A/N: As I said last week my usual beta reader is still extremely busy and can only handle betaing Dragon Wars. Unfortunately this means that That this installment of The Whisper of Damkina is once again 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
“What are you going to do now?” Amanpreet asked Sangat as they ate breakfast the next morning. “It’s not like they need an archaeological team any more.”
“Actually we’ve been cleared to keep excavating during the bioforming,” he said. “The Council feels it would be good to find as much of these people’s history as we can. They’ll need it if we’re bringing them back. But the main dig site is where the computer and gene bank is so we can’t dig there any more. Hopefully the book will point to new dig sites.”
“Ah,” she said. “Yes, I can see that.”
“The bioengineers says their models are coming along nicely,” Sangat said. “Want to come and see since you’re really responsible for them starting this?”
“I wouldn’t say responsible,” Amanpreet said. “If it hadn’t been me it would have been someone else. But yes I’m kind of interested.”
“We’ll go after breakfast then,” he said.
“In the Ishtari section I suppose,” she said.
“Of course,” he said.
“Best check my environment suits cooling system then,” she said. “It was acting up a little last time I visited Ishtar.”
“Always wise,” he said. “I wouldn’t want you to cook in there.”
“It wasn’t acting up that much,” she said and returned to her breakfast.
The Ishtari section of the station was almost as much hotter than the human sector than the Mez one was colder and of course the atmosphere was incredibly corrosive to terrestrial life, so Amanpreet was relieved that her suit checked out and kept her comfortable this time.
The Ishtari scientists who greeted them were a mix of Kska and Tkin.
“This is so exciting,” a kingfisher blue feathered Kska trilled in the most common of the Ishtari languages. “A chance to reconstruct an entire biosphere from scratch.” She waved a couple of its tentacles around in an animated fashion. “We’re starting with the oceans because the unicellular life we need for the start of the food web is already in place. We’ve decided to start by reintroducing this ocean plant that seems to fill a similar niche to your kelp plants.” She gestured towards one of the screens in the room. On it was an image of some sort of marine plant made up of a mass of extremely long purple strings.”
“That looks almost like spaghetti,” Amanpreet said. “Purple spaghetti–” She clapped a hand over her mouth when she realized she was speaking rather than using the synthesiser and using her host’s language. “I’m sorry,” she tapped her apology hastily. “I was just surprised and forgot.”
“No offense taken,” the Kska said. “We all understand several of your languages. But what is this spaghetti?”
“It’s a human food,” Sangat explained. “It’s usually white but that aquatic plant looks a bit like purple spaghetti.”
The Kska looked at the two of them for a long moment, the feathers on its tentacles fluffed in confusion, before it turned back to the screen whistling quietly about humans being odd.
Amanpreet suppressed a chuckle and looked back at the screen where an image of an odd looking filter feeding creature attached to the purple seaweed was showing.
“This will be introduced once the weed is established. They live on the weed and filter feed on the unicellular creatures. We will build the ecosystem up from there and believe it will only take about two of Talis’s years to fully establish balanced starter patches of this particular ecosystem before moving on to the more complex ones and this weed will be an important source of atmospheric oxygen once it’s fully established in its suitable ra–â€ The Kska paused as Mei entered the chamber carrying the book and wove her feathered tentacles together in greeting. â€œWelcome!â€
â€œMei!â€ Sangat said. â€œDid you find something?â€
â€œI’m still reading it,â€ she said. â€œThe only thing of importance that I’ve learned is that they had a prototype hyperspace ship but hadn’t perfected it but it’s certainly building up to something. They seem to like to explain everything rather than getting to the point.â€
“An interesting species,” the Kska said. “I look forward to meeting them when we hatch the eggs.”
“I also,” Mei agreed then froze as a piercing alarm sounded throughout the station.
“Wha–” Amanpreet whirled around. “Is that the attack alarm?” It was, of course, she knew that sound well enough even though she’d never heard it outside of a drill. She didn’t think this was a drill.
“It is,” Sangat said. “We’d best get back to the human section and find out what–”
“A badly damaged Mez Fish just emerged from hyperspace with another Fish in pursuit.” The Kska had already patched into Administation and brought the scene up on screen. The first fish had massive scars along its sides and its navigation dome was badly dented while the second was uninjured but had no navigation dome or other signs that it was crewed. “This is new. None of the reports I’ve heard had these mysterious Fish continuing pursuit into normal space.”
“So what’s changed,” Sangat said. “And will it attack the station?”
“There aren’t many ships except the Whisper docked here at present. Let’s go to the administration hub and see if we can help,” Amanpreet said. Sangat nodded and they raced back into the human section, pausing only to struggle out of their environment suits.
The chaos in the Administration hub was testament to how unexpected this was but Midori spotted them as they entered and rushed over.
“Amanpreet! Does the Whisper have any weapons?”
“We have some anti-asteroid lasers,” Amanpreet said dubiously.
“Good enough!” Midori said. “Umi’s frantic – her sister is navigator on that ship. We need you to go and help because they aren’t going to reach–”
“Administrator Midori!” One of her assistants pointed to the view screen, his expression horrified. Amanpreet turned to look at it as well in time to see the damaged ship caught by its assailant. The Fish rammed the navigation dome, tearing it loose from the damaged ship and swallowing it before turning and vanishing back into hyperspace.”
“Damn!” Midori said. “Umi’s sister! The Fish took her.”