flash of bluish white light surrounded Ranger-1 as it flickered
back into the standard continuum. The light was a fast
dissipating reminder of the energetic shield that had protected
them in the multidimensional chaos of hyperspace. The tactical
screens buzzed to life. Sensors scanned the surrounding space,
the onboard AI struggled to analyze them in real-time. The alarm
sirens blared to life a few microseconds before Gooseman's flat
hand fell onto the manual alarm button.
information is correct," Captain Fox commented, studying the
unresponsive bulk through the cockpit window rather than via the
display. "They are here."
they don't respond," Niko added. "At least not to us
isn't that a good thing?" Doc quipped. "I mean in
comparison to attacking us."
are within League space." A muscle in Zach's cheek twitched.
"That makes them a problem. Niko, call them. Let's see if
they answer. Doc, computer scan. Goose–"
check running, Cap."
yet?" Zach asked a few minutes later.
conclusive. Their computers are active, but aside from
standardized procedures..." Doc shrugged. "Nothing."
sense life but–" Niko made an uneasy gesture. "It
doesn't... feel right. As if there are no thoughts."
do you expect? They are crown troopers, the best of them run on a
have commanders, officers, engineers, Doc," Niko protested.
"Onboard these ships are people who think, who contemplate
and make decision – mostly hoping the Queen approves of
them later. But there's nothing of that. There is life, but that
can be also a spongefish or moss."
afraid of the mossy destroyer." Doc snickered. "Should
we bring in the mothmoose?"
please." Zach called them to order. "Goose, your
sucks." The ST came to his feet, unfolding himself like a
cat from the seat. "We going in?"
nodded slowly. "Yes, we go in. – And Goose: speak in
whole sentences, ok?"
with it's gleaming white-and-blue hull was dwarfed by the
enormous bulk of the crown destroyer. They had inched cautiously
closer, but no captor field, no weapon of any kind flared to life
to protect their host from the League intruder. Only a
prerecorded message rasped out of the bridge speakers as they
made contact with the russet colored hull: This is a ship of
the Crown of Tortuna. Consider yourself psychocrystallized,
drafted, and/or confiscated within ten minutes. After the
third repetition, Zach had signalled to turn it off.
few moments later, four white ants crawled out of the miniature
spaceship's belly and made their way towards a hull service lock.
Back boosters flared propelling them further. Colorful sparkles
trailed one of them. They didn't need long to open the service
lock and disappear one after another into the destroyer.
had taken them about forty minutes to make their way from the
service lock to the command center of the destroyer. Forty
minutes during which their steps clanked loudly through
surprisingly empty halls and corridors. The amount of empty space
inside a Tortunian Crown destroyer seemed ridiculous if one
didn't take into account the number of crownsoldiers and drones
the Queen used to cramp into her destroyers when she sent them
out on a foray. Nobody said it out loud. The destroyer was well
within League space. And way too empty. And if the soldiers
cogwheel of Tripwire whizzed out of the door controls. Doc's CDU
bathed his spacesuit into a ghostly green light. The strongly
armored entrance lock to the command center opened slowly in
front of them. The next moment, they had their first real
contact. The substitute of a captain's seat standing on a dais in
the middle was occupied.
many bodies?= Zachary Fox asked, sounding rough even through his
alive so far.= Doc looked pale behind the clear screen of his
helmet. He had refused to forgo his spacesuit, as had all of
=Then what did Niko
Gooseman's voice wasn't coming over the radio. "Look
closely. You can see green filaments all over them."
Zach began to ask then stopped dead. The ST had reentered the
bridge with his helmet tugged under his arm.
tapped against the side of his nose. "Smells mouldy here."
He kicked against the leg of one of the dead bridge officers
whose body was blocking his path. "Guess their pull date had
been some time ago."
You're endangering yourself and us!= The captain barked. =You can
fungus. There's got to be a max heat it can't survive above. Bet
I can easily exceed it by a thousand degrees more than they
could." He shrugged. "And I wanted my nose to confirm
=And if you
are wrong?= Zach snapped. =If it is too fast for you to respond?
We know nothing about it.=
ST shrugged. "It doesn't kill that fast or there wouldn't be
bodies in air locks and isolation wards further down. They had
time to react to the threat, they just failed to succeed because
the infection had spread throughout the crew before they
=How long do you
think they had?= Niko whispered.
shrug. "Likely some days, a week, maybe more."
=There's an engine
block, Docco!= Pathfinder whizzed out of one of the consoles and
pulsed bluish green in front of the hacker's face. =Looks like
their comp wiz tried to break it.=
kept him from doing it?=
beeped. =His death. A slaverlord destroyed him.=
head turned at that. =The Queen kept her own ship from coming
home?= he inquired.
mean old witch,= the hacker replied. =But that doesn't make
Gooseman said calmly. "If they can't treat it."
three hours later – most of them had been spent in the
decon process – Captain Zachary Fox pulled the helmet off
his spacesuit and went to inform the Bureau of Extra-Terrestrial
Affairs of their findings. His first report was to commander
Walsh, then he was put 'on hold' so to speak: he was told not to
leave the bridge while the information was processed along the
lines of command.
He heard the
loud, uneasy bickering of his crew through the bridge lock while
he settled for what could be a five minute or a five hour
"Argh, you caught it.
