I should be working on plumping up Jets-fic (now the little bastard's jumping up and down, trying to get my attention), but this odd little idea latched itself onto my mind and would not let go (like a killer limpet, or something...). It was; how did Dinny survive being hit by one of Scorpinok's missiles and flung Concord-style a hundred miles from the Pred base?

And then my brain said, ah, but of course…

Disclaimer: I own the beetle. That's all.

"Ha, banishment! Be merciful, say 'death'; For exile hath more terror in his look, much more than death. Do not say 'banishment'."

-R+J, apologies to Bill.

Ode To A Thistle Bush

The thistle bush, which had remained utterly undisturbed by anything larger than beetles up until the last seven minutes of its existence, rustled.

A beetle seated upon another small bush, noted this with interest. Today was turning out to be quite exciting. First a large, oddly shiny object had dropped from the sky and landed against the side of the rocky slope beside which the beetle lived with a terrific 'crack'. It had then made an odd, shrieking noise, and bounced off, tumbling down the slope and hitting the side of a large boulder, before flying smack into the middle ofhis favourite thistle patch. An instant after that, something had made a loud noise from somewhere in the distant sky, and there had been a bright light that had quickly gone away.

This, by itself, was easily the most astonishing thing the beetle had ever seen in his rather dull life and now the bush was moving. Hmm.

The rustling continued. A small, nearby pangolin scurried away. The beetle watched as, three seconds later, a…thing emerged from the clump of thorns. It appeared to be a quadruped, although it's front legs looked smaller than its back. It was also making soft whimpering noises, barely audible to the beetle's unimpressive hearing range. It then collapsed upon the ground.

Beetles do not have much capacity for disappointment, but touch of it made its way through his tiny, buzzing brain now.He had been eager to see what the strange new thing would do next, and now it seemed as if it was dead.

Still, interest, for the first time ever, overcoming basic survival instincts, the beetle took flight. In one downwards swoop,he came to land upon the dead thing's back.

Hebuzzed in alarm and immediately took flight again as the thing uttered a low groan and, slowly…

The problem was that beetles do not have words for many things. 'Sitting up' does not mean very much when the majority of animals you have seen in your life have been bipedal. Nevertheless,his near-useless memory flared, and recalled the positionhe had sometimes seen the ape-creatures assume when they ate.

The thing raised a limb-an arm then, if it was bipedal- and rubbed its head

Flying up to hover upon the branch of a pear tree, the beetle buzzed in delight. It wasn't everyday that alien entities flew out of the heavens to land in his thistle patch, never mind the unlikelihood of any surviving such an experience.

Beetles do not have good eyesight, buthe made an effort. Whathe could get a visual on was…big. Very, very bigger. Bigger than most of the things that were bigger than it was, which included, basically, everything. Apart from the shiny bits that were stuck onto it here and there, that was it. Then the creature started blinking and the beetle amended that. In the place where its eyes should have been were two of the brightest things the beetle had ever seen. Not including the sun, whichhe only occasionally found himself in a position to see.

The alien entity in question had gone still again. The light where its eyes should have been had disappeared, and the beetle, once more, grew alarmed. Alarm grew to wonder and horror as the thing before him burst into flames.

The beetle didn't know very much, buthe had been to the ape-things' caves once. Andhe had seen fire, burning in the middle of a circle of huddled ape-things. And it was occurring to the beetle that these flames were not quite the same shade of grey as the ape-things' had been. It also didn't look very, for want of a better word, fiery.

Flames or otherwise, they were having a definite effect on the creature, who had suddenly tensed up, parts of its body twitching in the manner of a half-dead spider. A low, pained growling sound reached the beetles small brain, and suddenly sheer instinct hadhim hovering four feet higher than before.

And then (and, perhaps, this was the greatest wonder of the day), the thing changed.

The beetle's eyes couldn't quite comprehend what was happening, sohis brainresolved the issue like this: The thing had been one shape. Now it was another shape. How the transition had occurred the beetle could not begin to understand, but seeing the world shift from day to night presented the same sort of complexity. It was a funny world, the beetle reasoned, and left it at that.

The creature, now standing, was longer than before. It had a tail, that much he was sure of, and looked, oddly, as though it fit in far more effectively with the general surroundingsthan the previous creature had.

Then it fell over.

For a moment, it lay, flat on the ground, like a dead branch. Then its eyes (it had eyes now, a fact that made the beetle rather relieved) opened, and its head-long, thin, equipped with a flexible neck- rose up. Craning, it gazed back up the slope, where the indention it had left was still plainly visible.

Watching it struggle to its feet made even the beetle want to wince, although he rarely fell prey to even trace elements of sympathy for any creature larger than himself, and lacked the proper facial muscles to pull it off. After three false tries, accompanied by several more of the low, toothy, growling sounds, it staggered to its feet (which were large and clawed, noted the beetle, and hovered a little higher.)

Standing (albeit shakily) upon the dusty ground, a few thistles still stuck into its legs, the creature turned and gazed in the opposite direction to the hill. After a silence that made even the beetle feel uncomfortable, the creature turned smartly away. With a loping, limping gate, it made its way away from the thistle bush.

The beetle had never studied languages other than his own, which consisted, basically, of extending feelers and flying very quickly in the opposite direction ifhe encountered something that looked like it was about to try for an easy lunch.He had certainly never studied a language as complex as the series of sounds that escaped the creature's throat in a mutter. Ifhe had been in possession of a larger brain, and a working knowledge of common intergalactic sentence structure,the beetlewould have interpretedthe soundsas something like;

"That was dishonorable."

Watching the creature exit his home with a 'hrmph', the beetle sighed in relief (or would have, had he been equipped with the necessary respiration system) and hovered down once more to his favourite branch. It was odd, he reflected, the sort of problems other people seemed to get themselves into.