An igloo walking toward the sea met a polar bear coming the other way.
"Where are you going?" said the bear.
The igloo stopped but didn't respond. It took a few wary steps
"Where are you going?" repeated the ursine monolith.
"Whose side are you on?" demanded the igloo hollowly.
"I'm a bear, whose side do you think?"
The igloo pondered this for a moment. "It's hard to tell
it said in a weary voice.
"True." Only now the bear noticed the foot sticking
out the mouth
of the igloo. "Is there someone in you?"
"They are slowly being digested." The foot slurped
back in and
"You are not from this world," the bear suggested.
"It may be that I am of an alien race. Stranger things
seen in these climes."
"I don't think you would've suggested that, if it were
The igloo laughed. It was a dry, brittle, cold laugh. Despite
thick coat of fur and blubber, the bear felt a chill. "Mother Berg
three-thirty-seven," said the 'gloo. "My unit commander. They call me
The bear sighed with relief. "Nice to meetcha."
He turned to show
the chevrons burned in the fur just above his shoulder. "Burbage.
They didn't shake. Nothing marked you as a human sympathizer
quicker than shaking appendages. "You need anything?" asked Burbage.
"Nope, got all I need. Two Esquimaux that'll last me
long enough to get back to the lead...is it still there?"
Burbage glanced back in the direction the 'gloo had been headed.
"No," he answered, "but there are a couple of more that've opened
just to the east. Bear off a few degrees, you can't miss it."
The bear sneezed. "Well, goodbye."
The igloo grunted, and the two parted ways. Only the bear
that the information he'd just given was a lie, and that in his sneeze,
he'd ejected a tiny homing bug onto the 'gloo's numb carapace. Before
the igloo made it a mile, he'd be melted flat by space lasers.
Burbage was a spy for the Esquimaux.