Okay, but enough rambling about Melissa and my unrequited love for now, it’s not that important anyway. I waved a little bit and sat down on the other side of Vic’s bed from her. “Hi, there. How’s the communication outlook?”
“More than a little puzzling,” Melissa admitted, making a disgusted face. “We’re stuck in the position of trying to translate total silence. There’s no radio, no microwaves that we can pick up, and no gear that we’ve been able to spot in the Space Habitats for communications lasers. As far as we can tell so far, they’re not talking to each other, and they’re not trying to talk to us.”
“Mysteries added to mysteries,” Vic muttered thoughtfully. “Is it possible that they don’t have the level of tech that they’d need to operate radio anymore? You’d think they’d have had it at the time that they set up their space program, but maybe the culture has declined since then.”
“That’s possible,” I said, a little doubtfully, and noticed that Nat had stepped over again. “Oh, hi Nat. Do you need Melissa in for tests too?”
“That’s probably a good idea,” she said, “but I had something to say to you, Ensign Walker. Go and grab something to eat from the mess. I can tell that you haven’t eaten since we inserted from hyperspace, and you need it. That’s a medical order.”
“How can you tell?” I said. “You didn’t take blood for a glucose test.”
“No, but the muscle biopsy shows much the same thing, and more.” Nat pointed me over to the Sick Bay door. “Ensign Dempsey, this way please?”
I traded looks with Vic and Melissa as I got up and headed out. “I hope you feel better soon, Vic. I’ll be back to visit when I can, though I’ll probably need to check in with Lieutenant X after I eat.”
“Yeah, that’s okay, I’ll be fine,” Vic assured me as I left. I couldn’t help but steal a quick glance at Melissa. Nat was helping her take anything metallic off her black jumpsuit uniform before she went into the MRI machine, and between Melissa’s loose dark brown hair and the feminine trimness of her figure… I caught myself before either of the girls thought I was staring and made my exit. Vic stifled a chuckle behind me.
The mess was only serving spam and bean casserole, (the kind with from the freeze-dried beans,) and dried macaroni with artificial tomato sauce when I got there. I took a bit of each, then hesitated and added a second spoonful of the macaroni, then turned to consider the available tables. When I noticed Jody Quinton sitting by herself and playing with her food, I went over and asked if I could join her. She looked up at me, smiled, and nodded, waving at the seat across from her.
I went through the Star Patrol academy with Jody – there’s about a dozen of us who were all in the same class, became friends, and got assigned to ‘Discovery’ for her first mission: myself, Vic, Melissa, Gary, Jody, Nat, Carla Jones, Nigel Strellon, Fiona Maxwell, and a few others. We were all in our early teens when the public announcement was made about Doctor Pyron’s invention of the hyperspace transit device, and well into secondary school when we heard about a new school for would-be star explorers.
Jody would probably have been recruited by Star Patrol even if she hadn’t applied for the Academy. She’s an official child prodigy, particularly in languages. Jody is fluent in eleven or twelve languages now, and is studying three others. “So, what was our arrival like for you?” I asked her quietly as I took my seat.
“Wretched,” she muttered. “I don’t know about anybody else, but the pain of that transition back to normal space – it almost made me throw up, and then everything else… ten or eleven departments who had somebody unconscious and need them to get brought to Medical, Captain Stevens blowing his top because nobody could tell him what had gone wrong, wanting answers from the Doctor, or hyperspatial engineering, and so on.”
“Right,” I said. Jody worked with internal ship’s operations when her language skills weren’t needed, so she’d have heard about what was going on in every department as they tried to keep intraship communications running smoothly. “So you heard about what we found, as well?”
“Habitats, habitats everywhere, and nobody who can say hello to us,” Jody agreed.
To be continued…