Virus, Episode Five

Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four

Saturday, AC April 8

“How are the cucumbers looking in the back, there?” Godfrey asked, standing at the door of the greenhouse. His arms were crossed, watching Mason scour the raised platforms with a metal detector.

“They are fine,” Mason replied, “no metal bits in the dirt, no metal bits in the plants.” He looked up. “Do you think you could watch April instead of me? I don’t like her out there by herself.”

“April doesn’t need to be watched as much as you do,” Godfrey replied.

“She draws attention, though,” Mason said. He nodded his head out to the counter. April was sitting there, her tablet in hand. By the way her eyes and hands moved, Godfrey figured she was probably playing some game or another while she snacked on the apple slices he’d given her.

She was oblivious to the people walking past, which concerned him more. She’d never see if someone was coming up to grab her.

“Maybe I will go keep an eye on her,” Godfrey said, “You be thorough, though. I don’t want a customer biting down on a piece of your pet spider.”

“You thought it was a great idea until it blew up!” Mason cried as Godfrey turned to go into the stall. “Don’t act like you didn’t.”

“Hey, Little Bit,” Godfrey said, leaning up against the counter. “You having a good day off?”

“Yeah,” she said, not looking up from her game. “Mommy called us last night.”

“Did she?” Godfrey asked. “How is she?”

“She said some bad words about the lady she went with,” April said. “She thought I didn’t hear her. I don’t think she’s having fun on her trip.”

“Well, she’s not going to have fun,” Godfrey said. “She’s going to try to help people.”

“I know,” April said. “I wish she would have taken us with her.”

“You and Mason?” Godfrey asked.

“And you,” April said, looking up quickly. “And everybody.”

“Why’s that?” he asked, touched.

“Because there’s something bad on the station. It’s not safe to be here anymore,” April said, as though it was a fact that everyone was aware of.

“Silly girl, what do you mean?” Godfrey asked, “There’s nothing bad on the station.”

“Yes, there is,” April said. She looked up from her tablet. “Are you worried about your dad?”

“Of course I am,” Godfrey said. “I’m worried about everybody on Earth. We’re safe here, though.”

April raised her eyebrow, in a great impression of her mother. “I don’t think we are,” she said.

“Hey there,” Ki said, walking up to the stall. “April, how are you, honey? Are you here by yourself?”

“Mason’s here,” Godfrey said, leaning across the counter to give her a kiss. “He’s getting the last of the metal after that explosion.”

“What explosion?” Ki asked, looking concerned. “Godfrey, you didn’t tell me about an explosion.”

“Sure I did,” Godfrey said. “He put that watering device in, and it blew up. Showered all my plants with shrapnel.”

“Feels like I would have remembered that, if you’d told me,” Ki said. Godfrey braced himself.

But she shrugged. “Oh well. Do you want to go out to lunch?”

“I can’t, Baby. I’ve got to watch the stall,” Godfrey said.

Ki shrugged. “You closed up yesterday. I don’t see why you can’t do it for an hour or two today.”

“We closed down yesterday for the Announcement,” Godfrey said. “Why don’t you sit down, I’ll make us something.”

“We eat here all the time,” Ki said.

“No kidding, we own the place,” he said with a laugh.

She sighed. “You own the place.”

Ki stood up straight. “I’ll just head out. See you at home later.”

“No, Ki, don’t leave,” Godfrey said.

“It’s fine,” Ki said. She glanced back toward the greenhouse, where they could hear Mason cursing. “Seems like you have something to do anyway.”

She turned away and headed for the transit.

“Damn,” Godfrey muttered. Then he glanced at April. She had gone back to her game.

He went back into the greenhouse. Mason had a steel straw and some binding tape and was attaching it to a tomato plant. He glanced up. “Don’t start with me,” he said, “I wasn’t anywhere near this one. But it’s damn tomatoes are too heavy for its stem. The whole things gonna snap in half.”

Godfrey looked at the plant. It was one of only five heirloom tomato plants he had, having just gotten the seeds before Earth went dark. “You’re right,” he said, “The other ones look like they’re going that way, too.”

He knelt next to Mason and started binding one of the other plants.

“Hey, so what’s going on with that whole Foundation Party thing?” Mason asked. “Wasn’t Saul Mai the Foundation Party Marshal when you were on the council? I thought he got caught doing something bad with his niece.”

“No, that was just the rumor that the council made up, trying to get him to lose popularity,” Godfrey said. “But yeah, he was Marshal for awhile before the assassins.”

“Why doesn’t Joy step down for him? He was pretty popular, I thought.”

“I have no idea,” Godfrey said, “I think it would have made sense. She was his vice marshal.”

“I dunno. You know how some women are about men in power,” Mason said, “Oh, once we’re done with these tomatoes, I have something to show you.”

“It better not be that damn watering system again,” Godfrey snapped.

“No, I’m still trying to fix that,” Mason replied.

