“I think we waited too long before calling for help,” the human looked around nervously. His hands shook, and his companion snatched the portable light from him, with a snort, which bothered the human none; he had other things on his mind. In a trembling voice he said, “I told you before…”
The blue humanoid in a bright blue unisuit sighed heavily. He was tiring of the whining. “It’s easy for you to play ‘I told you so’ now that we all understand how bad this problem is. Just shut up and let’s get to the communications station and get the message out.” He increased his pace, from urgency as well as to increase the distance between himself and the jittery technician.
The man trotted to catch up. He snagged the humanoid’s sleeve. “And it will take time for help to arrive also,” he insisted as he continued to scan his surroundings. “None of you thought of that part of it.” He pointed a finger almost in the other’s face, and felt vindicated…for a moment. His voice regained its tremulousness. “As soon as you realized something wasn’t right, you should have called for help. Now we are going to have to wait even longer.” He held his hands out wide, bumping the shoulder, and the light of the blue creature, who came to a sudden stop and shined the light into the man’s face.
“Give it a rest, will you?” he insisted firmly, and not friendly. “If you’d put as much effort into getting to the comm station as you did into your belly aching, we would have been there by now.” Then he was off again.
The man ran to catch up. “All I’m saying is…. Wait.” He stopped and looked around with big eyes, whispering, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” the humanoid didn’t stop. “There are all kinds of noises in this place. Lots of machinery. Let’s get going. You were the one who wanted so badly to call for help.”
“Listen!” He ran again, grabbing his colleague’s arm. “I’ve heard that before.” He was nearly hysterical now. “I know what it is. It’s…that thing.”
“You’re not going to start that again, are you?” was the heavily sarcastic reply. “Steevan was out of his mind with fever and pain when he was babbling about strange creatures. There’s nothing out there,” he finished in frustration. “This hostile planet is completely uninhabited…except for this research station.” He pulled free. “Come on.”
“It’s coming I tell you! Listen!”
“Then you stay here and wait on it. I’ll go to the comm station.”
“No! No! You can’t get away now! It’s here! It’s here! Look! Look! AHHH!!”
The hunger was satisfied. A deep gnawing dark hunger. She didn’t know from where it came or why it was so intense. Hunger had not been this way before. Her regular feeding habits no longer sated the appetite. Something she couldn’t understand was driving her, forcing her to seek something more; it was a feeling that seemed to overrule her other senses. There was a desire that she couldn’t satisfy, no matter what she ate…until…the warm flesh was the taste that finally satisfied, and there was plenty of it, for now.
“What is going on out there?” the voice demanded gruffly. The speaker, seated at a desk, leaned toward the communication unit as if he could intimidate the person on the other end.
“Senator, I told you before what was…”
But the elderly statesman cut off the reply. “Yes, you told me, but you have to admit that is hard for me to believe…for anyone to believe. Now look, I worked hard to get money funneled to this planetary research project and to get your company included in the work. Your company’s workers are there by the good graces of the science academy…and by my intervention.” He paused enough to draw in a long breath, but not enough to let the other party take control of this conversation. “You assured me you would be able to find that ore on Tellous. That is why I am doing this.”
“And I am trying, Senator,” the Planetary Geologic Research Institute man finally broke in. He was determined to get this in and he pressed on. “The entire research station is in an uproar right now. I have to assist at the moment because so many people are…” The man chose his word carefully. “Incapacitated. I contacted you as soon as I was able. But, I think if we worked on…obtaining this other, ah…resource instead of the ore, it would be worth your while. It’s a new discovery. Nothing like it has been seen before. You could sell it to whomever you chose, not just my company, and I guarantee you they would pay whatever you asked…whatever. And…you would also get some good publicity as well. That’s worth something. Money, fame. You wouldn’t have to worry so much about continuing…questionable deals…”
The senator would have hit the ceiling if had been physically possible. He banged his fist on the desk and barked, “If you expect to continue to rely on me for money to fund your little…escapades, you’d better keep a civil tongue in your head. It’s easy for me to hide what I am doing. What about what you are doing? It would be a shame for word to leak out to the scientific community about you.”
“Yes, I know what you hold over my head. You needn’t remind me,” the research man answered easily. He had his own escape routes planned, and he wasn’t worried.
“Good,” the senator calmed. “Now, is this so called new discovery really worth my time…and money? What is it? Tell me more.”
“Yes, Senator, it’s very valuable. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The scientists will be clamoring to see this and study it. Not just the resource, but the by-products as well.” He wasn’t ready to reveal all that he knew yet, so he tried to sidetrack the conversation.” But…I’m going to need some help…manpower. There are a lot of sick people here. I can’t take care of them…and the new resource myself.”
“Fine. I’ll help…but your company should be able to shake loose a few helpers. However…” He considered for a moment. “Then those people would know about our new resource. I’ll have to buy them off. After all I do want to be able to sell to the highest bidder. Now, let’s keep this quiet. If it’s so new and valuable, we don’t want word to get out, even if we have to get extra people to help you.” He sat back, relaxed now, and rubbed his bearded chin. “We need to be careful how much information gets back to the science academy.”
The man smiled. Apparently he had distracted the politician, and now he didn’t have to give him full disclosure. “With all the confusion to our work schedule, no one is certain what to report without clearing it through the researchers. Besides,” the man allowed himself a grin, “now that there are so many sick people, I can volunteer to take over the reports and say what I want, whatever will keep certain news confidential.”
“Good. Very good. If we can get this resolved such that the new discovery is back here before it becomes general knowledge, then maybe…I might be able to fix your old problems. Maybe your past won’t haunt you so much then. Maybe.” Don’t let him entirely off the hook. You always need a scape goat on hand…for anything.
“Don’t worry, Senator. No one outside this station will find out about this, I assure you.”