A Tranquil Asteroid Suburbia

It was a genius move, Doris realized as she looked over the hedgehog looking creature that was placing a thermometer in her daughter’s mouth, to open a pediatric office where a giant facsimile of the class pet would be your doctor. The molebear’s large claws, twice the size of her young Kimberly’s head, however was a bit unnerving.

It was most likely her own bias, she assumed, but it did seem that most medical staff that she did encounter in her time in the colonies were almost always something uncommon back in Tasnica. If not a molebar, then a waddling dohwar, a wide-eyed priman,or typically some seemingly rare species from an Alter planet. It would make sense that this would be the case–the gateway to interplanetary travel, both literally and figuratively, was first available to the alter system only by space.

“I see her temperature has already gone down from what her biometrics feed reads. Curious though, it’s a little higher right now than when you left your home. What system are you using?”

“Oh, a mash-up of some Diamond and Hoplite appliances.”

The doctor nodded. “Ah. Might want to get them checked. Some of those Diamond sensors only behave for a year or two then go bad.”

Dr. Moroalar’s face twitched as his small black eyes examined the girl’s skin, her claws softly pressed to her wrist. “Miss here is in a rare position within our little community. Her Daddy comes in contact with wanderers from our fringe asteroid outposts, and Mommy meets dignitaries from the mother planets. One thing to be said about the human immune system, it’s fairly adaptable.”

“Little private question between me and you little one, ok?” spoke the doctor as he placed his probe on the small metal counter in the examination room. He leaned in to whisper into the young girl’s ear. “You were able to make stool a bit ago, yes?”

Kmberly looked into the rodent’s fist sized eye-- each dark and glassy like the bottom of a Tasnican soda bottle–and nodded in meek confirmation. The doctor patted her on the head lightly.

“Very good young one! If not, you would have to come back, eh?”

He picked up a small tablet and began tapping commands, “This first prescription you pick up now. For fever and rash. Later today we’ll have her stool processed and you come back no sooner than 6 hours for the biotics. She takes that each morning for a week to stop relapse and spread to other little ones. Rash should clear up by end of week, maybe? Three day,s even.”

She handed the digital tablet to the woman, who signed before handing it back. With a broad toothy grin the doctor tossed the tablet on the counter and opened a drawer and shuffled the contents inside. With the candy pressed between the tip of his claws he handed Kimberly a bright green sucker.

“Oh, she takes biotics tomorrow, won’t miss school on monday. Education is very important Kimberly!”

“What do we say Kim,” spoke the mother as the doctor opened the door for them.

“Thank you Doctor Cubby!”

Doris smiled, and gave her daughter a high five as they went out the door. “Thanks doc.”

There were sudden visual reminders that she was no longer living in Tasnica when Doris stepped outside the clinic. Although at first glance the street felt like a typical Tasnican block, the roads were much cleaner and narrower than the boulevards she had grown accustomed from the sprawling port town. There were no freight transports, just a pathway and a few curbs for pedestrian pickup. The pathways were lined with thick vegetation that seemed to burst out of dark volcanic gravel.

More noticeably, as Kimberly shielded her face as her eyes adjusted, the sun glowed a bright green like a novelty raineremas light. There was a certain chemical that blanketed a layer of the atmosphere and caused the sun and the moon to glow green, though she wasn’t sure of the specifics. Oddly enough to her the sky seemed the perfect shade of blue.

The former Diamond secretary held her daughter’s hand as she waited at the curb for a pickup. Her biometrics and schedule would have signaled for a transport to arrive within moments. It was one of the nicer perks of living in the designer colonies, Alter Centari in this case, as the towns were completely person-centric designed with the flow of public moment in mind. Freight and goods had their own roads unused by the colony citizens, all run by a network of automatons.

“Lunch?” asked Kimberly.

“Soon” said Doris

She tilted her wrist to look at the old gold watch her husband had given her during the early years of their dating. The timepiece was about a decade old now and out of date. It didn’t have any of the biometrics or push notifications the new watches have, but she kept onto it for sentimental reasons.

“How soon?” asked the young one. She had known the question was coming.

“Thirteen minutes,” she spoke as he helped the young one over the lip of the transport and into her seat. The seat itself made for a myriad of creatures and adjusted itself for the setting of a five-year-old human.

“Thirteen minutes until food?” she asked as her mother sat down next to her side.

“Thirteen minutes until we’re with Aunt Stella,” explained Doris in her soft almost monotone voice. The sound of her tone made her think he was slipping into the same old habitual mechanical processing she had become so accustomed to for years—the therapist told her to break out of her old behaviors and make new positive ones. She turned and smiled at her daughter.

