The Second Planet

I woke up early, by about three days. What happened? Stupid computer. It certainly can’t be user error. Because then I’d be to blame, and I’m not having that.

I didn’t realize a lot of things when I got picked for this mission. I didn’t know how empty everything feels. My ship is spacious enough. I have room to stretch and exercise. There’s plenty of entertainment here. But it feels like an empty apartment. Like, when you first move in. An unfurnished apartment. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. But so much of this empty space could be used for something else. Next time we land on a planet, I’m going to cut down a tree and make a table. I totally know how to do that.

The starship is empty, too, when she’s not awake. I checked on her. She’s sleeping in the bed comfortably. I watched her for a few minutes before I realized that’s kind of creepy. Seeing her asleep and me awake made me feel empty inside. I don’t have anyone to talk to for the rest of my life. Except her. And she doesn’t even like me.

That’s my own fault, I guess. When we were selected for this mission, I didn’t exactly spend much time trying to get to know her. The way I figured it, we were going to die in space together, so I had plenty of time to introduce myself later. I spent the money on entertainment and presents for my family and friends. That’s good, right? What else was I going to do with the money anyway? It’s not like there’s a bank up here.

I don’t know what she did with her cut. Gave it to her family, too? Does she have a family?

No, she doesn’t. And neither do I. We don’t have families anymore. We have vast, empty space as far as the eye can see. 

The new planet looks promising. Not!

There are no signs of life here. Why are we even going to this stupid planet?

She convinced me, I guess. Science trumps all. The atmosphere here is actually breathable for short periods of time, but only in the mountains. Lower elevations are different somehow. There are also some strange things down there that I honestly want to see. If I’m going to die in space, I might as well have some cool memories to write down before it happens. It’s like a weird version of tourism. Sightseeing, but then you run out of food or oxygen. 

The thing we’re aiming towards is what appears to be a lake of liquid oxygen. I don’t know all the specifics of it, but I know that means it’s very cold down there. Good thing we have suits. We’re going to gather some of it and replenish our fuel, so we took my ship again. 

The upper atmosphere up in the high mountains was apparently mostly oxygen. Down lower, it’s something else. And oh boy, I was right about the cold. The heaters kicked on and they aren’t keeping up very well. We drug a hose out to one of the lakes and started sucking it in. It’s going to take a while for the mechanics to put it all into the tank. We’re just sitting here, freezing until then.

Something new is happening on this planet. We fueled up the liquid oxygen and took off, looking for the landing site. While we were up in the air, the planet’s star had set on this side, and everything changed. There are these strange crystals all around, and they started glowing at sunset (starset?). I found us a quick landing spot here. There are fields and fields of these crystals, some as tall as trees. Hell, they might actually be trees for all we know. They’re in the shape of trees, anyway, except they look like they’re made of purple glass. 

We walked among them for a time before she started doing science. She says they’re natural crystals, formed by the atmosphere. Again, it’s cool that she knows this science stuff. I’d be in trouble if it were just me. I’m just a pilot. Nothing to see here.

We’re both getting tired, but we wanted to see more of these crystals. The starship computer found some more in the mountains where the air is breathable, so we’re going to go there next.

We’re alive.

I shouldn’t have done this stupid mission. I didn’t sign up for this.

The crystals were there, and we took our helmets off. It’s still ridiculously cold up here, but we can breathe, and that was neat. I set the ship to collect the oxygen to refill our air supply. That’s when it happened.

We saw them. People. Well, not people. Not like us. They’re… I don’t know how to describe it.

There must have been a hundred of them, all about our size. I don’t know about their shape, though. At first glance, they had a head, two arms, and two legs. But their shape kept changing. Reconfiguration, she called it. They were collecting the crystals. When their hands were full, they made more hands. It was weird.

They didn’t notice us at all, which was probably the strangest part. We didn’t see any eyes on them. Or ears, or mouths, or any opening at all. If they did notice us, they didn’t care. Gotta collect those crystals, right?

Things got dicey when she touched one of them. She says it was an accident, but I am not so sure. She brushed up against one as it passed her by, and we just heard this humming. This loud humming noise. It came from them. Maybe it’s their way of talking? Who knows? But they got angry. I think that was anger. They all suddenly moved on her, slowly but… 

I just stood there, frozen. Was I scared? Yeah. Yeah, I guess I was.

They started grabbing at her with their multiplying arms, and she started hyperventilating. I overrode her suit and put her helmet on, but they started smashing it. Broke the faceplate. She’s going to have a new scar on her cheek now. When I saw that happen, I did the heroic thing and started throwing punches. It didn’t affect them much, other than shock them. Maybe they didn’t see me at first. I got them off of her and drug her to the ship. Didn’t even strap her in. I just took off.

What the hell?

Planet 2 was a bust. We got some fuel and air, but that’s about it. We barely got enough fuel to make the trip worth it. Really, I guess it wasn’t so bad. We knew we’d be finding life on other planets. This was the first intelligent life. She says so, anyway. Me? I’m not so sure. How do we gauge intelligence when the freaky guys start attacking you for touching them? 

I picked glass out of her face and neck while the computer got us the trajectory for the next planet. She’s different now that aliens tried to kill her. More somber. She didn’t expect to be attacked. Neither did I. Why didn’t they give us any guns?

I tried to lighten the mood while the computer worked. Of all the things we were allowed to bring with us, I had thought a deck of cards would be a good idea. Turns out, that was really stupid. It’s very hard to keep a deck of cards together in zero gravity. I actually got a laugh out of her while I tried to keep my cards together.

The computer got us a trajectory now, and the next planet is only a few days away. It’s just on the other side of this system’s star. I’ve got a bit of maneuvering to get us over there.

We’re okay now.