Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Commander Abhrams wasn’t an athlete, but had trained almost maniacally to meet the physical requirements of the space program. He wasn’t the smartest either, and in school most reports included notes suggesting he ‘would do better if he applied himself’. He’d made up the time later though, studied after work and on weekends to get through the entrance exams. Nothing was going to keep him from space once the program opened up.
He got his wings, worked through the ranks and nearly four decades later found himself here, in command of a ship, out among the stars with an ark in orbit and boots on the ground of this new world.
The planet had been bombarded with an advanced terraforming agent while he was still in the academy, and now, with the lander parked on a flat mesa nearby, Abhrams looked with wild wonder at this world around him.
The shelf of the mesa gave way to a beach of tumbled river rock, beyond which a lake reached out to the horizon. Along the edge of the lake, bullrushes reached skyward, and though from a distance he couldn’t be sure, he would swear they were nearly four metres tall.
Nearby, a thicket of what looked like sunflowers grew out from a patch of the river rock. As he watched, a small flying thing – possibly a bird – hovered close to one, reaching in – maybe to pluck a seed – when the flower folded in half with a snick and trapped the flying thing inside.
Motion near the water’s edge caught his eye, and the rocks began, in ones and twos, to unfold themselves, legs extending from inside the protective stony shells to form into a line of ants the size of cats marching up towards the mesa. Abhrams stepped back, but they divided, giving him a metre wide berth before joining up again and closing the distance to the ship.
He took a few steps towards the lander itself, but the rock-ants climbed on top of one another, forming a stationary wall ahead of him, and it didn’t move as he approached, but rather rose higher, the giant ants buttressing the structure from behind and blocking his way. Beyond them he could see the entire surface of the landing craft was moving, a rippling mass of life teaming over its surface, and he could only stare in horror as the ship slowly seemed to shrink in size beneath the weight of these creatures until it was no more.
The flow of ants changed then, turning about face as a singular unit and almost pouring off the mesa as they returned to the lakeside.
He watched as they passed, and realized that the once grey and rocky surface of their shells now glistened with a fresh white alloy veneer, and as they spread out across the beach, he could almost make out the corporation’s logo spread across a number of their backs, before they rolled back into balls and the ground was still once more.
Somewhere out on the water a large serpentine fish broke the surface, fins extending from its body like legs to sprint across on top of the water. Behind it a blur gave close chase, the pair zig-zagging around the lake until a mouth opened up ahead of the hapless fish, the pursuer having driven it straight into its partner’s jaws. Abhrams gaped at the pair of animals he would have called leopards, as they hung half in and half out of the water face to face, one spitting half its catch into the other’s mouth before both slipped beneath the surface of the lake leaving nothing behind but stillness.
Things had gone terribly awry here, but he’d already made up his mind. Adapt and overcome.
Nothing was going to keep him in space, now that there was a new world opening up.