Kyle Mason touched down on Cortar-5. The locals ran towards his ship as he did so. They were green, which Kyle found kind of funny. All that talk of little green men, and when we finally meet green men they’re ten feet tall.
One of them, its clothes more ornate when the others, and Kyle found himself wishing he’d learned how to tell the seven Cortaran genders apart. “You are him, yes? The human?”
Kyle nodded, craning his neck up at the speaker. “Kyle Mason. And you are?”
“I am Svlanitak, and we thank you, human. It’s in the village.” It wrung its hands, and Kyle touched his fingers to his forehead – at least he remembered the standard gesture of reassurance he’d read in the briefing.
“I do. C’mon Sammy.”
The Cortarans gasped as Sammy loped out. A new breed, Sammy was a Martian Malamute – the endurance of a Husky, the nose of a Bloodhound, and the size of an old Earth Alaskan Malamute. It barked happily, and several Cortarans recoiled in terror.
“Easy there, boy.” Sammy plodded over to let Kyle scratch under his chin, before turning back to Svlanitak. “You have a sample?”
Svalnitak held up a scrap of flesh timidly, clearly fighting the urge to recoil as Sammy drew close. The hound sniffed it, turned in a circle slowly, sniffing the air, and then stopped, staring towards the sun – which was West, if Kyle remembered right.
“He’s got the scent. Don’t worry – we’ll take care of this.”
Svlanitak flexed his shoulders, and Kyle had no idea what the gesture meant. “Do you need anything?”
“Just stay out of our way. Go, Sammy!”
The hound ran off, and Kyle followed.
The village was abandoned, and Sammy was following a trail that wove in and out of houses. Kyle kept himself on high alert. There were a couple Cortaran bodies strewn about – the prey was one mean mother.
Not that it should surprise Kyle. They wouldn’t have called a human if it wasn’t vicious.
Kyle found some footprints. They were huge and clawed, looking like something you might find on an Earth bird of prey – but much larger, and with suction cups on the bottom. He whistled quietly, and Sammy came over, sniffing the footprint.
Before Kyle could wait too long, Sammy was suddenly staring over his shoulder, growling. Kyle turned around slowly, his hands up.
It looked kind of like a creature out of old Earth mythology. He pushed his brain for a second – that’s right, a gryphon. Only instead of wings it had long tentacles, and instead of eyes it just had a single, segmented globe. Like a fly, only huge and horrible.
“Easy there, big fella.” Sammy held out his hands, and the creature reared up, screeching. Sammy gave a warning bark as it did.
“Whoa, there, whoa. No need for that.” Slowly, moving carefully, Kyle reached into his pouch and tossed the creature a chunk of meat. It sniffed it, curiously, and then carefully took a bite.
“There, now, you like that, right? Doing good?” It made the sound a tea kettle would make if it could purr, and Kyle took a step closer, keeping his ears open for Sammy.
Sammy’s job was to make sure to warn Kyle if the thing – it needed a name, and Kyle decided to call it Griff – turned hostile. He kept up the slow, gentle speech as he did so.
“There now, see? I ain’t gonna hurt you, I got more good food here.” He reached out and offered it another chunk, this one from his hand.
Griff leaned in and took a bite, and Kyle reached up to scratch behind its ears. Most life on Earth had evolved to be immune to human’s charms, besides the ones they had domesticated. Large predators didn’t react to the calming effect humans had, and prey animals had learned that humans were dangerous. Griff here, however? Had never encountered a human before.
It had all come together when they’d first made alien contact. History was full of things like the dodos, native Earth animals finally encountering humans and being completely docile around them. It had been assumed that domesticated animals were the strange ones, and that those docile creatures just didn’t know better, but the truth was, they hadn’t adapted. Animals around humans felt peaceful, almost submissive.
The effect didn’t carry over to higher life forms. Sentient species didn’t feel that draw to humanity, unfortunately. But things like Griff…
Well, it only took Kyle an hour of feeding and petting before it was happily rolled over on its back, making that teakettle purr while he stroked its belly and Sammy licked its face.
“Alright, Griff, you’re my newest friend. Sammy, go ahead to the villagers, we’ll catch up.” He took a picture of himself petting Griff’s belly, attached it to Sammy’s collar, and sent the hound running ahead.
Griff was large enough to ride, so when they approached the Cortarans Kyle was on its back. Several screamed and held up their hands, but when Griff tensed Kyle just gave him a good, firm “No.” It looked back at him through its segmented eye, then sighed and lay down so he could get off.
“Okay, that’ll be 200 credits for a safe recovery, and another 100 for fuel costs.”
Svlanitak eyed Griff carefully. “This beast killed some of our kin. We will put it down.”
Sammy started growling as Kyle tensed up. “You know the rules, Svlanitak. You call in a human, it leaves alive with me.”
Svlantik’s eyes were cold. “And you are outnumbered. This beast must pay for what it did.”
Sammy let out a bark. The Cortarans turned to him, but Kyle spoke. “You might want to rethink that.”
From his ship came other creatures. A two legged beast covered in scale that was basically a mouth on legs. A cute, wide-eyed creature covered in fur – but with a scorpion’s deadly tail. A legless creature that slithered like a snake, but had massive mandibles. And more.
“Griff’s coming with me, and if you try to hurt me…my friends go wild. Oh, and I’m tacking on another 100 for trying to threaten me.”
The Cortaran’s looked back and forth, but knew they were outgunned. Svlantik handed over the credits. “You humans…these animals don’t deserve your protection.”
Kyle shrugged. “Maybe. But your word for us also means “Beast-Friend” for a reason. C’mon Sammy, let’s get the menagerie back in line and get off this world. Griff! Follow.”
And the headed back into the ship.
After everyone was safely secured, Kyle headed to the cockpit where his cat, Mittens, was scratching on a console. “C’mon, you little fuzzball. We’re going into hyperspace, need you safe.”
Cats seemed to only somewhat respond to human’s aura. He gave the console a few more good swipes before allowing himself to be picked up and placed in his crate, yowling the entire time. It’s damn ironic Kyle thought. Humanity had wiped out most of their own native species, and back home had basically been an ecological disaster with legs. Out here, though…
It was too late for Earth, but at least they were getting a shot at redemption.