Chapter 10

"If you pursue any allegations, it could take months to resolve." Foley said quietly.

"And meanwhile, you'll have to stop all activity in the Hazards. That'll get me home safer." Cawdor shrugged.

"In the short time you've been here, you already have the reputation of being compassionate. The defence of your ... friend, Lieutenant Tanner, seemed to reinforce that among the Station population." Foley said awkwardly. "Ambassador, Cawdor, I don't have months to spare."

"Oh? You're ill?" Cawdor asked. Foley clasped and unclasped his hands and exhaled loudly. "Admiral?"

"Not me, no. A little girl. A child. She has lymphotoxia." Foley got to his feet and was visibly distressed. "Many of the prisoners lifted from Bedlam died of lymphotoxia, and many of the guards. It's not difficult to make the connection between it and Fifeogen, although it was impossible for us to investigate it further at that time. The damned stuff wiped out six Admiralty retained coroners who'd never set foot in the place. Obviously we steered clear of Bedlam and it's Fifeogen. Understand that we had no knowledge of any survivors at that time. The news of those survivors sent shock waves through the entire Commonwealth but it also threw up a million questions. How had they survived? How had they continued to survive? Every scientist in the Commonwealth was on it, but with no physical samples, it was difficult. Most of what we learned was speculative. They got as far as tolerance, dependency, then curative. That's it. No one had any real links and no sound basis for the speculation. Yet here you are. You are the result. Your current condition seems to back up the dependency theory and your previous condition seems to back up the curative theory. Our standards of technology are incredibly more advanced today. Ambassador Cawdor, I need to research Fifoegen's curative properties." Foley sat back down and seemed to deflate into the chair.

"For the little girl." Cawdor nodded and so did Foley. "Have you any idea how she developed lymphotoxia?"

"No one knows. We've engaged the finest physicians in the Commonwealth. Apart from the prisoners and guards lifted from Bedlam, there are no documented cases of lymphotoxia." Foley's hands were shaking with emotion.

"Admiral, what was your father's job on Bedlam?" Cawdor had to squint to fend of a blinding headache.

"What?" Foley's head jerked up in surprise.

"Staff records. They're all still on Bedlam. He was your father, wasn't he?"

"Yes. Driscoll Foley. He was an overseer, responsible for the mining staff." Foley replied. "Is that relevant?"

"So his job would have taken him quite close to the mines. We theorised that the mine workers had built up a gradual tolerance to the gas and that's why they survived." Cawdor frowned.

"My father could have carried ... whatever ... and passed it on? To me? Ambassador I'm as healthy as a horse! So is my son, Baylor. Annie ... Annie ... she's only seven years old, Ambassador Cawdor. She's still a baby." Foley looked devastated.

"Your granddaughter." Cawdor exhaled loudly. "Admiral, the curative properties of Fifeogen have never been validated even on Bedlam. Like you, we speculate. We're atmospheric and genetic experts because we've had to be but that was one thing they couldn't never pin down. They weren't even close."

"But the survival of your people is proof!" Foley insisted.

"It isn't proof! We don't know how and why survived any more than you do. I'm desperately sorry about your granddaughter, Admiral Foley, I really am. You can't expose her to that crap and no one can convert it to a safe substance." Cawdor felt the familiar loop approaching.

"I won't give up on her. I can't." Foley said stubbornly.

"You need to speak to our Boffins. This isn't my field. Every Bedlite knows their own history, however. Start at the start. You somehow expose Annie to Fifeogen successfully without killing everyone in the vicinity. We lost dozens, Admiral. A dozen is alot when you're starting number is only two hundred. We couldn't do a thing about it as friends, family and subsequent children died because of exposure to Fifeogen. Do you want to know what happened? We started to mutate." Cawdor said bluntly and Foley looked horrified. "Mutated to survive in Fifeogen. Mutant babies survived, the rest didn't."

"Wh ... what sort of mutation?" Foley stammered in shock.

