FlashFic: Planet P4-98 (Part One)

I stared at the judge, restraining my defiance. I’d drawn a human judge. It all went from bad to worse. My public defense lawcomp processed the evidence and displayed: TAKE THE DEAL. I didn’t steal the money. It didn’t matter. The judge barked, “Ten years in an isojail or three working for the Co-op!” Given the Co-op’s rep, I hesitated. “Now!”

“The Co-op, your honor.” She slammed the gavel. It echoed through me.

I figured I’d be supervising cleaning drones or some other maladjust job. A skeletal man at the Co-op’s huge complex led me to a spacepad, handed me a chit and pointed to an open hatch. “Planetary exploration,” he wheezed. “Board now.” Better than supervising drones for three years. Sounded like a pretty swishing deal.

The man in charge, Captain Eslin eyed me and took the chit. “Our shrink?” I nodded. “You’ll help make first contact with sentients on P4-98. Find a pod and strap in.”

Our pods unsealed when we hit orbit. I followed the others into the shuttle. While we made introductions, our shuttle was grabbed by vicious gusts. Some of us managed to strap webbing on, including myself. We were tossed through the lower atmosphere. The shuttle smashed against something and came to a shuddering halt. A mountain loomed above. We seven survivors used the compdoc in turns for minor injuries, broken limbs and the like. Yang was put in the sealed doc unit to get fixed up. Two bodies were put into quickfreeze. Lucky those systems worked.

The valley was blisteringly hot. We wore as little as we dared. First contact came only a few of the long planet days later. The humanoids were short with sparse hair and nothing else covering them. They approached with multipointed sticks. We showed empty hands. I walked toward them, head down and gulping hard. Pointing to myself, I said, “Kayl.” I did it again twice. You’ll be the first killed, you idiot. My nervousness grew as the group parted. I think I sighed aloud when they lowered their weapons. One came forward. He wore a belt adorned with chunks of prettystones. He pointed to himself. “Yaruda.” He waved his hands at the others. “Pahting.” I bowed and gestured toward the Co-op’s crew. “Human.”

Yaruda grunted and turned, speaking to the Pahting. I quietly suggested Captain Eslin put on a belt and come forward. I kept my head bowed when Eslin and Yaruda did introductions. In moments, a basket of plant foods and what looked like dried protein was shoved at me. Two large Pahting carried huge gourds which sloshed with what turned out to be a fermented fruit drink. Yaruda had a high tolerance for it. I did not. Luckily, I offered him a lightstick in exchange for his generosity before I was laid out.

Bram, our botanist, and I explored the local plants and animals with Yaruda. He insisted on showing us his world himself. One of his mates helped out each day. I gathered edible and medicinal plants. Few of us could stomach the animal protein. The stink and blood in preparing beasts was repugnant. Yaruda recoiled at our vatprotein. I enjoyed their dry meat, which made Yaruda grunt approval. “Kayl eats good.”

As the days wore on, the heat did not abate. We steamed every day. The temperature went down a bit when the suns set and the nights were as long as the days. I hardly saw half of the crew, including Eslin and Yang. They came out of the cooled pods only to work at night. Just as well. Eslin was okay, but Yang snarled and called out, “Convict!” when she needed me.

“She’s changed since the autodoc. Yang is angry with everyone now,” Bram soothed. Autodoc could only help so much. If only she’d let me help her.

The Pahting were curious about us, as we were about them. Communication was a challenge. Bram proved to have a talent for reading their gestures and they picked up our words. I wasn’t as quick, but I read body language. I found it interesting that while his people stayed private, Yaruda was open with us. He clearly enjoyed our excursions.

Bram and I did as well. We soon discovered we enjoyed sharing time together as much as learning from Yaruda. In the evenings, we often drank Yaruda’s fruity brew alone. We spoke of our lives, sharing happiness and hurts. He didn’t treat me as a convict like Yang did. As time passed, our evening conversations moved to more private locales. Laughter and loving were plentiful. We lay back in the quiet after and watched the strange star patterns move through the moonless sky. Often we slept in our solitary spaces, nestled together in the relative coolness.

