Part of Starbase Bravo: 2401: Mission 1

Agricultural Aid, Part 5: The Science Council

Paulson Nebula, Ignaus Colony
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“The Ignaus Science Council now turns the floor over to Dr. Joshua Bryant. Doctor?”

Joshua cleared his throat, “Thank you, Dr. Ber. My associate, Dawa Vlček,” he said, motioning to Dawa in the seat next to him. “And I discovered some low-level ion radiation in the soil.” He pushed buttons on his console, and a three-dimensional rendering of the ground appeared in the middle of the council chambers. “As you can see, it began to show up around the 3-meter mark.” More button presses and a more precise rendering, “We took samples up to 42.5 meters. The radiation numbers increased in samples RX-36, 37, 38, and 41.”

“Perhaps the radiation is concentrated in that area,” a member of the council replied.

“That’s what I originally thought as well. However,” he pushed buttons, displaying markers on the land surrounding the colony, “we received similar results at these locations too. What did the aquifers-”

“What are your thoughts on why, Dr. Bryant?” Varin asked, cutting off Joshua.

“I believe it’s due to ion particles from the Century Storm being absorbed into the ground.” He posed his original question, “What were the results of the aquifer testing?”

A council member picked up a PADD and read from it, “Initial testing proved no radiation was detectable.”

“Apologies to the council, but that can’t be correct. The radiation wouldn’t just… stop.”

“Are you implying the science team is incompetent?!” The council member said indignantly.

Joshua ran his fingers through his hair. “No. I’m saying there’s a mistake in the results.”

“How dare you, sir!”

The chambers exploded in overlapping conversation. Varin banged a silver orb on the table three times. “There will be order!” He composed himself, “We’ve been conducting this hearing for over an hour. I think a recess is in order. We’ll adjourn in 20 minutes.”

Dawa’s movements as she left the council chambers were restrained and jerky, like a bird ready to lash out at the nearest inanimate object that offended it. “What a bunch of self-important blowhards! Heaven forbid they have to double-check their work. Ugh, they wouldn’t last five minutes in a shipyard, I can tell you that much.”

She glanced at Joshua, who was surely even more upset and frustrated than she was. “They’d definitely fall into and get macerated by the nearest machine, but it would probably spit them out pretty quickly for tasting so bitter.”

“Do you normally get this kind of pushback when you deliver bad news?”

“Depends on the person, I guess,” Joshua said, attempting to control his frustration. “I don’t think it’s simply me wanting to double-check their work. They seem pretty adamant about me not checking their work at all.” He sighed, “That doesn’t make any sense for something so crucial as a water supply. Something weird is going on here.”

He pulled up information about his talking points on his PADD and updated them. “I have an idea. Do me a favor and dig up as much information about the aquifers as you can. Or any sort of alternative water supplies in use in the colony. Nothing is too far-fetched. Unless,” he pointed his thumb towards the council chambers with a smile, “you want to be bored/angered to death.”

“You present a compelling case to get the hell out of here.” Dawa grinned. “I’ll see what I can dig up. Literally or figuratively!” With a wink and a nod, she turned on her heel and left the building, destination already in mind.

Fortunately, the colony town was still small and hard to get lost in, especially if one was going only from the civic center to the infirmary. Dawa burst through the doors and thanked the stars for a bit of luck at last when she saw that the nurse on duty was the same one who had treated her that very morning. “Hello, friend! They sure have got you working some long shifts here. Maybe you could pass the time by telling me a bit about public health and your asshole council members?”

“Dr. Bryant, what would lead you to believe something’s wrong with the aquifers?”

Joshua rubbed his eyes, “As the readings show,” he pointed to the three-dimensional rendering, “the ion signatures are present throughout the soil. If the estimates are to be believed, it’s reached the shallow aquifers. And rest assured, I won’t be the last person from the Federation that wants the information about the aquifers. But I will be the last person that asks for it.”

A collective gasp from the council members. “You dare threaten us, Doctor?!”

The chamber doors opened and Dawa entered. She walked to Joshua and handed him a PADD. “You might want to look at this,” she leaned in and whispered.

Joshua read the PADD’s contents, stopping the proceedings.

“Dr. Bryant?” Varin asked. When he received no response, “Dr. Bryant! Shall we continue?”

“I have here,” he held up the PADD, “information that confirms my original thoughts. In fact, it’s worse than that. I’ve uncovered information of instances of radiation poisoning and contaminated water throughout the colony. And,” he looked at the PADD, “old water table surveys showing trace radiation in the colony’s aquifers. Those affected have since been shut down for repairs.” He looked at the PADD, “and this is interesting. It looks like some of the water has been rerouted through the- Well that’s a fun animation,” he smiled at Dawa. “Water that has been rerouted to bypass contaminated sectors. Pretty damning stuff.”

Silence from the council members.

“But from your faces, I’m guessing you already knew that. I’m willing to hold off on any formal reporting if you-”

“What do you want, Dr. Bryant?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What is your price?”

Joshua looked confused. “You think I want a bribe? I came to this colony to help you. Your colony is three years away from starvation. In five years, everyone here will be dead. And those are the liberal estimates. I grew up in a situation like this, and I don’t want parents wondering how they’re going to feed their children. What I want to know is, how can I help?”


  • From start to finish, we've got an unraveling of the truth, the suspicions, and the secrets they've been holding onto. I like our two main characters, but my love is found in Joshua - he's not here to direct, but he's to be firm in the help he can offer, but he won't be bought either! Those last couple of paragraphs had me going, "Oh..ohhh...ohhhnoooooooo!" and that's a great thing as a reader. I am VERY curious as to what happens next and how this all gets handled. Nice writing and nice characterization along with simple but effective dialogue.

    March 1, 2023