Rascals II - Chapter 15
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Next morning, the children all ran to the tank with their new pets, wanting to see how they were doing. They had hid the terrarium behind several boxes, in the corner behind the bed that was furthest from the door. Someone would have to walk to within maybe five feet before they saw it, so it was unlikely to be discovered.
"Look! Hammond is sleeping in his cave! You can only see his nose!" Daniel squealed. "It's like he's a dog in a dog house!"
"I'd still rather have a dog." Lantash grumbled.
"Where is Janet?" Sam wondered, looking for the snake in the enclosure. "Ah, I see a tail sticking out from the cave. She is hiding!"
Anise frowned and leaned in closer to look. "The tail and the part of the body I can see, seems much to slim to be...Janet."
"You're right." Sam looked worried. "What happened to her?" She lifted off the lid and reached down and grabbed the hide, lifting it up. She gasped. "She's had babies tonight! Look! I knew she was female!"
The others all leaned in to see. Sam was right. The snake had indeed given birth during the night, and they could see a large writhing mass of small snakes.
"How many are there?" Martouf asked.
"Aw, they are so cute!" Sam said, swooning. She put a finger down to them and began gently pushing them away from each other, so she could count them.
"As strange as it may seem, they are indeed adorable." Anise agreed.
"What do you call baby snakes?" Martouf wondered.
"One, two...three...four..." Sam counted.
"Snakelets," Daniel said, with determination.
"Snakelets?" Martouf frowned. "That sounds idiotic. Why would they be called that? Dogs have...puppies, and cats have kittens..."
"Five, six..." Sam continued counting.
"It's just names...uh...it's like...uh...piglets. Yeah, little pigs are called piglets, so little snakes are called snakelets." Daniel argued, feeling he should know, as he was a linguist, as well as an archaeologist.
"Because snakes really resemble pigs a lot." Martouf scoffed.
"Seven, eight, nine...ten...there are ten little snakes...snakelets!" Sam happily told them.
"So now we have..." Anise was quiet for a moment, as she calculated. "Two pets each!"
"I suppose we need to get some food for the little ones," Martouf said, being practical.
"And for the mother." Sam added.
"Don't forget Hammond!" Daniel reminded them.
Anise looked at the clock on the wall. "I think the scien-tists working in the biology lab will be eating breakfast now. If we hurry, we can get the mice before anyone get there."
"Okay, let's go there now!" Sam looked around for her clothing.
Finding it, she quickly threw it on, and the others did the same with their clothing.
"How many did you get?" Daniel asked, as Sam and Anise appeared from the laboratory.
"Two adults, two smaller ones, and ten very small ones." Sam said, holding up the box she and Anise had put the mice in. "That should be enough for all of them, don't you think?"
"Maybe." Daniel looked unsure. "How much do you think they eat?"
"Someone's coming!" Martouf half-whispered, as he ran toward them from the bend in the tunnels where he had been keeping watch.
"Quickly, hide the box!" Anise said.
Sam desperately looked around for a hiding place, then stuffed the box under her shirt. The other children flocked around her, helping to hide the suspicious bulge. They ran, as fast as they could, past two Tok'ra that were on their way to the laboratory. The two Tok'ra looked after them, surprised, then just grinned. Children! No doubt up to something, but it was probably just a harmless game, they decided.
The children were back in their quarters, and were in the process of feeding their pets. They had just thrown one of the medium-sized mice into 'Hammond's' cage, and the lizard had captured it and happily eaten it, showing a ferocious appetite that had the children fear it a little. Now they were trying to decide what size mice to give 'Janet' and her offspring - loudly discussing it amongst themselves.
"What in Netu is going on in here!" Jacob suddenly roared from behind them. "Tonna and Rihka tells me you have stolen mice from their lab!"
The children all jumped in fear, Sam almost dropping the mice-box she was holding. They all turned around, trying to cover the terrarium with the animals in. Sam, as unobtrusively as possible, placed the - closed - mice-box on the floor behind them.
"Uh..." Martouf began. "We were...ah..." He bowed his head, giving Lantash control.
Lantash looked very unsure, an expression neither Jacob or Selmak had seen on his face often. "We are...studying...practical bio-logy." Lantash finally said.
"Biology?" Jacob narrowed his eyes. "Let me see what it is you're all hiding!"
The children looked at each other, then Sam stuck her hand down into the tank, grabbing 'Janet' and lifting her up. The snake hissed angrily and tried to twist out of her grip as Sam held her out towards Jacob.
"Dad...meet Janet. Janet, that's my Dad...and Selmak."
Jacob almost fell over his own feet as he jumped back from the obviously angry animal. Lantash discreetly edged out of the way, not wanting to feel the creature sink its teeth into his flesh.
"Are you crazy? It could kill you!" Jacob stepped forward again and was about to snatch the snake from Sam, when he suddenly stopped and his eyes glowed.
"It's not venomous...we think." Daniel said in a thin voice. "It looks a bit like a sand boa..."
