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Jun 22, 2021 1:56 PM
Julie has a medical emergency. And several other emergencies.
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Julie is kind of losing track of all of the problems that she has. She should write them down, except putting them in the ship's computers would be beyond stupid and the shuttle's not exactly equipped with art supplies so she could put them on paper.

She recites them to herself, instead. Her voice is still gone from the days of futile yelling in the hold of the Anubis. But it beats trying to keep all of it straight inside her head.

Problem number one: She has four days of water and no more food.

Problem number two: She really, really thought this ship was on course for Eros, and if she's anything at all she is a competent pilot, but the navigation is bleeping confusedly and doesn't even have a course correction to recommend and she's not picking up any radio traffic from other ships headed to Eros. Or...from anywhere, actually. 

(Maybe she's too late and humanity has already gone extinct? But surely they wouldn't be that stupid. And surely it couldn't happen that fast.)

Problem number three: There are a bunch of people with a weapon that might destroy humanity and she's the only one who knows what it is, where it is, and what it did to the crew of the Scopuli and the Anubis. And also what happened to some other ship, she doesn't know its name, and she's still not sure whether it was just in the wrong place at the wrong time or whether its destruction was part of the plan. And they're going to deploy it in the Belt and she suspects the Anubis didn't have the only sample and the Belters will be able to defend themselves if only she can communicate the situation, which she can, once she gets to Eros, assuming she's not infected, which she has no way to check.

That's possibly too many things under one problem heading. Problem number three, revision two: Weapon, destruction of humanity, etcetera. Problem number four: Only she knows what's going on and she needs to get word to Dawes. Problem number five, she might be infected. Problem number six, all her friends are dead and she's sad about it.

There, she whispers to the computer screen. I think that's all of them. There is also an agonizing cramp in her leg and she suspects three of her knuckles are broken but it feels kind of ridiculous to even list those, alongside all of the other things. And she's lightheaded but that almost definitely folds in under either 'no more food' or 'infected'. What's the joke, an engineer's ship is on fire, so he puts it out. A mathematician's dinner is on fire, so he waits until it has engulfed the whole ship, gestures at the engineer, says, 'I have reduced the problem to a problem with a known solution' -

Problem number seven, isolation is bad for people and she might be going crazy, or whatever. 

She resets the sensors. There's no way that Eros just fucking went missing. Maybe she got turned around, but there's got to be something she'll recognize, out there, once she's casting a broad enough net.

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...Actually, nothing looks familiar. 

Well, there's a sun at approximately the distance it should be. 

But the sensors aren't even recognizing the stars. 

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What.


Problem number nine, she's going to die alone in space millions of miles from everything.

 

 

Probably, she is infected and it has driven her insane. Like, in one sense that's kind of a lazy thing to conclude, oh, I guess that I have just permanently lost contact with reality and should stop trying, but also it's the thing that instantly jumps to mind and is incredibly hard to dislodge in favor of any more actionable hypothesis. Maybe the sensors are infected. And are feeding her bad information. Maybe...when she last slept, she actually went into a centuries-long coma and has now by chance arrived at a different star. Maybe..... no, she's honestly not coming up with much even once she's very firmly told herself to stop coming up with variants on 'I'm insane'.

 

 

Are there stations. Planets. Moons. Maybe she has one of those weird aphasias that makes you unable to recognize sensor readings and she should try to navigate in by sight.

 

 

 

 

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The sensors can pick up on some further-out planets in the star system. Most likely cold and airless. One seems to be a gas giant with rings. 

- and one planet between her ship and the sun, much closer. At a quick scan it...could be Earth? Blue and green and brown, clouds over oceans. 

It's a bit too small, though, and there aren't enough continents. 

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Mars could've taken out some of the continents if the war, hypothetically, had started, and also finished, already, even though subjectively it's been twenty, maybe twenty two days since the Anubis fired on the Scopuli.

 

 

That wouldn't explain smaller.

 

Going to Earth would be very stupid. She'd get caught, instantly, no way to take a shuttle into Earth orbit undetected, and her father must have people looking for her, and maybe he doesn't have another sample elsewhere which would mean she's the only person in the system who knows where the sample is, and shouldn't put herself in enemy hands.

 

 

Going to Mars would arguably be less stupid. She can't quite pull all the reasoning together right now because she's in the middle of a panic attack but she remembers before the mission. Dawes thought they shouldn't expect surrendering to Mars to be any less futile than surrendering to Earth. Julie had disagreed, but shut up, because it was true enough that it might be safer for her, not for them -

 

She peers at her sensors again, trying to figure out where Mars is.

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There is no sign of Mars anywhere close to where Mars should be. 

The next-closest planet is too far, too big, and not at all the right colour, and the sensors can't pick up any signs of infrastructure that should be detectable even from here. 

