Writing in Public: Story 4 (Novella), Chapter 12
Hope’s second stop of the morning was with the scientists. They were a grumpy lot. Hope wanted to believe that it was just because it was early morning for them, but she thought it was because the ghost was interfering with their research. The tent the ghost had knocked down had contained the meteorites they were studying. The meteorites wouldn’t have gotten damaged, of course, but putting the tent back up took a lot of time.
Mel’s Marines went to work on the tent, quite efficiently, considered it looked like wrestling with an octopus. Two ducked underneath the collapsed tent, their voices muffled by the canvas. A moment later, the center rose, ghost-like, as they lifted the center pole. The others went to the side poles, which had collapsed inward, and pulled them up, holding them in place. Two Marines went from tent peg to tent peg, stretching it out. Bam! Bam! Bam! A wooden mallet pounded the peg into the sand.
Brooks and Jian joined in to help the Marines. While the Marines worked, Hope sat down with the scientists under the awning in front of Mel’s shuttle. Mel had brought food for them–more finger food for Hope. The meal consisted of chunks of yellow melon and thick slices of bread covered with a thick spread made from nuts, judging from the smell.
Mel did not stay this time–wait, she was leaving Hope alone? With the scientists?
Now she was thinking she’d need a Mel-voodoo doll to stick pins in. What was it about these Grauls?
Hope was silent for too long, feeling terribly awkward around these people. She hadn’t realized it until now, but she’d been dreading meeting them together. Scientists and ghosts did not mix.
Lewis broke the silence with an impatient, “Well? We do have other things to do.”
“Not until the tent is up,” Sanger said. “Was that the ghost last night?”
Hope gulped, feeling put on the spot. She knew her ghosts, but these were people who had spent a lot of time in college learning everything. She’d never gotten past high school.
“I did wonder if the aliens were messing with us,” she said carefully. “I looked around this morning for footprints. Nothing but ours.”
“But someone could have surely covered up any tracks,” Zuver said.
He broke off a corner of the bread and inspected it before putting it in his mouth. Then he wiped off his mouth. It was a three step process to eat for him. Each bite was exactly the same.
“No,” Lewis said, impatience punctuating her words. “There wasn’t time for that. The Marines were out right away.”
“They didn’t see anyone either,” Hope said. “But I felt the energy of the ghost this morning.”
“The ghost stuff?” Sanger asked.
Hope blinked and stared at him. But he was serious, his eyes intent. Maybe he was thinking of adding another discipline to his degree: ghosts.
She tried to pick up her bread. Stared at it, startled. It was hard to lift!
Zuver’s words were muffled by a mouthful of bread. “Break it off. A habit I got on heavy gravity worlds.”
Hope tore off a corner, getting some of the spread on her fingers. It was a lot easier to manage.
“This so-called energy–if it exists, why can’t we detect it?” Lewis asked.
Hope struggled with the heat of anger. She’d endured the hatred of people who feared her. But this was different. It wasn’t just disbelief in ghosts. Coming from these scientists, it felt like they thought she didn’t know what she was doing.
What would Graul do?
She didn’t have an answer for that and all the scientists were staring at her, waiting for answer.
So she did, and the answer shocked even her. “I don’t know. You tell me why no one’s bothered.”
“Maybe because they don’t exist,” Zuver said. “A figment of our imagination.”
Hope’s frustration level rose. She wanted to yell at them how stupid they were and knew it would change nothing except their opinion of her.
She was sweating now. From both the heat rising in the air and her anger.
“We couldn’t see germs,” she said. “People didn’t believe in that either until they got the right technology to see them. Science just hasn’t gotten the right way to detect them yet, and everyone’s closed their minds to it. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could talk to Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein?”
That had them exchanging glances. Even Zuver, who seemed to have disconnected from the conversation, perked up with interest.
Then they talked all at once: “We could do an algorithm to map it out.” “How would we be able to provide data analytics on it?” “Can a ghost be attached to a meteorite?”
Had she really just hooked their interest?
“I don’t believe so,” Hope said. “Ghosts return to a place is usually for a more personal reason. I honestly can’t think of a reason a ghost would be attached to a meteor traveling through space. I’m not sure if that’s possible.” She paused, trying to think like the scientists. “Given the physics.”
That got another, more spirited discussion. Zuver calculated the speed of a meteor traveling through space, which was pretty fast.
“Would a ghost need air like us?” Lewis asked.
“We don’t have enough data for that,” Sanger said. “But there’s a lot about space we still don’t understand. It’s why we study the meteorites, Ms. Hope,” he added.
Hope was feeling more confident now. “Can you provide me data on your experiences with the ghost? Time, date. Anything–your observations? I’m looking for patterns.”
“I’ll work on documenting that for you, Ms. Hope,” Sanger said.
Hope left them discussing what data to record, both amazed and flabbergasted. How had she done that?
The Marines had finished getting the tent erected. Two checked the support lines, making sure they were tight enough. She found Brooks, Jian, and Mel nearby, chatting. Jian’s hair was sweaty on her forehead, and Brooks’ uniform was soaked through on his back.
“Who won?” Mel asked.
“You are a rat for leaving me alone with them,” Hope said. “But we both won. They’re approaching ghosts like a science experiment.”
But Mel only gave her a mysterious smile. “Then let’s go talk to the aliens.”