SakuraSakura Join Date: 2003-02-21 Member: 13789Members, Constellation Posts: 69
This was actually a story I wrote for NS 1 back in the days. I just stumbled over it again on my computer and thought reposting it would probably be ok, considering the original post was 10 years old or so. Enjoy. :)


I still have trouble falling asleep at night, even though it has been several months. I don't know what was worse: The fact that I lost everything and everyone I ever cared about or the fact that I slept through it all.

It all started when the water purification facility began acting all funny. Although we did have reserves, it was still quite unsettling. It takes forever to get spare parts all the way to Tiphra and the engineers couldn't seem to find the cause of the malfunction. Instead of clean water, the facility pumped out a putrid greenish and offensively smelling liquid, and our clean reserves were quickly rationed. No more long hot showers. No more showers at all in fact.
It was just about then, I began to feel kind of ill. I am usually never sick, so I just thought it was the lack of proper bathing that made me feel all worn. But soon I began to feel dizzy as well and I decided to check in with the doctor.

The doctor (or Dawg, as he was usually called) wasn't really a doctor as much as he was a biologist. He was on the station to study the indigenous flora and fauna on Tiphra-5, but there wasn't much to look at. Tiphra-5 was mostly just rock except for a large lake a few miles from the colony, where Dawg found different kinds of bacteria and amoeba. Now and then he would find a new species and be all excited about it for a week or two, but mostly he just functioned as doctor, therapist and sometimes even priest to the lot of us. He always knew what to say, and I think that he is probably the one I miss most.
Dawg told me that I had caught a good old-fashioned cold, and that I should rest. Normally he would have prescribed a potful of hot tea with just a hint of rum, but considering our water situation, he advised me to just skip the tea and go for a couple of shots of rum instead. So I got myself a bottle of the good stuff from the mess hall (doctor's orders, what's a guy to do?) and before long I was soundly asleep.

When I woke up, everything was quiet. Too quiet. On a colony station like Tiphra, there's always activity. We usually worked in 12 hour shifts, and I should at least have been able to hear Harris or Priss working down at the oxygen pumps. My whole body was hurting from hangovers and fever, and I couldn't see clearly. I stumbled out into the hallway and made my way towards the main control room. There were always people manning the computers, and I hoped to find Dawg there.
To get to main from my quarters, I had to go through the oxygen pumps room. As I clumsily got closer, I suddenly noticed through my fever haze, that something was different. The walls seemed to be kind of slimy, the air was very damp and there was the same foul stench in the air here as in purification. When I reached Oxygen, everything was covered in a green fungus-like substance. Dawg would have been thrilled. The oxygen pumps were still up and running, but there was not an operator in sight.
In the ceiling of the large room, where all the ventilation shafts spread out like a giant steel flower, there was some kind of strange outcropping. I had trouble focusing, but it looked somewhat like a giant heart, and it even seemed to pulse in a slow steady rhythm but that might just have been the fever making me hallucinate.

I stumbled on towards the main control room, the damp air pressing me down and the stench making me sick to my stomach. I almost didn't notice when I finally got there. The room was devoid of life, no-one was monitoring the large terminals and even the radio was unmanned. I just couldn't make sense of it. Was this a nightmare? Perhaps I would wake up in my bed in a minute and Dawg would scold me for drinking a whole bottle of rum instead of just a couple of shots and Harris would be operating Oxygen and everything would be normal. I pinched my arm hard and winced with pain. No dream. I collapsed in the radio operator's seat. With the last of my strength I turned a rusty key and hit a large red button: Nightmare or not, I was going to get help.
Just as I had activated the distress beacon, I heard a noise behind me. I turned my head, although the effort made spots dance before my eyes. Darkness closed in on me, but I saw a strange creature. It was the size of a large dog, but instead of fur, it had a scaly brown skin that seemed to be oily with the same greenish slime that had covered the walls in oxygen. The beast had large spikes instead of paws and a mouth full of terrible teeth. It was sneering at me, and I could almost hear Dawg's voice in my head: "This baby is definitely a predator" as I lost my consciousness.

I don't think I had expected to wake up again, but I did – if only briefly at first. It was very warm, and someone was waving a flashlight before my eyes so I couldn't see a thing. I tried crying for help, but all I managed was a sickly moan. I felt strong arms lifting me up, and heard a human voice very near me calling "Commander, we've got a survivor". Then I fell back into the void.

When I awoke again, I was in some kind of a hospital bed. There were strange machines around the bed, and strange plastic tubes running with clear liquid was attached to my body. The air was cool and smelt faintly chemical. This wasn't Tiphra.