...If she looks a little closer at the coverage of the Earth-like planet, the same is true. In fact, there's...basically no visible sign of civilization, at least not from this high vantage point. 

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Julie is pretty much inclined to declare bankruptcy on the concept of knowing things. Maybe something has happened that doesn't make any sense and isn't the kind of thing that can possibly happen. Maybe humanity has gone extinct and she's the only one left. Maybe she is in a different star system entirely and will die alone no matter what she does. Maybe this is a hallucination. Maybe it is a complicated clever interrogation tactic and she is a prisoner. 

 

So. 


Where does she want to die?

 

She turns the ship for the planet that isn't Earth and has no civilization and is sending off no radio signals. She accelerates until the gravity pressing down against her chest stops her panic attack. She's heard that doesn't work that way for most people but it's always worked for her. 

 

And she takes several tabs of sedatives. Maybe when she wakes up she'll see the explanation that is eluding her right now. Her last thought as she falls asleep is of the entire planet Earth popping out from behind not-Earth, smiling, wearing a pointy birthday hat, yelling "surprise!"

 

Her arm is itching but it's been doing that since the Anubis and she hasn't manifested any other symptoms of infection and it's probably psychosomatic.

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Then eventually she will wake up and find the planet much closer! 

It's even more visible, from here, that it's not Earth. There are only two landmasses really big enough to be called continents at all. One of them is sort of Australia-like; the other is long and vaguely rectangular, the southern coastline hugging the equator and part of the northermost corner swallowed by icecap. There are islands, scattered and in chains, especially all along the western edge of the bigger continent. 

Still no radio emissions. No satellites, no orbital infrastructure at all. 

...The rectangularish continent has two land features that look like enormous craters, each hundreds of miles across, both almost perfectly round; going by colour and albedo, one seems to be a dry plain, the other a lake.

And their relative positions, as though arranged along an invisible north-south line, are matched by a streak that stretches between them, extending further north and south as well, where the surface is a different colour. Less green, more brown, but also other colours - purples, crimsons, deep indigo-blues, colours that don't really belong on the surface of Earth at all. 

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She can't actually think what weapon would do that.

 

Her hand is hurting quite badly and the cramp in her leg managed to get worse while she slept and she's lightheaded enough that she suspects standing up, on a planet's surface, isn't going to work at all and nauseous enough that at this point the lightheadedness would be a pain to correct even if she had food.

It is very difficult to imagine how she might survive this but. It was difficult to imagine how she'd survive three weeks ago, too, wasn't it, and here she is. Wherever here is.

 

She charts a landing course. Broadcasts a message that presumably no one will have the infrastructure to hear. This is the Anubis-1, landing because of an observed lack of orbital infrastructure. After she broadcasts it she thinks 'maybe they won't speak Mandarin' and does it again in French and then bursts into giggles because this is objectively the stupidest thing anyone has done since Epstein.

 

And she lands.

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Once she's in close enough, she can see a few signs of surface infrastructure. Roads. Cities. Not very impressive cities, though. It looks...low tech. Lower tech than anywhere on the Earth she knows. 

She does not receive any answer to the messages, and no one tries to intercept or stop her. She can land without any fuss, in some fields of maybe-wheat, young and green, next to a meandering river. It's an idyllic early summer day, breezy and balmy under a clear blue sky. 

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She is so confused that trying to even specify what she is confused about feels insurmountable.

 

Maybe the weapon does...time travel. Maybe the weapon does...travel to alternate universes.

 

She does the announcement in English and Bengali and Malay too, just in case whatever the fuck is going on in fact involves there being humans around who have some shared history with her humans. 

The atmosphere is breathable, or at least the shuttle thinks so. If she's hallucinating and about to step out onto the surface of a barren rock this is the moment of truth, she supposes. 


She steps out into the field of probably-wheat and immediately faints.

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The first people to chase down the ship they saw landing are some extremely confused farmers, who stare at their flattened wheat in baffled distress, and have no idea what to do about the strange woman lying in front of the ship. 

Eventually the farmwife points out that she might be hurt and maybe they'd best call for a Healer. 

The nearest town big enough to have its own Healing station is ten miles away, but by now other neighbours are arriving, curious and worried, and one of them happens to know that their village's very own Shavri - Healer Shavri, now, all grown up with her Greens and now a babe of her own - is visiting her mother. 

There's some tutting about the fact that Healer Shavri's babe is rumoured to have been born out of wedlock, which the locals disapprove of, but gossip quickly gives way to practicalities. 

One of the strapping young men runs off to summon Shavri, while the farmwife kneels by the woman and tries to shake her awake. 

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Humans!!!! ...humans who shouldn't touch her, not until she knows for sure whether -

- she shouldn't stand up again, everyone has trouble with their blood pressure when they return from months in space and the shuttle didn't even have the meds for it because when would that come up -

- she tries gesturing them away. Then she tries crawling back into her ship to get the stickers with the universal biohazard symbol on them, which she should've done in the first place, really.