There came a day when Yaruda seemed rushed. He brought two of his mates. Together they gathered food and plants, urging us with gestures to take more. The next days were the same and something else was different about them. I watched them and felt like an idiot when it snapped. Their hair was thicker. I couldn’t think how to ask them about it, but mentioned it to Bram that night. He nodded quietly. “It’s possible the seasons will change as they do on Earth. It would explain the rush to stock up.”

“You should tell Captain Eslin,” I suggested.

“Yes, I will.” He smiled in the darkness, reaching out to stroke my cheek. Gathering me to him, he murmured against my throat, “But the morning is soon enough.”

© 2011 Jessica Rosen

This story won’t leave me alone. I haven’t had one consume me this way in too long. Hopefully it will cooperate and all the chapters will suit #FridayFlash. I’m guessing it will be four total. It was, of course, inspired by a #storystarters written by @Selorian.

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11 thoughts on “FlashFic: Planet P4-98 (Part One)

  1. flyingscribbler May 7, 2011 at 3:50 am Reply

    Wow, Jess, this is a whole new world; no wonder it’s been consuming you. But only four chapters? I think there is material in this one chapter for a whole book! I would love more detail(particularly like the techy stuff- lawcomp and autodoc. Your characters have interesting facets and your MC is REALLY interesting. Do we find out what she did? Looking forward to the next chapter.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 14, 2011 at 8:27 am Reply

      Thanks so much for your wonderful feedback! There really is enough here to expand beyond the immediate four (?) chapters, isn’t there? Perhaps I’ll use it as the inspiration for my NaNo later this year. Hrm – you know, that’s not a bad idea at all. It’ll give me an excuse to brush up on my space operas in the meantime, too.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  2. adampb May 7, 2011 at 6:43 am Reply

    This sounds like an incredible world you’ve created. I’m looking forward to reading the next chapter. Loving the sci-fi.
    Adam B @revhappiness

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 14, 2011 at 8:33 am Reply

      Thanks so much, Adam. This planet is so real to me, I can taste Yaruda’s fruity liquor. That would be welcome for this lazy weekend, too. Maybe I’ll have to experiment: a little mango, a bunch of passionfruit…

      Everyone’s invited once I perfect the recipe!

      I hope you enjoy Part Two. Thanks again.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  3. FARfetched May 7, 2011 at 8:21 am Reply

    For some reason, I was thinking this was the opening to a novel & thought the opening was a little rushed. But as a 4-part short? Not a problem. Maybe you should tag it as TuesdaySerial too?

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 14, 2011 at 8:38 am Reply

      You’re absolutely right, it would have been too rushed for a novel’s opening. Now that I’ve decided to write it in several parts, I rather wish I’d taken a little more time with this part as it is. I’m glad you think it works and really appreciate your feedback.

      Hadn’t considered TuesdaySerial – isn’t that for much longer serials?

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  4. Helen May 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm Reply

    This is a whole different world! It does feel to me like its just the beginning of something much bigger – other’s have suggested a book and I also feel this has the potential for material for a book. Interesting characters set in an interesting world.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 14, 2011 at 8:43 am Reply

      What a nice thing to say, Helen. Thank you. I’m giving serious consideration to expanding the short story into a longer format later this year. The world takes on new dimensions and deeper detail every time I visit it in my thoughts.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  5. Aidan Fritz May 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm Reply

    I like the concept of co-op as an alternative and this helps to construct a rich former world life. I like how you gradually paint an arc of characters changing in this first part.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen May 14, 2011 at 8:52 am Reply

      Thank you, Aidan. It’s all unfolding before me, pieces falling into place as I add a detail. I’m glad you’re enjoying the ride. I appreciate your comments as they tell me I’m on the right track.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  6. Jessica Rosen May 14, 2011 at 9:00 am Reply

    Thank you to all who commented on this story. I apologize for taking so long to respond. Health and hospital ate up much of my time and attention. I’m convinced the hospital is a singularity which consumes days. In any case, I appreciate the time you took to let me know what you thought.

    Take care,
    Jess

    Like

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