Audra and Drew were waiting for Dahlia and Leonard L next to one of the new transports. The alien engines had easily been adapted for short range use. Citadel engineers were still working on upscaling the technology for making intercolonial runs. Their departure was delayed while Leonard L negotiated with the assigned pilot for the helm chair. In the end, Leonard L settled for the navigation chair.
“George is one stubborn Artificial,” Leonard L complained. “He won’t let anyone else fly his transport.”
Dahlia laughed. “You still won’t let me anywhere near a pilot chair.”
Leonard L frowned, “fair enough.”
As soon as everyone was secure on board, the transport popped out of existence in the Hawk Mountain facility and blinked back into existence at the foot of Bald Eagle Mountain. To the passengers, a bright flash of light accompanied the sudden change of scenery. They experienced a temporary disorientation that faded as the transport traveled up the entrance road.
Men bearing weapons blocked the entrance to the facility. Dahlia stepped out of the transport to talk to the men. “Who is in charge here?” she asked.
“I am,” said a familiar voice. It was Milo Trask, holding a long gun aimed at Dahlia.
“Nice to see you in the flesh, Milo,” Dahlia said smiling.
Milo stepped forward still aiming his weapon at Dahlia. “Turn around and go back where you came from,” he demanded, tensing his finger against the trigger.
Dahlia took a deep calming breath. The men standing nearest to her did the same thing. Audra stepped out of the transport and raised her palms toward the armed men. Dahlia turned back towards Audra. “Audra, stand down,” she ordered silently. Audra dropped her hands and went back inside the transport. She turned back towards Milo, “we came here because we have family here. We just want to talk to him.”
Drew joined the women outside and stood next to his sister. “My name is Drew DeHaven. We believe that John DeHaven is a relative.”
“We can’t let you in,” Milo insisted.
“Could you let John out?” Drew asked.
“That’s entirely up to Director DeHaven,” Milo replied. “If he leaves, we might not be able to let him back in.”
“That’s a risk that I’m willing to take, Lieutenant Trask.” Doctor Carter DeHaven placed his hand on Trask’s weapon and lowered it. “I want to see for myself what happened at Hawk Mountain.” Carter stepped forward to greet Drew and Dahlia, extending his hand. The two Cit-Sec agents stared briefly at the hand and then looked at Carter. Dahlia smiled and placed her hand up against his. She gripped his hand firmly but let him control the up and down motion that followed.
“Quaint,” Drew remarked while extending his hand to repeat the interaction. “We have a lot of catching up to do.” Turning to Dahlia, he whispered, “you’re slipping. You forgot to use your outside voice.”
Dahlia ignored Drew’s remark and gestured toward the transport. Carter followed Drew aboard while Dahlia slowly followed. Just before boarding, she turned to Trask. “I won’t tell anyone about your inside voice,” she thought to him. Trask lowered his weapon and nodded back. The images that Dahlia had sent him answered most of his questions. Trask and his men went back inside their mountain while the transport backed down the road out of view.
Once safely hidden beneath a canopy of trees just out of sight of the entrance to Bald Eagle Mountain, the transport popped back to the entrance to Hawk Mountain and slowly rolled inside. Adam was there waiting. Dahlia let Drew handle the introductions.
Dahlia stood next to Audra, sensing that something wasn’t quite right. “You look tired,” Dahlia thought. Audra managed a wan smile, stumbled forward, and collapsed into Dahlia’s arms.
Leonard L picked Audra up and carried her back into the transport. He laid her gently down on a berth and moved aside for Adam and Carter.
“What’s wrong with her?” Carter asked while Adam connected Audra to an encephalo-recorder.
“We’ll know soon enough,” Adam replied, while he affixed the contacts that monitored her vital signs and engaged a slow sonar scan of her abdomen. “We need Loki.”
Dahlia had already reached out to Loki Greenwood, originally to share the burden of Audra’s pain. He was on his way down when Adam asked for him.
Carter kept his eyes focused on the image building on the screen. He hoped that the anatomy of these people wasn’t too different from his own. A cluster of tissue appeared showing what appeared to be an abnormal growth within her abdomen. “Is that normal?” he asked.
“No, it’s not,” Adam replied, “Ectopic pregnancies are very rare.” He restarted the scan with a sharper focus on the area of the abdominal mass. “Dahlia,” he asked, “are you the reason her vitals are closer to normal?”
“Pain block,” she replied, “I hope you don’t mind.”
“Pain block?” Carter looked confused, “How?”
“Psychic,” replied a voice standing behind him. “Could you let me through, please?” Loki asked. Carter made room for Loki, who knelt down near Audra. Loki placed his hands on her abdomen while the scanner made another pass. His hands faded from the scanner image on the screen. Loki stared intently at the screen as the scanner made another slow pass. He began to slowly separate the growing mass of cells from her fallopian tissues on each pass until it was free to move to her uterus.
