((Abossaon Th'shriqak Memorial Animal Sanctuary, Donova IV))
Kozer Bellin stood in the darkness just outside the fence to the animal sanctuary waiting for the gates to open. It was a typical cool night on Donova IV, the stars easily seen twinkling above thanks to the low amount of light pollution within the agricultural colony. Behind the exotic animal trader, the growls of a large Cakapunnual tiger could be heard reverberating off of the cold steel walls of its cage.
At 56-years-old, Kozer had been dealing in the exotic animal trade for a long time. Most people just wanted a unique pet, something to stand out from the usual targ, dog, or sehlat. They’d be happy with a Pyrithian bat or a Corvan gilvo.
But of course for some, even those weren’t enough. To them, an exotic pet was an extension of themselves. It was a power fantasy, and nothing was more powerful than an apex predator.
Kozer sighed as he continued to wait for the gate to open. That was the trouble with these clients. They thought because they were paying top brick for his troubles that it excused their rudeness. Finally, when he saw a slender woman with doe eyes approach from out of the shadows on the other side of the gate, he crossed his arms.
Bellin: We had said quarter to midnight.
Maria Chicchoni looked around her Sanctuary, and proudly sighed. It had been six years in the making, and she had rescued many of the animals that had been involved in the exotic animal trade business. It had meant that she sometimes had to enter the animal trade herself in order to rescue them, such was the accepted culture on Donova IV of sometimes breaking the law.
Her hand moved to a console near the gate, and as she waved her hand past it, it chirped a tone. The gate swung open.
With a smile, Maria made her way out of the slowly opening gates towards Kozer. She placed her arms on the man’s shoulders, then gently air-kissed each of his cheeks.
Chicchoni: I’m sorry I’m late, my darling. I had to make sure the Rigellian hypnoids were fed.
Kozer shook his head, his arms still crossed.
Bellin: I’ve got a hungry 360-kilo tigress who’s been whining for dinner all night. You better have a proper feed ready.
Maria made her way over to the container that was behind Kozer, and looked at the beast. The tigress was walking back and forth in her cage, in some distress.
Chicchoni: ::Gentle voice:: Oh! Oh, aren’t you gorgeous. You’re beautiful. I have a beautiful, big enclosure for you ready. ::Baby voice:: Are you ready to be free in your new home, my baby girl?
The animal paced in her container restlessly. It somewhat resembled the big cats of Earth, but two prominent horns projected out from its skull along with another set of horns, these covered in fur, stuck out from its jaw. Around her neck was a thick collar that glowed blue.
Kozer rolled his eyes at the sentimentality before turning around and grabbing the control collar’s remote out of his pocket. With a press of a button, the Cakapunnual tiger let out a roar before standing up straight. The collar’s color had changed to green. It was now fully compliant to his wishes.
Bellin: All right, come on, let’s go!
The animal let out a whine before it stepped forward to the bars of the container’s door.
Chicchoni: ::Role of eyes:: Do you have to use that collar? It’s so cruel. I can get a grav lift and take the container over to her new home.
Kozer shook his head, dismissing the suggestion immediately.
Bellin: Maybe if you hadn’t been late, but we don’t have time now. I need to get back to my rendezvous to prepare for another delivery at 7.
Maria took in a deep breath, before sighing.
The trader opened the container doors and then turned to Maria, lowering his chin.
Bellin: All right, then, madam, lead the way.
Chicchoni: Why do all of you traders have to be such pigs?
The man chuckled.
Bellin: Hell, if it’s pigs you want, lady, I’ve got a dozen hogs from Harlak you could take off my hands. ::He gestured back to the tiger.:: They prefer live food, you know?
Maria delicately crossed her arms, and her eyebrows rose slightly. She decided to ignore Kozer’s comment.
Chicchoni ::Sighing again:: Okay, ::gesturing:: her new home is in the north west corner of the Sanctuary.
As they navigated through Chicchoni’s sanctuary park, Kozer kept his eyes locked on the beast that marched ahead of the two humans.
Chicchoni: So tell me, Kozer, how is business?
Bellin: Not too bad. People love animals, especially dangerous one
Chicchoni: ::Small nod, coy smile:: Hmm. I see.
He shook his head though as they continued on their walk.
Bellin: Still, I’m sure you can appreciate that the upkeep costs for these kind of animals just increases every year. Not to mention the Marshals are starting to get a little noisier in other parts of the Shoals.
Chicchoni: Hmm. ::Shrug:: There’s ways around the Marshals. Besides, if you’re doing the right thing by the animals, the Marshals will leave you alone.
He looked over and grinned.
Bellin: Thank goodness change is slow to come by here on Donova, right? Honestly, I think you lot prefer the Cobalt Clan running things.
Maria smiled and gave a knowing nod.