I still felt weak, but the fever was gone, and I was able to sit up, when a Lieutenant Martins came to talk with me. He was a young man, probably half my age, but he had a stern look on his face and his piercing eyes revealed that he had seen and survived things I could only begin to imagine. He presented himself and asked to hear my story, but I had nothing much to tell. While I was talking he studied me closely, and it felt as if those eyes could see right into my heart whether I was telling the truth or not. In a way that was even scarier than what happened back at the colony station. He told me that he had been the officer in charge of the Tiphra operation, and he asked a lot of questions about the station. He also wanted to know a lot of details about what he called "the early state of infestation". I answered his questions as best I could, but I didn't know much about what had gone on down in water purification.
What seemed to puzzle him most, was the simple fact that I was still alive. He asked me again and again about the creature I had seen, which he referred to as a "skulk". He reluctantly accepted that I could have slept through the whole attack and that the aliens might not have noticed me, but the fact that I had had a face-to-face encounter with one of them and was alive to tell the tale clearly didn't make sense to him. "Maybe it could smell the hangovers?" I suggested, and he nodded thoughtfully to himself.

The next day Lt. Martins was back and he had a woman with him. She presented herself as Dr. Shivarez, TSA xenobiologist. She was beautiful, and at first I had a little trouble concentrating on the questions she asked me. She wanted to know all sort of stuff about my health and what I had been eating. She was quite interested in the fact, that I had a whole bottle of rum before the incident, and it was clear that she thought that might be the explanation on why the skulk didn't attack me. Her cheeks were blushing with excitement as she left the room to get her theory confirmed. I noticed that the lieutenant was staring at the doctor in much the same way I did, and for a short moment, he was just a young man, barely out of his teens looking at a pretty girl. But then the moment passed and when he nodded goodbye, he was again the strict and disciplined TSA officer his uniform would have him be.

A week later, I was out of the bed and able to walk around. I learned that I was aboard the TSA corvette Everday, which was in orbit around Tiphra-5. The colony station was secure now, but the research team was investigating it to learn more about the infestation. There was a small biodome aboard the Everday, and I spent a lot of time reading there. I hadn't seen grass for years, and I came to realise that I had missed Earth more than I had imagined. I was hoping that I would be called back there, now that Tiphra was no longer operational.

Dr. Shivarez and Lt. Martins came to see me in the biodome, and it was clear from their expressions, that the doctor’s theory hadn't worked out. Lt. Martins asked me if I would accompany them to Tiphra, and try and show them exactly what had happened, what I had seen and so on. Perhaps I would be able to remember more details if I was down there. I didn't really want to go, but how could I deny his request, he was the one who saved my life. And Dr. Shivarez would be going too, which made the prospect of going back there considerably more appealing. Lt. Martins assured me that the station was completely safe. The TSA marines had gone through every inch of the colony station to make sure that no hostile life forms remained. They had even had jet-packers search the entire ventilation system. There were no more aliens on Tiphra.

The marines had built two infantry portals in the main control room, which we used to phase back in the base. There were surprisingly many people there and a lot of new machines. A couple of nasty looking guns on tripods near the exit gave out a large beeping sound that made my ears ring. The weapons were rotating, and I feared that they would start shooting every time they pointed at me, but nothing happened. The rest of the people in the room didn’t seem to pay much attention to the weapons, so I slowly began to relax. At least 5 people was studying the radio and environmental systems log, and what seemed to be a technical report on the problems in water purification. I felt a painful tug in the heart when I saw Miyago's name in the bottom of a page. He had been the engineer in charge of purification. We were never close, but I think that was the first time I completely realised that they were all gone. Dead. Except me.

There were a couple of heavily armoured marines guarding the control room, and Lt. Martins got one of them to escort us to my quarters. The metallic clank of his heavy footsteps on the floor sounded strange in here, and made the whole place seem foreign to me. Somehow it made it easier to walk through the halls and look at the devastation of my former home. It was painfully clear that there had been a battle. There were blast marks all over the floor and there were ammunition casings everywhere. Now and then I could see splashes of green liquid on the walls and sometimes there were splashes of red. Blood. I tried to ignore it, but the whole place felt like a giant morgue, it almost reeked of death. When we reached Oxygen, the walls were still covered in fungus, although it seemed slimier than before, like too old mushrooms. The outcropping in the ceiling was gone, probably just something I imagined. I started feeling dizzy again, and I had to pause for a moment to regain my strength. The doctor looked at me concerned, and put a cool hand on my forehead. "Fever", her voice sounded surprised, and Lt. Martins who had been talking with the armoured marine came back to me and studied me intensely with a worried look on his face. "What does it mean?" he asked, clearly addressing the doctor. ”I don't know - maybe shock" she said "but we'd better get him back on the Everday".

On the way back to the main control room, I felt ever sicker. My head was spinning and I felt like throwing up. The doctor put her arm around me, but I felt too lousy to enjoy it. I was phased directly to the infirmary on Everday. They gave me a shot of something to calm me, and I fell asleep immediately. When I awoke again, Dr. Shivarez was sitting by my bed, but Lt. Martins was nowhere in sight. She smiled, and it made me feel all queasy inside, or perhaps it was just the drugs. "Good morning, how are you feeling?" I felt like shit. "I'm fine" I said and put up a brave face. She nodded and started asking me all sorts of questions: When did I start to feel ill?, Was this the same kind of dizziness I experienced when I first got sick on Tiphra?, Did I suffer from any allergies? And so on for about an hour. I was exhausted when she finally thanked me and left the room.

