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Alerion 4

By Robert Lynch

Lara had never seen a gun from this angle before. On TV sure, but never in real life. She’d been around guns growing up, she was even a decent shot with a rifle, but she’d never had a gun pointed at her. The barrel hadn’t actually gotten any bigger, but it seemed to her to be metres across. She was frozen in a flight vs fight loop that left her paralysed.

“I’m not telling you again,” the brigand said. “Put the samples for Alerion 4 on the cart.”

Lara had never thought that she could be robbed at gunpoint. Mugged on the street with a weapon, possibly, but robbed at work? She was a botanist; botanist’s labs were not a hotbed for armed robbery. And yet, three people were in her lab, all armed, seeking to rob her.

“The samples for Alerion 4.” She said, gently nudging her body into action. “Sulphur tolerant terraformers.” She recited. “They are very delicate; travel may damage them.”

“Then be careful,” the lead brigand said twitching the gun barrel in sharp motions indicating Lara should move. “And put them on the cart.”

“I can’t just take them out of the terrarium,” Lara said. “They need a sulphur-rich atmosphere to live in. Pull them out, and they will die in minutes in our atmosphere.”

“Then put the terrarium on the cart.” The lead brigand replied. “And. Hurry. Up.”

“The terrarium is bolted to the ground,” Lara said. “We need to get a special cart from storage to transport them.”

“Fine.” The lead brigand sighed, indicating to one of the others, “Go with her and get what she needs.”


As they headed over to the storage locker, Lara said to brigand number 2, “I don’t see you’d want these. They can’t be very valuable.”

“Shut it,” Number 2 said.

“Accept for on Alerion 4, I suppose,” Lara said, then realising that she had just identified where the thieves were heading next, shut her mouth. They grabbed the hermetically sealed travel case, and Lara filled it with the right gas. She then transferred the samples from their terrarium into the travel case.

“She knows we’re headed to Alerion 4 next.” Number 2 said to the Leader.

“Well if she didn’t know before,” the lead brigand coughed, “then she does now.”

“Wait!” Lara pleaded. “I won't tell anyone, I promise!” she pleaded, dropping to her knees, then dropping even further to the floor and holding herself in the foetal position.

The lead brigand bent down, holding the gun close to Lara’s head. “Sorry love,” she coughed again, “I’ll make this quick.”

“Please,” said Lara, “Let me have some last words.”

“Go on, girl.” The lead brigand said.

“Sulphur dioxide is quite poisonous.” She said.

The lead brigand blinked in confusion, coughed until she retched, then passed out. The other two brigands raised their weapons, but their fast breathing had them follow the Leader quickly to unconsciousness.

“It would seem I left the valve open when I filled the travel case,” Lara said, “A mistake that could be very dangerous for those without the gene to tolerate sulphur atmospheres that we developed for the Alerion 4 colonists.”


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