Authors: Jedediah E. Dahl
THE DEAD PLANET
By: Jedediah E Dahl
“Sir, we’ve arrived,” I told Captain Mævin.
“Excellent! Anything from our bases?”
I scanned our normal frequencies looking for any com chatter. “No sir, the planet’s silent.”
“Hm… Command was hoping that their silence was due to the distance between Terra and Kælty.”
I knew what Command’s hope was, they did brief me before the mission after all. “Uh…Yes sir.”
The Captain shifted in his pilot seat as we entered orbit around the third planet of the Sol system. Most species in the galaxy referred to this planet as Terra, but the native species called it Earth.
“Lækas, what are the environmental conditions of the planet?”
“It appears to have an oxygen atmosphere, but the planet’s surface has been reduced to desert.” I gazed at the planet. “When Terran Observer One last sent their report two years ago, the planet was lush and the indigenous population, the Terrans, was still growing at an increasing rate.”
“And now it’s all desert and silent?”
“Does Terran Observer One have sufficient power so we can create a transportal to it?”
“Then let’s go.”
We both got up from our stations and headed towards the transportal. As I was punching in the coordinates for Observer One, Gækob came over to us, “I recommend that we wear environmental suits.”
“Why?” I asked.
“If something happened below, it may not be safe.” Gækob responded.
“I checked the environmental readings myself. The planet has an oxygen atmosphere and there appears to be nothing hazardous in it.”
“Captain, I recommend caution in this situation. The planet has been silent for two years, after all.”
“I agree, Gækob.” The Captain turned and looked at me. “Let’s suit up, then transportal down.”
I went ahead and connected our portal with Terran Observer One’s portal, but didn’t open it yet. It took me a moment to get my helmet on perfectly so that all four of my eyes could see out. I never understood why I had so much trouble with these helmets and their faceplates, but I did. After getting in our suits, we opened the portal and stepped from our ship to the observation station.
The station was quiet, dusty, and powered down. Only the transportal system was active, which was my doing.
“Damn, it looks like no one has cleaned this up in years.” Gækob’s voice range in through my ear piece.
“Lækas, bring the scanners up. Gækob, secure the room.”
“Aye,” Gækob, the resilient soldier, snapped. I didn’t much care for the protocol, at least not in regards to xenologists who turn captain. I made no verbal or somatic response to Mævin, and headed straight for the controls. These controls had clearly not been used in an extended time. Some of them stuck while others wouldn’t respond. Powering up the sensors normally takes me a few seconds, but with the conditions of these controls, it took me nearly two minutes.
“I’m going to attempt a scan of the area and see what I can find.”
“I also wouldn’t mind some lights, Lækas.”
Another stupid request from the Captain. Hell, we don’t even need the lights, the faceplates plates provide us with night vision and low-light vision. Perhaps he noted my lack of respect early and was ordering me around to try and remind me of his authority. Regardless the reason, I must obey. I pulled up the basic systems and activated the lights. This process didn’t take as long as the sensors, but it was an unneeded waste of time.
“Ah, don’t you see, that’s much better!”
I ignored my Captain to the best of my abilities and focused on finding the crew.
“Lækas, what did the indigenous species call this place?”
Seriously? More annoying questions from my Captain? He’s the damned xenologist here, shouldn’t he be the one to know the answer to his own dumb question? I vaguely recalled reading the name early, but wasn’t entirely sure. “I believe they call it Devil’s Peak, sir.” I paused for a moment. No, that’s not right. “Or maybe Devil’s Tower.”
“Sir, I have secured the room!” Gækob interrupted.
“You find anything?”
“No sir, nothing.”
Now that’s odd. “Captain, I’m picking up some stuff on the long-distance motion sensors but nothing on the heat scanners.”
“What do you mean, Lækas?”
I said what I meant, you social science idiot. “I mean that there are things moving around about ten miles North-East, but there are no corresponding heat signatures.”
“Maybe some of the native peoples are out there?”
“Sir, according to our observations, the inhabitants give off extreme heat signals. Their bodies resonate close to a hundred degrees.”
“What’s your point? There still may be some clues as to what happened.” I thought he’d finished, but then the dumbest thing I’d ever heard came out of his mouth. “Also, perhaps the inhabitants have evolved to this new environment. Maybe their bodies have mutated so that they don’t give off as much body heat.”
Seriously? I wanted to argue with him and explain that evolutionary mutations take thousands of years to occur, not two. Instead, I tried a more diplomatic approach. “Sir, the indigenous species have not been contacted and, primitively, believe themselves to be the only species in the galaxy.”
“Nonsense, Lækas,” he cut in. “They must know we have a station here. We’ve had ships flying around this planet for thousands of years.” He was right about our presence on this planet, but our chameleon technology kept us hidden. “Now, coordinate the transportal to set us close to the motion your sensors picked up.”
I programmed the transportal to drop us about three miles from the motion. That would give us enough time to determine if these inhabitants were friendly or not. Hell, for all we knew, they may have killed our observation teams.
Gækob went through the portal first, followed by Mævin, and then myself. Just as the environmental scanners indicated, the planet had become an empty desert of brown sand. My suit’s environmental reading confirmed that the atmosphere was breathable, but something told me I shouldn’t take my suit off. I was suddenly thankful that Gækob had suggested them.
“Why are we so far away?”
“Oh, sorry sir! I’m not familiar with this planet’s terrain. I must’ve miscalculated the distance. Perhaps moved a decimal or something.”
“Captain, I believe it will be fine. We can just leap there.”
“Ah! A great idea Gækob!”
Gækob was the first to jump. I watched as he leaped about half a mile towards our destination in a single bound. The Terran gravity was unfamiliar to us, so we had to be careful in our leaping. On our home planet, Kælty, we could easily jump and drift for miles, but this planet’s gravity was more severe than our lush forested planet.
