The creature made a squealing sound that faintly reminded Korvus of a whale. He drew back from the reinforced glass case in which it resided and shot Elana a concerned expression. She chuckled and took a step towards the squirming mass of carbon, cilia slowly working up the side of the see-through cage, grasping towards the young woman.

“ORCA might look intimating, but he’s harmless.”

“ORCA?”

“Oblong Ranging Cilia’d Alien.”

The creature gave some pulsing clicks and jiggled like a mass of sentient jell-o.

“Also sounds like an orca.”

“Ah, that makes sense. But… what is it?”

“We aren’t entirely sure. SecDef sweepers found it in Eidos Krios’ compound. Likely one of his experiments.”

“Who?

“You haven’t heard of him?”

“I don’t really keep up with the news.”

“Clearly. That building project of yours must be keeping you busy.”

“Yeah. Can’t get the permits.”

“For the cave-house?”

Korvus sighed and shook his head slightly, “Cave-house… that makes it sound so… primitive.”

“But it is a cave house.”

“It isn’t, though you can call it what you like. But to answer your question, yes. I couldn’t get permission from the Zoning Commission to build it. Toxic tailings from the mining operations. Whole area is poisonous and worse, sodden. Needs to be cleaned up before they’ll let anyone down there but no one is willing to put the time and resources into doing so.”

“No one but you.”

“I only have the time. Not the resources.”

They both turned suddenly around as the massive blob of jelly gave a low moan, its cilia spinning up and down its length with great agitation.

“Say, Elana… if this ‘ORCA’ is so harmless, why is it in a cage?”

“Its metabolism is extremely high; its nearly always hungry. No, don’t worry, like I said, its harmless — to us — it only eats inorganic material. I can’t figure out why. No one can. Not even Jensen. When the extraction team first encountered it they were startled and opened fire. Was completely unaffected, the bullets penetrated its outer membrane and then just sort of settled inside it. Within two hours they were beginning to disintegrate. Within a day the bullets were pulled deeper into its body and within two, they were gone. It ate everything, plates, forks, shoes, pillows, the lab equipment. Its mass grew considerably, but there was no by-product. Anyways, Jensen said we can’t have it eating up the lab, told me that the board were going to terminate it, said it wasn’t worth the trouble…”

“Poor fella.”

“Yeah. I wish there were something I could do.”

Korvus took a step forward and pressed his hand to the glass whereupon the creature raised itself up and gave a few clicks and shimmied.

“Perhaps there is.”

§

The mine cleaners were as astounded by the creatures presence as the board was by its lack thereof. It sat in the tailing pool, now empty, wriggling its cilia up into the air, clicking and jiggling.

Korvus was contacted shortly thereafter; the project had been given the greenlight, construction on the underground residential area could begin at once.

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