Excerpt from Jack Travellor’s Journal

More ships keep coming every day. Huge freight haulers returning from the border worlds to our station here at Venezia 5 at the very edge of the frontier. Their cargo holds not filled with metal or space-scrap but with humans. Thousand upon thousand plague victims. And it is getting worse. Every day there are more.

The healing zone is as big as a city but still there isn’t enough room, not enough power or medicine. The Daemons labour day and night, work-cycle after work-cycle to expand the Healing Zone, to ad unit after unit, and still it isn’t enough.

The Daemons… are they our enemies or our saviours? Personally I don’t care. All I want to do is get through the day so that I can put my head on the pillow and press the button that releases the sleep-inducing gas so I wont have to see the faces of dead children in the arms of dying parents or hearing thousand upon thousand of voices crying out for their loved ones.

I am working in the Newly Arrival Unit where we assess and grade the plague victims. Most will be too badly infected, to far gone for us to send them to the Healing Zone. All we can do is to end their suffering as gently as possible.

As you can imagine it is not a pretty sight that awaits you in NAU. It is not pretty at all. What you feel most is guilt. Guilt that you are not the one who is suffering. Guilt that most of them are dying before your eyes and there is nothing you can do about it.

Neuro Transmitter Failure Syndrome. Sounds clear cut and clinical, like the description of a machine that needs repairing. But human beings aren’t machines, that’s obvious, isn’t it? But never so obvious as when you see a human being physically fall apart as you watch…

And you watch, you have to. Their ashen faces, their sunken in eyes; lifeless even before death claims them. These poor wretches who has been carving out an existence on one of the border worlds. I look upon each of their faces, praying I wont see anyone that I know.

But that very thing happened today, and it nearly made my heart stop. I didn’t even recognise her at first, not until she spoke my name. Japrice… she was such a beautiful thing.

“Jack…” She managed and I nearly jumped out of my protective suit. “Jack Traveller, what is a thief and a liar doing in a place like this?”

“You are mistaken, miss”, said I, glancing around, making sure no one was listening. “My name is Dennis, Doctor Dennis Grendrem.”

“Jack of all trades…” Japrice whispered with a ghostly smile as I put the nuzzle of the pneumatic gun against the side of her neck to administer a lethal dose of synthetic morphine. “I knew your aliases would bite you in the ass one day.”

She was right of course. I curse the day I stole Grendrem’s ID. But how was I suppose to know that I would be shanghaied by the Galactic Union and sent off to the bloody frontier to serve as a Plaguebuster, fighting a decease, I might ad, that the high and mighty of the Senate has decided does not exist.

It wouldn’t help even if I was a real doctor. It is just a case of counting the dead and the dying, of administering the drug that will shorten the suffering of those we cannot treat. And I find myself thinking: If these healers, these… Daemons can put a stop to this horror then what can be so bad about them?

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