“Lucy,” Kat stated. “How likely is this to actually be the work of an akumillian?”
“It’s a very remote possibility,” Lucy answered. “They would have had to get through all the tests to take part in the colonisation effort without anyone noticing what they were up to. They’d have to have hidden their true intentions until they were ready to strike and they would have had to find a method that could effectively immobilise the rest of the colonists in a very short period of time.”
“Which means we’re still in the dark,” Kat said.
“Which means,” Leon corrected. “That we have a working theory.”
“I wouldn’t go that far quite yet,” Lucy stated. “Just be careful and we’ll gather more information.”
The three made their way to the edge of the colony. Lucy went to check the monitoring station. Leon examined the closest structures and Kat moved to patrol the perimeter.
Lucy was having no luck. The monitoring station was like every other building. Seemingly abandoned with tasks half finished. No records to indicate that anything had gone wrong. Her search was interrupted by a scream from outside. It was Kat’s voice.
“Hey, Grace,” Farah said. “Aren’t there other cases where a colony seemingly vanished and no trace was found?”
“Sure,” Grace said. “Way back when humans thought we were alone in the galaxy and we were relegated to a single planet there was one. Roanke or something. There were theories about what happened, but there wasn’t any real proof. There was also the colony on Zarbka three centuries ago and the colony on Jark before that.”
“Do you suppose this will be the fourth?” Farah asked.
“Could be the first,” Grace said. “At least from the akumillian perspective. They’ve never had a colony vanish. At least as far as I know. Why do you ask? you don’t think the others will find out what happened?”
“It’s not that I don’t think they’re capable,” Farah hurriedly clarified. “I just get a bad feeling about this place. It’s just so…”
“Dead,” Grace finished. “I know what you mean. There’s an eerie lifelessness to the place. But don’t let it get to you.” Grace looked up from her work. “Whatever caused the colony to vanish isn’t around right now.”
Leon and Lucy rushed to Kat’s side. She looked okay. There was a strange, yellowish powder on her face and she was hurriedly rubbing it from her eyes.
“What happened?” Lucy asked.
“Plant spit this pollen on me,” Kat answered. “I was… was… I was something.”
“You yelled over a damn plant?” Leon asked. “Not like you to be so melodramatic.”
“Hey,” Kat declared. “Hey, you wait a moment, Bushter.” She poked Leon’s chest. “I.. I’ll tell you,” she poked him several more times “why it was such a shurprise. Y’see. I wash mindin my busness, when that vine thing lowered from the tree and jusht squirt my face. Like a arsehole.”
“Kat, are you feeling okay?” Lucy asked. “You’re stumbling and slurring your words.”
“Oh, I’m jusht fine,” Kat said. She awkwardly turned to Lucy. “Y’know, I don’t shay it enough, but I freakin love ya, Lucy. You… you can be mean and intimidatin, but you’re a bootiful lady and I loves ya.”
“Kat, have you been drinking?” Leon asked. “Like, a lot?”
Kat turned her gaze to Leon. “Don be silly. you know, Leon,” she poked his cheek “you can be a real try hard. You jush… just try so hard ta keep yur cool and be an edgy. It can make it weird to talk, but I freakin love ya too.”
“I think that powder is messing with her head,” Lucy said. “Let’s get her back to the Cerberus. You help her move, I’ll contact Paul so that he’s waiting.”
By the time they returned to the ship, Paul was prepared.
“Set her down right there,” Paul said, indicating one of the medical bay beds. “I’ve got a full toxicology scan ready to go.” He turned to Kat and smiled. “Kat, how are you feeling?”
“Oh, Duckter,” Kat muttered. “These, these two were mean to me. They… they made me come out of the outside.”
“Did they?” Paul asked. “Well, I’m just going to make sure you’re nice and healthy and then you can go back outside, okay?”
“Yur so nice, Doc,” Kat said. “Thas what I like about ya. You… you can be the biggesht wimp, but I freakin love ya and yur kindnesh.”
“Well, thank you,” Paul said. “I’m just about finished with your scan.” He turned to Lucy and Leon. “Those spores are acting like an intoxicant on her brain. The effect is temporary, but she’s going to be like this for a while.”
“So they wouldn’t have been responsible for the colony’s disappearance,” Lucy reasoned.
“It’s hard to say,” Paul answered. “Humans and akumillians have different enough physiology that its effect on the human brain isn’t a good indicator of how it would effect an akumillian brain. I can run some simulations to see how they might impact an akumillian.”
“All right, do it,” Lucy ordered. “Leon and I will return to our investigation. Do you recommend atmosphere suits?”
“That would probably be going overboard,”aid. “I should think that some basic filter masks would suffice.”
“All right,” Lucy nodded. “We’ll grab some for Farah and Grace as well. Take care of Kat.”
“Don’t worry,” Paul said. “She’s in good hands.”