“They’re descended from dogs. You know that?” said Kieran.
Eva was incredulous, and she didn’t try to hide it. A white bandana covered her nose and mouth from the wind and dust, but her eyes did the talking. Kieran was a bullshitter through and through, and a motormouth to boot. Eva had learned that if she just stayed silent he couldn’t help but talk until the truth fell out.
Meanwhile, they watched from the open cargo hold of the Alebion as the caravan of behemoths marched two-by-two over the shifting yellow dunes. The small-headed beasts were built like tanks made of raw muscle. They stood four-and-a-half meters tall and weighed 7,500 kilograms unladen; on their backs were another 2,500 kg. worth of Clandesta’s chief export: CHASMs. Eva couldn’t remember precisely what the acronym stood for—Crystalized Hexapolar Antihelium something or other. The antihelium was the important part. On all the worlds across the galaxy, only Clandesta contained CHASMs. The peach-colored minerals formed tiny magnetic traps full of antihelium, and the entire interstellar enterprise relied on it.
“Yeast, too,” said Kieran. “They modified yeast genes, and then implanted them into canines. Made modified Rottweilers; giant dogs, crazy strong.” He pulled down his own bandana, rubbed his long Pinocchio nose, and then pulled the cover back up. “And then they did the same thing to gaurs, and that’s where these things come from.”
There it was. Eva snorted. “So they’re not descended from dogs at all then.”
Kieran looked at her, then back at the caravan. “Not biologically, no, but spiritually. They wouldn’t exist if the Rottweilers hadn’t come first.”
Eva sighed and wished she had a beer. “What the hell’s a gaur, anyway?”
“Kind of like a bigger water buffalo. Not as big as these guys though.”
The caravan stretched for miles, plodding along at a constant speed. The CHASMs never stopped. Couldn’t. It would bring the empire to a halt.
The wind kicked up fine dust that was surprisingly sharp. Eva and Kieran shielded their eyes and ducked back into the belly of the Alebion‘s hold.
“When’s he supposed to get here?” Kieran asked.
“Didn’t say. If we want our cut we’ll have to wait it out.” The caravan slipped behind the hull as she retracted the cargo ramp and shut the bay door. “Dogs,” she half said, half chuckled. “You’re an idiot.”