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The sun was peeking over the edge of the planet Zimghorth as we were getting ready to board our landing pods, the sleek silver crafts designed like bullets that would transport us to the planets surface. Most of the colonists were already on board and the supply pods, which, unlike their stylish sisters, were big bulky square transporters, were almost completely packed. As the colony commissioner, I was making a final check to be sure that nothing was forgotten, because, once the fleet that brought us here shipped off back into space, we wouldn’t be getting any more supplies for two years. That’s when the next cargo ship would be coming to our sector to bring us anything we were in need of and take away our surplus.
I stood at the great bay window on the bridge taking one final look at the breath-taking sight of the bluish sun rising and the two moons (one green and one orange) setting, because even though I was anxious to get back on solid ground after twenty years, I knew I would never get to see space from this vantage point ever again. The thought made me sad, but the planet we had been assigned to was pretty nice from what I had read in the reports. Plus, the World Colonizing Federation (WCF) needed as many planets in our quadrant as possible because it was out of the way of the war zone and we could provide much needed supplies to fighting worlds.
“Ma’am, the supplies are all loaded and we are waiting for your okay to start sending pods down.”
I realized that while I had been thinking, the captain of our mother ship, Max Roldson, had been sneaking up behind me. I felt a small pang when I looked at him because we had grown to be very good friends during our trip and I always felt sad when departing from people I had become close to.
“I’m ready. I was just taking a quick moment for nostalgia before I ship off,” I said. “I never thought I would get so attached to space travel.”
“Yeah, I never thought I would either, and look where I’m at now,” he laughed.
“True and I should probably get out of her before I lose my common sense and follow your example,” I retorted with a smile.
We walked through the halls until we reached the loading bay. We stood at the stairwell, staring at the vast, brightly-lit cavern filled with fully packed supply pods. I felt the silence between us begin to stretch but, rather than getting all teary eyed and weepy, I gave Max a brisk handshake, saluted him, and went on my way. We figured it would take three days for all of the pods to reach the landing site down below. A small group of engineers had flown down a month earlier so they could help us when we got there, and in another two weeks we would be on our own.
I relaxed inside my pod and decided to get a little shut eye before we landed because I figured I would be working too hard to get much sleep once we got there. I smiled at my feeling of anticipation that was growing with every passing minute. I felt like a little girl who had been given a huge bar of chocolate and I was difficulty trying to suppress my excitement. I finally succeeded though, and I drifted off into slumber as my landing pod drew nearer and nearer to Zimghorth.
I woke as the sun was pushing its first rays over the tops of the nearby hills. With a long stretch, I hopped out of my bed and went to get a shower. At times like these I really appreciated the luxury of water. On the space ship we had water, but it was all recycled and rationed. The most I ever got was a warm mist for about five minutes and now, standing under the hot spray for twenty minutes, I was extremely glad that I had never decided on a life in space.
It had been eight years since we started the colony and, I am proud to say, we were flourishing. We had yet to lose somebody, and our crops were growing exceptionally in the fertile soils of the planet. The only thing that really caused me any worry was the fact that there were no trees. There were every other kind of plants you could think of, but the trees seemed to have vanished.
Along with that, there were towns and cities, but no humanoid life forms. These were the extraterrestrial beings that had human-like qualities such as similar body types and advanced civilizations. Apart from the planet earth, which was said to have produced the first space traveling humans, there were many other planets sheltering humans and even more with other types of humanoids. Unfortunately, some of these humanoids like the dreaded Kornacks, were destructive and only wanted war and bloodshed. It was for this reason that our galaxies had been in turmoil for so long and the more peaceful, resource supplying planets the WCF had, the better.
Now while the empty cities worried me, most of the time I was too busy to think about them and logic said that nothing was wrong with what we were doing. Nobody had any idea about what happened to the planets’ last inhabitants, but there had been no sign of them for almost a hundred and fifty years. The planet was clearly deserted, so I tried to ignore the feeling of apprehension that grew with each passing year that we lived there. I told myself that if anything were to go wrong, I could leave the main city, which had been dubbed an unofficial capitol, and be anywhere else on the planet within minutes to help out.
