose above her com-link plate. “Sign this form. It says you assume full responsibility, financial and legal, for anything I do to assist you in finding your pet.”
The woman read the text on the form, hesitated a moment, then authorized it with her palm print. The net instantly filled out her name: Martha Carter. Occupation: Simel representative.
An ambassador, no less. Of course, she could afford Red Wheelbarrow chocolates.
“Thank you, Mrs. Carter. Let’s go.” Dinara grabbed the call, a small electronic gadget striped in green and black, from the middle drawer of her desk. “I’ll also need to sedate your dragon, when we find him.” She loaded a sedative ampule into her tranq gun and got an extra-sized inflatable floating pallet to serve as the dragon’s temporary cage.
“Where are we going? Why don’t you use it here?”
“I don’t want the Aelurian delegation converging on my shop.”
“Oh,” Martha said.
Dinara led her client down to the level of warehouses and freight docks, as far from the ambassadorial sector as possible, before she activated the call. She kept it on for five minutes.
“I don’t hear anything,” Martha said.
“No, but the dragon does. He’ll be here soon. So will all the Aelurians. I hope your Peke comes first.”
He did. Zooming in on Dinara’s call, he galloped towards them along the long utilitarian corridor, as if no obstruction existed. Rare human workers scrambled out of his way. Curses echoed off the ceiling. Loading drones buzzed erratically to evade the sixty-kilo stampeding lizard, filled with mating hormones. Martha squealed and flattened herself to the wall.
Dinara switched off the call, pulled out the gun, turned on the automatic targeting, and squeezed the trigger. The ampule hit the dragon when he was only a few meters from her position.
Peke staggered, screamed defiantly, and toppled.
“I love this sedative. Works instantly,” Dinara said. “Mrs. Carter, I need your help to get the dragon on board the pallet.”
It took both of them to heave the inert body, its scales shining iridescent yellows and reds, into its temporary enclosed bed on the pallet.
“Beautiful,” Dinara said.
“Yes,” Martha agreed.
They encountered a horde of Aelurian males, all seven of the delegation contingent, at the lifts. Elongated and willowy, the males in their flowing red robes pushed and shoved at each other. Their heads rotated searchingly. Clearly agitated, they yelled in their native tongue. A unit of the station security was closing in on them. Neither the security nor the Aelurians paid any heed to a couple of human women towing an enclosed floating pallet into one of the lifts.
Only when the doors shut and the lift started its ascent, Dinara relaxed. “Good thing my pallet is opaque, and they couldn’t see your dragon inside, or they would’ve realized we were the ones calling them.”
Martha paled. “What would they have done to us?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Probably not. How long would this condition last with Peke?”
“Until tomorrow. When the sedative wears off in the morning, he should be alright. If he is not, call me.”
“Thank you,” Martha murmured.
Her payment arrived the next morning, together with a large box of Red Wheelbarrow chocolates.
Dinara bit into one small round confection, sprinkled with golden dust, and moaned in bliss. It was truly yummy.