It was a chill, terrifying planet inhabited by furtive gnomes. And something was forcing the crew into homicidal insanity. But what?
sappeared in a cloud of dust.
Back at the truck, Gallifa turned to MacFarland. "Did you shoot it?" he asked with wide eyes.
MacFarland shook his head.
"The gnome just curled up like a porcupine," Gallifa said, frowning. "And that's certainly no protection ... I wouldn't think. It doesn't have spines or anything."
"You're right," MacFarland answered. "I think the meat eater had a fit, and it's a damn good thing for your friend Mr. Gnome, too!"
"You may be right," Gallifa speculated slowly. "Only--You know, it's a far-fetched thought, but maybe the gnomes throw out some scent that stops their enemies cold."
"It would have to be considerably potent," MacFarland snorted. "To cause a fuss like that!"
"Well," Gallifa affirmed with finality, "Samuels will have several specimens for us back at the base. We will find out after we get back."
"I just thought of something," MacFarland exclaimed suddenly. "Do you think maybe that--that cat--or one like it, attacked B
The pre-colonization survey ship lands on a promising planet to check it out in detail before the colonist ship arrives. They don't find much to threaten them, except one by one they panic and try to kill anyone around them.
The story belongs to the "strange ways planets can kill you" genre.
The author was a mechanical engineer, so naturally the answer was in the data all along.