They tell me to put on an extra suit that they brought along with them. As I struggle into it, I ask, “What if I am contaminated?”
“Don’t worry about it. Just suit up and follow us,” is the reply of the guy with the plastic wings. Normally, “don’t worry” is a phrase meant to calm a person down, but coming from someone in the military, it somehow doesn’t sound good. The fact that someone from the military is on my ship at all is rather disconcerting. I had been led to believe that the boarding team was just going to be health inspectors. I guess I can understand, though, based on what Jespers said, that this goes well beyond the purview of the health department.
As we walk through the five chamber airlock, it feels strange to see fire fully engulf me, and yet feel absolutely no heat. Any Exo-0001 will be destroyed from the outside of the suit, but if any remains on my person, I will still bring contamination with me wherever I go. That’s what has me so nervous. The military is not going to let me just walk around and potentially doom the planet. I’m sure that they would not have any sleep stolen from guilt if they just quietly got rid of me somehow.
Sure enough, when we get into The Asclepius, I am taken straight to a large room that contains a bed, a sitting area, even a kitchenette…and a 5 chamber airlock, just like on the outside of the ship. As I go in, I realize that I will be a hostage here for the foreseeable future.
“We need to keep you in isolation until we can tell if you have been contaminated or not,” says Jespers. “We are hopeful that the Exo-0001 has only infected the walls of your ship, but we will know within a week if you have inhaled any spores, or if they have, in some other way, infected you.”
“And if I am infected…”, I leave the thought dangling, someplace between a question about what if, and a statement of self-professed doom.
“Let’s not worry about that unless it happens.”
It’s easy enough to “not worry” if you are the health officer who has not been exposed to the potentially deadly organism, quite something else if you are the one in quarantine.
“What about my ship?”
“As we have already told you, fire is the only way that we know of to destroy this organism. We have no choice but to impound your craft in a zero-oxygen area until we can dismantle and incinerate your craft. I’m very sorry.”
I feel as though I have just been punched in the gut. This has just gone from a financial problem to financial ruin. “Can the cargo, at least, be salvaged? The cargo area is not pressurized.”
“I’ll look into it, but I am doubtful, as there is too much risk that spores may have hit that area too.”
I’ll have to re-name my ship…
…The Ruined Potential has a nice ring to it…
written for the Inspiration Monday prompt: stolen sleep.