Donnie Durian smiled as he rented a shuttle at the entry port of Space Habitat Ha-37. He was anxious to see his friend, Professor Vernon Adopoulus, after many years. His anticipation didn’t stop him from enjoying the lush jungles, lakes, and streams as the shuttle flew over the habitat’s 10-kilometer wide interior. When he approached the professor’s dacha he noticed many varieties of pterosaurs, especially the large Pterodactyls. Donnie wondered once more why the Russian designer of the habitat insisted on bioengineered dinosaurs roaming free in the place. It was exotic, but it had to be dangerous too. With trepidation, he wondered if dinosaurs were related to the professor’s problems.
The old Greek kissed him on both cheeks as Donnie stepped out of the shuttle. They walked together down the entry tube to the dacha. A force field overhead allowed light, wind, and rain to pass through, but thankfully none of the man-eating pterosaurs circling over the house.
They sat on the back porch overlooking a lush valley. They enjoyed shots of Sambuca. The kalamata olives and feta cheese, produced in Vernon’s fields, tasted far better than the originals from Earth. Despite the spectacular repast, the professional side of Donnie wanted to get down to business. “This is all wonderful, Doc, but you didn’t call me here just for shots of Sambuca.”
“You’re right, but first let me show you something amazing.” He walked back into the house and returned a few minutes later. He placed a bucket full of purple berries on the table between them. In his other hand, he held up a green stalk drooping with the same berries. The plant could’ve been a grape vine except for the meter-long, barbed thorns guarding the fruit. He held it up for inspection. This is a Zeus Grape. I designed it myself in my labs.” He indicated the bucket on the table. “Try it.”
Donnie sampled one and savored the amazing flavor. It was easily the most wonderful grape he’d ever tasted.
“Now watch this,” said Vernon. He plucked a grape from the bucket and heaved it over the porch railing. It passed easily through the PassSmart® field which protected against large wildlife. The grape sailed into the air where the ground dropped steeply into the valley. A shadow appeared suddenly and 18-feet of shrieking reptile flew past to catch the grape in mid air.
Donnie’s mouth fell open.
Vernon pointed at the flock of giant pterosaurs flying overhead. “Don’t worry. They can’t get past the force field. When I engineered the Zeus Grapes, I never imagined those aerial predators would love them so much. They’re pretty fanatic about my crops. It’s why I designed these outrageous thorns for defense. Without them the Pterodactyls were eating all the grapes. Now they just wait around for the fruit to fall off naturally. It may sound crazy, but they defend my fields for me. They’ll attack anything to get at those grapes.”
Donnie opened his mouth to reply when a rich voice behind responded. “Won’t attack a Tarbosaur.”
“You know, I have installed a doorbell,” grated Vernon.
They both turned to see Hesperos “The Sicilian” Gambini. The stoutly built man, stood with arms akimbo. Two combat robots, notable by their lengthy chins stood beside him. A quick glance at Adopoulus and Donnie knew at once what the professor’s problem was. It wasn’t dinosaurs.
“Tarbosaur?” asked Donnie.
“33-foot predatory dinosaurs,” explained Hesperos. He gazed at Vernon. “Something I protect against at great expense.”
“Why do you have dinosaurs running around?” winced Donnie.
“They’re amazing creatures!” exclaimed Vernon. “Besides, because of protective fields, nobody’s died from an attack in 20 years. This protection racket…”
Donnie snatched the house control tablet from Vernon. “I expect you need a payment, yes?” he asked Hesperos.
“Every month,” grinned the Sicilian, revealing diamond encrusted teeth.
Donnie keyed the money transfer and handed the bucket of Zeus Grapes to him. “Take these grapes. They’re wonderful.”
When the Sicilian left the patio, grapes in hand, Vernon whirled on Donnie. “Are you mad? His protection is nothing but smoke. Useless! I can afford his extortion fees but most can’t. He’s bleeding people dry!”
“Uh huh,” said Donnie, tapping at the house control tablet.
“I brought you here to stop him!”
“Oh look,” muttered Donnie. “The field protecting the entry tube from Pterodactyls has failed. Right when he’s walking through it with Zeus Grapes.”
Vernon smiled and settled down with another Sambuca. “Ain’t that a crying shame?”
Pterosaur: The Order of animals to which Pterodactyls belong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterosaur
Tarbosaur: A large theropod dinosaur. One of many kinds of Tyrannosaur: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarbosaurus
Sambuca: A wonderful liqueur http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambuca
This week at the Grammar Ghoul Press, the word prompt is: Pterodactyl. The splash image above is the image prompt. Look here for more stories: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-8-open/