Scouting Goldilocks


 
Waking from cryo to blaring claxons wasn't good, especially while traveling on an experimental spacecraft through unknown space.

"I'm backing the shields," someone yelled. It was Terry Talbout, her first officer. He always was quick to react.

"The ultra-violets are erratic," Jenn Parnell, their safety officer, screeched. "We'll get fried if you open the shielding."

"We got to have a quick look to verify sensors and better evaluate course of action," Terry shot back. She could see him punching in the necessary codes to override security specs. Her body was coming back. Her fingers and toes tingled.

"But the risk," Jenn shrilled, looking near hysterics.

"Do it!" She yelled over Jenn's protest. They needed to know what was out there. Nothing beat a visual.

"Captain Raines!" It was Doug Lawrence from engineering. "Our projected pathway has been compromised."

Angela Raines, Captain of the Goldilocks Scout ship, 'Deepstalker', rolled out of her cryo-tube and landed on her hands and knees. It took all she had to stand.

The shields opened. The planet was purple and gold. The colors were a smeared marble with hard-cut edges.

They'd made it.


The planet was on the inner edge of the local sun's viable, 'Goldilocks' zone.

"We're here," she called. "Close it up." Her strength was returning in ever-intensifying waves.

"The radiation is more unstable than expected," Jenn said.

"We're crashing, Captain," Doug announced. "Orbital decay. Thrusters aren't responding."

That had always been a possibility. Risk was inherent.

"Fire a distress zip," Raines commanded. "Let home know."

"Aye," Doug replied.

"Button us up," she told the small group. "Breathers on. Fill the ship with impact foam."

She sat at her command chair and thought about what was known of the planet below. From exploratory probes they'd learned that the purple smears were full of plant life. Of the gold sections, there'd been nothing but sand. Some random errant motion sensors had been tripped, but otherwise it looked like a golden desert.

"Carson, cut the alarm," she ordered. Carson was their surgically blinded IT officer. His optic nerves had been modified and linked to the ship's various computer systems.

"Gladly Captain" he replied.

The claxons stopped as the cabin filled with foam.


There was music. She had to call it music, though it really wasn't. It was something more.

Carson sobbed, breaking her fixation on the soft sound.

The lights in the ship flickered.

"Sound off," she said.

Carson grunted like he'd been hit in the gut, then jumped up and ran for the emergency hatch. He had it open before she could even tell him to stop.

"Sound –" she began again, but stopped. Carson had breached the outer hull without first cycling the inner port shut first. That was supposed to be impossible. The ship must have been damaged more than she thought.

But that wasn't important now. The music was back, and it bid her to act.

The others onboard ripped at their seatbelts. She was the last free. There was a jam at the door as Terry and Doug both tried to go through at the same time. Jenn silently pushed them from behind.

Debris lay everywhere. Captain Raines picked up one of the hard, plastic skewers they used to eat in zero g. She drew her hand back to stab when the three of them suddenly figured a way through the small aperture.

She followed them outside. The music could not be denied.

Everything was a hazy purple with swinging darker limbs and vines that moved as if alive.

 
Carson screamed.

A purple tree had split at the base. It had Carson completely engulfed except for his head, and that too was quickly sucked in as well.

Still, the song beckoned.

No.

Raines jabbed the skewer into her ear deep enough to bust her eardrum. The pain was like fire catching to her numbed body. She yelled and did the same to her other ear quickly, before the pain could make her think otherwise. Hot, bloody agony ran down her neck.

The music disappeared, and with it, so did its compulsive pull.

"Back to the ship!" she called, but the others ignored her.

A vine wrapped around her ankle. The trees moved closer. She ripped her foot free and stumbled back to the escape hatch. Once inside, she locked it. Her guilt at locking her own people out almost overcame her good sense, almost.

By some miracle, she was able to get one of the shields open.

She wished she hadn't.

One of the trees undulated before her as it slowly took Jenn inside itself. The look on Jenn's face was the most awful thing the captain had ever seen.

 
Something rocked her broken ship.

Claxons rang insider her head. 'YOU ARE IN DANGER,' her own voice screamed at her, internally, like a thought. 

'WE ARE COMING.' She put her closed fists to her ears. "Shut up!" she yelled. 

They were all dead. Her entire crew was gone, eaten by the monstrous trees.

"WE ARE HERE." She looked wildly about her, swinging the skewer as if some invisible being was close.

Then she saw the gold through the viewport.

They battled the purple trees in a frenzied phalanx that came ever closer. She tried to focus on them, but couldn't. Sometimes they had bodies, sometimes not. She thought she saw some die, but she could not be sure.

All she knew was they were the most beautiful creatures she had ever seen. They were what eyes were made for. She wanted to see more. She'd do anything.

No.

The skewer in her hand felt solid, like the only thing real. She could try to put out her eyes and take away the golden ones' power. She had already taken away the voices of the purple trees. It might work again. She knew that once the golden ones got here, and she saw them without the relative protection of the thick glass viewport, that it'd be too late.

 
But she couldn't do it. She wasn't ready.

'WE WILL HELP,' her own voice said.

She hoped so. She'd face it with open eyes either way.

The locking mechanism on the hatch clicked and the door began to open.

She'd not look away.