It all began as another normal day in Albia, with the sun beaming down and the flowers dancing in the gentle breeze. I should have sensed the false sense of security, but not even my Norns were in store for what was to come. It was horrific, and left me actually on the verge of tears. But that was all after Astrapia successfully laid her egg and decided to make a jest about eating it. I laughed: The only laugh I would have on this fateful day. Hypocolius was happy to be near Astrapia, and I left the two to go on my usual rounds.
Soon after leaving them, I noticed that the Observation Kit labeled Hypocolius as sick. Now, I left him right next to the Baobab weed, which he had gotten into timeless times before. I waited two minutes before investigating the reason why he remained sick. Looking back, I waited two minutes too long. That was all it took for a terrible sickness to sink its teeth into my world. I returned just in time to see the beginning of the sickness in Astrapia. Both Norns demonstrated the unmistakable signs of a contagious sickness, and the fact that only a few minutes of exposure spread it made me worry. It had all the makings of A Tragedy of the Worst Kind.
The most dangerous element of this illness was its contagious factor: I had no time to examine the chemicals involved, because I knew it was bad. Had it just been Hypocolius and Astrapia within the garden, I might have been able to ease up and focus on caring for them both. Yet there were two Norns, Manakin and Blackcap, who were practically within sneezing difference. Manakin looked so happy and innocent. I was not about to let something sweep across Albia and take away everything that was near and dear to me. I had to initiate quarantine procedures quickly to keep the illness from spreading out of control.
Yet the garden was a very popular spot at a very inconvenient time. My wonderful Grendel, Arianllyn, slipped in among the contagious patients. An illness can typically be managed well when it just affects Norns, courtesy of the Observation Kit and a simple way to switch between the currently selected Norn. Grendels, on the other hand, are not shown in the overall statistics and require a bit of extra work to select. I started herding as best I could. These potential victims were more than I cared to handle. Astrapia’s egg lay forlorn in the dirt, forgotten in the midst of a budding crisis. At least the baby was safe inside the protective shell.
There was a momentary break when I could finally take a moment to diagnose the illness. It was an awful sight. Antigen 0 was present at an alarming level, and it brought along another unknown toxin. On top of this, sleep toxin was present. But there was much more not shown on this graph. Histamine A was present… As was Histamine B. Coughing or sneezing make an illness contagious enough, but the presence of both at the same time meant that no one would be safe. It also explained why Astrapia caught it so quickly from Hypocolius. There was another problem, though. The rate at which antibody 0 rose was excruciatingly slow. It needed to climb to about the level of antigen 0 in order to fight off the illness. At this rate, I was certain there was no time to lose. Without an immediate course of eating, they were doomed.
Thankfully, I separated Astrapia from everyone via the garden teleporter. The upper level of the incubator area was safe enough for a lone Norn to recover. I was most concerned about her because her body was still recovering from her recent pregnancy. I was not quite alarmed, but I noticed her life force start to dip rather quickly. All she needed to do was to eat a carrot. The trouble was that she had coughing and sneezing fits constantly. It was virtually impossible for her to stand still to actually hold a carrot. There was time: I had to check on the rest of the situation. I left Astrapia a very tired and worn out mess.
Hypocolius, on the other hand, decided to make a break for it and travel over to the island. With four Norns there, I couldn’t risk him infecting them. He looked miserable in the submarine. His life force was actually dropping faster than Astrapia’s, which meant that the situation had gone from serious to dire. All he needed to do was to eat a carrot. Try as he might, it was going nowhere. He had the same coughing and sneezing spells that kept him from getting the necessary nutrition. It was at that point that my heart began to race a little faster. The illness appeared to have been contained, yet I wasn’t sure if I could save Hypocolius, nor Astrapia.
The loss of hope in a situation like this is a curious thing. I was ready to snuff out the illness, and then it took a nasty turn. On the island, Cotinga was on another level on the other side. However, a wall glitch that I’ve always attributed to a small tunnel in the wall created a path for the airborne illness to waltz down. Cotinga was in fairly bad shape after not eating for some time, and she was also in an enclosed space with Drongo and Euphonia. This was very bad.
Everything went from bad to worse. In between my orders to consume as much food as possible, Hypocolius huddled up with Blackcap. He was frightened out of his mind, and it wasn’t his fault that he was spreading it about. I successfully got Drongo away from Cotinga before he could get ill. Only as these two screenshots show, Euphonia was already infected. My beloved Junco was just a lift ride away, and I feared for him. I feared for everyone.