Selmak sighed, carefully taking the snake from Sam. "Our name for it translates to 'grey sand snake'. They are harmless, and common on many desert planets. Regardless, it was a foolish, potentially very dangerous thing to do, as you did not know its species or whether it was venomous." She put the snake back into the terrarium and closed the lid, frowning at the small snakes that emerged from the hide. "I see. Did you capture all those, or did it give birth here?"
"She gave birth here." Sam said. "Aren't they pretty?"
"Forget about the snakes, what do you think of Hammond?" Daniel asked, eagerly.
"Hammond?" Selmak looked puzzled.
"The lizard." Lantash said.
"Uh..." Selmak looked at the smaller part of the enclosure, and had a very hard time not laughing when she discovered the - admittedly beautiful - lizard in there. Something was hanging out of its mouth, and was slowly disappearing into it as Selmak looked. She realised it was the tail end of a mouse. Jacob swore inside his head, and Selmak gently admonished him, before turning to the children again. "Interesting name. So, you stole the mice from the laboratory in order to feed your pets?"
Anise nodded. "Yes."
"Why did you not ask?" Selmak shook her head.
"Why would we ask? It was my experiment, and my mice!" Anise snorted.
"Would you have said yes if we had?" Daniel wondered, surprised. He opened the lid to the tank and took out 'Hammond' before anyone could stop him.
"No, probably not." Selmak sighed, deciding Jacob had not yet calmed down enough to talk to them - at least not in a civil tone. "Having pets in a place like this is not practical."
"Why not? Malek has a pet. A desert mouse." Lantash pointed out.
"So I do." Malek said from behind them. "Selmak...I see the little terrorist cell has recruited a few new members. Did you know about this?"
They all turned to look at him. With him was one of the Tok'ra scientists, Phovol. He was one of those the children had passed in the tunnel, when they fled from the laboratory with the mice they had stolen.
"Of course not!" Selmak looked insulted. "Did you think it was a plot against that thieving pet of yours, perhaps?"
Malek glanced thoughtfully at the terrarium behind the children, spotting a snake disappear into its hide. "It would not be the first one, and my desert mouse has not eaten your chocolate...recently, at least."
Selmak snorted. "I would not stoop to something like this."
"Malek, don't you think Hammond is awesome?" Daniel said, holding out the lizard.
"Hammond? You named it Hammond?" Malek stared at the lizard, disbelief clear on his face.
"Yes, they are both dignified, wouldn't you agree?"
Malek pondered it for a moment, not sure what to say. Prodded by his host, Johan, he finally agreed, beginning to see the humour in it all, and opting for a diplomatic answer. "Yes, there is a certain...air, to both of them."
The last bit of the mouse-tail disappeared into the lizard's mouth, and it started wriggling a little in Daniel's hands.
"The golden fire-lizard ate a mouse?" Phovol asked.
"Yes, with great eager-ness and fe-rocity!" Sam said, excitedly.
"Interesting. We have never observed that before. We thought they only ate insects." Phovol quickly scribbled something on a datapad. "You like studying animals, children?"
"Yes!" They answered, in chorus.
"Then I have a suggestion." He smiled. "Why do you not help me look after the animals we have at the laboratory?"
Jacob had gotten back control, and snorted. "You are rewarding them for their theft? Not to mention the little matter of bringing back a bunch of potentially dangerous animals without asking."
"Sorry, Dad." Sam looked ashamed. "Does that mean we can't keep them? I mean...now when you know they are harmless?"
"Oh, pleeease, let us keep them? Jacob?" Anise begged. "Jack said we could have them!"
"Jack said you could have a lizard and a bunch of snakes?" Jacob asked, disbelieving.
"Well...not in so many words..." Anise admitted.
"But he did say we could have a puppy." Lantash said. "And since we haven't gotten one yet, we thought we would...uh..."
"Spare him the ex-pense and get one ourselves." Sam finished.
"We just didn't find any puppies, and so we thought these would do." Daniel added, hopeful.
Jacob shook his head. He was not really angry with them, but what they had done could have turned out to be dangerous. On the other hand, they really did not have much interesting stuff to do here, as they were forbidden from going many places. Besides, it would probably be good for them to learn about animals. Educational. "I guess you can keep them, but not in here. You'll have to find somewhere else."
"We can set up a place for them in the laboratory." Phovol offered. "That would be better for them anyway, since you do not have the facilities to give them the right environment here."
"But we did the best we could!" Sam complained. "They have water and a warm place to sleep!"
"You did well, but they also need heat lamps and there should be a way to monitor the temperature of the enclosure - as well as a number of other things." Phovol explained, kindly. "Do not be concerned. As my...laboratory assistants...you will learn." He smiled, then sobered as he looked at Malek. As the base commander he had the final say.
"I will allow the animals to be kept in your laboratory, Phovol...as long as you can guarantee that the predators will not escape and endanger my desert mouse." Malek said.
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