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The local seems confused on how to respond to this, but does back off, making apologetic hand gestures. They don't impede her crawling back to the ship. 

The woman does send one of her youngest children running off back to the house; the boy returns with a jug of water and a cup, which he diffidently sets on a vaguely-flat-ish spot of ground. 

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They seem poor. This is yet another confusing fact she has not the slightest idea how to put together with all the other confusing facts. 

 

She gets the stickers and applies one to her forehead and one to the back of her hand. Her hands are shaking. Her vision is sort of swimming which is not really increasing her confidence in the bizarre information it is feeding her.

She goes for the water. 

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They seem nonplussed by the stickers, but don't try to touch her again, just watch from a distance. 

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After an interval of fifteen minutes or so, during which the sun rises a little higher in the sky and the air gets even warmer, a very young woman comes into view. She's wearing green robes, and riding a chestnut horse along a path between two fields. 

She dismounts, ties the horse's reins to a fence-post, and hikes up her robes to make her way through the wheat stalks. 

"What's going on here?" she says to the assembled farmers, in a language incomprehensible to Julie. 

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There are more muttered foreign words, and gestures at the woman slumped on the ground and at the ship currently squashing half of their crops. The farmer-husband seems quite upset about this. 

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The woman takes a few steps closer to Julie, then kneels, about a yard away, making eye contact but not touching her. 

"My name is Shavri," she says, slowly and carefully, in Valdemaran. "I'm a Healer. Are you hurt?" 

After a moment she repeats the words in Rethwellani, slow and halting. 

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She doesn't recognize those languages! Which might be because she has gone insane or might be because she is in another universe or might be because she landed in, where on Earth would possibly look like this, a wildlife preserve? In the Andes? 

 

She is, very obviously, hurt. Her hands are wrapped in thin white gauze with medical tape holding it on, she's dragging one leg, there's a mostly-healed deep bruise on her left cheekbone.

She reaches the water, takes a sip, makes a face. "Have you got oral rehydration solution," she says hoarsely, and then takes another gulp of the water even though it's a bad idea.

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Wow she looks terrible

Shavri can't understand what she's saying either. And the woman doesn't look local - or Karsite - or at all like what she's heard of the Tayledras...and her clothes are bizarre and whatever the...thing...on the field is, it's even stranger... 

She's incredibly confused and she doesn't like it. 

She wants a closer look with Healing-Sight, but first she would like there to be communication. The poor farming family whose field was crushed are claiming the woman seems scary, maybe dangerous, and that she's 'real skittish' and 'spooks easy'. Shavri does not want to spook her. 

Shavri takes a deep breath. She's never tried this before, but Van says it's possible... 

She reaches out with Mindspeech for the woman's clearly un-Gifted mind. :Can you understand me?: 

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What.

 

It didn't sound like speech, actually, just- like the concepts that those words, spoken, would have tugged on in her mind, if she was half-listening and not even paying attention to what language was being spoken -

 

She's so tired. And so confused. And so tired of being confused. But - but she's not done yet, right, no one can afford for her to be done yet -

I might have been exposed to a biohazard and I need to know where I am, she tries to think back at the blurry psychic person.

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...Wow that is strange. Shavri's certainly never tried to pick up an answer in Mindspeech from an un-Gifted person before. Though Randi's Gift is so weak, talking to him from more than a room away is a little like that; she has to do nearly all the work of holding a link herself...

The woman...thinks she was exposed to a disease? In her bleary surface thoughts, it's somehow related to the odd insignia she's wearing, for some reason, stuck to her skin instead of on her clothes. Shavri had wondered if it was some sort of foreign family crest or flag but apparently not. She has a feeling that 'disease' isn't quite the concept, either. 

:You're in Valdemar: she answers. :Near Snake Bends. I'm a Healer - I came to help: 

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Oh, good, medical, that sounds like the right people to handle this situation. She hasn't taken the blood pressure meds, that's why the crawling, the shuttle didn't have them.

Not Earth, is it. The continents are wrong. And there are six nature reserves this large on Earth and I've flown over all of them. 

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:...I don't know where 'Earth' is: The concept being conveyed - doesn't seem right for a country? Shavri is so confused. :Valdemar borders on Rethwellan and Karse and Hardorn and Iftel. When did you last eat or drink?: 

She can follow the concept of 'blood pressure' and 'drugs' separately but she's never heard of a drug that specifically affects that, unless the woman literally just means drinking water. 

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There is some reason to think my perception of time and the ship's computers are not tracking "objective" "reality" but I think I last ate six days ago and last drank yesterday. Earth days. Exposure was - twenty-two days ago. Think it moves faster than that, when it kills people, think I'm probably clean.

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