The Bloodletting

“What’s the problem? Just take the money.” Billy shoved the crumpled brown envelope back into Lawrence’s hands. “Unless you’re planning on doing it for free.”

Billy’s crew shuffled back and forth across the dock, unloading containers and pallets and crates of interstellar freight. “I can’t anymore…” said Lawrence.

“What’s your deal?” He threw his arms in the air. “It’s some frozen fucking fruit, man. Bananas and kiwis. You didn’t make a fuss back when it was handguns and hash.”

“Handguns?” Lawrence exclaimed, remembering too late to look over his shoulder to be sure no one was in earshot. “You brought handguns to Ambrosia?”

Billy flashed a bucktoothed grin. “No. Well once, but it was just one and I knew the guy. Before your time, anyway.” He patted Lawrence’s scrawny shoulder. “What’s the matter? Take the cash, sign the manifest, and go home happy.”

“They’re really cracking down on smuggling—”

“Woah, no need for the S-word. I’m a licensed importer.”

“But Billy…”

But Billy wasn’t listening anymore. He made a hand wiping gesture and walked away. Lawrence was still holding the envelope, so what else could he do but let in a couple of unsanctioned cartons of frozen fruit?

Lawrence and Billy had no way of knowing, of course, but the frozen fruit contained a number of frozen mosquito eggs, too. Once they thawed they hatched just fine, and the larva thrived in Ambrosia Prime’s damp surface conditions. That, combined with the reduced gravity, short mosquito life cycles, and a lack of predators—natural or otherwise—is what led to what would be called the bloodletting of 2185.

The Culiseta ambrosia species had a twelve-inch wingspan. A swarm could drain an adult human dry in under two minutes.

A couple thousand dollars and some frozen Earth produce took out a whole garden world in four standard months. One of history’s many cautionary footnotes.

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