A/N: My usual beta reader is extremely busy at moment and can only handle betaing Dragon Wars. Unfortunately this means that The Whisper of Damkina as of this installment is unedited. I’ve done my best to catch any errors but self-editing is difficult. Apologies if there are more errors than usual. If anyone would like to volunteer to help out with betaing drop me a line. I’d be really grateful.Â
The group emerged from the underground city to find the normally blue sky of Talis had taken on an amber hue. Amanpreet stopped and blinked at it. She’d been on several planets in her time as a trader but she’d never seen an effect quite like it.
“That’s pretty,” she said. Behind her she heard Sangat hiss and turned to look at him. “What?”
“I think it’s fair to say I like it better in blue,” he said. “We’ve got about ten minutes to get strapped in and take off or we’ll be stuck here for a day or two.” He took off towards Midori’s ship.
“What is it?” Amanpreet asked as she raced after him.
“A continent wide dust storm.” It was Midori who answered her. “They happen rather a lot on scum worlds. It’s the lack of vegetation.”
“Oh.” Amanpreet felt a bit stupid at that. “Of course. I should have realised. I’ve seen them often enough from space.” They reached the transport, hurried through the hatch and began to strap themselves.
“Just in time!” The pilot said through the intercom. “Get strapped in quickly. I was trying to call you to warn you about the storm was coming but the radio wouldn’t work.” The engines whirred into life and they took off moments before a wall of amber dust rushed down from the mountains and covered the dig site.
“I guess they didn’t want us to be disturbed,” Umi said. “So they blocked it.”
“I’m glad we finished when we did.” Amanpreet suppressed a shudder. “I would have hated to be stuck here.”
Sangat snorted. “Good grief, Am, do you still have that thing about being grounded? I would have thought you’d have finally got over it by now.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” Amanpreet said. “What would be the point? I like being in space.”
“What’s this? Midori asked.
“Am has a bit of a phobia of staying planetside,” Sangat explained. “Our father’s a bioengineer and our mother’s a navigator. We moved around a lot when we were kids and stayed mostly on stations. I don’t think Am had stayed a night on a planet until they retired and moved back to Damkina when we were teens. When she still wouldn’t sleep a week after we moved back there mum arranged for her to stay on Damkina station with our aunt while she got therapy.”
“It doesn’t seem to have worked,” Umi said.
“It worked,” Amanpreet said. “I enjoy visiting planets now and can sleep on the surface now if I have to. I just have this anxiety that I’ll be stuck there and get fretful if I’m planetside for more than a few days.”
â€œSpaceborn Syndrome?â€ one of the human scientists said. â€œInteresting. Were you born during in a hyperspace jump?â€
Amanpreet twisted in her seat and stared over at the bronze skinned young woman.â€œYes, how did you know?â€ she said. â€œI mean obviously mum wasn’t navigating at the time but the ship we were on was in hyperspace.â€
â€œBecause there’s an extremely significant correlation between Spaceborn Syndrome and being born during a jump.â€ The woman offered her hand, â€œI’m Airini, by the way.â€
â€œHonoured to meet you,â€ Amanpreet shook Airini’s hand. â€œBut what’s Spaceborn Syndrome? My psychiatrist never mentioned it.â€
â€œThey wouldn’t have,â€ Airini said. â€œIt’s only been formally recognised in the last few years. This planet phobia is uncommon but not rare among the spaceborn. Even spaceborn who were subsequently raised on planets. It wasn’t recognised as an actual thing because there seemed to be no reason for it. Then my older sister did some work for her dissertation following up on children born in hyperspace and discovered they virtually all had the condition which led to her digging deeper and there’s a near perfect correlation between this anxiety you have and hyperspace birth. Some psychiatrists want it renamed to Hyperspaceborn Syndrome. I’ll have to mention you to my sister in my next letter. She’ll want to scan your brain.â€
â€œShe thinks it’s neurological?â€ Amanpreet tilted her head at this. â€œBut ships are shielded except for the navigation dome. It shouldn’t be able to effect a neonate’s neurology.â€
â€œThe shielding isn’t perfect on Fish,â€ Umi said. â€œI don’t think perfect shielding is possible so I would imagine Sticks have the same limitations. The leakage isn’t be enough to effect an adult but it might effect an infant I suppose. We never take our eggs into space and certainly wouldn’t clutch anywhere but on a planet, the Tkin need to be on a planet to reproduce and the Kska would delay giving birth until they were planetside so only your species would have this issue.â€
â€œThat’s my sister’s theory,â€ Airini said. â€œThat the tiny amounts of leakage have neurocognitive effects at a time when an infant is very vulnerable due to birth trauma.â€
â€œI’m going to have to look into this and make a report,â€ Midori said. â€œIt’d be unpopular but maybe the Council needs to restrict non-emergency travel during the third trimester of pregnancy if it’s dangerous.â€
Amanpreet tutted at that. â€œIt’s really not a problem worth hitting with such a big laser,â€ she said. â€œYou just deal with it. I don’t think restricting anyone’s right of free travel is a good solution. Warn people about it and let them make their own risk assessment.â€
â€œI agree,â€ Airini said. â€œIt’s minimally debilitating with therapy and my sister’s research indicates that hyperspace born infants who are given therapy from a very early age have even less problems. Plus there are some positives â€“ affected individuals tend to have an aptitude for navigation and are physically resilient to hyperspace allowing them to make longer jumps. And the Council are aware of it. They gave my sister’s team a grant to continue their research.â€
â€œI told you that you had an aptitude for navigation, Am,â€ Sangat said.
Amanpreet glared at her brother. â€œI know I have an aptitude for navigating,â€ she said. â€œI just don’t like navigating unless I have to.â€
â€œMum would be de–â€ he began but was interrupted by the gentle clunk that indicated they had docked at Talis Station. He opened his mouth to continue but Amanpreet shook her head and unclipped her seatbelt.
â€œI’m famished. Let’s get dinner and not talk about me becoming an exploration vessel navigator, because it’s not happening.â€