Feather Fallacy IV

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The engines roared to life as the research vessel Synapse left the star port. Dr. Anelius Corvan immediately awoke from his light slumber as he regained his senses. His reflection in his datapad showed that his neon blue and yellow implants had faded in his many years as a geneticist. "Ahh yes, now where was I?" he said to himself as he began to remember the last thing he had been doing. In front of him was a bright blue holographic display of all the data Chancellor Aurok had given him on the virus affecting her people.

"Hmm, very interesting," he mused, idly touching a switch on his neck. A dull light glowed under his skin to indicate the voice recorder was activated.

"Early symptoms become apparent at puberty for males and continue to increase in strength from there".

Releasing his neck, the light faded out and he pinched his nose to work out some of the tiredness hiding behind his eyes. The doctor had been hard at work mulling over the few details given to him by Chancellor Aurok. He had spent days attempting to come up with a plan to cure the virus.

"Examination halted at," he thought about the time and a digital clock appeared before his eye as the neural processor kicked in "seven thirty three."

"I am in desperate need of a break from this endeavour if I am to continue any further," he thought to himself as he got up and walked towards the viewport into space. His Charian mind had been elsewhere of late. Dr. Corvan was fixated on a past expedition he had been on with his science team. His memories began flooding back as he remembered the day in its entirety.

Synapse was beginning its landing preparations as Dr. Corvan stood in a room surrounded by his science team. Beside him was his assistant who would one day rise to become the ship’s chief medical officer. Verser Serrano was eagerly awaiting his orders.

"The mission on planet designation DX-9876, given to us by the Charian Science and Preservation Committee, is as follows: diagnose the symptoms and causes of the viral strain affecting the avian species, report back any information collected and, should circumstances allow, procure sample tissue or live specimens for further study. He could feel the excitement in the room as the team anticipated working on such a daunting scientific endeavour.

"Now we must ensure that this is a swift and efficient expedition. Divide yourselves into groups of three and begin examining the landscape for any pertinent information. Report back to me here in ten hours with any and all data or specimens collected. Make sure to arm yourselves well as there may be hostile inhabitants indigenous to this world. Keep in radio contact at all times and broadcast to everyone if you happen to make a discovery. Dismissed." The Doctor opened the cargo doors of Synapse as he began heading off into the lush green unknown in front of him. He was confident they would complete their objectives in no time.

Several hours passed with little to no contact with any specimen. Anelius was beginning to doubt there were any survivors left. At once he heard a rustling in the trees ahead and ran to see what it was.

"Hmm, a dilapidated nest fell from that tree, and I believe there are living samples housed within it," he said to himself having thumbed his voice recorder on. He then approached the nest. There were two small, frail bird like creatures that fit the description he had been given by the committee.

"Attention team, this is Corvan. I have identified two subjects: small in stature, probably only 3 to 6 weeks old. Very pale in pallor and sickly. They are entirely lacking in feathering. I will need to put them into a containment unit to examine further back at the lab. Over."

"Return to the ship, we shall rendezvous in precisely one hour, thirteen minutes so as to facilitate the transfer of information and tissue samples uncovered thus far by the exploration teams. Over." Releasing the transmitter toggle, he readied the containment unit strapped to his belt.

He stopped and looked around, having heard a loud deep roar ahead of him in the vast vegetation. He was started to find a large feral cat -like creature stalking towards the specimens.

"It would seem that you had hoped these creatures would your next meal. I apologize that I must dispossess you of your dinner. They shall be coming with me," the doctor intoned coldly, unholstering his blaster calmly.

The animal charged forward viciously and he fired two shots coolly into its skull. As the beast dropped dead instantly, the doctor let out a brief sigh. He had no wish to kill the animal, but it had been its nature to fight for its food, as much as it was in his to protect the research. Banishing the incident from his mind, he placed the young birds into the containment unit and made his trek back to the Synapse.

The doctor and his team reconvened at Synapse and began their work. Anelius began proceeding with an examination of the young birds he had found.

"Clearly these samples are extremely sick, with the pronounced symptom of complete feather loss. Whether this illness will lead, as expected, to fatality will need to be ascertained. This we can do through rigorous observation. Further data can be acquired through dissection or autopsy." Dr Corvan stated in a monotone, probing the bird with a sterile rod. It flapped its wings against the provocation, but lacked the strength to do much more, and it flopped back into a fleshy pile.

" Have you found anything yet?" he inquired, turning to his medical officer.

"There is clear evidence of malnourishment," Serrano stated after a moment's inspection.

"Despite their young age, it would appear that both samples have lost considerable weight."

"Well observed!" Dr. Corvan nodded towards the younger Charian with an encouraging smile. The illness and its accompanying afflictions intrigued the doctor and he had spent days looking into possible causes.

Despite spending the vast amount of his time dutifully observing his charges, so much so that the crew had begun to wonder if he had slept at all, the investigation turned up no more clues, and he was beginning to lose hope of figuring out the origin of the disease.

(by Zachary Mathiot)