Take a look at the life force differences in these two images. And then take a look at the time difference. One minute. In one minute, Blackcap caught the illness, and those who were already sick lost about 5-10% of their life force. Life force is also a measure of glycogen, or long-term energy. Everyone was on a dangerous path, and I lost control of the illness. Perhaps I never did have it under control, but at this point I was frantic. My heart was pounding, I was ready to cry from frustration, and nothing was working. In situations where a quarantine fails, the logical choice is to choose the patient or patients who have the best chance of survival. It made sense, yet I put up a fight for Hypocolius and Astrapia. I was not about to lose them. Not on my watch would this illness snuff out these two precious lives.
Only I was failing miserably. I couldn’t bring myself to snap pictures of my dying Norns, so the Observation Kit was the only storyteller I could stand. Again, this screenshot was taken just two or three minutes after the last one. Everyone was coughing and sneezing so violently that they were unable to eat. I pleaded with Hypocolius and Astrapia. But with their life forces so low, I gave them tickles and kind words. There was nothing else to be done, and that broke my heart.
Hypocolius succumbed to the illness. He wasn’t even an old Norn. At just 6:35, he had only lived half of his life. There were just two babies that were his. His final resting place looked rather picturesque. The flowering plants framed the spot where his body gave out. It wasn’t far from the fun and games he had enjoyed with Astrapia in the garden just a short time ago. Antigen 0 chose him to be its first victim, for whatever reason. Hypocolius was far too young. Rest in peace, my poor friend. I gave him a moment of silence before I rushed back to the front lines.
My efforts were all for naught. Astrapia left the land of the living shortly after Hypocolius. Although she had her wizened wrinkles, 7:45 was still an early time to pass away. Her four children would carry on her legacy. Yet I was most concerned about Adaon. He and Astrapia were inseparable until she went in search of a mate. I always held onto the idea that they would be reunited in old age. Even for her callous abandonment of her Grendel friend, I never wished anything bad to come to her. I imagined there was no stopping this greedy illness. Farewell, Astrapia, my first Norn of this generation. May you find Adaon again someday.
I felt utterly helpless. Not only was everyone suffering tremendously, but Drongo escaped the island only to be infected near the garden. I was having moderate success with feeding Blackcap, though it seemed far too little and much too late. Oddly enough, Manakin was present at the same time that Blackcap was infected, yet he stayed healthy. I thought he had a natural immunity. Not surprisingly, he became ill.
Try as I might, Cotinga could not be saved. She went a little more peacefully, passing away in her sleep toxin sleep. She had only lived for 7:34. Her zest for love meant that she had a lovely band of six children to keep her memory alive. I was so close to saving her: She actually started eating quite well, yet the illness was more than she could take. I took a little comfort knowing that I was there with her in the end, yet it was all I could do not to cry. She was the third Norn infected, and so far the illness had a 100% mortality rate. Goodbye, dear, dear, Cotinga. May you rest peacefully forever.
There was no chance for Euphonia, even though I tried my hardest. She, too, showed positive signs of eating towards the end, but there were not enough carrots and cheese to save her. Her life ended at 6:56, much too early for one of my Norns. Three babies could call her their mother, had they ever met her. It was devastating to lose another Norn, especially a female. I was so worn out from fighting off antigen 0. I was losing an awful battle. I bid a final farewell to the lovely Euphonia.
Then, I must have dealt a crushing blow to the illness. I stopped being nice to my Norns. If they were not going to eat, I was going to punish them. In the long run, a few extra slaps were worth it if they could be saved. I tried this technique with the already departed, though it seemed cruel when they were suffering so much. Yet this was a time to get diabolically desperate. If not, I was about to lose Blackcap, Drongo, and Manakin. Miraculously, I saved them all! I think part of the winning formula was a mutation the illness went through after it was passed on so many times. I didn’t spend much time looking at the Science Kit since I was more concerned with saving everyone. However, I noticed that the unknown toxin was no longer present. There may have been other differences, but at that point, I could either take a path to concentrate on saving everyone, or work on studying the illness. I think I chose correctly.
When the dust settled and antigen 0 died off, a total of seven Norns and one Grendel were infected. That’s right: Arianllyn was infected, but she was one of the few survivors, along with Blackcap, Drongo, and Manakin. My other Grendel, Adaon, was blessedly on his own near the settlement and was saved. Junco, Niltava, and Pipit were the only Norns spared from exposure. The latter two even gave me a surprise. That new life was hard won, however. The unborn Norn had a genome riddled with problems. Niltava was also hesitant to eat, and her life force was soon worse than that of the survivors. There was a real chance she would die from her pregnancy. Pipit’s smile was small consolation.