Two days later, I was back on Tiphra again. This time I was instructed to wear a protective mask over my face, and I had to breathe through a filter. I managed to complete the tour, showing Lt. Martins where I had been sleeping, my exact route to the main control room, where I had seen the skulk, and where I had collapsed in the radio operator's chair. I also showed him and a couple of technicians the water purification facility, but I couldn't answer many of the questions, because purification hadn't been my field of expertise.
When I was transported back to Everday I had a slight fever and I was very tired. The doctor examined me, but she didn't think it was anything a good night's sleep couldn't cure. She seemed to be in a good mood, and she even started humming a happy tune, when she examined me. "Very well" she said several times during the process, and though I didn't feel very well, I was glad she was satisfied.

A couple of days later I was back in the biodome when Dr. Shivarez and Lt. Martins came to see me. I could hear their excited chat even before they entered the dome. The doctor smiled at me "How do you feel?" I could honestly tell her, that I felt good; there was no trace of the fever that had marred me last week. She gave Lt. Martins a short nod, and he sat down next to me. "We would very much like you to do something for us" he said and held out his hand. Two white pills seemed almost diminutive in the large palm of his hand, like two flakes of snow. "We would like you to take these and tell the doctor exactly how they make you feel". I took the two pills and looked uncertainly at the doctor, but she nodded encouragingly. I swallowed them both without hesitation; they tasted faintly sweet, like the vitamin pills of my childhood. They escorted me to the infirmary, where I was to be subjected to some tests.
The pills took effect very fast. Before I had even left the biodome, I started feeling queasy. When we got to the infirmary, Lt. Martins all but carried me, my body was raging with fever, and I had to focus all my strength to be able to tell the doctor how I felt. I passed out before I even reached a bed.

When I awoke again, I could hear the soft whisper of voices beside me. I opened my eyes slowly, without turning my head, and I could see Lt. Martins and Dr. Shivarez sitting next to the bed. They were holding hands and whispered softly to each other, and Lt. Martins never took his eyes off of her. I closed my eyes again and was overwhelmed with a sudden bitterness. Was that why Lt. Martins had given me the pills? Had he poisoned me so that he could court the doctor without competition? I felt angry, but I knew it was ridiculous. I was an aging and obviously sickly engineer. I could hardly be competition to a young and handsome officer of the TSA. The beautiful doctor would never be interested in an old geezer like myself anyway. I moaned almost inaudibly under my breath, but it was enough to stop the whispered conversation. In a few seconds I had the doctor's full attention.
"I am incredibly sorry" she said, "I had no idea that the effect would be that strong. I was hoping for a mild nausea at most, if I had known, I wouldn't..." she broke off. "How are you?" I considered faking a heart attack, just to upset her, but being a doctor and all, she probably wouldn't be fooled. "I'm... better" I said, my voice sounding strangely feeble, "I'm fine". She smiled at me, the relief clearly visible in her pretty face. "What was it you gave me?" I asked. She glanced quickly over her shoulder at Lt. Martins before she spoke. "It was a very little sample of a something we call "the bacterium". It is the substance the Kharaa xenoforms infuse the air and water with, when they infest a location, just like they did at Tiphra. Normally, humans do not react to the bacterium, the immune system neutralize it immediately when it enters the body. But you seem to lack a certain enzyme, which is responsible for this process. That is why you react so strongly to the bacterium; it’s a kind of allergy. That is probably also what saved your life on Tiphra, why the skulk didn't attack you. The fact that you absorbed the bacterium in you instead of neutralizing it at once may have caused it to believe you were one of their own. We have never seen anything like this before, it may very well cause a quantum leap in our understanding of the Kharaa".

The two of them left me to rest and I closed my eyes again. My head was throbbing with pain, my stomach was in an uproar, and I didn’t think I had strength enough in me to even sit up. Yeah, I felt real special. But if she was right, if I could somehow contribute to the fight against the aliens, I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t stop my thoughts from wandering back to the destruction on Tiphra, the red splashes on the wall. These marines had given their blood and their life to stop the Kharaa. To them Tiphra was just another outpost, and yet they had been willing to sacrifice everything to save people, they didn’t even know. People like Harris and Miyagi and Dawg. People like me. If my blood somehow contained a key to putting a stop to the alien threat, I should not be so reluctant to give it up. The TSA marines who died defending Tiphra sure had given theirs.

It's been several months since I had that conversation with Dr. Shivarez. I still call her that although she is actually Dr. Martins now. She and the other technicians aboard the Everday have been working hard to examine my blood and my DNA. They already have a much better understanding of how the Kharaa work. Perhaps they can use this knowledge to build some stronger weapons or make it possible for marines to defend themselves more effectively. They are on the verge of a major break-through in making an early-warning system. If they can get it to work, it might be possible for infested colonies to evacuate or call for help earlier, which would greatly increase the chance for survival and for TSA success. I try not to think about Tiphra too much, but I am determined to do whatever I can and give whatever is necessary to stop another incident like that from happening. When my whole body hurts from the biopsies, and I am weak from giving out too much blood, I just close my eyes and think of Dawg. I do this for him and for every other innocent colonist or spaceship crew member fallen prey to the Kharaa threat. They will be remembered.
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