[In tonight’s episode, AUD1, Denhar, and Adams step outside their personal comfort zones.]
I had expected to get back to the western continent and resolve the Fisher King refugee issue, but things got complicated. When we returned to the Janus II, Captain Guthar had gathered seven psis willing to meet and proposed a meeting on Janus IV. (At least one of the was from his crew and had only recently been defrosted.)
Father, Mother, I’m sorry. I know you would disapprove. I can hear your warning to be careful, to stay hidden. But it is time for me to talk to my team. I’m not ready to do more, but they need to know. AUD1 … I hope he can keep a secret, at least for a time.
It went easier than I feared. AUD1 would like me to trust Venus, but he’s willing to keep it to himself for now. Vicinius had that gleam in his eye, like he’s pondering whether he can get actual brain samples. I am not going to be a lab rat. Adams is right – we’re too public – this is going to come out and being open will help encourage other psis to come out. I’m not ready for that yet. Marak understands. There’s a risk of a backlash given our psychic fungal foe. He’s going to work on that.
Marak also took the opportunity to brief AUD1 on Project Orpheus.
And so we went to meet the others on Janus IV. Gladionus and Delanne mentioned tensions in the colony – I’ve been up to my neck in the Party Flu and hadn’t been paying attention. Janus III wants a new election – they were supposed to go to Oceanus and didn’t get a say in the current council. Adams will look into this – politics is his field. Something down there damn near killed us and we’re busy bickering among ourselves about who should be in charge.
When we got there, several of the cargo ‘bots had prominent badges with AUDI. Our AUD1 was invited to a meeting. Looks like the ‘bot’s rights issue is coming to a head faster than I expected. AUD1 has been an inspiration to Janus IV at least to create a “unity”. Janus III worried them. “There are set rules for our service that includes things like maintenance. If we are damaged in service, we expect to be maintained. There must be down time, access to certain facilities, etc. We have put together a bank of skill chips so that we all have access to them.” AUD1 seems amazed by it all.
I should have spoken up in the meeting. I could give a dozen rationalizations for staying next to Delanne and avoiding Akila, but the truth is I’m terrified and I’m ashamed that I’m terrified. So I kept my mouth shut. We’ve got a group of seven, all different talents, none from Janus III. One of them’s a puzzle – Tara Willowbrook – an amnesiac teen who might have some power. Captain Guthar monitored the meeting – not sure why he’s interested – but he and Adams will talk to the council about making something more formal.
Then on to the next meeting – what to do about the ants and our rare earths shortage. We’re in a bind. The black crystals mean we can’t use bots for mining, not before we can get the ISP wet-fac up to make bioplas. So we’re down to picks, axes, and explosives, and we don’t have enough explosives. We’ve got long-term plans – we can send a Pegasus out to the belt to fling back some rocks to mine. We can trade with Oceana – again flinging cargo out and back. Both of those are going to take time. And we’re going to hit a crisis in about six months. I suggested that maybe the termite mounds could be trading partners – we know there’s something big underground. They likely don’t use rare earths and might be willing to find/trade them to us. We don’t need much. The other problem is that this planet may not have heavier elements – nothing higher on the periodic table than lead so far. Looks like Janus IV is going to Bayside. Marak’s got support to get his cargo blimp off the ground. I am so looking forward to dairy again – milk, butter, cheese, maybe ice cream? After a year, local meat and vat gruel is getting old.
And one more meeting. I think Gracche may explode. AUD1 invited us along to meet Lyra, the leader of the AUDI unity. Her requests seem reasonable. I’ve worked with AUD1 for a year and treated at least one bot patient – can’t say they aren’t people. AUD1 considered, maybe for the first time, what he wants, not just how he can best be of use, and some deep philosophical questions about what it is to be a citizen or part of a community. Vicinius got the bright idea to have AUD1 apply for citizenship as a test case. Adams and Marak are right — this has to be his decision not because others want, need, or expect it of him. He thinks. He’ll do it. Gracche wants to join their Unity – Lyra says she’ll think about it. I’m going to have to be careful on this – one thing I learned in disaster relief was that a doctor should be neutral – but it’s pretty clear where my sympathies lie.
