FRESH WORLD:

CHAPTER II

 

The Well and The Injured

 

written and illustrated by Adrienne Potter

 

 

Neither Kaylar nor Irvana had suffered a single Asthma attack since their arrival on Othgar and Kaylar was thankful. They were prepared for an attack. The Nanny Droids all carried Auto-Inhalers and for severe cases, Auto-Dozers that could place Entrasol, a refined form of epinephrine, through Irvana's skin without penetrating it. But an attack could easily lead to a bout of Bronchitis or Bronchial pneumonia and Irvana already had scar tissue from previous occurrences. She didn't need any more. Her lungs could be regenerated if they got bad enough but the equipment for that was in a hospital at the nearest Star base and the procedure was expensive, time-consuming, and testing had not yet been completed on children.

Irvana had been invited to go with Leena Anders, her new friend, to the mines that day. Leena was a year younger but they shared a love of animals, adventure, and computer programming. Leena had become proficient at programming the mining droids and so she often went with her parents to the Terexian and Coptin Mines, but she left Saturdays free to spend with Irvana roaming the nearby forests with the dogs and a Nanny Droid. Leena named the droid Fanny so she could tell her from the other Nanny droids. Irvana had named her own Nanny Annie, but her droid had stayed home with the housekeeper droid today.

At the mines Leena and Irvana boarded an elevator for a tour. Inside was a massive, rock-walled room that had been carved inside the mountain with elevators near the walls carrying earth up and empty containers down. The mine was very well-lit and the perfectly timed movements of the droids almost looked like ballet. Irvana was impressed by the mine and proud of what Leena's family had accomplished here in such a short time. In the midst of her reverie it hit her: A feeling of complete and total helplessness!

Irvana grabbed Leena's arm and gasped, "I can't breathe." Leena knew instantly that it was an asthma attack. She had been trained by the MD in case this happened. Irvana fumbled in her backpack for her Auto-Inhaler but couldn't find it. Leena grabbed it away from her and shook it up side down. Everything, including the Inhaler, came tumbling out. Quickly she reached for it and put it in Irvana's hands. Luckily, she had not passed out and was able to administer it herself. Leena hurriedly guided her out of the mines as Irvana sucked the Inhaler, and soon they were in daylight. As she heard Irvana let out a breath she breathed her own sigh of relief. After she was breathing normally Irvana said, "It's the terexian, I think. I'm probably allergic to it. And here I was thinking I had escaped all the allergens in the galaxy."

"Well that does it! No more trips inside the mines for you without an oxygen helmet," said her friend. After a ten-minute rest she asked, "Do you still feel like exploring or would you rather go home?" Irvana had felt better as soon as the medication opened the air sacs in her lungs, having left behind the source of her attack, and there was no way she was going to spend the rest of the day inside. They used speeders to get around which were like air-born motorbikes, somewhat smaller than the big air-bikes. They moved from two to six feet above the ground but didn't go much faster than 25 Miles Per Hour. The Nanny Droid had her own speeder but their dogs had been left at the colony.

They flew deep into the forest and had lunch by a waterfall that fed a sparkling, clear, stream. Afterwards they walked around examining plant specimens and looking for animal tracks. Leena wanted her own Gelandian and Irvana had promised to help her catch one, and so they were devising a little trap using a box and crumbs as bait when Irvana caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned quickly and thought she saw a bluish shadow disappear behind a thicket. Quickly she ran to the spot where she had seen it disappear, but there was nothing.

"What's the matter?" called Leena. Irvana looked at her in confusion.

"I thought I saw a blue person, but my eyes must have been playing tricks on me," she answered.

"There can't be any people on this planet besides us and our families," said Leena, "At least nothing showed up on the scanners. Fanny!" she called to the droid who was standing by the speeders. "Will you please scan this area for any life forms?" She did so immediately, but there was nothing.

"It was probably just my medication messing with my mind," conceded Irvana.

They spent the rest of the afternoon collecting pretty little flowers and a tiny fern-like plant that they hadn't seen in other parts of the forest, until they heard a slight noise from the place where they had erected the Gelandian trap. They both ran to it as the Nanny chuckled.

"Looks like you've got yourselves an animal," she said.

Excitedly they knelt down and lifted the box. They jumped as something shot away into the bushes.

"That was no gelandian!" exclaimed Irvana.

"What on Othgar was it?!" Leena asked, knowing that it was a futile question.

Fanny scanned the bushes thinking it might be hiding out of sight, but there was no reading so it had probably run out of range by now. Unless...

Irvana had a sudden revelation. "What if some of these life forms don't show up on our standard earth scanners?" she questioned, staring first at Fanny and then Leena. The Gelandian had been scanned, but the MD did it with his medical scanner, made for close-range, wide-spectrum scans. Maybe the scanner didnít reveal when an unknown DNA was detected.  The scanners they had been using on their exploration trips were designed for all life forms based on known DNA, but what if this planet had living things with different DNA? They discussed this possibility, then agreed to bring this news to their parents and the MD. They packed up their gear and turned their speeders towards Othis.

