Monday, April 16, 2012

Alien Influences 1 - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

"They brought him in after the fifth murder.

The shuttle dropped him on the landing site at the salt cliffs, overlooking the golden waters of the Singing Sea. Apparently something in the shuttle fuel harmed the vegetation near the small colony, so they developed a landing strip on the barren cliff tops at the beginning of the desert. Winds and salt had destroyed the plastic shelter long ago, so he wore the required body scarf and some specially developed reflective cream. Before she left, the shuttle pilot pointed out the domed city in the distance. She said she had radioed them to send someone for him. He clutched his water bottle tightly, refusing to drink until he was parched.

A hot, dry breeze rustled the scarf around his face. The air smelled of daffodils, or so it seemed. It had been so long since he had been to Earth, he was no longer sure what daffodils smelled like.

Everything around him was golden, or bright, dazzling white. The sun felt like a furnace; the heat reflected off all the nearby surfaces. He had read that in some seasons, temperatures went beyond human endurance.

The desert spanned between him and the domed city. A narrow footpath wove its way over the slight dunes, appearing to lead to the city itself. The dome reflected the sunlight. From this distance, it looked small, about the size of his thumbnail, but he knew it housed over a thousand people, homes, and the Salt Juice plant.

He took a deep breath, feeling the dryness in his throat. It had been a long time since he had been off Minar Base. Even longer since he had been hired to do any on-site evaluations. He had prepared by meditating and by reading everything he could find on Bountiful—which was very little outside the production figures for Salt Juice. Still, he woke each morning in a panic, afraid that he was not up to the task they had hired him for. He had tried to be taken off the case, but Bountiful had insisted. They wanted him, a fact that bothered him more than anything else.

To his left, salt continually eroded down the cliff face, little crystals rolling and tumbling to the white beach below. The Singing Sea devoured the crystals, leaving a salt scum that reflected the harsh light of the sun. Perhaps this was where, decades ago, the miners had begun their slaughter of the Dancers. The Dancers were a protected species now, about one one-hundredth of their original numbers."

3.5 out of 5