For Sale: Veterinary Practice On Sigma 4; Certain Conditions Apply
by Jared Oliver Adams
Condition 1: Final Sale to Occur on Sigma 4
"But you will die out there on Sigma 4, Helouise," said her fellow students at the
Newganda School of Veterinary Medicine. "You cannot even breathe the air!"
But they were complainers, and many of them were skinny as well. Helouise Kwami,
DVM, found both attributes to be equally inexcusable.
Besides, the air of Sigma 4 was only slightly toxic. It required the bare minimum in
breathing apparatus, a simple facemask that connected to a very reasonably sized filter at your
Much more difficult was arranging transport to a planet that nobody wanted to go to, this
in spite of the fact that it had been featured on an Intergalactic Geographic expo. They certainly
did not film Intergalactic Geographic expos in crowded cities like Newganda, where veterinary
students counted themselves lucky to sleep in a cubby and share a common room with nine other
So, transport was difficult. What kind of veterinarian minds difficulty?
Helouise's late Auntee had given her enough money to buy a meager veterinary practice.
Why not use that money to temporarily get into the import/export business? She had her friend at
a shipyard find her a junker vessel, then got it fixed up and installed an AI to pilot it. After that, it
was an easy thing to get a loan from the bank to fill her new ship with the sorts of things a remote
planet might need: medical supplies, communication equipment, heavy machinery, toilet paper.
The big four.
When she arrived at Sigma 4, she'd sell the ship and the contents, make a tidy profit, and
purchase her practice. She felt extremely pleased with this plan all the way up to the point when
she was rocketing through Sigma 4's atmosphere, praying that the ship did not rip apart, restraints
cinching into her flesh against the violent bucking of her captain's chair. Her celebratory goo-pouch was a violent smear on the cockpit ceiling. Warning lights blinked everywhere.
"Is everything quite all right?" she asked the ship AI. She clenched her teeth tight so they
"What does this mean: most everything?"
"The fire is very small. Minimal even. Nothing to worry about."
"The ship is on fire?"
"Again, very minimally."
A bolt came loose and shot through the air right past Helouise's head. But for the
elephantine weight smushing her into her chair, she would have gasped. Instead she gave an
embarrassing squeak. "Please keep me updated as to further developments," she said to regain her
"Oh," replied the AI, "if the conflagration spreads, you'll know."
It then proceeded to laugh.
It had been, perhaps, not the wisest decision to buy it from the half-off bin.