Sharon stepped out on the purple surface of 106-F. She hoped they’d agree on another name for the planet soon. She was thinking of “Sharon,” since, after all, she was the first human stepping on it, and besides, the place was pretty flat, and the name Sharon means plain, as in the vast plains of the Southwest.
She might have a vote in the matter, since she was the “Literary Officer” on this particular mission. The inclusion of literary and art people on these missions was a recent development, partially due to the need for space jobs for people other than astronomical engineers, but also due to the need to dramatize these missions to get funding.
Techie descriptions of new planets such as “really nice,” “cool” and “retinally enhanced” just weren’t inspirational enough to generate new funding.
But it wasn’t the name thing that was first on her mind when she did that first step. It was the feeling of sun on her skin, the light breeze blowing by, and the sweet, soft, spongy plants underfoot, since all instrumentation indicated that 106-F was one of the best Goldilocks planets ever found – not too hot, not too cold, and suffused with a good mix of Oxygen and Nitrogen.
Earth like, but not earth.
She and Carl walked about a half-mile out away from the ship, reporting in by voice the whole time. It was just remarkable, quiet, beautiful, with fascinating plants, but no animals to be seen, just yet
Underfoot was a carpet of tiny leaved plants, in a rainbow array of colors
She sat down on the ground for a moment, and put her hands down at her sides and then leaned back and looked up. It was just like being 11 and staring at the clouds from out in the Mahon’s backyard. Except this time the clouds were violet and pink. It was time to go back.
It was Jackie’s turn to go out, which was fine, since Sharon was writing some journal entries, sending first impressions back to the news hungry home media, but then she got a comcall from Jackie, who said, “Suit up… I mean, no suit, whatever, get your booties on and get out here and take a look.”
As she walked up to the Explore Team (ET), which included Carl again, plus Jackie and Osagyefo, they were all standing around staring down at the ground. They all looked at her and then down at the ground. It was the same spot where she lain down yesterday, but there a more or less photographic copy of her hands in the ground cover.
By this time they were used to the fact that wherever they went they would be leaving images of any part of their body that touched the ground. Osagyefo had left a full torso photo montage of himself down by the waterway.
Sharon decided to revisit the spot where she had first left a handprint to get a photo for her journal. She and Jackie were the ET again, but when they got there they noticed that the handprint plants were taller than the rest of the groundcover. Sharon sat down next to the plants to take a closer look. But as she got closer, she noted that the leaves of the plants very slowly started to turn her way. That was a bit of a surprise. She got up and moved to the opposite side of the hand impressions. The plants slowly turned to face her again. She moved back again. It was like the world’s slowest tennis match audience, following the action back and forth.
While she knelt down to take close look, she had touched the ground again, and other impressions on her fingers and hands started to form in the colors of the tiny plants. It was like touching a big photographic plate.
While inspecting the taller handprint plants she noticed that they exuded a wonderful scent. Not wonderful in the sense of fragrance, but in the sense of delicious, musky, hunger inducing.
“Do you smell that?” she said to Jackie.
“That amazing smell coming off my… my handprint thing”
“Let me see,” said Jackie. “Smells okay I guess.”
“Okay! My gosh, I want to eat it!” said Sharon.
“Well I wouldn’t do that,” said Jackie
“I know, I know, but still…”
They took some back to the lab for analysis.
It made for a great salad later, but only Sharon liked it.