IGES 2082: Chapter A.1

Good old Intergalactic Exploration Ship 2082. Maria Kowalczyk had been up there for three months. Sure, it had been three slow months but progress had been made. There had only been five life threatening emergencies and her plants were prospering. All in all, life was okay. Until everything began glowing.

For two weeks, when the lights dimmed and the diurnal crew went to bed an annoying light shone through her door at night. As a result, she hadn’t been sleeping well.

Now, she was irritated and determined to find out exactly what that light was. She waited a few hours after lights out. She shoved her feet into her boots and quickly did up the laces. Using her small data tablet as a flashlight she carefully stepped into the hallway. The bright light was an orange splatter stuck to the wall. It was vibrant and alluring.

Half of her wanted to touch it but it was far above her reach. The other half was grateful she couldn’t. She saw a similar splatter again down the hall, the she spotted another clump.

Maria followed the trail throughout the ship, her data pad’s battery draining. She couldn’t help but feel like a child lost in the woods, falling into trouble. She quickly reminded herself Baba Jaga couldn’t find her in space. She eventually made it to the common area.

The room was almost clean of the stuff. A few flicks of orange hid in hard to reach places. She was so busy looking at the stuff she barely noticed Zalil, their physician, sitting by a window. However, Maria didn’t really blame herself. Zalil was a Zenopa male whose skin seemed to swallow all the light exposed to it. He could be difficult to see in the dark. Upon hearing her, he turned all three of his eyes towards her.

“Kowalczyk Maria! Why are you awake at such an hour? Are you sick?”

“No. The light from the orange stuff has been keeping me awake. I wanted to find out what it was.”

Zalil’s eyes shifted behind her and she turned. She shrieked in surprise at the figure that towered over her. All she could see in the darkened room was bright blue stripes.

The lights flicked on to reveal Commander Xanep, their superior officer and pilot. Her blue skin had returned to normal in the light. One of her four hands fell from the light dial back to her side.

“ Dr. Kowalczyk, are you alright?”

She nodded putting her data pad into the pocket of her sweatpants. “I-um- wasn’t aware you were bioluminescent.”

Xanep smiled softly, “Sorry to frighten you.”

“Kowalczyk Maria, the orange substance is also due to Xanep Commander. You’ve no need to be frightened.”

Commander Xanep looked back to her. “I had a malady a few weeks ago. That is simply mucosal residue.”

Maria couldn’t help the disgusted expression that formed on her face. She attempted to replace it with a tired smile before they noticed-but it was too late.

“I assure you Kowalczyk Maria, the malady Xanep Commander suffered is not transferable to humans. You are perfectly fine.”

“Wl-Well- It’s-It’s not that-” she began.

Commander Xanep’s eyebrow raised, or at least it would have if she had eyebrows. She had begun to read Maria well. This talent was rare among her own family, much less among almost strangers who grew up light years away.

“Don’t humans shed their skin cells wherever they go? Your species expels mucus at around 100 miles per hour and you are disgusted with mine?”

Maria couldn’t help the heat rising to her face. She began calmly, “On my planet, mucus is usually disposed of by cleaning or sneezing into a paper or cloth. It is considered dirty or unhealthy to do otherwise. Also our mucus is not bioluminescent.”

Both of them looked at her in surprise. “Forgive me,” Commander Xanep said, “I will clean it up immediately.”

“Thank you,” Maria said quietly, beginning the trek back to her room.

“Kowalczyk Maria? You said you were having trouble sleeping?”

“I can only sleep in darkness. Once the mucus is cleaned up, I will be fine.”

Zalil turned his eyes toward the window once more, “You humans are so very interesting. So very interesting.”

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