Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

“Unfortunately, we can only speculate about the events, basing our conclusions on assumptions: not facts. The biggest problem is that we don’t have the mother ship that carried the capsule.”

“Thank you, Miss Forest. I’d appreciate it if I received all the details electronically.”

“Of course, my report is ready.”

Jean rubbed his chin thoughtfully and turned to Lora.

“How’s our guest doing?”

“Not very well. The life support system that has been keeping him alive all these years is far from perfect and eventually caused brain malnutrition. Doctor Borshchevsky sounded hopeful, but didn’t give any accurate prediction about the length of the therapy.”

“I see. So all we can do is wait. Did you say something about a virus earlier?”

“Yes, the doctor said that he has discovered some kind of antibodies in the blood of this man. We can check the report…”

“Of course,” the councillor swiped the sensor panel with his hand, causing the holographic interface to display a series of pages.

“From the look of it, he acquired these antibodies while already in flight,” said Lora, studying the notes carefully.

“It’s an unknown disease. It hadn’t existed before our launch from Earth, but we also haven’t encountered it on other planets. The causative agent could’ve appeared much later…”

“The origin of the virus is still unknown…” added Lora.

“We still only have very meagre information. We can only guess whether the infection was present in the ship from the beginning of its launch or it appeared while in flight, causing the rescue capsules to detach from the mother ship…”

The girl shook her head thoughtfully.

“What if it was an attempt to ask for our help? What if an unknown epidemic struck the people, threatening them with total extinction, and those two were the only survivors?”

Jean raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Your assumptions are impressively fatalistic.”

“You’re so right. I don’t understand what’s been happening to me…”

“You just attach great importance to what’s gone on…”

Lora looked at Jean, puzzled.

“How can I not?”

“What do you mean? How can anyone not think so much and not assume the worst?” the councillor asked her calmly.

“It’s not about my assumptions, though the finding has been really haunting me. It’s just that we are talking about Earth! Our home!” the girl realized that she almost shouted the last words.

“Calm down, please,” Jean put a fatherly hand on her shoulder. “We’ll sort it out. In the end, the man who needed our help is safe now. He has you to thank for that. It was you who urged Doctor Blake to rescue him.” He paused and Lora nodded in agreement. “Please, be a little patient. Although, patience is a virtue you’ve never really possessed,” he smiled.

In the ‘Unity’ building, Lora sat at the desk in her small office and dropped her head on her hands, feeling tired. She had just returned from Misgran after three weeks of constant negotiations, and immediately started preparing to leave again. Titanium and ‘Solar Flotilla’ were getting ready for launch from the Taria’s orbit. The unrest on the planet was constantly growing. The new leader’s aggression left no chance for reconciliation with space travellers. Despite the fact that they had spent more than one Tarian year on the planet’s orbit working closely with the previous government, the new authority wished no further contact with aliens. Lora sighed sadly – it was the first time in her life that they’d had to leave a populated planet so urgently. Before this moment, their ships left other races’ territories of their own free will after their cooperation, technology and resources exchange had exhausted itself. Besides, the citizens of ‘Solar Flotilla’ never forgot that they were only visitors. In search of a new home, they had been examining one planetary system after another. But every time they were ready to settle on a planet, they encountered intelligent life there.

“Hey, what’s the sad face for?” the matte glass office door slid open and she saw Paul in the doorway.

“I’m not sad, just tired. The new Tarian government refused to fulfil some terms and conditions under our agreement…”

“No wonder! They can’t wait for the day they get rid of us!”

“You can say that again.”

Lora’s UCD beeped quietly and a green light of an incoming call flashed.

“This is Doctor Borshchevsky,” Lora explained taking the call, “Yes, doctor, what can I do for you?”

“Good day, Miss Merion! Great news! Our patient, the only one left in the hospital, has regained consciousness! Would you…”

“I’m on my way!” Lora jumped from her seat, her fatigue disappearing instantly.

“I’m waiting for you,” replied the doctor and the green light died.

“What did he say?” asked the captain curiously. The communication device transformed voice messages into a number of electric impulses and transferred them directly to the hearing nerve of the receiver.

“The rescued man has come around!”

“I’m coming with you,” decided Paul in a flash, leaving the premises together with Lora.

“It’s been three weeks since we found out about the civil war on Taria,” noticed the young man on the way to the closest teleport. “You?ve been working very hard from dusk till dawn ever since. You need some rest.”

“Well, yes,” said Lora. She was still walking very quickly, barely escaping a collision with the passers-by and not being able to tame her growing excitement.

“Did you even hear what I was saying?”

They entered through the teleport glass door.


“Hello! Please state your destination,” announced the ever-polite voice of the local teleportation programme.

“Central hospital,” answered Paul quickly, still piercing a confused Lora with his stare.

“Thank you,” uttered the electronic voice and the doors closed shut.

Just then, through the whirlpool of her own thoughts, Lora understood what he meant by that.

“Look, I’m not so tired to need an urgent vacation. The evacuation is in full-swing and I’d like to be a part of it.”

“Welcome to the Central Hospital,” announced the programme and the doors slid open, revealing a spacious brightly lit hall to their view.

“What about this story with Earth? It also requires a lot of your energy and attention. You’re risking losing all that if you continue working at such a pace.”

The girl sighed deeply; Paul’s concern for her was so predictable. Ever since they had become close friends as small kids, they had been constantly caring for each other like brother and sister.