"An internal one and a drastic one. Listen to me, Admiral. The ... point ... of this mutation was enable survival in Fifeogen. Are you with me? If your granddaughter survived an exposure, which I honestly do doubt, she'd mutate. Mutate to adapt to Bedlam's atmosphere. She'd be Bedlite." Cawdor indicated themself. "You can see how well I'm doing away from home."

"There has to be another way." Foley said desperately. "We're so close to developing our handling technology and so close to making all this join up!"

"If there was another way, do you think we'd be stuck down there?" Cawdor raised their voice. "This lunacy will kill your granddaughter and on the minuscule chance that it doesn't, she'll have to live on Bedlam, somewhere you and your family can't go. Her kids will be born Bedlite, just like everyone else's down there. Either that or she'll be sterile. The odds against her surviving all that are astronomical. Don't experiment on her, Admiral. Don't try and inflict that agony on her."

"This isn't your field. You said that yourself." Foley said stiffly. "I do believe your sincerity, however. I believe you would help if you could."

"Of course I would." Cawdor said wearily. "Admiral I may not be able to give you long scientific explanations but I do know where Bedlites can survive and I do know that Fifeogen is lethal to you. This is like hitting my head against a brick wall. With your permission, I can relay all this to people far more specialised than I am. Work with them, Admiral Foley. It could be too late for Annie, but you and our Boffins could discover something that would rock the whole cosmos."

"It'll never be too late as long as she can still smile. I'll order that the equipment on the cruiser be shut down for two hours from when you leave this Station." Foley said flatly. Cawdor only had the energy to nod and leave.

Dale and Natasha were in Cawdor's rooms waiting for them.

"What did he want?" Dale stood up.

"He's turning off the gear on the shuttle until Vanley gets me down." Cawdor flopped onto a chair.

"How did you manage that?" Dale asked in surprise.

"Oh I just elaborated on the previously mentioned illegalities." Cawdor replied with a smile. "I really hate goodbyes."

"I told you before. We'll all meet up again sometime. Go and recover, Cawdor and take care." Natasha hugged Cawdor and simply didn't care about Pheromones. Pheromones. Pheromones.

"I hate Bedlites." Cawdor wiped their eyes after Natasha had left. "Dale I ... "

"Shh, I know. You'll be fine with Vanley and Kendrew and I'll be fine with Natasha. Come on, I'll help you pack."

Cawdor sat in a new space shuttle and hovered outside the sickly, green, swirling mists that was Bedlam's atmosphere. Their mood swung from abject woe to giddy apprehension to bad tempered anger. Their twisted up condition wasn't helping.

"Cawdor. Is that you?" Vanley's voice sounded over the communicator.

"No it's Henry the Eighth." Cawdor snapped irritably.

"You really are a foul specimen. Cawdor the shield's stable. Foley must have switched his shit off."

"He has for another hour. He responded to my natural charm and flourishing charisma. Stop arsing about and get me down." Cawdor peeled their vest away from their soaked body. "Vanley? I have to talk to you and Kendrew as soon as I get home."

"Miles. Right? I should never have let you go up there to start with. We're here for you." Vanley said sympathetically.

"It's Dale and I didn't mean him. Well I did but there's something else first. Kendrew's the biggest Boffin on Bedlam so have them assemble the Nerd Herd."

"Why? What's wrong? Apart from you oozing everywhere."

"Not over the communicator, Vanley. Get me down."

Natasha and Dale watched a digital image of Cawdor's short journey. The blinking image of the shuttle, wavered and rippled then vanished as it was swallowed by Bedlam's unforgiving atmosphere.

"You OK?" Natasha asked.

"No. You?" Dale smiled sadly. "They'll be fine, I know."

"So will we, Dale. Cawdor knows that. This should be a huge historic step, cosmos wide. If only it was all prepared differently." Natasha sighed.

"Lack of groundwork, as Cawdor once said. Fancy a drink?"

"More than one, I think. Come on, I'll buy you dinner."

Book Index       Bedlam Shift       Previous       Next