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by injecting her fertilized eggs into a host. Galen had done one of his earliest research projects on this. The eggs developed within the host, feeding off of it until they hatched into tiny larvae and popped back out through the skin.

As unappealing as that was, it wasn't fatal. But Jab inserted something else along with her eggs, a virus that incapacitated the host's immune system, preventing it from killing the invading eggs. As far as Galen knew, a swug had never been stung by a jab, so any effect the virus would have was unknown. Jabs generally chose other animals as hosts, but Jab was a renegade and a bit sting-happy. She'd stung several townspeople in her day, triggering days of vomiting and diarrhea, and startling outbreaks of larvae.

Elric's eyes found Galen, and his hand extended in a practiced gesture to indicate Des' right front leg. Galen lifted the fleshy limb, exposing the pale, bumpy belly. Elric palpated the expansive surface thoroughly, then gestured again to the swug. Clearly, he intended for Galen to turn Des onto his other side. Galen didn't have the first idea how to go about this. He took hold of two of the front legs and pulled. Des twisted a bit, but his bulk didn't budge. Galen let go of one of the front legs and took one of the back instead, pulled again. The legs stretched toward him, but the swug stayed put. Galen tried bracing a foot against Des as a lever. He caught Farmer Jae hiding a laugh behind his hand.

Farmer Jae licked his lips and cleared his throat. "Well then." Jae picked up Des' tail and began hauling him over. The townspeople, apparently ready to move on to the next stage of fun, pitched in and pushed the swug over. He fell with a ponderous thump.

Elric examined Des once more, including the head, neck, and back. He waved
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