First thing I see after opening my eyes is my Pioneer friend. He’s looking at me, waiting for me to tell something. I don’t.
– Feel better now? – I blink. I’m actually scared to speak. – I guess that’s a yes. – I try to look around, without so much success. My forearm feels numb. So everything was true: the chasing, the fall…I try to speak.
– How long…- My voice sounds broken.
– How long? Does it matter? The important thing is that we recovered you alive! Do you want to hear the story? Actually, it’s kind of funny. Just nod if you want. – I nod.- You know we “the Pioneers” are in charge of the maintenance of the life support, in general. -I nod again. – Alright. What you don’t know is the degree of commitment it means to endure such a general job definition. – I nod, since I don’t want to make him think I’m vanishing again, or losing interest. – Basically, all of us, and I mean all, are able to sense small variations on the environment conditions. That was considered, at the moment of our rise, an evolutionary advantage. Imagine that you land on a strange planet, like this one, and you are immediately able to say if you can breath the air safely, or if the water is good. Yes, I know. Who will land on an unknown planet without a previou analysis? But I must say to have such an ability has another use, more daily. For example, I’m able to smell how good is a whiskey, or if the food you’re offering me is poisoned. It can become quite handy sometimes. – He smiles. – Right. The story. So here I am, enjoying my free time when I get the call from a friend. Yes, I have other friends. We can speak about it when you’re OK. So this friend , that happen to be in charge of the water supply, tells me that he tastes something funny on the water coming from the North Small Chamber, one of the subterranean reservoirs that provides us all. One part per million, he says, is contaminated with some organic substance that may have human origin.
The North Small chamber is, your lucky bastard, one of a few accessible by train. We do go there to check the heaters that melt the ice, from time to time. But I’m going sideways. The thing is, I decided myself to investigate personally. We rely a lot on our famous ESP, you know, that is called, in case you want to call it properly, quick and random analysis of variables. – He makes a break, to drink something. A beer, looks like. I wonder if his sense of poison is also working to clean it up, if needed. – I like to call it ESP, it makes me feel like I’m a superhero or something. So this ESP tells me that I need to go to investigate the North Small Chamber. Since, as you know, most of the time we only are around to create problems, I decide to follow my hunch and take a train to North Small.
The ride is a few hours. I mean, if the ESP is beeping you, you better obey, independently of how annoying the task you need to do is. In my case, it was meaning organizing a search team, just in case the organic substance happen to be something more important than a dead minipig, or some other animal of that type. – I apparently made some kind of face, since he stops to look at me. – Yes, it happens. We have a very active biosphere, here. What do you expect life to do, to behave when you say don’t go this way? We have some outliers in the tunnels. Some of them even went feral. – He sips his beer. – Once more, sorry I go sideways. Your story. Guess what? You were the minipig this time!
I thought you were dead, since we found you floating, actually quite close to the ice heaters, that probably helped to keep you alive. Surrounding you, there was a pool of blood, slowly mixing with the water. I fished you out, and, no more question asked, I brought you here. To our labs. – I try again to move my head, but I fail. – So if you could be so kind to answer my question, I’ll be glad… – I smile, and have a look to his beer. – That’s not the question. You’re not yet ready to drink. Besides, you will not appreciate it, you’re now heavily drugged. The question is: how the hell did you end up floating on North Small, with a bullet in your arm?