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I stared over Vega’s shoulder to view her screen. “What do you think?” Although it felt good to be out of my hazmat suit again, I was suffering from angst over leaving Ned and David behind (although the two of them were now together in the daycare chowing down on candy).
“Your theory seems unlikely,” she said without looking at me. “As nothing is ever that simple. Morris, run one of those candies through the mass spectrometer while I analyze the blood samples.”
“Sure thing, boss.” Morris unwrapped a candy and smashed it into tiny pieces. The ruby shards glinted like gemstones.
As the two of them resumed ignoring me, a thought surfaced. “What station quadrant is the candy made in?” I asked.
Morris scratched his head. “I’m not sure.” He placed the crushed piece of candy into the portable chemical analyzing machine, while I opened up my scroll and searched where the candy was made.
Space Chew’s production facility was located one bulkhead over from the main algal oxygen generators, right next to that weird thrift shop I kept meaning to visit. There was a tram station at the end of the concourse and a series of family run restaurants nearby. I knew the area—not the safest place on the station, but also not the worst.
I brought up the virtual site for the thrift shop just as Morris leaned over and glanced at my scroll.
“Oh, I do know that place,” he said. “Right next door, there used to be a fungi farm, I think they were growing medicinal mushrooms.”
“You mean magic ones?” I started a search on the station’s security database. A file of reports come up and I begin scrolling through them.
Funtime Fungi had been shut down about three months ago over a concern about cross-contamination between fungal strains. It turned out the Funtime owners had ignored the Station’s law around tweaking fungi genetics. After the facility was closed and the contents incinerated, multiple antifungal compounds were used to spray the space down.
Morris’ machine pinged and he turned away to check on it.
“Hey Ned,” I said over our comms link. “How are you two doing?”
“You’ve told us to sit around and eat candy,” replied Ned sounding like his usual jovial self again. “And I’m getting paid.”
Dr. Vega stood and turned to me. She frowned as though something was my fault. “There is no evidence of the fungus in either the boy’s system or your partner’s.”
“That’s good news.”
“Perhaps,” she said as the machine Morris was working with pinged again.
Morris leaned in and read the display. “There’re trace amounts of the antifungal compound BJ-243 in the candy.”
As Vega started quizzing Morris on his results using overly technical terms, I looked up BJ-243. It was a newly formulated anti-fungal, with Funtime Fungi being the first time it was used out of the lab. Its tendency to remain in an aerosol form resulted in it being banned. Perhaps it had made it through to the candy factory and contaminated the candy? I checked further and found no adverse health effects to consuming it had been reported.
“What if BJ-243 is the key?” I asked.
Dr. Vega and Morris stopped talking and stared at me.
“The solution can’t be that simple.” She frowned. “Why don’t you step outside and give us time to finish our analysis.”
“Right.” I walked out of her lab. Once out in the hall, I contacted Chief Thumbold back on Indigo Station. He agreed to arrange an emergency shipment of BJ-243 down to Red Apple Colony.
An hour later, Morris exited the lab and walked over to me. “She’s never going to give you credit for this.” He tilted his head back towards the lab. I assumed he was talking about Vega.
I leaned against the wall. “All I really care about is making sure no mushrooms explode out of anyone’s head.”
Morris nodded. “We’ve sent out a drone with what we predict is enough BJ-243 to cure a colonist. Maisy Newport is our first target.”
“She was also the first case, so presumably the most advanced.”
“I hope it works.”
Six hours later, back on Indigo Station, sitting in my favourite diner, I glanced up at the screen showing the news report from Red Apple Colony.
Dr Vega stood front and centre, all puffed up and taking full credit for saving the colonists. In the background, I saw David with his mother, both smiling.
“In the end, it all worked out,” Ned said from his seat across the table from me. He had already devoured two slices of cherry pie and was about to start on a third.
I smiled. Around us the pie shop was almost empty—only a few patrons lingered over their deserts. but the best part was, we were back on the station and Ned had been cleared of any fungal contamination.
“Yep.” I sliced into my piece of pie with a fork. I had chosen peach—I didn’t think I’d be able to face an apple for some time.
“There is one thing I’m still wondering about.” Ned cocked his head. “Can parasites get parasites?”
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