Chicchoni: There’s nothing like Donova time.
He turned back and looked around the park’s various enclosures and facilities. There were many other big cats spread throughout the park, but Chicchoni also had a number of other exotic creatures in her collection. He spotted a Rectyne monopod in a far enclosure, the large two-ton beast peacefully sleeping under the stars.
Bellin: I must say, you’ve got quite the impressive set up here.
She kept her eyes forward as she kept walking, not looking at Kozer.
Chicchoni: Someone has to free these animals from their cruelty.
Bellin: Most people don’t even bother making sure they have enough space for these animals. ::He gestured back to the tiger marching compliantly ahead towards a large enclosure at the back of the park.:: I once sold one of these kitties to a man who’d brought a tiny shuttlepod for pick up.
Kozer laughed at the memory.
Bellin: I have no idea how he got that animal back to Havley's Hope.
Chicchoni: ::Still looking ahead, slight smile:: Hopefully he didn’t.
He turned to her, grinning a little more sinisterly.
Bellin: Hey, as long as the money’s good, I don’t care once they’re off my hands.
Maria was becoming annoyed with the animal trader’s attitude.
Chicchoni: Leave the caring to me, Kozer. Someone has to do it.
After a brief moment, Maria spoke up again.
Chicchoni: I look after these animals. They’re not for entertainment. Unlike that bastard Gorgeous George.
Bellin: Ah, yes… the rock star.
Chicchoni: But you wouldn’t know anything about Gorgeous George, would you?
Bellin: Hmmmph, just what everyone else knows. He likes to put on a good show. His biggest one is coming up at the Battle of the Bands. He asked me if I could get him any new cats for this year. I managed to send over three. He wanted more. You’re lucky you snagged this pretty girl here, otherwise she’d be headed to him right now as well.
He looked over and gave a flirtatious smile.
Bellin: Lucky also that George is a cheapskate. I appreciate a woman who knows the fair costs of exotic tastes.
Maria didn’t respond, but just let a small smile form.
Once they got to the enclosure, Kozer followed the cat inside. While still restrained by her collar, the animal was able to turn its head slightly, its curious eyes examining its new home. The man also took a glance around and gave a nod of approval, his back turned to Maria.
Bellin: Yeah, this is one of the nicest cages I’ve seen around here. All right, shall we get the PADDwork taken care-
Maria pulled a small stick from the pocket of her pants. She held in her fingers and pressed on the top of it with her thumbs. It whirred, and glowed at the bottom end. She pressed it against Kozer’s neck, which made him slump to the ground. As his eyes went heavy, she stood above him, looking down on him with her large brown eyes.
With a groan, Kozer woke up to find himself face down in the dirt of the enclosure with a major headache.
Bellin: Ugh… what the hell...
Chicchoni: You know, many exotic animal keepers have their animals knocked out to make transporting them easier. Isn’t that so unfair? They should at least give the animals a chance. Make it “fair game”.
He let out another groan before picking himself up. A rush of adrenaline suddenly ran through him and he turned to see where the Cakapunnual tiger was. He let out a sigh of relief when he saw her resting on her paws, sitting on a large rock at the far end of the enclosure.
When he turned back around, though, he saw that the gate to the enclosure had been closed. Maria was standing on the other side.
Bellin: You duplicitous b-
Chicchoni: I explicitly asked you not to do any work for Curious George. I paid you extra to make sure you kept away from him.
He growled back at her, his headache feeling like a nail being driven into the back of his head.
Bellin: What’s it to you, lady? We all need to make a living out here!
She ignored his protest, and kept talking.
Chicchoni: And then I hear from my friends that you sold him *six* lions. Not three. Including an Asiatic lion from Earth.
The trader nervously answered back.
Bellin: What can I say? The man’s always looking for new creatures to top last year’s show.
Her lips formed into a big smile, before she spoke again.
Chicchoni: And what can I say? ::Gesturing to Cakapunnual tiger:: Except, that this beautiful animal is hungry.
She flashed the controller for the cat’s collar in her hand. The rush of adrenaline returned as his eyes grew wide with dread.
She pushed the button on the controller. The ring of light on the Cakapunnual tiger’s collar changed back back to blue. She had already decided on the perfect name for her latest rescue.
Chicchoni: Tell that to “Monet”.
The cat before standing up and slowly walking over towards Kozer.
With a smile Maria pivoted on her foot, before walking away from Monet’s enclosure as the sound of a hungry Cakapunnual tiger and the screams of an exotic animal trader echoed in the night.
Veterinarian and Animal Rights Activist
Abossaon Th'shriqak Memorial Animal Sanctuary
Writer ID: V239511WU0
Exotic Animal Trader
RIP, 2341 - 2398
Writer ID: I238705TZ0