Terra Nueva

“Freaking psychic fungus!”

Doctor's Log 1x11

[Personal, Encrypted, Mentions Patient Information]

Back on Janus 2 after a long week – just catching up on my log after a much-needed shower. Showering in low-G is a pain, but beats stinking up the Pegasus.

Pandemic Aftermath
It is becoming increasingly clear that the party flu was an attack. Vicinius has started to sequence the virus – it doesn’t look like anything we’ve seen. It’s clean of the usual “junk” DNA, elegant, sparse. That’s not good. We don’t know what tried to kill us, or why. But I know one thing. It is afraid. Disease and poisons are weapons of the weak, not the strong. It went to great effort to hide its tracks and make this look like a natural disaster. It fears our response. Good. Perhaps if we can find it, talk to it, we can reach a truce rather than risk mutual destruction.

Adams, Kawit, and Tiberius were working on Nests 1, 2, and 3. [Nest 3 is missing the same part as Nest 1, must have broken off before Marak got the isolation tent over it.] They started with Nests 1 and 3, not wanting to damage 2 until they knew more. Seemed reasonable at the time. Nothing makes sense – it is one creature – but an odd one. Then, Adams (or maybe Vicinius) realized that we were looking at a living biological microfac. That’s when things started to go wrong. Adams suddenly attacked Nest 2 and broke it. The damned thing was manipulating all of them, first to protect it, then to destroy it. That’s very sophisticated work, more so than the psi-shroom manipulations. Implies intelligence. Fortunately, I had some baseline brain chemistry and pattern readings from Adams and Kawit – I can see changes. They should be temporary. I don’t have a baseline for Tiberius. Had Anteros-3 look at the vid records – looks like the first effects stared a day-to-a-day and a half after Nest 2 went into the lab. First Tiberius started being more careful around Nest 2, then Kawit seemed protective/territorial about it. Adams wasn’t in the lab as much. Just before he destroyed it, they all had a brief confused expression. Adams got inexplicably angry at it, Kawi and Tiberius were suddenly frustrated.

[ Send to Medical Team – Copy of above test results, summary of incident, and recommendation to take brain scans as part of the randomized testing for mutations and compare with baselines where we have them. Also compare routinely to available baselines whenever brain scans can be plausibly taken without straining our resources – I don’t want to pull time/effort from the party flu research as I don’t expect this to come up often, but the randomized testing might catch someone being or recently influenced. Also flag the research paper on psi manipulation to the psychiatric team – keep an eye out for changes in behavior and, if so, refer for brain scans.]

We’re still working on sequencing and looking for a less drastic cure than fish livers. Marak’s rigging up an ultrasonic fence to keep the biting insects at bay. But we need to know what attacked us and why.

We’ve talked to a couple of psis in the colony – a Vigil with a bit of Empathy, ESP, and Mind-Shield and Delanne, who is a rare anti-psi. Need to check and see what else we have among the three ships.

The Vigil has had a bad feeling about the prarie-bug counterparts that are around the garbage heap. We looked at them once, but got some new samples. Tiberius can tell us if they’ve changed. Send text to Vigil, have someone take the ground penetrating radar and look for the nest.]

Note to self – Now that I’m making progress with Pteri, talk to Kelinn about the snipes. Can they be trained? They will eat prairie beetle, let’s encourage some around the garbage dump.]

But there is no rest for the weary. We had a meeting scheduled on Janus 2 about Janus 4 and the scans of the desert. Legate Guthar, commander of the Janus 4, was a surprise. There was an accident early in the voyage, his mind was loaded into a modified Venus-bot. Fascinating. He’s deferring his position on the Council in favor of Capt. Smith. Good political move. Janus 4 is looking at a position near Lakeside, closer to the Lake, so we can be mutually supportive. Given an active foe, it feels too much to me like too many eggs in a single basket, but that’s a council decision. Best I can do is make a recommendation later and let them sort it out. Janus 3 is looking to more an asteroid into orbit to mine it, and then make a habitat of it – “heirloom humanity”, suggest Vicinius.

The Bad

We’re not alone. Orbital scans show huge (3 story tall) termite mounds on islands around the desert and on the desert continent where the desert meets the savanna. There are also insects herding bugalo near the desert oasis. Can’t get a good enough reading on the mounds to know what lives there. There is lots of geothermal energy in the mountains under the desert and two hotspots in the ocean. Not fusion power, but immense power potential. There are spots where something’s jamming out scans of what’s underground. Plan is for a closer overflight, let’s see what’s there.

First, tho, we are going to visit the Fisher Kings. Orbital spotted three nests, two on the north continent, one near the termite islands. The Kings are mostly solitary colonies – little interaction, even for mating.

At the first village, we have to unruffle an irked tree mother’s feathers. “Bad” is Fisher King for all sorts of misfortune – from storms to megaraptors to whatever is to the west. They can’t settle near Bayside because of the megaraptors. She mentions an abandoned nest to the west on a point of land. AUD1 does most of the talking, it is hard for my throat to make the right sounds and I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of the grammar. They don’t have the medicine fish – not the right geography on the north continent. “We have tails of the Trail that led us here. Some nests have been abandoned. Some are still there.”

The second nest is more active, and more friendly. They’ve recently (past four months) taken in refugees from the site nearer the mounds. Driven off by stinging insects. This nest has not faced danger for a while. It is overcrowded, not enough trees for all, but they seem to be ok on food. The refugees left behind their companions – lizard lemurs trained as hands. The refugees had nets and perhaps other tools.

The refugees do know the story of the Bad. “A sickness came to the trees. The trees all died. And then the fire ants came. And that which was not dead then burned.”

The “termite mounds” are the home of the fire ants, which are medium dog sized (about the size of a collie). (Don’t know if the ants project fire or just use it.)

So on to nest three. Abandoned. We feed the murder maples some fish. The “hands” will peer out when we call to them, but won’t come down. We’ll need to bring some refugees to coax them out. No sign of the insects. We try making the sounds of a wing. Nothing. The refugees had mentioned that the insects attacked most often when the wings were out – so we try those sounds. Sure enough, a formation(!) of bugs appears. Too small for the murder maples to notice. Gracche flames some. Adams and AUD1 kill a few more. When they realize they can’t hurt those in bioplastic, they retreat. We’ve got samples. More stuff for Vicinius’ ever-growing list. We try again, but they are smart enough not to be lured twice.

We overfly the nearest mounds. Vicinius sees something, odd by TN standards. When we go back thru the vid there’s something the size as the top of these mounds (barn sized) that resembles the top of a mushroom – with spider or crab legs. “On the plus side, not as disturbing anymore.” Vicinius calls it Magnus cancraticus or great crab becoming mushroom. He wants to go back for another pass. Gracche doesn’t dump him out the airlock to get his own samples. Lots of jerky flight – Gracche isn’t taking chances – fast with random movements. From the nests, there’s emissions, signs of TL5 below.

We do a quick overflight of the herders. Ant-like creatures around and mixed into the bugalo herds. The expected little guard like bugalo are not there. There might be one of them. It does not have the aggressive posture. Looks like the ants have domesticated the bugalo. (Could be a time-saver if they can teach us that trick.) No contact yet.

And up to Janus 2 to report in. I’m still not sleeping well. I’ll do better when we have a handle on the party flu. If things settle down, I’ve promised to meet Kelinn at Bayside for a beach picnic.

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