I love science fiction. Probably every other novel I read is Sci-Fi. This is one of my flash fiction (very short) Sci-Fi short stories
My eyes strain to pick out details as I attempt to lead Doctor Jonas through this monochromic environment. Despite my warnings, he keeps leaping ahead of me, touching everything. I keep my flashlight laser at the ready and tuned to a narrow ultraviolet beam, enough to fry any hazard that might rear up in our path. The sharp grass-like weeds under our boots, the knife shaped leaves of every bush and even the lichen that cover the jagged rocks are all varying shades of gray and black. Scattered tiny red flowers supply the only color and contrast, bloody accents to this ebony planet. We’ve seen no obvious animal life since we left the ship, but I’ve got this irksome feeling that we’re being watched. Of course, I always have that feeling, even when I’m in bed at home on Earth. It’s part of my makeup, my design.
Jonas, the exo-botanist on this exploratory mission, tilts his helmeted head up at me from the ground where he’s wrestling with a sample container. His gross poorly coordinated movements are irritating to watch, he’s obviously neglected his suit training.
“Hey Manny, the Goth freaks back home would love this place, huh?” He looks back down. “Yep, this place could be considered the pinnacle of Goth evolution.”
He’s taken to calling me Manny despite my insistence on Manuel. I continue to watch his struggle with the sample container, wondering if he will ask for help when he says something like “damn gloves.” I don’t hear the exact words as I find myself in mid leap and slapping his left hand away from his right glove release lever before the consciousness awareness of what he was about to do hits me. “Are you out of your mind? We’ve been on this planet less than one hour and you were going to break suit integrity. How did you get on this expedition? Did you even crack the manual?” My heated outburst surprises me, for although I have emotions my training is supposed to keep their expression to a minimum.
“Manny you’re such a pain. The glove liners are airtight.” His frown visible through the tinted glare of his helmet, he continues “What’s the big deal?”
I shake my head, “this pain’s job is to keep you alive. We’ve encountered plant secretions that will dissolve those silicone liners in seconds, microorganisms that eat nylon for lunch. What about something as mundane as a plant thorn or an insect stinger or a claw?” Scientists, the smarter they are the stupider they behave. Then I just stare at him; I have a very intense stare and it appears to be enough to bring him to his senses.
* * * * *
I’ve given up trying to lead so I follow as Jonas frolics from plant to plant, snipping leaves, dictating notes. I listen as he rambles on about how the compound that makes all the plant life black is the equivalent of Earth vegetations’ chlorophyll, but better evolved to make use of this planet’s high level of infrared radiation. I feel what must be wind buffet my leg through the suit and do a 360º to scan the area. The taller plants are swaying a bit but nothing that resembles a storm is visible. I tense, Jonas is using a chisel-like tool to remove a crusty black layer from a rock, but he seems to be less clumsy than I initially thought.
We come to a pool of what would look like water, if it wasn’t black, and Jonas starts taking samples. I think again about suit eating microorganisms as he dips his gloved hands into the pool and I see movement beneath the surface. We both study the pool but conclude we’re seeing nothing but ripples.
“This does not make sense.” Jonas repeats again and again.
“What doesn’t?” I kneel next to him as he manipulates his portable analyzer.
“These plant samples reveal highly developed sexual apparatus—male and female.” He reaches up in a head scratching motion but encounters his helmet and drops his hand to his side as if it were some useless tool. “And just like terrestrial plants they seem to have structures to attract pollinators.” He looks over at me. “Have you seen one mobile organism since we’ve been here? One bug, one quadruped, one anything? Where are the goddamn bees?” He turns back to his little portable lab, as usual, not waiting for my response.
I ponder his words, not as a scientist, but as the genetically bred and enhanced soldier that I am. How would animal life forms evolve and adapt to an all black environment? They would be black, absorb all visible light. They wouldn’t try to blend with shadows, they would be shadows. A shiver runs down my back even though my physiology has been optimized to channel fear into more useful reactions. I thumb a control on my suit’s left inner arm, triggering spectrum enhanced vision. They’re everywhere—on the ground, in the plants, crawling up my suit—glowing in infrared. And there’s Jonas, covered with the things, his back partially turned to me, fumbling with the release catch of his suit glove.