Excerpt from The Lady is Blue
Dr. Lucy Stannis has asked the alien, Sa Kamizan Veedak, about his voyage to her planet.
“How was your long voyage?”
“It was terrible!” he said with an unusual trace of emotion.
“Tell me,” she said quietly.
He took a long drink before replying. “For many years we wondered if other planets existed with more habitable climates. Our astronomers located several planets around distant suns. We planned a spaceship to search those planets. Our planet, Vkani, was desolate and overpopulated, and at first we were perceived as heroes. Later, the resources of the whole planet were drained to build our spaceships. Three ships were completed with great difficulty. We were exiled into them. Thus, our voyage began inauspiciously. We hoped it would end better.
Many, many tedious days followed as we located the stars with planets and eliminated them one by one as uninhabitable. Most of the time, we were in deep sleep between the stars. Each time the waking grew more painful. On the journey we lost two ships.”
“Two!” Lucy exclaimed in surprise. “How did that happen?”
“The first case was mysterious. One ship had separated from our small fleet to examine a promising solar system. They began to return, having found nothing useful, when communications ceased unexpectedly. The watchers on duty roused me. We searched for the ship and found it drifting in a huge cloud of yellow dust. I sent someone to check inside the ship. He entered. We lost contact, and he did not reappear. A second volunteer was sent out with the same result. The yellow dust began to drift towards our ship. I volunteered to go myself, but was overruled. My people were afraid. They forced me to abandon the other ship. I do not know what happened to the people on that ship.” While he was talking, he had gouged deep tracks in the wood of his chair with his long clawed fingers.
Lucy sensed his tension and she shuddered. “It was right to leave that ship. It was the Yellow Death. I have heard descriptions of it before. The rumor is that no one has ever escaped once the yellow fog surrounds a ship. No one knows what it really is.” She grimaced. “I think I will have nightmares about the yellow fog tonight.”
“I have them often,” he muttered. He continued in a slightly uneven voice. “The second ship was hit by a stray asteroid and so badly damaged we had to transfer the survivors to our remaining ship. We were overcrowded and moral was low. The epidemic illness started. The doctors took medical supplies and isolated the sick. Many people died. My ship was half-crippled in a cosmic storm. Finally, we discovered a green planet with near ideal climate. Unfortunately, it was inhabited by strange humanoids with naked skin.” He bared his teeth at her.