It took five minutes of jumping and gliding to reach the outer limits of what use to be a city. Most of it lay in ruins with sand storms and other Terran natural disasters demolishing the buildings. The roads were completely covered in sand with dunes blanketing as much as half of the buildings.
“What happened here?” All of the photos from Terra show cities, lights, cars, and busy streets. This place lies in ruins.
“I don’t see anyone, Lækas. We came here to talk to the Terrans. Where are they?” My Captain seemed to ignore the destruction in front of us.
I pulled up my suit’s motion and heat sensors and began searching. It took a few minutes for the sensors to pinpoint the motion. It was located about quarter of a mile up on the right. I pointed in that general direction.
“Sir, Lækas is correct about the primitive beliefs of this planet. We should, perhaps, activate our chameleon cloaks.”
“Gækob that is nonsense…”
Not this stupid comment again! “No Captain, it is a stated fact in
single report sent from this forsaken backwater planet. We’ve kept them ignorant.”
I could barely make out Mævin’s face through his faceplate, but I could see all four of his eyes boring into me. He had an agenda, and I was getting in the way.
“Well, perhaps some caution is in order.”
We all activated our chameleon cloaks. First our heads shrunk from their beautiful elongated shapes down to small balls with stocky frames. The Kælty are significantly more elegant than these Terrans, and it pained me to watch our forms change, even if it was only a holographic projection.
“Let’s go,” the Captain led us off in the direction I indicated.
We walked instead of leaping in order to blend in better. My heat sensors were still blank but the motion sensors were picking up more and more motion with each step we took. We turned a corner and saw a group of Terrans.
I’ve seen a few photos of Terrans in the files, but these Terrans didn’t look right. Their eyes were a strange grey color, an unnatural look for a Terran; hell, an unnatural look for any species. Some seemed to be missing body parts, while others had bones sticking out of their dermal layers. One or two had their ankles and feet twisted in ways that didn’t look right. I looked at the chameleon displays of Gækob and Mævin to remind myself how this species was supposes to look, and it didn’t add up.
They turned in our directions and started making the most curious noise, “rrrruuuhhhh!” It was a sound you might hear if you punched someone in the gut and listened to them moan for an extended period. It certainly wasn’t a natural sound. They moved towards us at a quickened pace, though their speed was still no match for a Kælty.
“I have a bad feeling about this, Captain.”
“Nonsense Lækas, maybe our translators are broken.” They weren’t. “Besides, they look friendly enough to me.” Oh, sure, he should know, he’s a xenologist…
Gækob cut in, “They look hungry to me.”
“Sir, we’ve both read the file on this indigenous species. This is not how they look. Just look at me and Gækob.”
“Lækas, you know what they say about photos…” He paused as he glanced at me. “They never look realistic.”
One of the Terrans approached Mævin with a lustful hunger in its deadly grey eyes. He grabbed at Mævin’s arm. My gut told me this wasn’t right. We needed to get out of here.
“Ah, this must be a greeting custom among these people,” the Captain said. He let the indigenous person have his left hand and said, “ruuuhhhh,” in response.
The Terran bit hard into Mævin’s wrist. “Hey! That hurt!” Mævin lifted his gaze from the Terrn and locked eyes with me. “Perhaps they are too primitive. This is a weird greeting ritual.” As he turned his gaze back around, he founded himself being dragged off his feet as three more Terrans grabbed hold of him. His chameleon cloak faltered as they punctured through the suit. Mævin emitted a blood curdling scream as they started eating every piece of flesh they could find.
“Shit! Captain?” I yelled. My heart starting racing as more Terrans entered the ally.
Gækob moved with quickened speed with his pistol at the ready. He fired into the crowd trying to save the Captain, though it was already too late. The electrical energies of the gun knocked a few back, but didn’t seem to pack its normal punch. As soon as one was knocked away another took its place at the dinner table.
Unfortunately, Gækob was so focused on trying to save the Captain; he didn’t notice the Terrans surrounding him. I tried to warn him, but was equally distracted shooting the Terrans advancing on me. I looked back to check on him and saw he’d become a meal for a half dozen Terrans.
My own pending doom entered the forefront of my mind as one grabbed at me. This left me with one option; jump for it! I lowered myself as low as I could and launched upward. As I cleared the arena of Terrans, one caught my foot causing me to lose control of my flight.
I flopped through the air southward towards the portal and I remembered the name the Terrans gave our observation station; Devil’s Tower. It looked like a tower standing in the middle of dunes of desert. I kept trying to gain control of my decent, but failed. I started falling to the planet quicker than I could cope.
When I awoke, I was unable to ascertain exactly how long I had been unconscious. The Terran sun, Sol, was much lower in the sky, so I must’ve been out for a while. The transportal was a short distance from where I was laying. I lifted myself up to my feet and realized my helmet’s faceplate had been smashed. I was breathing the Terran atmosphere. All my scanners had said nothing was wrong with it, but my instincts said otherwise. My best hope now was to get back to the ship and hit the sanitizing shower.
I moved through the portal and was back in the control room of our observation station. I heard a banging noise at one of the doors that Gækob had secured earlier. I knew his work was excellent, so I decided to focus on getting back to the ship than worrying about an ominous banging at the door. I shut off the transportal and recalibrated it for our… or well,
, ship. The control panel indicated it would take a few minutes to connect, which I expected.
The door flew open. I turned and saw one of the Observation crewmembers walking towards me. At first I was elated, but then I looked at his four eyes, they were grey and hungry, just like those of the Terran’s. Had whatever happened to those Terrans also happened to the Kælty of our station? Naw, couldn’t be. Our biological systems aren’t similar enough. We are immune to anything that would affect Terrans.