The Spa’Lab Walking Dead
First-Chief Engineer Quartz Julian surveyed the bay. “Don’t open
anything unless you check it for booby traps!” he growled at his crew.
“Hey Chief, maybe we should scratch away some of her paint —
see if it’s gold underneath!”
“Yarrow, keep your mind on survival, not salvage.” Julian shook his
head. Turn his back long enough and Yarrow and his crew would have
the planking unscrewed, searching for hidden treasure. Salvagers were
straight out of romantic legends to these salts. More like bloody pirates,
“Chief, over here.” Second-Chief Elliot Joaquin Sebastiana waved
at him and drew a mask over her face. She stood a head shorter and
weighed a good deal more than Julian. She had a pear shaped body,
with ample hips. She was strong and logical and his equal when it came
to engineering skills. She was also Julian’s friend.
He drew on his own mask and peered into the darkened alcove
behind Sebastiana. “What is that stench?”
“The door was marked Trash and the bay door was timed to open
in another three movietimes. Everything in here would have been
Julian cocked his head and stooped to enter the small alcove. He
switched on his light stick. Six people squatted in the debris. They were
the size of children from his home planet, Orchidea. They had their
arms crossed over their bent knees. Their naked skin was smeared with
filth. Their eyes blinked instinctively in the light, but they registered no
“They all have red hair and blue eyes, Chief,” Sebastiana whispered
in a hushed awe.
“Looks that way.” Julian knelt in front of a woman about his age.
She did not flinch when he brought the light close to her face. She
“What’s wrong with them?”
“You mean besides sitting in their own filth for two days?” Julian
stomped out of the alcove and returned with a hose. He turned a nozzle
and water gushed out. He drenched the six bodies, but they barely
responded. Rather than trying to protect themselves from the biting
spray, they opened their mouths and swallowed in gulps.
When the stench had been washed away sufficiently to remove his
mask, he turned off the flow. “Sebastiana, go get the medic. Tell her to
bring six togas. And Sebastiana, keep this quiet. The last thing I need is
for my crew to get spooked about having Spa’Labs aboard.”
“My grand-fa was a Spa’Lab, Chief.” Sebastiana swallowed and
squared her shoulders.
“Then you know some of the rumors aren’t true.” Julian planted his
fists on his slender hips and glared into the dripping trash bay.
“They’re tranked, aren’t they? They’re Spa’Lab Walking Dead.”
“If you’re planning to gab the day away, I’ll put you on report and
find someone who will follow orders,” Julian said evenly.
Lonicera was walking. She was walking and walking and walking.
She felt the ship humming against the soles of her feet. The ship was
healthy. She was a stubborn ship, too. Lonicera could feel this through
and through, from the hum of her engines and the vibration of her
hull spaces and the sway of her bulkheads and the way she breasted the
fabric of space as she sailed. Lonicera walked the ship’s corridors and
hummed along with her engines.
“This is beyond what I can heal, Captain.” The Tinker’s Damn’s
Chief Medical Officer Poplaris Lan-Chi Claire shook her head.
“Is it permanent?”
“Do you mean will they ever recover?”
The captain pursed his lips at his wife. He hated when she restated
his questions without answering him.
She noticed his expression and sighed, softening somewhat. “I
haven’t read anything to suggest they will. But I haven’t read much
about this condition. All I really know about this is based on rumors
and legends. You know the old saying, Sp’lab-kept secrets. I don’t
know if they are the way they are due to an allergic reaction to the
Harusophynite or if they really were genetically altered, like the legends
say. It may just be a self-induced trance.”
“But how do we wake them out of it?”
“Do we need to? They seem content. They can feed and take care of
themselves. They are just in their own private worlds.”
Captain Poplaris Enoch sighed. “I’ll try to find a Spa’Lab somewhere
in the fleet that can help. Until then —“
“Until then — narn’t! You’ve heard the same stories that I have.
Creeping eruption, Enoch! Your granmom told us both about the
Sp’lab Walking Dead around the campfire the first round-up we went
on. You won’t find a Spa’Lab that will talk about them or take care
of them or even acknowledge they exist. They are dead to any other
Spa’Lab.” Claire shivered. “Get them out of my sick bay! I have real
wounded that need the hammocks. We are at war.”
“What am I supposed to do with them, Claire? Throw them out
into the corridors with the rest of the refugees?”
“It’s better than being spaced. They are taking up six hammocks
that I need for salts with physical injuries. The Spa’Labs will survive or
they won’t. The Tinker’s Damn is a battleship, not a nursery.”
Enoch growled in frustration. His Tinker’s Damn used to be a
trading ship, traveling the Commonwealth, bartering for treasures,
meeting new peoples, taking on or putting off salts to maintain the
hundred or so crew the Tinker’s Damn needed to sail. Now, hardly a
battleship, she ferried fighter pilots to skirmishes and tried to keep her
hull intact. Well, you can’t get oolongs from cracked eggs as his granmom
used to say. They were at war. He walked to the comdesk and depressed
a key. “First-Chief Engineer!”
“Julian here, sir.”
“I need you in sick bay.”
“Are you ill?” Concern flowed through Julian’s warm tenor voice.
© Evelyn Rainey