Being on a planet that was just a big ball of desert did nothing to Tara’s mood, absolutely nothing. All that technology did not help when the heat was so stifling that she wanted to just lie down, have some water poured over her and never get up. Still she was here for research, the rest of her team was about her, getting readings and taking soil samples. The soil, that was a generous term, was so very different from Earth’s desert areas in touch, it startled her every time she touched it.
They had seen some animal-like beings but so far, none of them had ventured towards the team and frankly, Tara was slightly relieved about that. Soil and plants, she was absolutely fine with, any wild-life or anything even remotely dangerous, she wasn’t quite as happy with. She was, after all, a botany specialist, Rick was the animal man in the team, along with Hari. Those two were insane, always curious about the animals on whatever planet they were on, not fearing that some of the animals might just want to make dinner out of Rick and Hari. Oh, no. Even now, they were on the very edge of their team’s circle, trying to see if any of the native animals would come closer.
Shaking her head, Tara got down to business, neatly packing soil and sand samples, she was just about to get up when she felt the earth moving. Getting up hastily, she looked around to see if others had felt it as well. It seemed they had. Rick and Hari were too far away for her to see their expressions but Grace and Shahid looked unnerved. The earth didn’t move again for a while, Tara thought maybe it was just a one time thing. She looked at her samples, made sure they were properly sealed and put them in her bag. Going near the area which looked to be a bit rocky, she took out her tiny axe and tapped it. Checking if it was going to crumble or stay solid. It stayed solid, she noted with her eyes narrowed. So, taking it out was going to need some skills, if it had just crumbled she could have just added it to the soil sample section of her bag.
“Hey, anything interesting? I haven’t really got anything obvious yet.” She asked as she tried to dislodge a small piece of the rock.
Grace huffed nearby and shook her head as she muttered, her voice almost grumpy, “No, nothing really. Although the heat is super duper interesting, it could melt us if we stayed for long.”
Shahid laughed and asked, “And that’s your official, scientific opinion, is it?”
Grace stuck out her tongue inside her helmet and booed softly at Shahid, he just grinned in return.
They worked in silence for a while, taking samples, taking photos, getting readings from various machines set up around them. Just as it was nearing the time for them to pack up and leave, the earth moved again, this time with a little bit more strongly than the previous time. The next moments were a blur, the wind came up, Rick and Hari came running back into the circle of machines and Rick shouted for them to pack up and leave. They had seen some movement, something was coming towards them, he said.
“It’s huge, I am not even sure if it’s just one thing or a group of animals or what. I couldn’t catch it even with my lenses. I don’t know what it is but I have a feeling I don’t wanna be here when it reaches this spot.” Hari continued as Rick was still huffing. The heat really was getting to them all.
The earth continued to move slightly, making them lose their balance more times than they were comfortable with but they packed up their machines and started to tow them towards their ship. All the while the dark blur that Hari and Rick had seen was getting closer and Grace finally saw it clearly enough to exclaim, “It’s not one thing! There’s tons of them and they are coming. Oh my God, I am not sure if they are friendlies or not. Oh, God, oh, God!!”
They quickened their pace and had just about managed to put everything in their ship when the sand slipped away and the ground cracked open. They looked on in horror as Rick almost slipped into the crevice but Hari hauled him up and they skittered back in fear. They reached the ship and finally, everyone entered and rushed towards their station. Their ship was a small part of a bigger one, the one that was still roaming around the planet, they only had to start the engines and shoot off. They still had time. The ground their ship was standing on wasn’t cracked or they would have felt it.
Just as they were getting around their stations and initializing the processes, they heard a sound. It crackled and they looked to the view screen. A lift-like structure had come out of the ground, and they looked on as it opened and out came a long-limbed, almost tree-like creature. They were the colour of dark brown bark and their limbs almost looked like they were branches. At the top of the body was a…a bunch of leaves, almost green. They stared, stupefied, all thoughts of running off the planet forgotten.
Hari was the only one who thought of making sure that every system was ready to go if needed, even as he kept glancing at the creature. They just hadn’t expected a tree to come out of the fucking ground, but if they did live under-ground then it was understandable. Maybe. None of their scans before had picked up on anything alive, how they had missed something like this was beyond everyone’s mind.
The creature walked forwards, although, Tara wouldn’t have called it walking. It was more a languid motion towards their ship. She wondered if she could have a chance to study them or if they would all be dead. A noise took her out of her reverie and she noted that the blurry things were quite clear now. They were…they were certainly unique in looks. They were somewhere between snakes and lizards and even that sounded ridiculous in her mind. She hoped their ship’s computer was recording all of this, this was wonderful and important and they needed all the data they could about it if they were to die.
They heard some odd, rough sounds and it was Shahid who realised that the tree creature was speaking. They couldn’t understand for obvious reasons but luckily they did have their ‘universal translater’ with them aboard the ship. Universal Translater was not an actual translater, of course, that would be ridiculous if the language wasn’t even fed into it but one of the features contained the ability to parse through the tones of the sounds spoken, the intentions and emotions behind them. It had saved their hides for more times than they were comfortable admitting.
A mechanical voice filtered through their systems and Grace pressed the buttons of her console.
“Who dares to touch our sacred land and filthy it with their presence? Did we ask for permission to touch the holy sand or do they sack the place?” The voice asked.
The words were bit jumbled but they got the general gist of the questions and they were uncertain how to answer. Finally, Shahid gathered the courage and answered, “We are studying the planet, we mean no harm. We didn’t know it was sacred land or we would not have disturbed it. Please forgive any slight on our behalf.”
They heard a moment later, the machine trying to imitate the sounds the creatures had made and the snake-like creatures moved about with what looked like dissatisfaction while the tree creature tilted it’s upper body, the tiny branches moving about in the wind. Tara realised a moment too late that Shahid hadn’t actually answered one of their questions, she wondered if it would come back to bite them later. She hoped not.
A new set of sounds and this time, they sounded a bit calmer but then again, what did Tara know. Maybe they expressed their outrage in calmer tones and then decapitated their enemies or something. The team waited for the Translater to decode the sounds and they heard a moment later the same mechanical voice.
“Why do you study our sacred land, why? Who are you? You keep secrets, secrets are harmful to the Jhaaks. Open up, open up, please.”
These beings were intelligent enough to have a society and a deeper understanding of emotions and they hadn’t been identified in any of their ship’s scans. What the hell kind of technology did they have?
They soon had their answer.