“Thanks for being patient, love. You mean the world to me.”

“This world or the old world? The old worlds was bigger”

Dori’s eyes widened as he beamed a wide grin, “You mean the galaxy to me!”

This answered suited the child as she let out a small giggle and a fart. This made the woman snort and shake her head.

“Do you let them rip when you’re in class love?”

Kimblerly looked at her mother confused. Before she could elaborate there was a humming tone on the transport console.

Typically she’d let it go to save messaging, but the status of the call was a conference, and it appeared to be around forty some odd people on the call.

Doris sighed. When it was that many people out of the blue, it always meant she had to be an adjudicate and that was never a good sign. The trail run was tonight, before he even gestured to the console to join the communication, her mind was going through the list of options for alternative demonstrations and presentations she could administer to the crowd tonight.

“Hey there Dori, thanks for joining in. The gang here was going over preparations for the field test and we wanted to field your thoughts on the matter. Everything is looking great, but some of the engineering tiger team had a few blockers that needed to be presented.”

“If by blockers you mean potential criminal lawsuits for negligence,” muttered a bearded man slightly too audible for a mutter. She pressed her lips. Why did all the engineers strive to make every conversation as awkward as possible?

“I’m sensing a bit of passive aggression here,” spoke Doris.

“Yeah. Sorry, just a little stressed here.”

The woman let out a small sigh. “We can’t fix the situation if we are not able to communicate freely. If there is something you need to say just go right ahead and say it. My five year old does that all the time.”

“I don’t think we can make this deadline. It puts too much pressure on the guys to try and solve something that can’t be solved in time.”

Doris paused. If there was one thing she had learned over the years, was to know the power of silence.

“I’m sorry, can’t be solved in time?” she asked in her soft melodic but almost monotone voice. It was almost in the tone she spoke to Kimberly with, but slightly lower.

“That’s just the thing. I know we can synchronize the five engines going at once, but there needs to be a sixth for a fuel injector as a buffer in case we need to jump back. It’s a safety measure.” We can’t move forward with live tests without it in place.”

“I’m sorry, live tests?” she asked with a calm voice. The woman wasn’t listening to herself speak at this point, as she already knew the outcome of her questioning. Posture and softly prod until both sides accepted the facts as they presented themselves and came to a compromise. Doris turned to look over at Kimberly, who had become engrossed with a video playing on a device resting on her lap. She ran her fingers through her long strawberry hair.

“I can field this one Dori. We felt that we should launch this Iris with a live test to show the safety of travel. However we’ve had a two percent accident rate, and concerns have been raised that a two in a hundred chance of failure may not be something we’d want to risk in our presentation. I was telling the boys though that back at Diamond when the Seraphim first launched there was a fifty percent chance the jump drive would fail but Zion–”

“I’m sorry, two percent? How am I supposed to go to colonies across the web and say “don’t worry, it only maims one in fifty?”

There was a small chuckle by someone who forgot to mute their audio.

“We can still do a cargo test. We do those daily.” spoke an engineer gruffly, “The issue is more about the ride not being smooth enough of a buffer to stop a human from snapping their neck.”

Doris winced. That was worse than the ‘gate turbulence’ she had been told before.

“I’m sorry, by cargo test you mean…?

“Oh, we’ve been beaming a lot of the freight to and from Alter’s Iris. The lab has been asking for everything under the sun to test for detablizations, radiations, and lots of different toxicity screens. Lots and lots of stuff.”

“I’m sorry, ‘lots of different screens’?”

“Yeah, the failure is not with the transport really but with the screening. Our models and tests show that large verbatres have a chance of injury which can be fatal.”

“Wait, large vertebrates?” she asked, this time genuinely curious.

“Yeah! Small animals seem fine. Fish have been one hundred percent okay, the water acts as a buffer for the impact.”

Doris tapped her nails on the dashboard. That was it. Bingo.

“Why don’t you just send fish tonight and work out the issues later then. Will everyone agree with that?”

“That sounds Great Dori.”

“Yeah, no problems here.”
“Thanks guys. Sorry to stress everyone with this. I appreciate the effort.”

“–Bye–Thanks Dori–Bye–Thank you–”

The woman closed the communication with a wave of her hand. She wasn’t sure who on the call was calling her Dori, but she didn’t want to dwell on it.

What she wanted suddenly was a bowl of chilled diced fruit from the kiosk at the galleria.

“A few more minutes, love, and we can get with Auntie Stella,” she told her daughter, though the words were more for herself than anyone else. Kimberly was fixated on the animations playing from the tablet to hear her mother’s words.

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