Thursday, October 11, 2018

10/11/18

Zeta Vaucouleurs Fornax 147
By E.S. Wynn (on Zero Dusk)


The wash and rattle of between-space parts to stars, and in the silence that follows, you see a world rising up beneath you, rust-colored and shining with brown-crimson clouds. Quietly curious, you reach out with sensors, catch readings rich with activity, rich with complex chains of proteins and hydrocarbons. It's exciting, getting that barest taste, skimming the atmosphere at range, knowing that this world is thick with the tools and materials of life, is warm and roiling with so much potential. Excited, you fire off a mote-probe, transfer a part of your consciousness to it and ride it down into that sludgy sky, reveling in the soup of pre-bacterial wealth surging all around you, thickening against the skin of the probe as you descend. Expectantly, you push through, eager for the clouds to break, eager to see what might lie beneath their opaque haze, but the clouds are so dense, so heavy that they hang within meters of the ground, even drag against it in places like huge, fatty tendrils. When open air comes, it is wet and wild with a red, wind-driven rain that howls and tosses the tiny probe, grabs it and hurls it along in rushing currents over mottled, meaty bluffs and seas that shine like rust-colored glass. A little maneuvering brings you to a shallow slope rising island-like from the murky sea, and a quick kiss of the probe against the squishy surface of the planet kicks back a flood of readings so dense they rush into the system and overwhelm you for a moment. The soil is clay, rich and heavy with biopolymers, infused to the point of saturation, and there is so much richness there, such a fertile fecundity that it leaves you in awe. Ripe for life, yet lacking in it, lacking in even the most basic form of bacteria, like the world itself is ready and raring for fertilization, eager to kickstart evolution and breed new species into being, but the seed of everything that is to come hasn't been planted yet. Briefly, you wonder whether this world is the result of time and nature, if this ripeness came about of its own accord, or if it exists instead because someone else set events in motion to begin the brewing process, to create this bed ready to be seeded when the time is right.

Without any synthetic signatures on the world or in orbit, without any evidence of human or alien life, it is impossible to tell for certain. The thought picks at you, though, intrigues you as you guide the little mote-probe back into the clouds, back into the sky, then slide back into your body, picking over data and sending thoughts, connections on to the network for others to ponder, consider as the eons move forward around this womb of a world, this planet so rich and ripe for the spark of life.


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E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print. Explore more alien worlds on Zero Dusk.

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