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A little girl plays in a stream while her parents and friends picnic nearby. Not actually playing, this particular little girl, Melidu is on a grand scientific adventure searching the wild and dangerous river also known as ‘small stream’ for lost relics of an ancient and mysterious species that no one has ever heard of. Her parents watch from the meadow nearby.
“Why does she have to be so strange?” Her mother asks in a slightly exasperated voice. Her father smiles, “She’s not strange dear, she’s adventurous, courageous and above all, curious. I bet that someday she will lead an exploratory expedition to a new star system, piercing the cold dark of space to find another world suitable for new colonies.”
“Does she have to get her pelt wet? No self-respecting Kazarii willingly wades into the middle of a stream. It must feel awful and she’ll be tangled for days.” In fact, it was Melidu’s hypothesis that the best discoveries were to be had where others were unlikely to go, hence wading into a stream up to her knees was sure to produce some arcane discovery unavailable to her water shy peers.
Melidu meticulously inspected the bottom of the stream eyeing each pebble, water plant and occasional ghobi fish for something, anything unusual. There! Near the foot of a partially submerged stone about the size of her head lay a pebble unlike all of the others. It shimmered in iridescent colors brighter and more varied than a rainbow. A few short steps and she was standing over it. Her hand reached into the icy water and plucked her treasure from the bottom of the stream. Oh, yuck! The pebble was soft and slimy; the colors had come from algae growing on the pebble not the pebble itself. She tossed it back into the stream a little repulsed at the thought of slimy goo all over her hand.
Melidu bent over and swished her hand under the water but she discovered to her annoyance that the slime was still there. She tried rubbing sand from the streambed in her hands but that only left her with sand coated slime on both hands. Rubbing her hands against a nearby boulder hurt a lot and still didn’t clean her hands. Frustrated and becoming a bit scared she decided it would be best if she stopped for the day and sought out her parents.
Climbing the banks of the stream, she headed quickly, yet in a dignified, not scared, no definitely not scared sort of way to her parents. “I’m glad you’re out of that stream, your legs are soaked. They must feel awful!” “They’re ok mom but I got this stuff all over my hands and it won’t come off. I think it’s some sort of algae.” Her father came over to see what his daughter had got into. “Let me take a look at that. Yes, I think you’re right it does look like some sort of algae.” “Hold still dear while I spray it with some sanispray,” her mom said as she soaked Melidu’s hands in sanitary spray. The algae turned black almost immediately then gave up its relentless hold on Melidu’s hands, which were quickly wiped clean by her mom.
“I really wish you wouldn’t play with algae dear. The stuff is so disgusting.” Melidu looked at her mom with a bit of annoyance. “I wasn’t playing with algae. I thought I had found a really pretty, unusual stone but it was an ordinary stone covered in pretty algae.” Her father put on his semi-serious scientist face and said. “You know, it’s too bad we didn’t collect a sample. Even after several generations there is still a great deal we don’t know about this world.” Melidu found herself blushing; she had neglected to be sufficiently scientific because of her concern over getting the wretched stuff off. “You’re right dad, I’ll go see if I can find some more of the stuff. Where’s my specimen collection kit?” Her mom said, “You’ll do no such thing. Now that you’re out of that stream, I want you to dry off and rest a bit before we hike back home.” Melidu put up token resistance but she had to admit to herself that she was a bit tired. She lay down on the blanket the three had brought with them for today’s outing and was fast asleep.
Later that evening as she was preparing for bed, Melidu’s head began to pound with the fiercest headache she had ever had. “Let’s see what’s going on with you then.” said her father when Melidu told him about her headache. He had her step into the home’s medi-scan compartment and she sat down in the seat that unfolded automatically from one of the walls. A soft feminine voice surrounded Melidu, “What’s wrong Melidu?” “I have a terrible headache,” said Melidu. The scanner’s voice said, “I’ll take a look at you, I should find the cause of your headache momentarily Melidu, please remain still while I scan.” There was a moments silence while the medi-scan did its job and then, “There are large areas of vasoconstriction throughout your brain Melidu. Please remain still a bit longer while I administer some medication to relieve the constrictions.”
Melidu smelled a whiff of floral scented air and then her headache was gone. The feminine voice said, “I strongly recommend a follow up appointment with a Mediciner at the earliest opportunity.” The medi-scan always recommended a follow up with a Mediciner regardless of the problem, headache, splinters and fractures all required follow up equally. This recommendation would have been ignored but for the fact that the medi-scan used the word “strongly.”
A few days later and a Mediciner’s assurance that there was nothing wrong with Melidu saw her traipsing about outdoors looking for interesting specimens. The nightmares began nearly three months later.
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