“There it is,” Allison said. “Gauriel Prime. Time to make some credits for delivering cargo.”
“At least it’s easy,” Farah said. “We’ve had way too much stress lately.”
“Think we’ll be caught in some weird shenanigans like a wormhole that takes us back in time?” Allison asked.
“I don’t know if that actually happens,” Kat stated.
“It does all the time in stories,” Allison said. “And then they have to stay inconspicuous until they can find a way back so that they don’t alter the time line.”
“I’d think the more advanced diseases they’d inevitably carry would alter the time line regardless of what they did,” Kat said.
“Wow, you are no fun at all,” Allison said. “I bring up a neat little hypothetical and you just go and take the piss out of it.”
“Sorry,” Kat said. She grabbed her hand held. “Leon, get ready to make the delivery. I’ll clear the shuttle for departure in five minutes, maybe a little less.”
“Acknowledged,” Leon’s voice said.
“Strap it in carefully,” Paul instructed. “And keep the craft very stable. There’s a lot of delicate equipment here.”
“I know,” Leon said. “I’ve been with you long enough to know how to handle medical equipment.”
“My cursory research indicates that Gauriel Prime is a heavily industrialised world,” Yuri stated. “The settlers inadvertently drove seventeen distinct species of plant and animal to extinction before conservation laws took effect.”
“A sadly typical story for the earliest habitable worlds that were settled by more advanced species than they hosted,” Paul said. “Although Gauriel Prime is somewhat different in that it had a highly advanced species already. The Zoiluns. They were simply over-looked due to their subterranean nature.”
“Was there a conflict when the akumillian settlers discovered this other species?” Yuri asked.
“Some skirmishes,” Leon answered. “But the groups met and drafted a treaty. The groups have been at peace since.”
“It’s part of why the conservation laws were drafted,” Paul explained. “The Zoiluns didn’t care about the settlers building on the surface since their own contact with it was limited. They were, however, understandably upset that their planet’s diversity was being compromised.”
“I do not understand,” Yuri stated. “If they do not frequent the surface, then why does the diversity of surface life matter to them?”
“I dunno,” Leon shrugged.
“It’s largely cultural,” Paul stated. “The Zoiluns used to have a superstition that their dead reincarnated as surface animals and they developed a deep respect for those creatures as a result. That respect persisted even when they discarded those superstitions and their interest became scientific.”
“Fascinating,” Yuri muttered. “I have noticed that some human cultural traits are tied to old superstitions as well.”
“Perhaps,” Paul said. “There are times when old ideas prove beneficial even when they’re based on superstition.”
“We’re cleared for landing at the hospital’s shuttle pad,” Leon said. “I’m going in. Gently, I promise.”
The shuttle landed and the three began working to unload the medical supplies. Two hospital workers assisted them.
“Sorry we can’t help much,” One said. “We’re a bit under-staffed and everyone else is taking care of patients.”
“Under-staffed,” Paul asked. “Do you have many patients waiting?”
“More than we should,” he admitted.
“Then you four take care of this,” Paul said. “I’ll render assistance.”
“You don’t…” the second worker began.
“He knows,” Leon said. “But he’ll do it any way.”
“I hate to ask,” the first worker said. “But is he certified for akumillian medicine?”
“are you saying that he’s not good enough to help your lousy hospital?” Leon demanded.
“Becoming agitated is not helpful,” Yuri scolded. She turned to the worker. “The Cerberus is an akumillian ship. The doctor is fully qualified to aid both humans and akumillians.”
“We’ve finished unloading the first load of cargo,” Leon reported. “Yuri and I are returning for the second batch.”
“And where is Paul?” Kat asked.
“Helping out at the hospital,” Leon said. “I guess there was an accident and they’re short-handed.”
“Figures,” Kat muttered. “All right. Let me know when you’re ready to take the second load down.”
“What’s wrong with Paul helping?” Farah asked.
“Probably regulations or some shit,” Allison said.
“It’s not that,” Kat stated. “It’s just risky for our shuttle team to split up like that.”
“You think he’s in danger?” Farah asked.
“Probably not,” Kat answered. “But I’d prefer to know for certain.”
“We’re going to have to do a graft,” Paul said. “Get some artificial skin. I’ll get her ready.”
“Understood,” the akumillian nurse said. “I just hope we still have enough.”
“How did all these people get burned?” Paul wondered.
“Ophelia, we have an incoming message for you,” Kat reported.
“Patch it through to my quarters,” Ophelia ordered.
Her viewing screen lit up. A smiling akumillian man appeared. “Cerberus Captain,” he greeted. “We’ve heard so much about you.”
“And I know who you are,” Lucy interjected. “Mestofilius, head of Gauriel Prime’s Intelligence Agency.”
“Oh,” Mestofilius said. “And you must be Luciverianna. I see your time among humans hasn’t dulled your intelligence gathering skills.”
“Not at all,” Lucy said. “I assume you’re calling us for a job?”
“Quite right,” Mestofilius said. “There was an unfortunate incident at one of our offices recently. An explosion. Right now our people are being treated at the hospital you’re so graciously delivering supplies to. I believe your doctor has even lent his talents to mitigating the situation.”
“And you don’t know who did it,” Lucy said.
“Evidence suggests a Zoilun faction,” Mestofilius said.
“So, what is our job?” Ophelia asked.
“There’s something wrong with the evidence,” Lucy guessed.
“Very good,” Mestofilius nodded approvingly. “It’s too neat. Too… blatant. If they truly wanted to strike at us without claiming responsibility they would have almost certainly covered their tracks better.”
“So you do want us to investigate,” Ophelia said.
“Correct,” Mestofilius answered. “It’s my belief that the true perpetrators want to ignite trouble betwixt us and the Zoiluns. That’s why our offices will pay you handsomely to head into their caverns and investigate.”
“I thought they weren’t guilty,” Ophelia said.
“Yes but if someone is trying to cause a conflict they’ll also target the Zoiluns and make it look like our people are responsible,” Lucy said.
“Just so,” Mestofilius said. “Will you take the job?”
“I’ll go down with Yuri and Leon,” Lucy said. “I’d like to take Farah along as well.”
“All right,” Ophelia said. “I’ll go to the bridge with Kat and Allison.”
“I look forward to hearing your results,” Mestofilius said.