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
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
"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
"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!"
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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."
murmured Ariane, whose face was much whiter than normal, "but he's
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
"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,"
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
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
"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
"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.
(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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