Irvana must have been lost in thought about the occurrences in the woods because she didn't see Nanny and Leena guide their speeders around the vine that hung directly in her path--the vine that hooked on a connector bolt protruding from the body of the airbike and jerked it out from under her.

Suddenly she was falling through the air, down a ravine. Her body bounced on soft dirt that was the sloping wall of a canyon, and she felt herself moving away from it, as though hands were pushing her.  Then she began to roll, head over heels. Soft branches of the pine trees pummeled her as she fell, slowing her somewhat. Finally she plopped into a large bush, rolled off it, and landed in a bed of strange-looking flowers. They were bright orange with fluorescent blue stamen rising out of them. Several had broken as she fell on them and let out a strange odor. "Oh no!" she thought, "Another asthma attack, and this time I don't have my inhaler!" But she found she could still breathe. In fact, she could breathe better than she had since she had entered the mine. She smelled the flowers again and realized that there was something medicinal about them.

She reached to pick one but winced in pain as she became aware that her wrist was injured. She wiggled the rest of her body to see if she had any other injuries but she seemed to be okay. Then she heard Fanny and Leena calling her name.

"I'm down here!" she called back. Next she saw Leena's white face peering down at her from the top of the ravine, about fifty feet up.

"Omigosh! Are you okay?" When Irvana answered that she thought she was fine Leena almost cried.

"I was so scared I nearly died when my speeder's radar showed you disappear!" Quickly Leena flew down to Irvana while Fanny commed Othis for the MD and an air transport to pick up Irvana and the speeder. Irvana may say she was okay but Nanny knew from the looks of the speeder and the depth of the ravine that Irvana needed a full scan.

When Mardee arrived he found that Irvana was actually quite well except for a few bruises and a hairline fracture on her wrist which he quickly fixed with his bone fuser.

"There, that ought to do it. It might feel like it's bruised for a day or so but nothing more. If you feel anything different I want to know immediately," he told her.

"Mardee, have you noticed my breathing?"

"Only that you're lungs seem to be doing better than ever since we arrived on this planet," he answered.

"That's what I mean!" she said excitedly. "See, I had an Asthma attack a few hours ago in the mine, and so you should hear a little bit of wheezing because I'm never at full capacity the day of an attack, but there's nothing! My lungs are perfectly clear! And I'm sure it's these flowers! Here, smell them!"

He bent his artificial nose close to one of them, a nose that was more sophisticated than a dog's in it's ability to distinguish thousands of times more scents than a human nose.

"This is interesting," he said. That was what Irvana loved about Mardee. He never closed his mind to any possibilities and to her it seemed that the entire universe was one gigantic possibility.

"I swear on a bible that when I breathe in the scent of these flowers it opens up my air sacs!"

" Okay, these are going back to the lab for analysis," he said as he placed several of them in airtight bags. "Fanny, will you mark this place on your geomap so we can find it again later please?" The politeness was only part of his programming and not out of necessity. Fanny would do whatever she was asked even if she was ordered about Hitler-fashion, but nobody treated droids that way except the gangs.

Back at home Irvana rested in her room as her parents had requested, reading about alien biological life forms on other planets. In the excitement of her return she had forgotten to ask her parents or Mardee about the possibility of a different DNA here on this planet and now they had all left her alone with Annie the Nanny, Bethesda, the housekeeper droid, her dog Dacron, and her pet gelandian Moppett. Her parents were checking on the progress of a new field on the edge of their farm which the droids had cleared and planted. Now they were erecting force fields in case another storm came. After the first storm Meltro had come up with the motto "shield as you build."

Irvana commed Leena. "We've got to borrow Mardee's wide-spectrum scanner. Since Mardee's not programmed to maintain any equipment but his own I don't think he realizes that the DNA he's found here doesn't register on our standard scanners. I'm positive that we have a whole new DNA on this planet--one that is unknown to Earth Force and the Star Bases!"

"If you're right then this is really big. Too big for just you and me!" Leena told her.

"Yes, but I want to be sure! Let's go back there on Monday after school and scan the whole area."

"Okay, if you're feeling alright."

"Hey, you know I'm fine. Mardee took care of that. The only reason I stayed home today is because Mom was worried about me. I'm not worried one bit about myself. "

Sundays were shut-down days at Othis and at most star bases. They had learned over the centuries that everything and everyone functioned better if they had a day to do self-checks and self-maintenance, even the droids and computers, and for the humans just plain old meditation seemed to make the week go smoother. Irvana's family listened to great classical music played on a very fine Bose-OpAmp sound system brought from Earth, or they read or played computer games. As the music played their wall-video showed beautiful, relaxing scenes from around the planet taken by probes, and some from Earth. In the evenings all four families gathered for a joint religious service at one of the homes.

