Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
A few hours after Tom and I had the science module operational, we decided to explore the terrain around the base camp. Silex IV was a warm, barren, desolate planet. There was no oxygen in the atmosphere, and no water anywhere, surface or subsurface. So, imagine our surprise when we found a walking rock. It was bipedal and about a foot tall. It was relatively light, so we took it back to the science module. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “DON’T DO IT! That’s the fatal mistake all explorers make in sci-fi movies.” But, come on, it’s just a rock.
To make a long story shorter, when we placed the creature on the examination bench, it began to tremble. Seconds later, it started to crack and split apart. A white liquid began to ooze out of the cracks. It was a viscose fluid that had a strong ammonia smell. The liquid began to boil almost immediately. We pried open one of the cracks to discover that the rock-like exterior was just a thin shell, presumably an exoskeleton. Tom analyzed the fluid, and it turned out to be predominately Silanes (long hydrosilicon chains analogous to the hydrocarbon chains present in Earth’s carbon-based biology). On Earth, however, Silanes are extremely unstable because of our oxidizing atmosphere. The oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere would destroy them instantly. But, on Silex IV, with an Oxygen-to-Silicon ratio less than two, silicon-base life was apparently possible because there was no free oxygen to react with the Silanes. As we watched, the oxygen in the lab reacted exothermically with the silicon atoms in the Silane molecules, and turned the creature’s insides into a boiling caldron of liquefied sand.
As we stood there in shock, the science module began to sway on its base as though there was a planetquake. We looked out the ports and saw a dozen eight foot tall rock creatures pushing at the airlock. The realization that we probably just killed an alien child sent a cold shiver up my spine. Then it dawned on me that the adult population was now intent on reaping their revenge. We were in big trouble. Tom said, “Crap, what are we going to do? This place wasn’t meant to withstand a siege from a bunch of rock creatures. If we can make it to the ship, we can take off. Do you think we can outrun them? Damn, we don’t have any weapons.”
“Perhaps we do have a weapon,” I replied. “Put your suit back on. We’ll fight our way to the ship.”
“Are you nuts? Look at the size of those things.”
“Oxygen kills them, right?”
“Have you forgotten? The oxygen tanks are stored outside, with the rock guys. And the ship is more than 200 meters away.”
“Trust me. We have plenty of available oxygen in here. It’s all about bond energy and kinetics. And, if I remember my thermodynamics, on this planet, we should have a spontaneous reaction. Now, where do we keep the surgical gloves?”
Fifteen minutes later, we were suited up and ready to fight our way to the ship. We opened the inner door of the airlock. I handed Tom two dozen ‘bombs.’ “Okay,” I said resolutely, “Open the outer door. I’ll start to clear us a path.”
The door slid open and the escaping air momentarily pushed the lead creature back a few steps. It regained its balance and charged forward. I reached into my sack and grabbed a water filled surgical glove, and let ‘er fly.