PLEASE NOTE: This is part 2 of the story. Part 1 is online here: http://republibot2.nfshost.com/content/original-fiction-star-sheep-enterprise-part-1-kathryn-garrison-kellogg
I brooded. I tried not to think about Hope. She was one of my special pets. All the sheep had been genetically selected to produce twins, but Hope had had two sisters, Faith and Charity. Their mother had been able to rear twins, but the third one needed to be raised on a bottle, and so I picked the smallest of the triplets and reared her myself. Hope wasn’t the only "bottle baby" I’d had in Scotland, but she was the only one who had made the cut to come with me to Thera; the excuse I’d given was that, as a triplet, she was more likely to produce triplets herself (and thus be of greater value) but the real reason was that I’d gotten attached to her. I was just glad that the consortium funding the colony had accepted my excuse. Faith and Charity came, too. It may have messed with the "genetic diversity" of the flock, but three sisters out of a thousand sheep couldn’t be too much of a problem, especially when the other two got assigned to different bands. Their computerized ear tags would make sure they and their progeny would be kept separated by at least three orders of generation. That is, if they were permitted to live…
Section Twelve lay on the other side of a spur from one of the dormant volcanoes, and as I found a nice level path to chug over, I expected to see six hundred and forty acres of virgin grass liberally speckled with my sheep, all happily munching. What I actually saw when I crested the ridge was completely baffling:
The sheep were gathered in a bunch at the bottom of the slope, looking exactly as though kept in bounds by a fence, only there wasn’t any fence. Captain was standing there looking frustrated and exhausted, and when he heard the hum of the tractor engine, he turned and gave a grateful bark. 'bout time! I heard, very faintly, since I was almost out of transmitter range.
I decided it best to just park the rig and go find out what the trouble was. Captain came loping up to meet me, his tongue lolling twice its normal length. I dropped to a knee and ruffled his head as he collapsed in front of me, panting hard.
"What’s the matter?" I asked, and his response sounded weary, but from disgust, since the words had nothing to do with his breathing.
sheep no go in field he stated.
I looked over his head at the flock. They were all looking back at me. A few of them vocalized, but for the most part, they were eerily silent. I started to get a bad feeling that ran from between my shoulders to my guts. This wasn’t normal, by any stretch of the term. They should have poured into that valley like grain through a chute.
"Well, make them go into the field!" I said to Captain, who just looked at me like I was an idiot making a bad joke. If he’d had arms, he would have gestured in frustration.
Cap try. sheep no go in field. say smell bad. he told me, getting to his feet and barking.
And the sheep, responding to his bark, all began to bleat as one. It sounded like a very large, badly tuned pipe organ.
When they quieted down enough for me to speak, I asked Captain, "They say it ‘smells bad?’ What do you mean, ‘smells bad?’"
Captain almost rolled his eyes. dirt smell bad! he replied. come! you smell!
I followed my dog down into the field, and he briefly touched his nose to the grass, then looked imploringly up at me. dirt smell bad! he insisted. you smell too!
Now, when a dog tells you to smell something that it thinks smells bad, you proceed with caution. I got down on my hands and knees, put my face close to the grass, and gave it a hesitant sniff. At first, I only smelled grass, but then I noticed another smell, a…a bad smell…like chemicals….
I sat up, took a breath of the higher air to reset my palate, then bent over and took a longer, more intense sniff. The sheep were right. There was an awful odor down there, just a few inches off the ground—
I stood. Couldn’t smell it up there, nor at waist height or even knee height. It was only down close to the ground, where a sheep’s nose would be, that I could smell