Karthik let out a satisfied sigh as he sat down on a suitably flat rock and stretched. They’d determined this planet was safe to work on without e-suits, and it was nice to breathe air that didn’t taste like seventeen other people.
No weird airborne pathogens, breathable air, potable water. Early tests on samples of the plant life looked promising too. The fauna was mostly herbivorous and got up to the size of modest dogs, and there were some carnivorous predators and scavengers, but nothing too serious. The biggest mystery they’d found so far was the lack of pollinators. They’d found a thriving and diverse ecosystem on this world, but they had no idea how the different plant species were propagating. Loi’s best guess right now was there might be some kind of spore network.
A couple of the other exobio’s were arguing about the possibility of underground fungal nodes or symbiotic connections, but most of it went over Karthik’s head. He was here to drive the bus, land the ship, and help with gathering samples, not the science. Still, if they could confirm this planet was as good as it seemed, it would be nice to report back a new colony prospect - and get the finder’s fee. That would be a few weeks away, if it happened at all. For now, Karthik was content to sit and enjoy the view.
The slightly purple hue to the skies gave them a dreamlike quality as he watched waves of reddish-gold grasses wave back and forth in the breeze, the frilled tops of the stalks humming as the wind ran through them.
He didn’t really notice his muscles relaxing as he watched them, or the way his eyelids grew heavy. The soft hum and trill gently lulled him, and he could almost make out a voice. Not words, but a feeling…like his mother murmuring a lullaby under her breath.
Without taking his eyes off the waving field, Karthik shifted so he could lie down on his side, curling up to use his arm as a pillow. A feeling of calm and contentment washed over him. The urge to let his eyes close became overwhelming, and within moments he was fast asleep.
“Kar?! Hey, Kar! Where - oh!”
“Mmmph?” Karthik felt a hand gently shaking his shoulder, and reluctantly uncurled from his nap, surprised at how gummy his eyes felt. “Thuy?”
His navigator snorted as she offered a hand up. “Did you really come out here and fall asleep?”
He had been about to say it had just been a five minute nap, tops, when he looked at his wristcom. “Holy shit. I was out for three hours?!”
“We’ve been looking for you since dinner! The science geeks are freaking out.”
Karthik nodded, acknowledging his screwup. “Maybe they can spring for a ship with better bunks next time, and I won’t sleep better on a rock.”
Thuy snorted with dry amusement. “Yeaaah, you tell that to Doc Nillsdottir while she’s swabbing every hole you have.”
Groaning, Karthik let himself be led back to the ship, already dreading the examination and likely quarantine he was in for.
All he would remember was falling asleep until Thuy found him.
He would not remember walking into the grasses, letting the heads of the stalks attach themselves to his skin.
He would not remember walking into the nearby woods to find a bush whose leaves naturally pulled the heads from him, holding the now fertilized seeds.
He could not know the leaves would be eaten by herbivores, spread in their spoor, and take root in new ground.
All he would remember was how pleasant it had felt to rest by the waving grass and the purple skies, and wish to return one day.
The plants would happily accept a new species to help them propagate if humans settled there. All they needed was time and the wind.