“She needs to be admitted to a healing center and monitored,” Adam stated. Turning to Drew he said, “I assume that you are the male parent.”
Drew stood quietly agape for a moment while it slowly sunk in that Audra was pregnant. He slowly nodded in response to Adam’s question. “I’ll keep you apprised of her condition,” he said, looking at Dahlia. The transport popped away with its two passengers a few minutes later.
“That’s quite some talent you have there,” Carter said shaking Loki’s hand. Loki smiled at Carter’s naïve invitation to get to know him better. Unlike Dahlia, Loki always took advantage of an opportunity to peak into another’s private thoughts. Dahlia spent most of her time trying to block out the noise.
With Audra and Drew gone, Dahlia turned the focus of the investigation toward unearthing the facility’s past. Dahlia took it upon herself to formally introduce Doctor Carter DeHaven to the team. Carter insisted on shaking everyone’s hand, much to Loki’s and Dahlia’s amusement. “That’s a quaint custom,” Dahlia remarked. “People don’t do that anymore.”
“Why not?” asked the puzzled Carter.
“Telempaths,” replied Adam, “will suck your brains out if you make contact with them.”
“Sort of like zombies?” Carter asked.
“What’s a zombie?” Adam replied.
“I’d like to get a look at the deceased,” Carter said changing the subject. “It’s why I’m here.”
“Of course,” Adam replied, “we’ve set up a makeshift examination area in the hydroponic gardens.” He started to walk towards the storage room and the central lift. The small group followed him. “We can’t identify the toxin from the corpses. We’ve been drawing blood from some of the citizens to attempt to isolate a possible antigen and reverse engineer the toxin. There isn’t anything in our biological database that correlates to the symptoms.”
“Harp is still accessing records to create a timeline of the infection. There are literally thousands of personal logs and official records to go through,” Loki reported. “He also intends to access the data collected by the Maids.”
“Harp?” Carter wrinkled his forehead, “Oh, yes, your artificial man.”
“No,” Loki replied, “my partner.”
“What about the data in the Infirmary?” Carter inquired.
“We didn’t know there were any,” Dahlia replied.
The lift car on stopped Level 13 and Loki exited. “I’ll access the files and relay them to Harp through my video. While I’m here, I’ll also see about relaying the records from the Auto Maids. I’ll meet you up top when I’m done.”
The remaining four passengers arrived at the hydroponic gardens to find Odin Greenwood and Jason Miers in an animated discussion about the use of the tables. Adam and Dahlia looked at each other. Dahlia shrugged and Adam stepped into the fray.
“If you stop interfering in our work, we could release the tables sooner,” he informed Odin. “Our investigation has priority.”
Odin stormed away to make a video call to Loki. “They won’t let me set out the pots,” he complained.
“Dad,” Loki replied, “let them finish.”
Adam turned to Jason, “have you isolated any potential pathogens?”
“I’ve isolated a few pathogens and antigens from the deceased and survivors but matching them is problematic. Most of them aren’t in our library,” Jason replied.
“We will have to resort to decoding them, then,” Adam sighed. “Let’s get started.”
“Already started, but it’s a long list of bacteria, viruses, and fungi,” Jason shoved his video at Adam.
Carter examined the body on a nearby table and the images on the video screen attached to the scanner. “Focus on anything found in the lungs. There are signs of congestion prior to death. Based on petechial hemorrhaging in the capillaries in the lung tissue, plus the build-up of fluid, they may have asphyxiated.”
Adam filtered the list accordingly. “That eliminates all fungi and half of everything else. Good catch, Doctor DeHaven.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” Carter replied.
Dahlia smiled Drew’s video chimed on cue with an update on Audra’s condition. “Speaking of which, she’s stable and resting. They have her in intensive surveillance with a kinetic surgeon for the next twenty-four hours.”
“A kinetic surgeon?” Carter tilted his head slightly.
Loki fielded the question. “Someone like me who specializes in manipulating human internal structures. If I made any mistakes separating that mass of tissue, they would have corrected it.”
“Are all of your surgeons kinetic?” Carter asked while examining the scan of the head. His forehead scrunched slightly as the scanner made its second pass. “You might want to add back anything found in the brain on your list of pathogens. I’m seeing bleeds there as well.”
“Noted,” Jason replied. “That put a few back on the list.”
“Remove anything not at both sites,” Adam ordered.
“No, wait,” Carter intervened, “make three lists. One for the lungs, one for the brain, and one for commonalities.”
Jason stared at Adam waiting for confirmation. Adam nodded agreement. Three lists appeared on the video screen. After staring at the screen for a few minutes, Carter began to point at some of the entries asking for them to be removed.
Carter then concentrated on identifying the rest of the bacteria and viruses on the list. Many of them were common childhood diseases that vaccines had been developed to control. Some were viruses that were still uncontrolled but known. “Well, the good news is that no gut bacteria were discovered at either site.”
“And the bad news?” Adam stared at the list of bacteria and viruses. A single unidentified virus remained. “Nevermind, I see it.”
