Logen DeWitt’s eyes must have been fooling him. He’d devoured two or three too many glasses of Applesoft brew was all, he told himself, stumbling forward down the back-lit steps of the pub. But the lie faded as he got closer and closer to the bottom where he had parked his Anti-Grav Speeder.
Or what was left of it.
What stood there now was barely recognizable as a state-of the art speeder that had only been in production for two short years, commencing in 2083. Large chunks of metal and leather had been savagely ripped away as if the materials were wafer thin, jutting shards of metal and toughened plastic left in their wake. Deep gashes had been made in the shiny metallic casing, stripping the brilliant silver paint job to ugly shreds. The internal wiring had been gutted out, frayed cables lying on the asphalt road like dead snakes.
Worst of all, the engine was completely gone.
It was all Logen could do not to scream in frustration. Half a million Cyillium Credits down the drain. Who had done this? Some drunken tourist, perhaps? A gang of stupid teenagers with something to prove? His fingers curled into fists, nails digging crescent gashes into his palm. Just wait till I get my hands on the bastard. I’ll skin ‘em alive. I’ll-
An ear-splitting choking sound from behind jolted him out of his thoughts. He whirled around, face burning with embarrassment. Who dared to mock him at a time like this? Even if he couldn’t get his hands on the imbecile who wrecked his speeder, he could take his frustration out here and now.
Then he saw it.
Logen’s eyes bulged in their sockets, his rage vanishing instantly. He took a hasty step backwards, almost tripping over his own legs. A monstrous creature with ashen skin was waddling over to him, fishy eyes darting back and forth. It squatted back on its sturdy legs, folding four of its eight arms across its fleshy torso. Logen swallowed audibly.
‘Noosh oogrey!’ it bellowed, purple saliva dripping from its split mandibles, spattering to the ground. Despite his fear, Logen was thinking frantically. He knew what this beast was. He’d heard the stories. It was a Gowb.
According to the urban legends, the creatures lived in the wetlands and spent the majority of their time devouring anything they could get their claws on, regardless of the material or substance. The less credible urban legends said that the things spouted utter gibberish by way of communication. Logen had snorted into his beer when he heard that. What a load of crock!
Or so he had thought.
The ugly thing was staring at him, head cocked to the side inquisitively. It raised a scythe-like claw to scratch the top of its head. ‘Juve radaft?’ it asked. It had to have come from the patch of forest next to the road, Logen observed. Dammit, he had parked too close to the edge and the thing had seen his speeder!
He was about to take a step forward when he thought the better of it. ‘The hell did you do to my speeder?’ Logen demanded, feeling remarkably stupid as he glared at the thing.
The Gowb stared at him dumbly, as if it was contemplating an answer. It seemed to draw its head back, mandibles expanding outwards. A black cluster erupted forth of its maw, soaked in thick saliva. It took Logen all of fifteen seconds to recognize what was once part of his speeder engine. His hands formed fists again. The ugly little bastard was mocking him! He shot a look of hatred at the Gowb.
‘Lyoop oosh,’ it observed.
Logen was shaking in rage. He was going to throttle the thing. ‘You stupid little-’
He got no further. The Gowb had started to approach, feet slapping down on the pavement. It walked over the engine, crushing it into oblivion. Logen scrambled backwards, hands fumbling through his pockets. There had to be something he could use as a weapon. Dammit, where was his switchblade? He retreated to the boardwalk, ready to beat the creature with his fists to death if he had to.
Instead of charging towards him, the thing paused at the remains of the speeder, squatting down on its hunches again.
‘Krak div qoovy!’ it bellowed, turning its massive head to the side. Logen was puzzled. Why did the thing leave if it was just planning to come back and eat the rest of the speeder?
He got his answer in the form of four dark shapes trotting towards him from the forest. He saw them when they passed under the overhead light. They were baby Gowb! They waddled towards the older Gowb, jabbering in low voices. Logen gritted his teeth in frustration. So mother-Gowb decided to twist the knife and invite her children along for the meal? The sound of excited muttering wafted over to him, as if to add insult to injury.
The sight of the five aliens digging into his precious speeder, cackling joyfully while they did it – was too much to bear. He had no weapons, but he did have a U-phone. He drew it out of his pocket, punching in the hotlink for Animal Pest Control. Let’s see you bastards in a zoo, he thought to himself. He could scarcely wait.
Logen started talking as soon as the line opened. ‘Hey, you listening? I’ve discovered the location of five wild Gowb, ready for disposal.’
A pause. ‘Okay,’ a disbelieving voice said. ‘Where exactly are these…Gowb?’
His eyes widened as he turned around. There was nothing there, only loose pieces of metal and scrap. There was no Gowb. No speeder. Nothing.
He could have sworn he imagined it, but he was certain he saw mother-Gowb cock its head at him and cackle one last time before vanishing into the forest.