“What’s wrong with my current sprinkler system?” Godfrey asked.

“It’s outdated,” Mason said, “Why settle for that when you can have something better?”

“Why replace what’s working just fine?” Godfrey said.

Mason shook his head, as though he couldn’t fathom the foolishness of the older man. “Anyway, come look at these.”

They stood, brushing the dirt off of their hands. Mason led Godfrey to the front right corner of the greenhouse. There sat an unfamiliar plant, in an unfamiliar square pot, on an unfamiliar table. A box of surgical tools sat next to it.

Godfrey considered the plant. “When did this get here?” he asked.

“I brought it in this morning,” Mason said. “Thought it would grow better here. Your artificial UV’s are stronger than the ones on the residential Levels.

The plant was bright green and small, with just three leaves.

“His name is Mitch,” Mason said, “He’s going to completely revolutionize the medical world.”

“How is Mitch going to do that?”

Mason grabbed a misting bottle and began spraying it over the plant. “Well, you know how simulated organs don’t always work? Some bodies, especially weak or old ones, just can’t take them.”

“I’m fully aware of the inadequacy of simulated organs,” Godfrey said.

“You wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t for those organs, but okay,” Mason snorted. “Anyway, sometimes human bodies just can’t take a fake organ. That’s why I’m trying to make these little guys.”

Mason took a pair of tweezers and gently lifted one of the leaves. Nestled underneath was a small red thing that looked like an oddly shaped berry. “What is it?” Godfrey asked.

“It’s a heart,” Mason said, grinning. “A human heart, just a really small one.”

“Wow, how about that,” Godfrey said, “You made something worthwhile. Do you think you’ll be able to make other organs, too?”

“Sure,” Mason said. “But it’s going to be years. This one is in the early, early, early stage.”

Godfrey reached out a finger to touch a leaf.

“No, don’t do that!” Mason cried, but Godfrey had already brushed the leaf. It crumbled away from him as if burned, hissing as the color drained from it. In a matter of seconds, all that was left was a lifeless pile of ash around the tiny heart.

Godfrey put a hand over his mouth. He looked up at Mason. All the color had drained from his face. “One flaw,” he said, “is that the plant itself is unable to handle the oils that humans produce on their skin. That’s why I was using a pair of tweezers, which I thought would have been obvious.”

“How was that supposed to be obvious?” Godfrey asked. “You’re a scientist, I thought you were just being weird!”

“That plant is the result of thirteen months of work,” Mason said, “I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but you will make this up to me.”

“How about if I just look the other way next time you kill one of my plants?” Godfrey asked.

“Your plants aren’t literal human organs!” Mason yelled.

Godfrey waited until the evening watch came on duty to close down his shop. If he’d been more comfortable around them, he might have stayed open even longer. But the officers who guarded the market level at night were young, and eager o push their weight around. So he boarded the transit home, wishing it would move slower.

Even at the slow pace he walked, he still eventually reached his front door.

He went inside, bracing himself for the fight he was sure was coming.

But instead of finding Ki furious, he found her on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket. There were tear stains on her cheeks.

“I made you dinner,” she said softly.

Godfrey looked over at the table. There sat a large dish of sommo, a Khloe dish he’d never quite mastered. It looked stone cold.

“I’m sorry,” Godfrey said, “If I had known you were cooking, I would have shut up earlier. You could have sent me a message.”

At this, Ki burst into tears.

Godfrey sat down his jacket and went to the couch to sit next to her. “Ki, what the hell is going on?” he asked.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so mad,” she cried, putting her head on his shoulder.

“It’s okay,” Godfrey said. Then, “No, actually, it’s really not okay. You’ve been a bitch recently. And it’s not just about the stuff with Earth. I don’t know what the hell I did to piss you off so much, but I don’t deserve how you’ve been treating me. And there’s just no reason for it.”

“Actually,” Ki said, “most of the women in my family get a little crazy when they’re pregnant. It’s not an excuse, but it is a reason.”

Godfrey sat up. “Pregnant?” he whispered, “You’re, we’re having a baby?”

“Maybe,” Ki said.

Godfrey laughed. He stood up, pulled Ki to her feet, and danced her around the room. “How long have you been thinking of this?” he asked.

“Really only since yesterday,” Ki said, laughing. “We’ve been so busy that I hadn’t really looked at a calendar and realized, well, that it was a thing that might be happening. So I took a test, and it was positive.”

He nearly told her that he couldn’t wait to tell his dad. That would shut him up. But the memory of his father’s scared face came back to him. His face crumpled, but he tried his best to hide it from her.

“Don’t get too excited,” Ki said. “I need to have a test done in the lab before we know for sure.”

“Right,” Godfrey said and pulled her close. “I’ll try really hard not to get too excited.”

“Liar,” she said, putting her arms around his waist.

Copyright © 2017 by Nicole C. Luttrell

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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