School as it was known on Earth was non-existent. Each child was home-schooled by computer with help from the Nanny droids. A selection of live educational telecasts was beamed from the Star Bases to nearby planets occupied by children and the shows were intellectually stimulating as well as entertaining. Every show started with a review from the previous day's lesson, and ended with a quiz, and at the end of the week a test was given by computer. There were also interactive lessons that were the final result of the computer games introduced late in the 20th century. Each child could move at his own pace and if he or she finished the day's lessons early and passed the quiz then school was over for the day.

Many times the kids liked the lessons so much they kept at it for hours just for fun, and had to be reminded to take a break for play time. Scientists had proven a century earlier that lack of play time could actually suppress a child's IQ and social development, as well as his or her creative ability, and so the children were encouraged to explore, play group games in the Recreation Hall next to the church, invent their own games, or play with their parents. Even the droids were programmed to play with the children upon request. As a result IQ's had steadily increased with each generation for the past 150 years, and emotional health improved with it.

On Monday Leena and Irvana rushed through their studies as though there were guns to their heads. They were off in warp speed the second they finished and went straight to Mardee's lab to ask for the scanner. He wasn't there. Unfortunately he was on an exploration trip with the Garcias and wasnít expected back until evening.

"Do we dare take this without his permission?" Irvana asked Leena, who simply stared wide-eyed at her in response. Finally she said, "No, we better not. It's the only one on the planet and if we broke it we'd be anti-matter."

Suddenly they heard a noise on Mardee's labcom that made the whole question moot. It was Mrs. Lu calling from the mine. Ariane Lu and her husband Almer were there helping repair a piece of mining equipment for the Anders.

"Mardee, come quick! We need you now! Almer is hurt!"

Quickly Irvana reached the labcom.

"Ariane, Mardee's not here. He's out with the Garcia's. What do you want me to do?" she asked urgently.

"Tell your Dad to bring the scanner and a transporter, and have him contact Mardee!"

Irvana quickly commed her Dad, who told her to bring the requested equipment and pick him up, to save time. She and Leena hurriedly obeyed. Irvana knew how to control the transporter well enough to get to the farm, and after that her Dad would take over. In two minutes they were at the mine. Almer was laying on the ground outside the mine entrance with Ariane Lu, Dawn Anders and Ridge, her husband, kneeling next to him.

"What happened?" asked Meltro as he scanned the still form.

"I saw it," said Ridge. "A piece of rock fell from about a hundred feet up and shattered his helmet. There's no blood, so it guess the helmet did it's job."

"He's unconscious," murmured Ariane, whose face was much whiter than normal, "but he's alive."

Just then Almer stirred, then his eyes opened and squinted in the light. Meltro had finished scanning his head.

"It doesn't show any fractures. What a miracle!"

"Where am I?" asked Almer as he tried to raise up on one arm. He fell back down and Ariane told him to stay put.

"You've had an accident, but we think you're going to be okay."

"Mardee is on his way, but it will be about an hour. He was 4,000 kilometers away when I called him," said Meltro.

They loaded him onto a stretcher and were carrying him to the transport when Irvana shouted, "Dad! The medical scanner is registering life forms!" While everyone was making a fuss over Almer she had re-set the medical scanner for a wide area, open DNA scan.

"Besides us?!" he looked at her in amazement as they all stopped in their tracks. He helped Ridge, Dawn, and Ariane slide the stretcher into the transport, then ran to the scanner.

"Well son-of-a-comet," he exclaimed. It showed that there were five life forms of an unknown DNA within fifty feet of them. They surveyed the bushes but could see nothing.

"These are either large animals or aliens," said Meltro, examining the scanner. Ariane called from the transporter, "Hey you guys, he's talking now. I think it's just a concussion. Why don't I take him back to the lab and wait for Mardee and you guys check it out?"

"Okay, but if you need us you just buzz," Meltro told her.

Quickly he recalibrated his field scanner to search for the DNA shown on the medical scanner and set off towards the bushes with Irvana and Leena on his heels.

"They're moving away! They've disappeared from the scanner!" He walked back to where Dawn and Ridge were standing, open-mouthed.

"First, two accidents in three days, and now a possible alien life form!" he told them. Irvana had caught up with her Dad. She told them about the strange creature that she and Leena had caught and the bluish form she thought she saw before her accident.

Ridge said, "We've been missing some of our light-weight equipment. We thought one of the droids malfunctioned and relocated it without telling us. Do you think these aliens might have borrowed it?"

"It's possible," said Meltro, "because I've been missing some of our farming equipment too, and I thought the same thing you did.

Suddenly Irvana and Leena, who were both facing the same direction, froze. They gave each other a quick glance, then stared ahead in stunned silence.

"Dad, I think our questions are about to be answered," she said, pointing to the bushes. All eyes focused in the direction of her finger, and what they saw amazed them.

Chapter three  

(Excerpt: "...we don't have time to talk. I need your help. I have seen your droid heal Irvana. I need your droid to help my birth- person. She is injured, and she is dying.")

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