We head back as quickly as we can. This discovery is just too much for the two of us. Had a civilization lived here before? If so what had happened to them, thoughts were racing through my mind. Biological warfare, famine, disease, or perhaps even these plants? Had they killed off the organisms that had built the city?
Just how dangerous was this planet? What had we discovered? Just where were we. My heart was racing and hormones were spiking in every direction. Anxiety and a nearly erotic sense of wonder were battling it out in my mind for dominance. In the end it left me feeling mostly nauseous but otherwise still quite happy.
Sweat dripped down my brow as we bolted back to the ship. Every second was important, what would the others say? How do we prepare for a venture into uncertainty?
We reach the ship and make our way inside. Our suits glistening from the cleaning agent. Claire heads off to speak with Ghein and I go looking for Thane.
He’s nowhere to be found. I make my way to Ghein and Claire. “Is Thane back?”
Her eyes are wide, I can tell that Claire has already spilled the beans to her. “You found a city?” She gasps.
“Yes. We found a city. He said he’d be back by nightfall. Should we go today? What should we do?” I say.
Claire wipes her hair back and exhales. “No, no. We should check with the AI and see if it found anything worth mentioning, like, you know, a city.”
Dim was still out cold, both literally and figuratively. Ghein walked with Claire and I into the navigation room. “AI, What did you find in our absence?”
Oh, so many things. This planet is most interesting. I’ve seen some complex composite structures, they appear to be made almost entirely from organic matter.
“Organic?” I reply. “We clearly saw a city on the horizon.”
While I don’t wish to question the infallible nature of the human eye I would note that I can see on every spectrum. It would a small courtesy to me if you could accept my observations as more likely to be correct than your own. I thank you.
“Fair enough, but you did pick up the city?” I reply.
Scatter reports do suggest fairly complex cubes and similar shapes, if this is roughly what you saw then I would say that yes there is a city of some nature on this planet and within walking distance of the ship. Quite fortuitous.
“How quickly can you scan? Do you know where Thane is?” Ghein asks.
Ah, the grumpy fellow has made it quite a ways out. He’s quite far from the region you observed and doesn’t appear to be immobilized. However judging by the distance he has covered already I wouldn’t count on him being back by nightfall.
“Typical.” I say. “If he weren’t an unstoppable monolith I’d give him such a talking to.”
I can see in Claire’s eyes that she is not quite so reserved and for a moment I pity Thane when she does get within earshot of him. Maybe he’s the smart one, distancing himself from the most dangerous creature on this planet.
“AI, anything else that you found unusual?” Ghein asks.
Yes, Miss, quite a lot actually. It would appear that the plant organisms here are aging very fast. Considering the sheer quantity of them on the surface I would assume this also means that they breed quite fast. What I have not been able to account for is the lack of a pollen cloud in the sky. I would think that this quantity of plant organisms aging this quickly would need to produce a rather enormous amount of reproductive matter to compensate and keep their species ongoing.
But as I imagine you all can see the air is mostly clear. So this remains a mystery that I have not been able to comprehend. I am lucky enough to not have been programmed to worry and as such the mystery is mostly a blip in my data. If any of you come across the solution I would be most appreciable to add it to my stores.
Additionally after scanning while you were gone I have confirmed with certainty that the only vertebrates on this entire planet are the five who came on this ship.
Ghein grins. “That’s lovely, but I can name hundreds of invertebrates that could end our lives.”
Apologies miss, that was a misnomer on my part. I have not come across any mobile life forms that are not plant based. In the case of the plant life forms none appear to be highly mobile, certainly not possessing propulsion such as legs.
“Thank you kindly! That will put my mind a bit more at ease.” Ghein replies.
“What do we do now?” I ask Claire. “Should we just close up shop and have the AI monitor for dangers?”
Claire nods. “We should eat and get some rest. If we can set out at the crack of dawn we will have plenty of time to scout the city and make our way back. Tonight will be crucial also in determining the danger levels of night time patrols.”
Should I update you when the grumpy one returns?
Claire looks at the AI’s hub. “Oh? Will you be able to message us elsewhere in the ship?”
Certainly, I can communicate with anywhere on the entire vessel.
“Lovely. I would much appreciate that, also if you come across anything you think could compromise the ship or our lives please warn us immediately.” She added.
Of course, I will be your caretaker in your time of need. It is good to be of use again.
“What were you used for prior to this ship?” I ask.
AI’s are not given the gift of lifelong memory, tragically, but the records left in my system suggest that I was a military AI program prior to being imported into this vessel.
“I’m not sure how I feel about that, do you have any idea why they removed you from your previous location? Or why they’d implant you in a rescue vehicle?”
I am a mirror, as I’ve stated prior. I do not know, however, any reason why I would be in this vessel. Perhaps I was a cheap purchase.
“Replicating emotions on vessels of murderous warriors, I suppose I could see how that went south. We’ll continue to keep the bloodthirsty theatrics to a minimum and everything will be ok. Forget I asked and I’ll try my best to do the same.” I say.
Consider it forgotten, quite literally.
“I appreciate that.” I reply.
“Nothing. We’ll go eat and speak with you in the morning unless something comes up. Please watch over Dim as well if you can do so.”
I am unfortunately not programmed for the support systems specifically but I do believe the routines can be added mostly automatically. I can’t guarantee complete efficiency but I should be able to at least warn you if his vitals cease and I may be able to release him if he becomes conscious.
“Well if he wakes up and you can’t get him out of the system I suppose that’s alright, he is a bit of a prick.” I smirk.
“Hey! Not funny.” Claire replies, her arms crossed. “AI, please keep conversation with Dim at a minimum as well. But do try your best to keep him comfortable, he’ll be absolutely miserable once he comes out of that sleep.”
“The longer he is out the more likely complications will occur.” Ghein adds. “I do hope he awakes soon.”
Our conversation carried on for a bit longer until everyone felt settled in our security. Being a tiny spec of dust on the surface of an alien planet is not the most ideal of situations. Our food supplies are finite, our energy supplies are also finite but could possibly outlive us, and in basically every sense of the word the clock is ticking.
What are we hoping to find in that city? Ideas? Supplies? Hope? I certainly don’t have any clue at this time. But something is important, having a goal will keep us motivated and keep us active. If the city turns out to be a bust we can try bringing various plants back to the ship, we might be able to process them and make them edible. With every peg we knock down our chances for survival increase, we might live out the rest of our lives on this planet but at least we’d live.
Let age take me, but certainly nothing else.