I made myself a cup of coffee and walked outside. We were currently residing in one of the cities because it seemed pointless to let the buildings go to waste. I was housed near the outskirts of the city and I could see the fields where the grazers were and where the crops were shooting up out of the ground. I stood on what could only be called a porch (although that was a slightly out of use term) and was taking in the last few minutes of peace and quiet before I started the day’s work when I heard someone calling my name.
“Commissioner! Commissioner Bryden! I have something important to tell you!”
I turned and saw a young boy by the name of Cameron, who we usually had running messages between me and my engineers. They were never usually very urgent messages, but we wanted them delivered as soon as possible for progressive purposes and we couldn’t take the time out of our busy schedules to carry them ourselves. That day though, Cameron’s face was bright red and he was very out of breath. I knew that he must have been given a very important message but I could tell he had been pushing himself, so I just stood there while he caught his air.
“Ma’am, Mr. Fristly needs to see you immediately. He said it was very urgent! Something about trees, I think is what he said,” Cameron said when he could finally speak.
This caught my interest right away. Gregory Fristly was our resident botanist and for the entire time we had been here, he had been trying to figure out our mystery about the trees. According to him, the tree life showed signs of disappearance around the same time as the humanoids. Up until now he had believed that a virus or a plague was to blame. The look on his face, though, told me that he was thinking something else now.
I thanked Cameron and hurried to the building where Fristly was stationed. It was on the other side of the city, but on the outskirts like mine was. This was so he could have easy access to the fields that hosted his experimental crops. When I came across him though, he surprised me by being outside in full hiking gear.
“Come on,” he said, throwing me a pack identical to his. “I need to show you something.”
And with that, he was moving towards the forest (of only shrubs and bushes) and I was left to follow behind, a thousand questions running through my head. We walked through the thick brush for about twenty minutes before we reached a sort of clearing that was like an enormous field. To my shock, sprouting up out of the field were about ten trees!
They closely resembled oak trees with their wide trunks and branches. They were young and they appeared to be about twenty years old. I couldn’t see how this was possible, since we had been on the planet for less than half that time and they weren’t here when we arrived. The most striking difference between them and the types of oaks found on other planets were what were hanging from each of their branches. They were tiny womb-like sacs and curled up inside each one of them was a tiny little humanoid.
My mind instantly went back to the ancient fairy tales my mother had used to read to me as a little girl. These creatures looked like they belonged in one of those stories because they had long pointy ears and little wings folded up against their bodies. The differences between them and my storybook characters, however, were the pinched faces that looked like looked ready to snarl and bite, and the sharp claws and teeth that I could see extending from their mouths, hands and feet.
“Where did these come from?” I asked, feeling somewhat sick to my stomach.
“They’ve been here for a couple years,” Fristly said sheepishly, looking down at his shoes. “I noticed them around that time, but I wasn’t sure what they were. I ran some tests, but I didn’t want to worry you. Then, when I came out this morning, they sprouted these sacs. I guess now we know where the trees and people both went.”
“If they barely sprouted two years ago and they’re already this size…” I trailed off, trying to do the math in my head (which was reeling at that moment).
“Then they should be full grown in a couple more years,” he replied for me, “That means in two years or so, those things are going to hatch and I for one don’t want to be here when they do.
I knew what he meant. Even in their peaceful slumber the creatures looked very sinister. Plus, who would want to come out into a world that you expected to be safe and realize that your planet had been invaded? And if there were trees near this city, then my guess was that there would be more near the others.
“We need to gather everybody and contact WCF. The sooner we get off of this planet, the better,” I said grimly.
With a nod Fristly turned around and sprinted back towards the city. I stood there for a moment and looked at the miniature creatures. They would probably grow to be about the same size as us and that realization scared me a lot. I turned and ran to catch up with Fristly, but I wish with all my heart, body, and soul, that I would have looked back one last time. If I had, I might have realized that we were being watched as we ran away.