Month 6, Day 10
In sick bay - the original sickbay, not the overcrowded make-shift ward the open gym had become - Takor and Mac lay unconscious in neighboring beds. Drake stood slump-shouldered between them as he considered one readout panel and then the other. Shaking his head, he glanced at Abdulla in the third bed.
Turning, he found Jane standing in the doorway and made a half-hearted effort to straighten his shoulders. “I can’t find anything wrong, Jane,” he stated as he approached her. “I mean, Freyer’s got the flu, those signs were unmistakable. She went straight to the sick ward. But these guys... There’s nothing wrong with their read-outs, they just aren’t awake.”
“When will they wake?”
Drake fought a moment of frustrated irritation and shrugged. “I have no idea.”
“I cannot speak for the others.” Takor propped himself up on its version of elbows. “Our physiologies are quite different. However, I have awakened.” It turned to regard Mac. “Interesting.”
“I’ve never heard Takor express interest in a human female before,” Jane muttered to Drake. “Genders usually confuse him- it. Perhaps it was a larger shock than you thought?”
Takor sat up and moved its legs off the edge of the examination bed, still watching the redhead. “Is my perception not correct, or is her coloring normal once again?”
Again? “She’s always been a redhead,” Drake stated.
“The last time I saw her, on the bridge, the hair was not that shade. Nor was her corneum.”
“Skin,” Drake corrected, more for Jane’s sake than for Takor’s. “Perhaps she was blushing. That makes her skin redder, which might make her hair appear... different. She blushes quite easily.”
“I am aware of that phenomenon,” Takor returned. “In this instance, her cor- skin was not pink nor red, it was white. More white than normal. More white than I have ever seen a human be. And her hair was... Humans have several names for shades of red. I am not certain which shade it was, but it was not that shade that sits atop her head now.”
After a short silence, Drake sighed. “If you can’t describe it, I don’t know what to do.”
“Tell us what happened, Takor,” Jane urged. “All I know is the communications equipment let out an ear-splitting squeal, then you and MacDowell were thrown to the floor, unconscious, while one tech carried the other onto the lift.”
“Freyer came down with the flu,” Drake muttered, to explain the actions of the technicians. “The other headed back to the bridge, but without any guidance, I don’t know what he can do.”
“Smitty’s up there,” Jane stated. “Takor, did communications explode a second time?”
“No,” the Sciss replied. “I was deep in a study of the planet’s life forms when I felt- thought I felt an insect bite. When I looked up, Lt MacDowell stood nearby, staring at her hands in confusion. As I said, her coloring was... odd. I spoke, but she didn’t react. When I stood to approach her, she responded with fear, although she never has before. She backed up hurriedly, striking the console controls, which produced the squeal you mentioned. She reacted by jumping forward, toward me, there was a discharge between us... I assume that discharge rendered us unconscious.”
“A discharge,” Jane repeated. “You mean, from the equipment.”
“No,” Takor denied. “From Lt MacDowell. A display of black sparks remains in my mind, although I am not familiar with that phenomenon.”
He must be mistaken. “Jane, I’ve run all the tests I can think of,” Drake stated. “There’s nothing unusual about her. Certainly not any electrical charge strong enough to shock them both unconscious! She’d be dead!”
“Yet she is not,” Takor pointed out, rising to his feet.
“Exactly!” Drake snapped.
“Duck, there must be an explanation,” Jane said.
“Well, I don’t have it,” Drake growled, completely fed up with the Scissan’s puzzle. “Over half the crew sick-. Only half a dozen of us are immune, you know. Eventually, we’ll start having more recover than we have succumbing, but in the meantime, even my staff is reduced by half. I don’t have the resources to chase answers to impossible questions. I’ll leave that to Takor, since they’re his questions. Takor, you’re released. Nothing’s gotten through that thick hide of yours, and I could use the bed for a little shut-eye myself.” Drake walked over to the now-empty bed, took another look at the read-out panels of the two occupied beds, then lay down and thankfully closed his eyes. “You know the way out,” he told them. “If I’m lucky, I might get 5 minutes before somebody else comes in.”