We headed into the Green Zone at eight o'clock.
We suited up in the garage. There's no evidence that haz suits protect you from the mal, but at least you know you haven't accidentally ingested anything.
We took one of the bashed-up jeeps. Bob drove. Xi didn't come. She hasn't left the station for weeks.
As we entered the Green Zone, the scenery changed. There was less plant life; even the grass was patchy. Along the outskirts, where the Green Zone is new, there are diseased trees and shrubs in the process of dying. This sort of death isn't strictly mal, it's just a side effect of The Sick Land.
After we'd been driving around for twenty minutes, Bob asked me how I felt. I said I was fine. He asked if I wanted to see some mal. I didn't want to. I said yes.
Bob drove the jeep deeper into the Green Zone. He told me that he'd found a tree with mal symptoms. It was much further out than would be expected. After about five minutes, I saw it. It looked like an oak, but I'm no expert on trees; I don't know if oaks even grow around here.
We got out, and Bob showed me the mal he'd identified. The symptoms were mild, but distinctive. A pink, fleshy tendril hung from the bark. It was small, no more than four inches long and about a quarter of an inch thick. It hung there, dead.
I asked Bob if we could go back.