Leonard L processed all the data sent to him from the Automatic Maids and the Infirmary. There appeared to be no pattern to the transmission of the disease, but he was able to identify the first fatality. “A woman named Hanna Svensson. She was married to the Chief Epidemiologist, Doctor Sven Svensson. They had a son, Sven Svensson, currently in Cit-Sec custody.”
“Svensson is being held on trial for the commission of several criminal acts, multiple murders among them,” Leonard L replied.
“Our healers have finished collecting air and blood samples for analysis back at Central Command. The native population has an equally effective immune system to our own,” Jason reported.
“Has a representative sample of the deceased been collected?” Adam inquired as the remaining technicians began to collect the diagnostic equipment and clear away the tables. As soon as the bodies and equipment cleared the tables, Odin Greenwood had them refilled with potted seeds.
“Looks like you’re done here,” remarked Dahlia. “Time to clean up?”
Adam nodded. “The rest of the bodies will be buried a mass grave outside the mountain. Our team will be leaving for Cen-Com soon.”
Carter turned to Dahlia, “Can I go with them?”
Dahlia took out her video and typed in a quick message before answering. It chimed back at him and he smiled and nodded. “Lenn and I will accompany you. Loki assures me that he can handle rounding up the rest of our teams and sending them home.” He looked at Odin, “I understand that you have clearance to remain until the first crop comes in. Is Connor staying with you?”
“Connor said that he wants to stay and help out,” Odin replied. “He wants to help me teach these people how to maintain their food supply.”
“Okay,” Dahlia replied, “just don’t overstay your charge.”
Odin nodded and went back to work on setting up the gardens. Connor waved at the group of forensic specialists as they left. Dahlia nodded at him and thought to him, “stay out of trouble while I’m away.” Connor laughed, nodded, and then went back to work.
Dahlia and Carter accompanied Adam and the Forensics team back to Central Command. Leonard L had already sent the collected data back for analysis. An Examination room had already been assigned for the project.
“Carter DeHaven, forensic physician,” Carter spoke calmly in response to the first question asked of him by the Intake team.
“Place of origin?”
“Bald Eagle Mountain Sanctuary.” Carter’s reply raised a few eyebrows, but a nod from Dahlia set the interview back on course.
After a few more questions, Carter was issued a pass bracelet.
Dahlia’s first stop after clearing Carter through Intake was to the Healing Center to check up on Audra. She brought Carter along to keep him out of trouble. At least, that is what she told him.
Drew had a lot of questions for Carter about his family history. “Have all your family members been, what do you call it, doctors?”
“No. Only my grandfather and father. Any doctors in yours?” Carter tossed the question back to Drew.
“No healers in my family. My mother was a Security Agent. My father was a Psychic Guide. My sister and I both went into security.” Drew asked, “Are there a lot of telempaths in Bald Eagle?” before realizing that Audra had pushed the question.
“Telempaths?” Carter wrinkled his forehead, “I’m not sure what you mean. Telepaths? Or empaths? None, to my knowledge.”
Drew scowled at Audra, “anything else you want to know?” Audra shook her head. “Next time ask the question yourself,” he thought, knowing full well that she would understand him.
“Are you a telepath?” Carter asked Drew. Audra smiled at his question.
“No,” Drew replied. “I was born silent.”
“Silent?” Carter puzzled.
“I don’t have the ability. Everyone else in my family is a telempath,” Drew explained. “I was married to one, but she didn’t respect my privacy. It was enough to drive me bottom-side, just to hear my own thoughts.”
Audra feigned being hurt, before bursting out laughing. “You had me going for a moment there, Drew.” She turned toward Carter, extending her hand, and formally introduced herself using her inside voice. “My name is Audra DeHaven. I’m Drew’s ex, soon to be next, wife.”
Dahlia’s next stop was to check up on Ed Just. He was still comatose, but most of his lacerations had healed. A shocked look crossed Carter’s face.
“You know him?” Dahlia asked with a slightly puzzled look.
“I could be mistaken, but that looks like Ed Just. He’s been missing for months,” Carter replied.
“What can you tell me about Ed Just?” Dahlia inquired.
“Not much. He has a family. One day he just vanished. Everyone assumed that he was dead. Until you contacted us, we didn’t know the outside was livable again.” Carter moved in for a closer look. “How was he injured?”
“He took a pipe to the head, compliments of Sven Svensson from Hawk Mountain. They had a difference of opinion on the value of some paper rectangles.” Dahlia took Carter’s hand and led him to the door, “It’s time for you to see what a Death Exam room looks like.”
While leading Carter to the Death Exam room, Dahlia could feel his preoccupation with Ed Just. Carter wasn’t sure how much Dahlia and her fellow security officers knew about Ed. He didn’t want to alarm his hosts by revealing the truth about Ed’s disappearance. In fact, he felt that the less they knew about Ed Just, the better. The tour of the Death Exam facility was short.