Here is the start to a new story.
“So what brings you here? Why would a woman like yourself chose an assignment on this planet?”
Mina shifted slightly in her chair, returning Dr. Jonas’ glare. He was no younger than sixty-nine, by her best guess. His silver hair flowed softly around his ears. His face was full of pockmarks, scars left from acne that had never quite healed. There were fine lines around his thin mouth, standing out against his skin like the ripples from a drawstring. He was a smoker once, she thought, if he wasn’t still. His eyes, a pale, watery blue, held her own with uncomfortable intensity.
“I served two years in the war,” Mina replied. “This assignment would complete the final two years of my service. It’s my understanding that there is no warfare here on Abraman.”
“No, there‘s not. There is not much of anything here, really. Were you told much about the planet’s history?”
“To be blunt, I wasn’t really very concerned about that. But I’m sure you’ll tell me.”
He nodded. “Of course. I requested a nurse for this assignment. You’re a trained doctor. I’m assuming you were a medic in the service.”
“Yes. I was.”
“You were an active during the time of the Rift, then?”
“How do I know that you’re dependable? That you’re not going to snap under some hitherto undiagnosed mental trauma?”
Mina shrugged. “Well, you can’t know that, anymore than I can know that you’re not some child molester who has been exiled here as a punishment. But I’m willing to take your word for it.”
This prompted a deep laugh from him. “My dear, I can promise you I haven’t any interest in children, in that way or any other. So we’ve covered the issue of what prompted you to come. Is there anything else that you are hoping to accomplish during your stay?”
Mina blinked. “Well, I’d like a chance to write. I was never able to finish my dissertation at University.”
“What was it about?”
“The long term effects of emethis poisoning to the human circulatory system.”
“Hmmm,” Dr. Jonas reached across the table for a file marked Weathers, Mina. She watched as he flipped though the pages. It was far too thick to contain just the application and essay that she’d sent. There were medical records, financial history, and interviews from her former commanding officers. “I did see something about your writing project here. Interesting. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they decided to send you here rather than to another planet. Abraman was a mining hub once. Did you know that?”
“I thought that it might be. I saw fissures in the surface when my ship landed. And no water to be seen. I didn’t know before hand.”
“Come,” he stood. “Walk with me.”
They walked out of his sterile office and down a long hallway. There were long rows of glass on each side, so that one could look below. Trees pressed against the glass, a small forest and a meadow stretched out beneath them .
“Few people know of the existence of this planet. It was used for emethis mining until twelve years ago, when the rock became short on supply. As it turns out, we were burning more emethis a year in the colonies than this planet could produce in twenty. By that time, there was unrest in the home worlds, talk of pollution and poisoning. So a decision was made, to re-purpose this place. As you can see, resources were dropped into it, and the government didn’t want to see all that go to waste.
“What is the new purpose, then?”
Mina crossed her arms. “With human trial subjects?”
He nodded. “Well we wouldn’t use animals. That would be simply barbaric.”
They continued to walk. Mina was mesmerized by the beauty of the trees . How much money had it taken to build a place such as this, beneath the planet’s surface? The land above was horribly barren and scarred. Liveable, but unpleasant in the extreme. The air was fit for breathing, but that was only because the mining had ceased.
“You of course will have access to all the grounds and facilities while you are here. There are not many others in our section – basically we have enough staff to keep the complex and grounds running, and that’s it. It will be up to you how much, or if, you chose to socialize. With our work, there will be little time for it.”
“Where does our funding come from?”
“We have several companies we work with. The research goes to them, and they market drugs based upon our findings. We work hand in glove. We get to use their new drugs, and we make recommendations based on our findings. You will assist me in the development of a compound that I am working to synthesize. That, however, is between us,” he said, looking around them. “There is extra money in that for you as well, Dr. Weathers.”
Mina raised an eyebrow. “As long as it’s all legal and above board.”
“There’s not really such a thing as illegal here,” Jonas replied. “Only what one does and does not want to do. I’ll have someone show you your rooms. Tomorrow, we’ll start at 07:00 hours.”
©2011 Lori Titus