edible wild plants, exploration, fiction, novella, science fiction, scouts, space opera, teasing

Plant Life Snippet

I thought I would put up a snippet of my work in progress, a space opera novella that will be published soon. Enjoy!

Rick Shaley swung open the door of the ship and looked around, puzzled. Behind him, the rest of the crew of the “Ranger” stood at the ready, weapons in hand. After a year of hearing only native animals and the local equivalent of bugs, the sudden knocking at the door a few minutes ago came as quite a shock. But now, as he directed the powerful flashlight beam around the clearing they had created around the ship, he could see nothing, not even one of the larger denizens of the planet they called Verdant.

“Anything?” Trixie asked from behind him.

“No – not even any eyes.” Rick answered her laughingly.

Bond groaned. That had been a poke at him.

Once, I see an eye, and you all can’t let it go.”

It had been three months since he had shouted for them, to tell them he had seen an eye, a human eye, blinking up at him from the surface of a leaf. When they had reached him, there was only a large leaf with exceptionally large stomata on its surface. Trixie, as the crew’s medic, had diagnosed heat exhaustion, and had sent him to rest in the ship. In the time since the leaf incident, Bond had become the butt of many jokes.

“Hey, Rick, can we get back to dinner now?” the fourth member of the crew, Melina, asked. Melina Lavoie was the Captain, and the most laid back of the foursome. When the scout ships were crewed, there were generally either couples, or all men. There weren’t enough female volunteers to ever form an all female crew. The sociological dynamics worked better that way, according to the Planetary Exploration Committee. This crew was unusual in that the four of them had not automatically paired off. Although Bond and Trixie were happily married, the other two found themselves more comfortable as friends than lovers.

“Yeah…” he switched off the light and started to close the door. “Hey! Look at this!”

On the ground in front of the door there were regular patches of phosphorescence, leading away from the door into the jungle. Rick hopped down and crouched beside the first one. He broke off a sprig of the moss-like plant and held it up for the others, who were now leaning out of the door to see. It glowed brightly, casting a greenish light on Rick’s fingers.

“That wasn’t there earlier.” Bond stated. “It was almost dark when I came in, and there was bare earth where the ramp lets down.”

“Well, you know how fast the plants here grow…” Trixie tilted her head to one side in her thinking position, as Rick thought of it.

Melina jumped down beside him, carefully avoiding the patch of plants, as he had done. “It looks almost like tracks.”

“Or a trail.” Rick added, his mind busy. “What do you suppose banged on the door?”

“Bond,” Melina asked “Could you follow these little plants in the daylight?”

“Um, yes, I suppose. That is, if they stay the same.” After almost a year, all of them were very familiar with the ever changing plants of Verdant. The growth here was not only lush and green, giving the planet its name, but fast. Faster than any Earth plant, even some of the vines that he had watched as a boy literally growing before his eyes.

“Well, I’m not letting you wander around in the dark.” Melina looked Rick in the eye. “Any of you.”

“Yes ma’am.” He said meekly. “I’ll wait until morning.”

“Ok, everyone in then.” She shooed them in briskly to their forgotten dinner, going in last herself and shutting the door behind her. The Scouts were theoretically under her command, but they were selected and trained for independence of thinking, and keeping them safe was a lot like herding cats.
In the morning, contrary to their fears, there was no problem finding the little plants. They had not grown, but they had burst into bloom, a vibrant electric blue with long, cerise stamens.

“Oh, how lovely!” Trixie exclaimed, kneeling beside them and bending her face over them. “And they smell wonderful!”

Bond leaned over, picked one and stuffed it into his little gas chromatograph. The quick scent of smoke, and then it beeped at him. “Hmmm… no alkaloids or signs of other toxins.” He picked another one and crushed a petal and tasted it gingerly. “Sweet”, he said, putting the rest of the flower in his mouth.

Melina, standing in the doorway, laughed. “How many times have I asked you not to put everything in your mouth?” she scolded playfully.