This is the sixth installment of this serialized short story from the “Dremiks” universe. The previous five sections can be found by searching for “Monday Musings” in the category bar on this blog.
Ben Fortunas didn’t believe in sleeping on a problem. Exhortations about the human brain needing rest made logical sense, but he could not “shut-down” with a mystery rattling around in his head. So, while he insisted that Cassie finish her tea and go to sleep, he had no intention of joining her.
After confirming that both the baby and Cassie were sound asleep, Ben walked back to the living area of their shared quarters. He logged into the medical monitoring system using Cassie’s credentials—and without experiencing even a flicker of guilt as he did so. Scrolling through the list of station residents, Ben selected his own file. He scowled at his complete blood count read-out. The small chip implanted in his wrist transmitted essential medical data to the monitoring system, including daily CBCs.
Re-checking Cassie’s counts and then reading through those of ten other personnel chosen at random had the chief-scientist plowing both hands through his hair.
Every single person he’d checked suffered from some degree of anemia. The cause was clearly environmental. On Earth, lead poisoning would be the most likely culprit. However, the same health-monitoring system routinely checked everyone’s blood for lead, heavy metal, and other toxin exposure. Anyone with elevated blood lead levels would have been flagged by the system and Cassie immediately notified. Lead was also extremely rare on Dremiks.
Except… Ben tilted his head to one side while staring at the opposite wall. Pure lead was rare on Dremiks because it bonded with other elements to make the mineral lorga. Lorga could be manipulated to cause massive explosions—enough to destroy a moon. Ben’s eyes flicked to the ceiling of their prefabricated home. Humans’ primary mission to Dremiks had been to correct the degrading orbit of the moon Najif. They’d succeeded because of the mounds of lorga readily available on the surface of the abandoned planet. Lorga floated in the air, coated the blue grey rocks on the surface, and seeped into the underwater aquifers.
The human colony’s water purifiers removed lead, but were they removing lorga? What if the air purifiers weren’t able to properly sift the fine dust from the atmosphere outside the dome? Could ingested or inhaled lorga cause anemia over long periods of exposure?
Dr. Fortunas poked his head out the door and looked up at one of the two Kigvan sentries. They were different than the two who’d been standing guard earlier. There must have been a shift change. “Either of you speak English? Espanol? Deutsch?”
The alien to his left shifted his weight and produced a small box from inside his tunic. He held the box in the palm of his spade-like hand. Ben looked at the box and back at the alien. The sentry to the human’s right grunted something. The box produced a whirring noise then said, “Speak.”
“Ah. Right. Nifty, that. Do you have a scientist I can speak to? I need to inquire about the properties of lorga.”
Apparently, this did not translate correctly to the Kigvans. They exchanged several grunts and chirps. After three rounds of conversation, the alien holding the box spoke into it once again.
“This information we have not. To be waiting to speak to Lǐngdǎo zhě you are.”
The human scientist mentally scrolled through his limited knowledge of Mandarin. “Ah: leader. You want me to speak to your captain.”
They tilted their heads and moved their stunted arms in front of them, palms up. This was their species’ gesture of agreement.
“Well, call her up.”
More chatter followed the translation-box’s chirping rendition of his request.
“No. This is not now happening. Now is rest time for humans and the Watchers. Tomorrow.”
There was a lot packed into that denial. Ben’s mind sorted the data into priorities. He really wanted to talk to the Kigvan captain right then. But, he also found it intriguing that the program translated the Kigvans’ own name for themselves into the English word “watchers”.
“Fine.” He pushed the door shut and walked back to the workstation. He’d run some more tests while he waited for the sun to rise again.