Here’s a story that originally appeared in the the June 2006 issue of Asimov’s. It’s always been a favorite of mine, and it’s reprinted in my collection, The Dinosaur Diaries and Other Tales Across Space and Time. The opening is below; if you’d like to read the rest, you can buy it for the Kindle or read the PDF version on screen by purchasing it over at Scribd. Or, of course, buy the collection.
The Tiger in the Garden
by Scott William Carter
At precisely noon — not one minute earlier, not one minute later — the ship appeared in Regence’s sky. It started as a black dot in a perfect canvas of cobalt, like a drop of ink carelessly spilled from a painter’s brush. So small, so seemingly insignificant, and yet José felt his whole body tremor at the sight of it. The punctuality did not surprise him. Unless something had changed, this one was a Bal’ani, and they were said to obsessive about such things. José had made certain to arrive a half hour early at the landing station. On their home world the Bal’ani were rumored to eat those who insulted them.
“Constable Valcorez,” the attendant behind him said, “is that truly an Agent’s ship?”
“Yes,” José said. Hand raised to block the glare of the sun, he watched through the glass doors as the black dot grew quickly in size, soon filling almost his entire field of vision, until finally the ship’s thrusters stirred up a fog of dust on the bone-colored ground. Behind the pulsing electric fence that surrounded the landing area, the desolate plains extended flat to the horizon, making the ship that much more stark an appearance. He had seen vids of Agent ships, of course, but seeing one up close was both more awful and awe-inspiring. There were three other ships outside, freighters which were not small themselves, and the Agent ship was at least as big as all of them combined.
The hand of death, José thought. That’s what it looked like, with its black gleaming surface and five pincer-like landing gear. The hand of death descending on Regence . . .
——– continued ——–
Read the rest of the story: