Author: Rick Tobin
Meds failed Jeremy Paloo, leaving him restless, sweating under the ship’s ventilation over his bunk. Newbie deep space fever—no crime struggling with it during maiden voyages outside the solar system, but embarrassing for executive officers. He felt something crawling, inching over his fevered chest in the cabin darkness. Jeremy scrambled, terrified, calling out for lights, then springing off his soaked mattress.
“What the hell!” he swore, watching a tiny, indistinct iridescent bug skittle across the floor, then disappear through the solid metal hull. “I can’t take this anymore. Hallucinations—can’t have them on duty. Melissa,” he commanded the monitor system, “Is Clemson up? I need her in my quarters.”
A soft, gentle voice replied, “Yes, Lieutenant. Would you like me to request her visit now?”
“Yes, and tell her it’s urgent.”
Paloo splashed water over his sweltering face while awaiting the arrival of the ship’s doctor. He noticed small itchy red spots on his chest. No imagination there. Probably a med side effect rash.
His doorway request bell rang. “Enter,” Paloo yelled, catching his overreaction too late.
Clemson’s petite blond figure left a black outline against the hall lighting as she moved cautiously inside. “Still no luck on the sleep, Jeremy?”
“None, Doc, and worse. Now the crazies got me. Bad enough with fever and sweats, but now I’m seeing creepy crawlies. I’ve got drug rashes on my chest. See, look.”
“Sit down over here for a sec.” She pointed for them to move to his visitor seating area. Clemson pressed on the red dots and shook her head slightly. “Time has come to brief you, Jeremy. We aren’t supposed to until necessary. You’ve got a case of the iddy-biddies.”
Jeremy had no mood for jokes, giving the middle-aged woman a hard stare. “I’d didn’t call for humor in the middle of my sleep shift. I’ve got to perform the next shift. I’m a wreck. I’m seeing…”
“The tiny life form that goes through walls, right?”
Paloo sat upright, wide-eyed. “Don’t even tell me that thing was…no way.”
She touched his shoulder lightly. “It’s a top-secret that only those on interstellar flights know about. It’s forbidden to tell anyone but the crew. Wonder how we won the war against those bastards from Orion?”
“What’s that got to do with my…am I going nuts?”
“No, Lieutenant. The children onboard our early deep space missions were the first contacts. Parents thought they were having invisible friend issues until little red spots appeared occasionally…not enough blood loss to cause harm, but irritating without treatment gel. Here, rub this on those marks. The children called them iddy-biddies. It stuck. We adapted to them.”
“Now who needs medication, Doc?”
She chuckled. “We beat the Orions because of advanced heat-shield modifications offered by the alien council for our early explorations. We knew it was something our allies collected in the sun’s chromospheres, but we didn’t know it was alive. Their technology wove these small beings into hull shielding so we could survive incredible temperatures and magnetic anomalies of deep space. That’s how our fighters survived Orion weapons. These sun spirits reverted enemy plasma blasts, sending them directly back at attackers. We had no idea. We kept it under wraps, never giving the iddy-biddies credit.”
“Are you expecting me to believe we’re letting miniature vampires live off our crew for our ship’s protection?”
“Yes. They’re drawn to heat…especially fever and children’s high metabolism when we’re in cold space.”
“I’ll be damned. What next?”
“Well, you’re cured. No more space sickness. Their bites treat it. Consider it a blessing.”