Many hours later, Dr. Ben Fortunas’s communications chip chirped in his ear. His eyes snapped open. He assessed his surroundings, instantly noting that the baby’s cries had not awakened him. Beside him in the bed, Dr. Cassie Ruger snored softly. The windowless room of their box-like home allowed no outside light to penetrate. Ben flipped his wrist over as he slid from the bed.
After 8am, Earth standard time. That’s the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep she’s yet allowed us.
The display on Ginny’s bassinet showed that she still slept. She wouldn’t for much longer, though.
Ben padded on large feet out of the bedroom and gently shut the sliding pocket door. Only when he was several steps away did he tap his ear to his shoulder.
“This is Dr. Ben Fortunas.”
A staccato, mechanical voice answered. “Most honored science human and guardian of the Inheritor, speaking to you now is the commander of the honor guard placed upon this place by the most intelligent leader, Queen Khanaa. I am called Myzme ko’Khanaa. Knowledge to you, Doctor of Fortunes.”
Ben smirked as he realized that the translation program had translated his adopted surname from its original Portuguese. “Knowledge to you, Myzme ko’Khanaa. I am called Doctor Ben in the language of my people.”
“This I will now speak when to you I speak. My lieutenant reports that to me you wish to communicate.”
“Yes, I have questions about the effects of this planet upon both of our species. May I meet with you to share my research?”
There was a pause. “In exchange for the knowledge of humans, you wish for the knowledge of Kigvans?”
The scientist winced. Kigvans loved collecting knowledge. They were notably less keen to share knowledge. “I assure you, the knowledge we exchange will protect the Inheritor.”
“Then it is acceptable. Propose the hour and place of this meeting, Dr. Ben.”
After they’d agreed to meet in an hour, Ben terminated the connection. He showered, slipped into loose clothing with plenty of pockets, and started making breakfast. He frowned into the canister holding their coffee supply.
“We’ll need to adjust our ration schedule,” he muttered.
“What’s that?” Cassie bumped her right hip against his left. “You talking to yourself again, old man?”
“No,” he grumbled. “I heard you coming. I said we need to adjust our ration schedule. If the Magellan is delayed, we could be waiting months for resupply.”
Cassie stopped pouring water into Ginny’s bottle. “And if the ship is lost?”
Ben saw the tears welling in her eyes. “Now, there’s no need to borrow trouble.” He kissed her forehead. “Speaking of trouble…” Ben lifted the groggy baby from his lover’s arms. “That potion must have helped, since Miss Trouble allowed us almost 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
Cassie finished preparing the bottle and handed it to Ben. She wrinkled her nose. “Can you please not call it a potion? Our alien guards might hear you and get the wrong impression.”
“Speaking of, I have a meeting with the Kigvan commander. I’m going to pick her brain about the anemia situation. I think it has something to do with the lorga binding to iron in our blood, much like lead does.”
Dr. Ruger’s eyes lit up. She placed a mug of steaming coffee in front of Ben and then sat down across from him. “But how is the lorga infiltrating the bloodstream? Is it water-borne, food, or airborne contamination? What are the side-effects of increased blood lorga levels? Will there be similar physiological manifestations as those suffering from lead poisoning on Earth? How will we remove the lorga from the body? Oh, I wonder if the nano-medicinals used to treat lead exposure will be useful here. Do you—”
Ben Fortunas rose from his seat, handed Ginny over, and then leaned down to stop Cassie’s questions in the only way he knew. When he broke their kiss and straightened, he grinned at her flushed cheeks and slightly dazed expression.
“I’ll tell you everything I learn, Liebchen.”