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Part of Starbase Bravo: 2401: Mission 1

Agricultural Aid, Part 4: Playing in the Dirt

Paulson Nebula, Ignaus Colony
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“Running sample RX-35,” Joshua said, typing away at the console. The results appeared on the screen. He frowned, “Are these from the 1.25 or the 3-meter batch?”

Dawa stood a short distance away, leaning forward on a sample extractor to push it deeper into the earth. Her eyes stayed focused on the data display as it ticked off the increasing depth of the mechanism. “1.25. I’m getting the first 3-meter sample right now.”

Joshua’s brown furrowed, “That doesn’t make any sense. This should be deeper into the limestone.” He took off his sun hat, wiped his hair with a rag, and placed the hat back on. “The soil regression pattern shouldn’t move like this.” He made some quick notes on the PADD and set it back on the table. He entered more calculations into the console and took a drink while they processed.

Joshua squinted his eyes, “Let’s break for lunch.”

Dawa eyed the extractor, its display still reading 2.48 meters. “Well, it’s not like this thing is going anywhere, and I could use a break.”

She left the extractor in the ground and plodded over to the table, wiping her arm across her brow as she went. “Well at this rate,” she said as she sat, pausing to take a swig from her canteen, “I might be able to skip Starfleet’s monthly vitamin D supplement. This is kind of nice, though! It reminds me of my first two years at the Academy; it definitely never got this hot or bright on Titan.”

“It makes me a bit homesick, Cynia Minor is a lot like this.” He opened up a package on the table, pulled out two sandwiches, and handed one to Dawa. “Compliments of the Caring Women’s Association of Ignaus.”

Dawa unwrapped hers and pulled it apart to eyeball its contents. “Ooh, some kind of relish? Smells like escabeche. They really do care.”

He rummaged further through the package. “It looks like weird formations in the ground, it’s not consistent with- ooh cheese!” Joshua grabbed a block of something yellow. He gave it a sniff, “I think it is, it smells like parmesan.” He set it on the table, “Anyway, it’s more mineral-based than soil. I sent the sample results to a geologist friend of mine.”

“So,” said Dawa, holding her hand up to her mouth as she tried to speak around a large bite of sandwich, “Could this be related to the Century Storm somehow?”

Joshua munched on his sandwich and gave her words some thought. “It’s possible the ion discharge seeped into the soil. It could be causing-” he excitedly picked up a PADD on the table and compared it to a console readout.

Dawa finished her bite and leaned in to get a closer look at the readout, despite having only the barest idea of what it said.

Joshua’s fingers flew across the console. “If the ionized particles from the Century Storm entered into the atmosphere, and later the soil, it could have been irradiated.” Joshua spoke quickly, “The people of the colony wouldn’t have been affected by it because they weren’t here at the time. By the time they got back, it had dispersed.” A look of fear crossed his face, “That means-” he quickly typed commands into the console. A cheerful woman was displayed on the screen.

“Ignaus Colony Administration!”

“I need to speak with Varin Ber!”

“I’m sorry, Dr. Ber is in-”

“I don’t care,” Joshua yelled at the screen. He cleared his throat and composed himself, “It’s an emergent matter.”

The woman looked taken aback, then annoyed, “One moment.”

The screen was replaced by the image of Dr. Ber. “Dr. Bryant. Annisa said this was urgent.”

“Yes, how does the colony receive water?”

“Through a series of aquifers. Why?”

“How deep are they?”

“Anywhere from 100 to 900 meters,” Varin said, his words becoming increasingly irritated.

“You need to test them for ion radiation.”

“Dr. Bryant…”

Joshua’s console beeped the results of the 3-meter excavation. He closed his eyes and sighed. “I’m sending you the results of our soil samples. We’ve only gone 3 meters and we’re picking up trace levels of ion radiation. It’s unclear how deep in the soil it goes. I’d like to meet with your science council to present my findings.”

“Of course. I’ll have them test the aquifers and we can convene this evening.”

“Understood. Bryant out.”

Joshua turned to Dawa. “You are a GENIUS! I’m deputizing you as a junior scientist,” He took a triangle of his sandwich and moved it across her shoulders in the traditional knight dubbing movement. “Which confers absolutely no power or authority. But I think I can get you a sticker,” he smiled.

Dawa sat up a little straighter and grinned. “Make it a scratch-n-sniff sticker. Those are the most scientific, in my professional opinion.” She went to take another bite of her sandwich, paused, sniffed it, then shrugged and took another bite. “So I guess you’re gonna need a lot more dirt for your presentation, huh?” she said around another mouthful of food.