Author: Hillary Lyon
“On a sloping hill, see the field of varicolored flowers? Blossoms of geometric shapes, slowly spinning in the gentle breeze.” Commander Oswald closed his eyes and tapped his own temple with his manicured finger.
Private First Class Ichor, who was the grunt seated before him, took a deep breath before replying. “It’s like a rainbow wept.”
“Yes! I do like that,” the Commander grinned with approval. “Must use it in our ad campaign.” He rubbed his soft hands together. “You’ll get full attribution, of course.”
“Of course.” Ichor crossed his arms, bundling his courage for what came next. “So after, after my passing—whenever that is—my body will be launched into this dead planet’s atmosphere, and when I crash to the ground—”
“We don’t say ‘crash.’ We prefer the term ‘seed.’ Much more noble sounding, isn’t it? But yes, you will seed the sterile soil of this barren world beneath us.” Commander Oswald closed his eyes again. “Imagine the trees! Groves of woody giants—towering, slender, and bursting with blue-green leaves. Leaves that shimmer like Christmas tinsel in the sunshine. Ahhh!”
“ ‘Breeding lilacs out of the dead land ,’ ” the grunt whispered to himself.
His commander ignored him, lost as he was in his own imaginings. “And before you know it, curious little creatures, scaled or feathered, gliding across the bright, clear sky; sleek wiggly things, kaleidoscopic, and swimming through cool crystal streams; furry, bulging-muscled beasties scampering through the forest shadows, streaking through the sun-lit fields. . .”
“Yes, well, that’s a pretty vision you have,” Ichor sighed. He’d already signed up for this terra-forming project; his commander didn’t have to convince him. Every new recruit was encouraged to sign up. In the name of science, in the name of survival of the species, in the name of contributing to something bigger than yourself. Most signed up, eventually.
The commander opened his eyes, tilted his head like a curious cat as he looked at the young man seated before him. Such a wonderful specimen!, he thought to himself. He actually looked forward to what might spring from the grunt’s seeded remains.
* * *
Less than six months later, according to the solar calendar of the lifeless world beneath them, an unfortunate accident occurred on the hanger deck of the orbiting starship. Commander Oswald was informed—something about a strap breaking, a bolt snapping, a stray projectile in a deadly training mishap. The commander didn’t read the official report; it didn’t matter to him. What did matter, though, was Private First Class Ichor was now available for his terra-forming launch. The commander sat behind his formidable desk, templed his fingers, and smiled. Of course, he would see to it they named the seeding site after the young man.
* * *
Ichor’s body launched from the starship via missile tube, perhaps a bit too fast. He initially soared across the uppermost alien atmosphere, then descended in a gentle slope, heating up until he burst into flame. From the ground, he was a meteor, glowing, smoking—finally vaporizing long before he touched the surface. Like a tear from the eye of God, he was gone in a flash.