Author : Carl Poffley

“Nothing.” grumbled Amado irritably. “Absolutely nothing!”

“Why does that annoy you?” Kia replied, fiddling with the instruments.

“We came all the way out here to a planet that’s unbelievably similar to Earth and not a single sign of intelligent life! Just some dumb animals and trees! Lots and lots of trees!”

“Well the trees are interesting aren’t they?”

Amado looked at the tree, the one that had been dubbed “Specimen G-42371”. It was a strange shape, like some strangely formed pot, and the top was crowned with a messy cluster of branches with leaves of various colours and shapes. At first it had been novel: a real life alien tree! But there were hundreds, thousands of them for miles around, clumped together so tightly that it was practically all he had seen since they had arrived on the planet.

“They look different, yes, but they’re still just *trees*, Kia!”

“Their root networks can go on for miles, linking hundreds of thousands of them together and we have absolutely no idea why. Doesn’t that excite you at all? Like, not even a little bit?” she checked the equipment and frowned. “Y’know, it’s weird: our instruments are picking up complex chemical processes where the roots intertwine, but there’s no rhyme or reason to them. Just seems completely random…”

“Probably just anomalies caused by equipment malfunctions. Most likely boredom induced malfunctions because they’re as sick of these trees as I am!”

Kia looked at him quizzically. “Boredom? We’re on a whole new world and you’re *bored*? Seriously? I’ll be honest, you’re not really acting much like a man of science. Where’s your scientific curiosity Dr. Kalawakan?”

Amado paused for a moment, then sighed. “It’s just… I just… I spent my entire life dreaming of meeting aliens. Intelligent aliens I mean. I can remember when I was child, and the sheer excitement I felt when we learned that, against all odds, this planet had all the criteria for life. The whole reason I went into science was to head here and find new alien cultures and civilisations! You wouldn’t believe the amount of hoops I had to jump through in order to get onto this mission, and now that we’re finally here… there’s nothing! I just… I feel like… like I’ve wasted my life on some stupid impossible dream…”

“*That’s* what this is about?”

Kia felt herself begin to laugh, but suddenly noticed that Amado looked like he was going to cry. “Hey, don’t worry about it.” she said warmly. “I mean, just because this planet doesn’t have any intelligent life, doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re alone in the universe right?”

“Yes but… It’s just…”

“Don’t worry about it. Come on, let’s head back to base camp. Get something to eat.”

Slowly, the science team began to head back, leaving the trees alone. Specimen G-42371 stood still, its leaves rustling in the evening breeze. Beneath the ground, its roots began to release a series of chemicals into those of the trees surrounding it, so subtle that each one lasted less than a moment, yet so intricate that it took several hours before the whole sequence had emerged. When it was finished, those trees that had received it began to transmit it to the trees *their* roots were in contact with, and so it went on for miles and miles across the planet’s surface, passing from root to root, from tree to tree…

They would later consider it one of the greatest poems in history.

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