Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“Okay, men,” said the captain, “we have not received a transmission from the twelve person research team for over two months. Their ship’s computer acknowledges our hails, but the crew does not. We have to assume they’ve been killed or injured by something on this planet; either microbial or animal. During the search, I want you to wear your environmental suits at all times, never split up into groups smaller than two, and check in with Mr. Sanchez every sixty minutes. Is that clear? Good. Ensign Tarter, I want your team to head toward their ship. Ensign Morbey, I want your team to search the base camp perimeter. Our information about this planet is limited, so you need to be on guard at all times. Good luck gentlemen.”
Turnbull was a semi-tropical planet orbiting the star Chara in the Constellation of Canes Venatici. The planet is physically very similar to Earth, so you almost had a sense that you were in a desolate part of the Amazon rain forest. However, the plants were much bigger and thicker than Earth’s, and they were more yellow than green. According to the early unmanned probes that explored the planet, all of the animals on Turnbull were herbivores. Apparently, carnivores had not evolved on this planet. Personally, I felt the exobiologists were wrong. My gut told me that the research team was killed by animals, not microbes, and I planned to prove it.
As my team began searching the woods west of the base, we spotted several deer-like herbivores. I took this as an opportunity to check my theory. “Men, let’s capture one of those deer things. I need to know if it has canine teeth.”
We corralled one of the animals at the edge of a clearing, next to a wall of thick plants. As Hartkopf approached the deer, one of the plants bent over and clamped him between two large fronds and lifted him into the air. We heard him scream and could see his feet kicking as the plant held him upside down. Within seconds, Hartkopf was motionless. We used our phasers to sever the plant at ground level, but it was too late. Hartkopf was dead. And so was the deer. Kelly bent over to examine it. “Sir, this thing’s a plant; it just looks like an animal.” He snapped off the deer’s antlers, like he was breaking a carrot.
I looked around and spotted herd of deer in the distance, staring at us. “Let’s approach those things, but don’t go near the plants.” Some of the deer bounded off, but some ran under large plants and waited.
“What’s it mean, sir?” asked Kelly.
“My guess is that these large plants are like Earth’s anglerfish, which lures prey close to its mouth. I think each one of these man-eating plants has a deer as a lure. The damn deer are just bait. They blend in perfectly with the real ones.” I activated my long range transmitter, “Morbey to landing party, form up, and get back to the ship, ASAP. Be on the lookout for carnivores.”
“Sir,” said Kelly timidly, “aren’t you overreacting? We can stay clear of these plants. They’re not that dangerous.”
“You’re missing the big picture, Kelly. It’s unlikely that the entire research team was eaten by stationary plants. I’ll bet a month’s pay they were killed by mobile carnivores. These plants evolved these fake deer because there’s a large predator out there that wants to eat meat.”