Nalaha excitedly swung wide the hatch, feeling a slight pinch as she climbed out of the cramped travel pod. She was assisted by the arms of a handsome USS carrier crew member sent to retrieve her. Wide-eye and full of anticipation, she determined to memorize every smell and sight around her. It was surreal. Her impossible dream had become a reality. Earth.
Since Nalaha was a little girl on Moon 342, she had heard stories of her relatives of long ago. How hard they'd labored in the beginning to establish the settlement she now called home. She was grateful, they
all were but it didn't stop her imagination from running wild as she tried to envision the place from which they'd chosen to leave. She'd vowed as a young teen to find a way to visit the place stories were told of.
Barely 3 years out of college, she could hardly believe that she was awarded the opportunity to travel here and glean from a team of fellow scientists.
Moon 342 had begun failing agriculturally and this just could not be. They had been thriving for decades now and then species of plants had begun to die off one by one. Something must be done. It could mean the end of their world. Excited as she was to see Earth, she had to remind herself to stay focused.
She was delivered to her quarters. Grateful after her long trip, she knew it was critical for her to rest up because very soon her work would keep her quite busy. "Shower first" she told herself though the bunk was calling her name. As she removed her travel suit, she absently noted a tear in her glove. She stepped into the warm water, welcoming it with hopes it would ease the stiffness in her joints from the journey here.
Stepping out to dry off, she noted her hand throbbing. Looking at it closer, she puzzled as she noted bright red blood seeping from a cut on the underside of her middle finger. How did that get there? It surely wasn't deep enough to warrant a medic. She washed it thoroughly, then grabbed a bandaid from the kit that she had nearby in her cargo case. She made a mental note to thank the crew member that had thought ahead to deliver it to her room. She wondered aloud if it were the same one who had helped her off the pod. Would she run into him again? Shaking her head, she chided herself. This was not the time to be thinking along those lines.
The wound would continue to seep over the next three days. Nalaha was mildly annoyed that it wasn't healing but easily attributed it to the location. She couldn't help but bump into something and often just flexing her hand would be the catalyst to cause it to reopen.
Though it was covered, she handled many things without a second thought and tiny blood droplets were left on various items like silverware, faucets, pens, clipboards and door handles. Handshakes of greeting allowed a part of her world to directly touch Earth's.
If she'd been more seasoned, if there'd been more experience to draw from, then maybe... ?
They pulled into port and she excitedly disembarked. Such beauty surrounded her. Lush greenery and sounds wholly unlike any that she'd ever heard coming from creatures she had only read about. One fellow scientist laughed wholeheartedly at her childlike amusement. Another service worker joined the crowd to discuss the days events. What's more, he had a monkey on his shoulder. Apparently he was everyone's pet. He quickly left his owner's arms and jumped right into Nalaha's. She giggled with delight. A few more words were exchanged and the monkey went over to some teens nearby building a fort of some sort. She walked on with the others until they came to the site where the laboratory/greenhouse stood. It looked more archaic to her but she bit her tongue to keep from saying so. She had but 10 days here and she wanted to make the most of it. Surely here was something that would help her homeland.
The other scientist she'd first come upon began to show her around and stopped short as he looked at her hand. She'd just scrubbed her hands before they set foot inside. Wouldn't you know that cut had opened again? Would it ever heal? It must be something in the air or climate. Why was it taking so long to heal? Her fellow worker brought her a bandage and she assured him a bandaid would do just fine. It was just a small wound, barely bigger than a paper cut.
She wrapped the bandage however around her finger and they began talking about their advances and trials. This time here together would be beneficial for both worlds she thought. They'd learned much on Moon 342. If they could just figure out what was killing off their plants?
4 days passed. At least 10 members aboard the carrier has fallen ill with some sort of virus causing them nausea, fatigue and skin rashes. It was concerning. She'd wondered if she'd been in contact with any and worried momentarily that she could be more vulnerable here in this almost well, alien climate.
They'd discussed much and her journal was full of ideas, launching points and she was eager to get it into the hands of those home... she knew there was still more to be unearthed. This was a mutual expedition. 6 more days and she wanted to make the most of them. She'd even squeezed in a little sightseeing. What images she had to go back and share! She really missed her parents and close friends. They were the ones that cheered her on the hardest. Soon she would be able to tell them all about her time here.
A mail plane was leaving tomorrow, it had been another 2 days and 4 of the 10 crew seemed to be getting worse and they'd be "hopping" aboard to head to the mainland for more advanced care and rest. She was saddened to learn that the one who had fallen the most ill was the handsome gentleman that she'd hoped to run into again. Nalaha shook her head, they were literally two worlds apart.
Day 10 arrived, 25 more were sick on board and they had orders to stay on board and not leave. This was disappointing but not totally disheartening. It bought her some more time here on Earth but she was truly saddened as to the reasons why.
The next day they found their beloved monkey lifeless at the doorstep. Things were taking a turn around her that sapped her enthusiasm and sparked an element of trepidation. What was happening?
In 3 days time, not only did she discover that her crew member has passed but also that her lab partners had fallen ill. She quarantined herself in the lab and began searching for what they had on hand that might help protect others, all the while fearing that she may not get to go home if she succumbed. That thought brought fresh vigor to her research. She needed to help them and stay healthy. At least that cut on her finger had finally healed. A small thing, but she was grateful nonetheless. It had somewhat impeded her at times over the last few weeks. What with having to stop what she was doing and address it. It seemed it was always right in the middle of putting their heads together and feeling as if they were on the verge of something great.
Her fellow scientist, the one she worked the closest with, finally convinced her to check in with the medic. She did. He hadn't been concerned. Like herself, he'd stated it was in an awkward place. He put on some salve and bandaged it over, advising her to keep it dry. Now she'd just heard that he too had succumbed to the virus. It wasn't much of a surprise given he was exposed to so many. It was more and more grievesome to hear how rampant this thing was getting, and not only how many people were being affected but the rapid way in which the virus progressed.
2 full weeks later she learned that the mainland had been battling the spread and they couldn't seem to get the upper hand as well. That was concerning.
Fear, confusion and helplessness creeped into her thoughts, especially as they had been forced to dig a mass grave on the island. All 367 crew members had perished. Most in the lab were ill. Except her?
She'd come to save her planet to stop the virus destroying their vegetation. Seeing a virus destroy people here was something she would never be able to put in words. Not only couldn't she help to stop what was happening, but Nalaha feared not ever being able to go home. She was just 25.
She'd moved to the fort the teens had built upon her arrival. It seemed the only safe place. One month later, the smells and sights around her were a stark contrast to when she has first excitedly set foot here.
Vegetation became brown, birdsong had been muted, laughter had become tears. Nalaha looked down at her hands and it hit her with the force of a tsunami, the giant waves of destruction she'd read about. Her presence here equaled that. A wave of nausea hit her, she felt suddenly very tired. She put her hand to her mouth and noted a cascade of red bumps were visible along the underside of her arms.
Her goal had been to save her planet but now, there would be no returning home..