A yellow spark inched along a blue landscape. Claytor, a large moon in the 70 Virginis system, had all the blues of Earth but none of the oceans. It had valleys of kyanite and sheer cliffs of cordierite, and an abundance of copper that leant the thick, hazy atmosphere an aquamarine hue. As for the yellow spark, that would be Kylie Yager. She was safely sealed in her environmental suit, protected from this strange world by a thin layer of smart fabric the color of Sol.
Despite the fact that this was a world essentially covered in battery acids, a variety of lifeforms had taken hold; they didn’t fit on any yet discovered branch of the tree of life, but they looked to her like bioluminescent moss. The rock face to her right was covered in the stuff, pulsing and translucent in magentas and mauves and coffee browns. The ground beneath her feet had more of the same, and she treaded carefully, not wanting to harm them, but they were impossible to avoid.
The area was poorly mapped thanks to the constant fog, so she was spiraling out from base camp on foot, taking notes and samples along the way and recording every moment with a bodycam. There were a couple of satellites for support, but GPS was still a ways off.
In a depression up ahead she saw the unmistakable shimmer of wind across the top of a pond. Pools of liquid were a rare find and Kylie was anxious to get a sample. She skipped over a boulder but lost her footing on a slick layer of moss. Suddenly she was sliding feet first into the pond. She hit the surface with a splash and instinctively held her breath, though there was no need within her suit. Her HUD flickered with warnings as she sank to the pond’s bottom. The liquid was hot and corrosive—it would exceed the limits of her suit in short order. And then she let her breath out as a sickly moan. It was all she could manage as she realized something was in the pond with her.
This thing was no moss analog; it was a complex lifeform. It writhed and rolled like a tumbleweed made out of thick worms. It flashed colorful patterns across its body in the murky water like lightning in a thundercloud as it advanced, and she got the notion it was much larger than she was. She clambered at the steep banks of the pond but she couldn’t get a firm hold. The creature was upon her. She swipe-kicked its meaty bulk, but it grasped her leg and held it fast. Kylie heard a wet stuttering and realized it was coming from her own terror-restricted throat. The creature began to pull her leg now, and she was dragged further into the pond. The chemicals were eating at her suit’s electronics, and a short caused her headlamp to flicker on and off with beams of white and red light. The creature released her leg at once and retreated into the gloom.
Kylie wasted no time finding the bank and following its edge until she came upon a spot shallow enough she could climb out. She crawled a good distance away and lay panting on the ground. The fabric of her suit clung uncomfortably to her sweat-soaked body. After she’d caught her breath and righted herself she began making her way back toward base camp.
Her suit maintained its integrity, but the electronics were shot. She’d lost notes, tracking information, and, worst of all, the bodycam footage. All had succumbed to the chemicals of the pond. For now, she was content to be alive, but already the plans were forming in her head.
She and this creature were not through, and next time she’d be ready.
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Pat Fix, used with permission.