Dorvel watched from the station’s observation deck as the beast leapt from the inner ring surrounding the gas giant. It appeared to float momentarily, suspended in the vacuum of space, before it plunged back into the ring, disappearing from sight. She turned her attention back to the monitors tracking its progress, knowing it would be several minutes before it appeared again. The rings were constituted almost entirely of frozen water, formed into intricate crystalline structures, and the beast was drinking.
Dorvel was observing it, and had been for almost the entirety of the last two days, because it was pregnant, extremely so, and her superiors expected the calf to be born any day now. Birthing was a delicate process for any animal, all the moreso for one that spent its days in the space, as the scow did. This being the distinctly unimaginative name given the creatures by the Councilmen who first encountered them. The name—that some found amusing, but which Dorvel had long grown tired of—being a play on the ancient meaning of the word, a type of old earth sea-going vessel and an abbreviation of the words ‘space cow’.
The scow surfaced again, this time very near the station, and Dorvel’s breath was taken away. Their vastness still had the power to startle, even for someone who had spent so much of her life working with the creatures. This time the beast did not return within the ring, having drunk its fill, letting the gravity of the planet pull her into orbit. Dorvel checked the time and made a quick calculation of how much water she had drank, assuring herself that the scow and its progeny were well fed.
Everything now was of critical importance. Nothing could be left to chance, she well knew. This was the third scow she had shepherded to birth in her ten years as Head Veterinarian for the Council. None of the other calves had survived more than a day or two. It had been a lifetime since anyone had even seen a calf or a youngling scow, even as the number of adult scows dwindled year by year, their stock ravaged by the hardships of space and the Councils seemingly endless wars.
Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.
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