Two days later, Amanpreet was lying on the bed in the isolation chamber and reading one of her collection of antique Science Fiction novels when Talis Station’s head doctor, a tall, dark haired and light olive skinned woman, came in. Amanpreet sat up in surprise. No one had been allowed into the room since she’d woken up – her only contact with others had had been through the window to the visiting chamber and most of that had been with the authorities to explain what she had seen.
“We’ve finished the tests,” the doctor said. “You seem to still be yourself.”
“You don’t sound too sure,” Amanpreet said.
She chuckled. “How can we be? This sort of situation is unprecedented outside of fiction â€“ we have no idea what it would look like if you weren’t. But your brother and crew say your behaviour is normal and your brain activity seems normal and matches the scans taken for your navigation license within tolerance. It’s a good job you’re a navigator or we have had nothing to go on other than the testimony of people who know you. But we’ve done all we can and we can’t hold you here indefinitely with no evidence of a problem so you’re free to go.”
“Ah! Thank you!” She closed her book and leapt to her feet. “I was getting so bored.”
“Yes, I’d imagine,” the doctor said. “The isolation block isn’t the most interesting place. I’ve been told to tell you to go straight to the administration section. They want to ask you some more questions about what you saw.”
“Of course,” Amanpreet said. “I’ll just drop my things back at my cabin and go there directly.” She gathered her things and hurried out the door.
Sangat was waiting for her outside and she hugged him firmly. It was a relief to touch another person.
“I thought I was never going to get out of there!” she said. “Apparently I’m wanted in the administration hub.”
“Yes.” He hugged her back and they started walking to where the Whisper was docked. “We found the egg chamber and the gene bank based on what you told us and the original inhabitants left a computer system designed to be easily accessed for information on what the atmosphere and biosphere was like. Messages have been flying back and forth with the Council of Planets and they’ve sent some more questions for you and Mei, though the Ishtari are already developing a bioforming plan to recreate the planetary environment as it was before the supernova. And we’ve confirmed that it was a supernova.”
Once they reached the Whisper, Amanpreet dropped her bag in her cabin and checked on the systems before heading for the administration hub. A short, golden-skinned woman met them there, smiling and bowing when Sangat and Amanpreet came in.
“Captain Amanpreet! Welcome. I am Takeashi Midori, chief administrator of the human section of Talis Station. I’m sorry we have to trouble you again but your experience has presented us with quite the quandary.”
â€œIt’s not a problem,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œI quite understand.â€
“Thank you,” Midori said. “Please come with me. Umi and Qichi are waiting. I believe you’ve met Umi already?”
“Yes,” Amanpreet said. “It’s been an eventful week. First we were attacked by a Fish and now this. I hope things settle down a bit now. I don’t need more excitement.” She pulled a face and sighed. “Perhaps I’m in the wrong business.”
Midori smiled but said nothing to that, leading through into the main administration office. Transparent partitions divided the room into three distinct environmental sections, allowing all three station administrators to talk face to face without the discomfort of environment suits. Inside the dimmer section Amanpreet could just make out the form of Adminstrator Umi and in the other, a Kska Ishtari who must be Administrator Qichi.
“Amanpreet,” Umi said via her speech synthesizer. “Good to see you again. We need to ask you some more about your experience so the council can decide what to do about these babies we have found.”
“Babies!” Midori shook her head. “We’ve been over this – they’re still eggs. They aren’t babies yet.”
Umi’s tentacles shuddered rhythmically in a Mez shrug. “They’ve been laid so they have separate status. You may as well say our babies aren’t people until they go through metamorphosis because we don’t develop sapience and self-awareness until then.”
“Stop this, both of you!” Qichi said. The way her fushia feathered tentacles thwapped the interface of her synthesizer betrayed her irritation. “The legal status of the eggs is not the issue here. If Whether we should do as their parents have asked and restore their planet and species is, and the fact that both your species are dubious about it.”
“They’re just worried this is an elaborate trap and the species will turn out to be dangerous,” Umi said. “Not an unreasonable fear with a species that appears to be at least somewhat eusocial and capable of some form of telepathic communication. Though there aren’t enough in this first clutch to be a real threat numerically.â€
â€œA threat?â€ Qichi said. â€œThere’s no evidence they are any sort of threat.â€
â€œKnocking people out and forcing your thoughts into their heads is pretty threatening,â€ Midori said.
Qichi made a trilling sound of exasperation. â€œPerhaps they just wanted to be sure that whoever found this had to pay attention? It’s not the easiest situation to communicate in. And why would they attract attention to if they were hostile? They’d have found some other way.â€
â€œEqually possible,â€ Midori conceded. â€œThat is what the council needs to decide.â€ She turned back to Amanpreet and waved her towards a comfortable chair. â€œThey’ve sent a lot of questions, most of which you’ve already answered but they insist we ask again, so this is going to take a while.â€
â€œI expected as much.â€ Amanpreet sat down. â€œWhat do they want to know?â€