Look at it. There's the first fiber–"
only a cat hair, Doc."
sat on my shirts again." A locker door slammed shut and
angry stomps faded down the aisle towards the rear cabin.
beep indicated the resume of the call. Zach turned to reactivate
didn't have to wait. Gooseman wasn't surprised when the small
screen on the wall above the narrow table was already flickering
with static snow when he came in. After a moment, the image
cleared into the face of Commander Walsh. Heavy scrambling caused
the image to lose some pixels once in a while, causing the
commander to appear fragmented and his voice
distorted enough to allow for an 'I didn't hear that'
=Your unit is ordered to
detonate the destroyer. Captain Fox is receiving the necessary
data right now, together with the order to send you for rigging
up the destroyer for self destruction. Make sure that ship
doesn't contaminate anything.=
The ST didn't make the effort to salute. He knew there was more
=And Gooseman. They
want a sample of the contaminant.=
ST had expected as much, yet he opened his mouth to–
arguments. Do it. Walsh end.=
a few seconds the system known solely by it's set of coordinates
sported a second sun, then it returned to ordinary darkness. Four
sets of eyes and the sensor banks of a single League ship
witnessed the fiery demise of the Crown destroyer.
after Ranger-1 had entered hyperspace and was speeding back
towards Earth and other duties, they gathered around the crew
table. The screen displayed in fast forward the events on the
destroyed destroyer that Doc had downloaded from their main
computer together with the ship's specifications.
saw how a soldier discovered the first symptoms: an unsuspicious
green shine on a usually covered piece of skin. They followed how
he desperately tried to hide it, and failed, and was
disintegrated while still banging in panic against the walls of
the waste burner. Other cases were soon discovered in other parts
of the ship. Panic followed. They tried to hide it from the
Queen's direct eyes, the slaverlords, and again failed. The
spread of the– Doc's StarTalk finally came up with a
translation of the most often used name in the recordings –
Green Death was finally reported to the Queen. They didn't joke
about Goose's eyes being green.
ship was programmed to head for the next star, to dive into the
sun and cease to exist. The slaverlords set the course and placed
the engine block that Doc had found earlier. But they made a
mistake. Instead of materializing in the sun's corona, they
materialized in the outer area of the system.
crew was dying. Crownsoldiers – in an attempt to save
themselves – covered the ship in bodies, or body parts,
when they cut off the limbs showing the first signs of infection.
But by the time the filaments became visible, the mycelium had
spread through their whole bodies.
was their captain who ordered the bridge computer technician to
bypass the Queen's block of the engine. Something like green moss
was growing in his eyes and even onto his cheeks. He struggled to
enter the codes for the engines to rev up. The course he tried to
"He wanted to fulfill
what the Queen did to them," Doc whispered.
Gooseman shook his head. "He didn't want us to get our hands
on their death."
never saw anybody in the high security lab. He was ordered to
bring the sample, place it in a clean bench, close it, and then
the whole room including him was irradiated with intensive hard
UV-C radiation – just in case. If he had been a normal, the
high energy irradiation would have caused severe DNA damage
resulting in blindness and cancer. Since he was an ST, all it
caused was bleaching the blue out of his uniform and making him
sneeze from the ozone it involuntarily produced in air.
he strode from the room, the sample container filled with a
slightly green liquid and plastered with numerous biohazard
stickers, basked under the bluish light of the clean bench. It
was late in the evening. The lab crew wouldn't risk making
mistakes with an organism that dangerous. And important.
is one thing to have an ST collect the samples!" somebody in
a white lab coat snarled. "But they ought to teach him at
least some basics!" A sample container filled with a
slightly murky liquid was tossed onto the table.
it a complete loss?" her colleague asked.
was able to classify it. But aside from that–" The
woman shrugged. "As long as we don't get a fresh sample of
Beauveria Tortunii..." 
of the biohazard stickers covering the container was hanging
loose. Beneath it, the letters PET were stamped into the material
of the test tube. 
to David McMillan for pointing out mistakes -hopefully- corrected
The fungus beauveria bassiana is used against termites and
other insectan vermin. A team of the university of Edinborough
found recently, that mosquitoes die, too, when coming into
contact with the fungus. It penetrates the chitin of their
exoskeletons and grows inside their bodies. Since humans and
other warm-blooded animals are immune because their higher body
temperature destroys the fungus, the scientists propose to use
beauveria bassiana against mosquitoes in malaria ridden
Their results can be read in: Science No. 308, pp
PET is – other than glass and special laboratory plastics –
highly transparent for UV-A-radiation. That is why the SoDis
(Solar Disinfection) project recommends PET bottles of a
particular form and size for disinfection of drinking water by
For those of you interested
in how SoDis works:
A large number of substances in cells
absorb within the UV-A region (that's between 320 to 400
nanometers and is the "part" of the UV that tans you).
Often mono-atomic oxygen, the strongest possible oxidant, is
formed in the process. This causes severe phototoxic effects
which often lead to cell death.
The effects of UV-A on a
complex active system such as the human skin isn't understood
yet, but simple organisms, such as bacteria, primitive fungi,
germs, etc. can be destroyed by extensive UV-A radiation.