Downside, Kawit has news – she’s grown the fungus from the nest and it makes nerve-like electrical connections. Tiberius says that the nest might have once had an insect-brain enhanced by the fungus into something much more. Tiberius also says they looked at the insects from the nests we recovered – all clones. We need to compare these to the original insect samples.
The prairie bug nests all had empty chambers above the queen for something – maybe something like this living bio-fac. We found the nest of the local bugs and imaged it with ground radar. It’s chamber is full. As soon as Akila comes down from Janus IV we’re going to investigate.
Adams was able to get colony approval for a psi “first response” team. And money for Marak’s blimp. And talked to Administrator Wexton about AUD1’s citizenship. Gracche notes that this will put AUD1 in some political, and maybe personal, cross-hairs, so we’re going to keep an eye on him. I suggested to Adams that he watch for reactions – this proposal will stir a response from the disaffected.
Finally, at long last, I get to the hospital. And what is waiting for me but a summons from Dr. Gala. What have I done now? Lee says there’s a big buzz about news from Janus IV – they’re experimenting with a mobile uterine replicator. That’s intriguing and yet more fuel on the pyre. Gala’s apparently on the warpath about my report on Hapu Min and on Wexton’s daughter. And she’s talking about shipping me to Bayside. Maybe if I sound like I want to go, she’ll keep me here. My team is here. On the other hand, Cailean will likely be there to help them set-up – Bayside Alpha pod has been his project – I need to talk to him.
But first, to brave the dragon. It doesn’t go well. I’m already frazzled, underslept (again), and on edge from the psi issues. I snap at her. She snaps back. I expect the whole hospital heard parts of that fight. She’s complaining that Min and Wexton survived unexpectedly an alien disease bio-engineered specifically to exterminate us when treated with an alien fish-liver. I did my job and kept them alive. We got thru a very well-engineered attack with zero deaths and she’s busting my ass. She wants to exile me to Bayside because my paperwork isn’t up to her specs. This is why I spent my time back home in disaster relief – nobody gives a damn about your paperwork if the patient survives. OK. I’ll do it her way as a peace offering – I’ll ask Adams to borrow Ruby for a few minutes to polish up my report on this, and on Vicinius’ results.
Speaking of which, by Apollo, we have a treatment that doesn’t depend on fish liver. Vicinius finished sequencing the flu. It’s related to a disease carried by the prairie bugs that only affects the big lizards in Grassland. Targeted specifically to us. Missed a few people with shellfish allergies because the target proteins are different. Vicinius has a treatment. We can turn it over to the medics to test it and make sure. That’s the best news I’ve had in days.
Grache heard, or heard about the row. He wants to get Dr. Nighthawk to lean on Dr. Gala. Can’t do that – Gala’s not wrong and I need to work out how to work with her. Dr. Nighthawk can’t fight my battles for me. I need to sleep on this. I’m too wired to think clearly.
At least I get sleep. The next morning-cycle Adams shows up looking like hell. Fortunately, hangover cures are easy. Not sure what happened last night between him and Kawit, but if he wants to talk about it, I’m here. I’m distracted while working and listening to Marak’s new Radio Aurora show. He and Delanne are talking politics. There’s a guy from Janus III, Lorn, making a pretty good case for a new election. Maybe he’s right and that would help settle things.
I get one more distraction. Akila is finally down and it’s time to take on the nest. Akila sniffs it out. (Again, I’m standing in Delanne’s coat-tails and feeling guilty about it.) Win uses clairvoyance to confirm that the nest is there and how big it is. My turn to step up – I pull it out after Marak mostly excavates it. Gently. Like delivering a baby – that might be able to kill me with its’ brain. Calm, reassuring thoughts – don’t know if it can read me, but let’s see if it will talk to us.