Author: Geoff Nelder
Xiq curses her commander’s recklessness as the escape pod is buffeted in the atmosphere of the blue planet below. Tempted to go to manual, she turns off the alarms, tries not to breathe in the increasingly smoky air and wriggles to mitigate against the melting seat. No, the computer knows best. All her training simulations prove that.
She wastes moments recalling the mothership’s collision with an unidentified and unseen orbiting artefact. So much for stealth while gathering intel on the planet’s possible sentient lifeforms. She recalls the computer’s unexcited announcement:
“Signs of advanced technology on planet three. Recommendation: go for planet three. Evidence of nuclear reactors, radio transmissions and significant post-primitive activity although not civilised as we know it.”
The buffeting worsens and yet she cares more for her colleagues and lover enduring the same treatment in their pods.
A new alarm cuts through her brain. Overheating! The vessel will not make it to the surface. She has to escape the escape pod.
Only one way left to depart. Upload herself to another brain on the planet. Her entity will be guided to a sentient while this one vaporises.
Speed waking up, she looks up through new eyes and sees shooting stars in the night sky. Her friends. And herself.
She checks. Nearest survivor is twelve clicks away. Over there. She makes the body move, but it’s erratic. No straight line and not always in the right direction. Frustration makes her heat up but no matter how much effort, her movement zigs then zags. It will take two of the planet’s days to rendezvous, assuming Kluip is heading in her direction.
Whatever this creature is, its autonomous nervous system likes sunlight, perhaps to warm its wing muscles. And water. Too much. Mirrored sunlight blinds her before a change of course takes her to the shade of a tree. Perhaps that’s why this flier meanders. Needs, yet doesn’t need the sun. Even though Xiq urged speed and direction westward, she couldn’t resist glancing down at a smooth patch. Like a mirror. She blinked at her reflection. Engaged a database.
Mayfly – imago, adult stage. Life expectancy one day.