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terrain beyond. It appeared to be traveling alone.
That made no sense. Studies proved that Shirazian juveniles stayed close to their parents or in restricted
areas. What was this one doing out here by itself?
Like himself, he thought with a start.
It had not been wandering aimlessly. He could see it was healthy and well-fed. Nor did it act lost.
Though it was difficult to identify juvenile gender since the females were pouchless, he guessed from
bearing and hip displace-ment that the one confronting him was a male.
It made no sense. There had to be adults in the vicinity. He had no wish to sample the mature form s
violent propensities. The longer he remained, the greater the chance the adults would put in an
appearance and the more ingrained this encounter would become in the juvenile s memory, though
studies suggested their attention spans were brief. A few apparently had no memories whatsoever.
Occasionally this trait carried over into the adult form. It seemed especially common among important
Burrow leaders, who fre-quently appeared to act from instinct instead of rational thought.
As all this flashed through Runs s mind, the juvenile reached out with unexpected speed and grasped the
extended fingers in his own. The breach of courtesy stunned Runs. You never invaded another
individual s Sama below the chin line unless you planned to kill or couple. Logic insisted that this native
intended neither.
 Hey, it declared in its booming, painfully loud voice,  you rewarm. In fact you re really hot. Have you
got a fever or something?
You could tell a lot from visual and aural broadcasts, but one thing you could not learn was body
temperature. To Runs-red-Talking the native felt as one dead. Yet it was obviously healthy. Runs realized
he d just made an important if accidental discovery. No one had taken measurements of the single dead
native specimen s body temperature until it was too late. Here he stood, clutching one that was alive and
well. He wondered if the adults felt equally frigid.
Not that heat was absent. It was simply feeble.
 Don t look so afraid, the juvenile was saying.  There s nothing here to be frightened of. What s your
name? Where did you come from? Not from around here, I ll bet.
Around here. Runs wrenched his fingers free of the astonishingly powerful grip and turned to flee, his
legs animated by sheer panic.
 Hey, don t go! Wait!
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His feet cleared the ground in great, measured strides. He had to get away before adults appeared on
the scene. They might wanthim for a specimen. His only chance lay in the hope that the juvenile might
forget about the encounter. Native juveniles were wont to do such. What could this one tell its adults
anyway? Runs jumped the last rivulet and turned upstream, not pausing to think, not realizing he was
making a straight line for the Burrows. He was not the fearless explorer he d imagined himself to be: only
a terrified youngster who d run into far more than he d bargained for.
The last words of the native juvenile to reach him were  Boy, can you run! Then he was beyond hearing
range.
He didn t slow down until he reached the crest of the first ridge. Utterly exhausted and out of breath he
collapsed and rolled onto his back, trying to recover his strength. He was bruising his tail but paid it no
notice. His mind hurt worse than his body, aflame with the knowledge of what he d gone and done. It
didn t even matter that his clothing was an unQuozl mess.
Suddenly it no longer seemed so daring, a mere prank, a challenge from a friend to be casually taken up.
The odds had beaten him. He had been the one to actually encounter a native when all the previous
expeditions had managed to avoid such contact.
When he could breathe freely again he sat up and stared downslope. He d covered a lot of ground and
there was no sign of the juvenile. How the natives could even balance themselves, much less run,onthose
narrow, tiny feet was something which continued to amaze Quozi biologists. There had to be some [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]