“What’s the matter with him?” asked Dr. Remyg, doing her best to hold the convulsing Colin down on the table, which was complicated by her short stature.
“That’s what you’re supposed to know!” First Officer Denba shouted back, also doing her best to hold the man down.
“Weren’t isolation protocols followed?” Dr. Remyg asked, her antennae swinging erratically in the air above her.
“Of course they were,” Denba responded, “They always are.”
“Medical records show no history of chronic illness that could be causing this,” said Dr. Remyg, stepping back from Colin. She grabbed her diagnostics kit and returned to the table, “so logically, it must have been something he was exposed to down there.”
“All I know is that he was complaining of being hot, then extremely fatigued, so he and I left the team and returned to the ship where he collapsed and this started up,” explained Denba as Remyg applied her kit. “He didn’t report any breach or malfunction in his suit, that’s all I know.”
“And the decontamination measures ran?”
“Please, this isn’t our first planet-side mission. Of course it ran.”
“Simply asking each pertinent question, as you know I must. Eliminate impossible scenarios, streamlining diagnosis. How long has he been convulsing?”
“About 2 minutes now.”
Remyg read the blue holographic display on the diagnostics device. “Pulse elevated, convulsions, body temperature…higher than normal. And rising.”
“He’s got a fever?” asked Denba as the man was finally strapped to the table.
“Indeed. Very dangerous. His core temperature is rising at a rather rapid rate,” Remyg said as she looked into Colin’s eyes. They were bloodshot and his pupils were constricted, almost imperceptible. “Fascinating.”
“Yeah, it’s really super neat,” said Denba, having moved over beside Remyg. “What are we going to do about it? He’s going to burst into flame before our eyes in a couple minutes.” Remyg observed his temperature continue to rise.
“Would prefer to observe further, but time does not seem to be on this man’s side,” said Remyg, “We must lower his temperature to normal. Ice packs.”
Responding to the verbal request, small machines floated in through the door carrying the needed packs. Remyg and Denba threw them onto Colin as his entire body began turning red. The piled them on him until there were no more to be added and they watched as his temperature still continued to climb. It was now past 150 degrees Fahrenheit and climbing.
“There’s no way he’s coming back from this,” said Denba. “What’s happening to him?”
Remyg shook her oval head, her crescent moon jewelry jingling back and forth as they dangled from her antennae. “I do not know,” she admitted, stepping towards the man. She could feel the heat radiating from his body as it climbed higher still. Suddenly she could smell something in the air. It smelled of cinders and lawn clippings, and suddenly it dawned on her what was happening to him. “Of course!” she exclaimed, “He’s a larva!”
“He’s a larva?” asked Denba, staring at the man wide-eyed.
“Yes, yes,” insisted Remyg. “How did I not see it sooner? Very clever larva, but a larva without a doubt. Please step back.” Denba and Remyg backed away as the man grew redder. “The Charade Weasel, a small mammal from Ecso-”
“Where we stopped two weeks ago?” interrupted Denba.
“Precisely,” continued Remyg. “The Charade Weasel will bite a host, incapacitating it. It will then burrow inside said host and wire itself within the host’s digestive tract. The host then goes about its normal functions, having awoken none the wiser, but the weasel feeds with the host in order to gain enough energy for incubation, which you are now witnessing the beginning of. When beginning, smells of cinders and lawn clippings!”
“Why were we not warned of this thing?” asked Denba.
Remyg shrugged. “You’re head of security. I’m just the doctor.”
Suddenly the man burst into flame on the table, filling the room with smoke. The ventilation systems kicked on and the counter-flame foam was released. It covered the burning body but they both knew it was too late for Colin. Slowly they made their way back to the body as the foam drained. It was now blackened completely, practically unrecognizable.
“Shame, though I did not know the man,” said Remyg.
“He was actually kind of a dickhead anyways,” said Denba. “But he was our crew, and this thing killed him. How long is the incubation period for this thing?”
“Approximately one week, give or take a couple days,” Remyg informed her.
“OK,” said Denba, as she walked over and grabbed a chair. She dragged it over beside the bed and sat down in it, crossing her legs and drawing her pistol.
“If you are planning on doing what I believe you are,” said Remyg, “I can simply end it now, before it completes the metamorphosis. Quick, clean. Possibly more appropriate for medical autopsy.”
“No, thank you,” said Denba, firmly. “This thing killed a man on my watch. I intend to say hello and let it know just how bad a decision that actually was. Not quickly. Not cleanly.” And she sat, her pistol in her lap, swinging her foot through the air.