by Christopher W Gamsby
Homestead is a small intra-planetary communication's monitoring station and its main function is to aid in the recovery of lost or disabled ships. My parents' job is to locate missing vessels, fix disabled ships well enough to travel to a trading post for extensive repairs, and sometimes to confirm the debris of fallen travelers.
One day when I was about ten HPY (home planet years) I was mulling around our little settlement, completely beseeched by an anxious boredom of the familiar to manufacture some adventure. The tower operator received a distress call for a disabled star hopper located 300 km from Homestead. Father and mother sensed my restlessness and decided to bring me along on their investigation of the crashed vessel.
The station's main repair vehicle was a skiff twice my father's height with a long flat 20 m hull. We entered the skiff and prepared for lift off. The landing gear hissed and hummed and then the craft shot to the sky. Its retractable legs screeched and retracted. Homestead shrunk as we approached low orbit and the entire world I knew nearly completely disappeared in a matter of moments. A repair skiff is sluggish and clumsy compared to a star hopper but we still traveled fast enough that the lands popped into view just as we passed. Scientist's mobile observation stations, nicknamed 'drop pods', automated refineries, manufacturing plants, and observatories appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye. We arrived at the craft's distress beacon in a matter of minutes and the ship violently stopped midair. The landing gear lowered and we gently drifted to the ground.
After landing my parents retrieved diagnostic equipment from the skiff's hold and moved to the disabled ship. An excited Korvax leaped from the ship's pilot house to meet my parents with a volley of hand motions, flashing lights, and vocalizations. When meeting an unknown life form, Krovax used all these ways of communicating simultaneously to discern which method was best to converse. The hand signals pantomimed actions and its vocalizations alternated between languages in a hope to find one my parents understood.
Three light nodes sat in a row on its faceplate. The lights flickered red, blue, white, green, or yellow. The lights could flash up to 10,000 times a second. Krovax communicated between themselves in short distances using the changing lights. Their messages were encoded based on the duration, color, and pattern of flickers. The messages are so complex and robust that rumors say two Korvax could be separated for ten years and catch up in 3 seconds. The Korvax eventually settled on using an obscure language and simple hand motions.
My parents attached the diagnostic equipment to the Krovax's ship and the results of various tests scrolled on their monitors. The excitement of traveling and seeing a new part of the world faded as the monotonous work of fixing the ship began. Soon I felt the need to explore wash over me and I began to move toward a series of caves adjacent to the crash site. The entrance was marked by a series of stalagmites dotted across the arid clay which constituted most of Perfection's surface.
When I entered the cave I wasn't shroud in darkness because rock walls blocked the star's light, no I was transported to a new world in the middle of night. The dull leaf green stalagmites that raised to my chest were actually trees dotting the landscape. I stalked from tree to tree hunting an imaginary prey that never surfaced. As I crept between the flora, I approached a ring of pink and emerald green minerals filled with condensation. The contrasting colors looked almost alive in the cave's bioluminance. At least, that's how most people would have seen the green and pink pool, but I knew it was really a lake hidden amidst the forest.
I entered the lake and found a red bell shaped flower. I had no external sense of smell in my exo suit, but I imagined the flower held a sweet pollen. The flower's bell shaped pod retracted and then spread open as I moved my hand around its opening. The pool's cool liquid inundated my exo-suit's sensors with a slimy but cool and pleasant sensation.
As I swam the lake, a small creature crawled from the forest floor and approached. My new friend had six thin long golden legs attached to a rust and green body with two collapsible plates. When the plates closed, nothing could attack its soft flesh underneath, but it was prone to tiring. A small pair of crab-like claws adorned its front. It performed a little dance as it ran in circles snapping its claws. After the creature's strange display, it reached out its claw, and I went to join my new friend, but it extended past my outstretched hand and pinched my leg. My sight turned red and I felt artificial pain in my leg, as my exosuit warned me of the damage. I screamed and limped back toward the entrance but it followed.
I screamed and fled, but it strafed and attacked my legs. The suit's warnings increased and I panicked and cried out as I continued to the exit. The creature searched for fresh meat, and I resigned myself to my terrible fate, when a shot rung out. The creature ruptured and dropped dead in its tracks. I was balling as my mother rushed into darkness to comfort me.
There was minimal damage to my exosuit's shielding, so I was never in any real danger. When I think back, I can't remember if I cried because I was scared, or emotional from being young or if I really thought I was going to die. Those types of exact details crumble and fade over time. Even though most of my memories of adventuring are happy, this wasn't going to be the last time I cried.