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Ectoparasitism

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Unusually for her, Courtney was walking slowly, her attention fixed on the gleaming black tablet in her hand. She didn't notice Clara until she almost walked into her.

"Oh!" she said, looking up. "Sorry, miss."

"What is it?" Clara asked. "Spotify?"

Courtney shook her head. "History, miss."

"And since when were you so interested in history?"

"Since I was the one making it." Courtney removed the earphone from her ear, and held out the tablet. "Have a go, miss."

Holding the earphone close beside her ear, Clara watched Courtney's fingers dart across the touchscreen. The device clicked and buzzed; then the screen lit up with a line diagram of the moon, drawn in white on a black background. A quiet, measured voice spoke from the earpiece.

"Space dragon egg," the voice said, as the same words raced across the surface of the tablet. "Object class: Harmless. In the year 2049 (human common era) the primary moon of the planet Earth was discovered to be the egg of a creature of previously unknown species, popularly known as the Space Dragon..."

Clara looked down at the tablet with new suspicion in her eyes. "Courtney, how did you get hold of this? As if I couldn't guess."

"He said I could have it, miss. Have you got to President Courtney Woods's speech yet? 'We stand at the dawn of the Second Age of Mankind.'"

"You... you can't listen to a speech you haven't made yet!"

"Why not?" Courtney countered. "Save me the trouble of writing it, won't it?"

Clara sighed and gave the earphone another brief listen.

"... The first mission to the new Moon," the calm, comforting voice told her, "was funded and staffed by the Octan/Texaco Joint Venture For Lunar Exploitation. By 2054, extraction of amniotic fluid and its conversion into rocket fuel, nutrient feedstock and sundry other products had already reached the rate of eighty thousand barrels a day..."

"Oh." Clara felt her gorge rising at the thought of the 'nutrient feedstock'. "They would, wouldn't they? The ones who turned off the lights. That's just what they'd do."

"Miss?" Courtney was looking up at her with concern. "Miss, are you all right?"

Clara handed the tablet back to her. "Have you still got that detergent?" she asked, her stomach still churning. "I think we might be about to need it."