Characters: Damian, Aroo, Assorted background characters
Medium: Writing (2,289 words)
Date Published: January 18, 2023

Damian wakes up from deep sleep after space travel and has a mundane day before he's allowed to access RC1B's surface.

   Damian grimaced and held his eyes tightly shut for a few moments before he even considered opening them against the harsh overhead lights of the space shuttle. He allowed himself to adjust to the light piercing through his eyelids first, then squinted at the ceiling of the space shuttle. There was a towel draped over him, and he pulled it over his shoulders like a blanket, though that immediately exposed his feet to the cold.

   He felt like he had taken the worst nap in the world. His fur was damp. He felt hot and groggy and hungry and thirsty. He had aches and pains in random parts of his body. His lungs felt thick with phlegm and his nose burned like he’d snorted pool water. It certainly felt like he’d been in deep sleep for over a year. At least it was all over now and they were all at their destination. An exoplanet, filled with alien life, just one light year away from Earth. If one passed through a wormhole first, that is.

   His eyes widened as he choked on a rattling breath and lurched forward to cough his lungs out. The nurses were supposed to suction the breathable liquid from his lungs before he woke up, but evidently they did a pretty shit job at that. His lungs were burning when he pitifully lifted his head and scanned the room around him. The other travelers were waking up, too. Only a few dozen in here, but there were other rooms like this one. Splitting people up into batches like this made tending to those waking up easier, undoubtedly.

   The other newly awakened travelers were an equal mix of human and hexapod. And among the humans, a mix of spacers and Earthen individuals. This mission was commissioned by the HHA, so of course both species were heavily present. They were meant to research this planet and the life on it from a closer point of view. Orbiting around it and seeing it through cameras and drones could only do so much.

   Just as he began attempting to lift himself out of the pod, a nurse noticed him and jogged over.

   “Mr. Forsythe!” They called him.


   They walked up next to his pod. “Before you get up, are you ready for your final check-up?”

   “Alright.” He rasped.

   What followed was an annoying gauntlet of redundant questions and tasks, in his opinion. Any feelings of light-headedness, dizziness, or vertigo? No, none, just tired is all. Plus, the lung burning, which he was then told was completely normal. Damn. Now follow the light being shone into your eyes. Lift your arms to prove that your muscles didn’t completely deteriorate during your sleep, and while we’re at it let’s prod at your back and tail to make sure you’ve still got feeling everywhere you should.

   Eventually he was told that he was good to go. He attempted to stand again, and now that he had time to wake up a bit he had regained some of his self-awareness. Which resulted in him realizing that he was almost completely naked underneath the towel. Right. First order of business, clothes. And his hook, so he could go back to having two hands again. Luckily, right behind him was a curtain that led to a small private room with a stall for a shower. He’d placed his choice of clothing there before he’d gone to sleep.

   As much as Damian craved something hearty and filling, he remembered from yesterday’s briefing that the food options would be rather limited today and tomorrow. That breathable liquid was also what all of the travelers had consumed for the past year, meaning they were effectively on an all-liquid diet for the entire time that they were submerged. Now they all had to re-introduce their bodies to solids, thus the cafeteria’s options for humans were only soft plain foods.

   He glanced around the mostly empty cafeteria. There was one of those self-serve buffet tables, but it was empty. One wall had a section dedicated to empty tables and things such as spices, sauces, and even kitchen appliances so people could customize or create their own meals. It also had two soda fountains near it, the customizable kind where you could choose your flavors. One for humans, and one for hexapods. There was a paper taped to each one, but he could not read it from where he was, though he assumed it said something about how they weren’t allowed to have any carbonated sugar water right now. One wall was surrounded by counters and led to a kitchen which was where one could order their food. He approached that one and read off the menu that hung above it.

   The limited options weren’t that bad. Mashed potatoes, yogurt, applesauce, eggs, saltine crackers, and steamed vegetables. With gelatin or ice cream as a dessert option, no less. He wished there were more proteins available. Meat would be great right now. But there had to be a reason why none was available. He’d get some soon enough.

   After ordering his food, he glanced around for a spot to sit. He selected an area somewhat close to where a few other people were, close enough to hear but far enough to not be called upon to speak. He wanted to eat, not talk. Upon sitting down he quickly realized that the chairs were not adjustable, they were attached directly to the floor. As were the tables, for that matter. Whatever. He began to eat his eggs and mashed potatoes.

   More and more people filed into the cafeteria to eat or to at the very least hang out with each other, and they all congregated near each other. Not like there was much else to do, they were still gonna be stuck on this ship for a few days even though they’d already landed. Something about slowly adding in the planet’s air to the ship’s air supply to acclimate everyone to it before anything else.

   His table quickly filled out with people, though everyone was far too exhausted and fucked up feeling to talk that much. The humans ate their soft mushy meals, and the hexapods used their straw-like tongues to drink from cups. He wondered if the hex had to change their diets too, or if they could go back to their regular food right away. He decided to sate his curiosity and be a little social while he was at it.

   “Hey,” he said softly to the purple hexapod across from him. “Do hex have dietary restrictions right now too? I forgot.”

   The purple hexapod retracted its tongue and flicked its antennae nervously. He wondered if he should feel bad for putting it on the spot. They were a rather asocial species, after all.

   “Um, yes, a little bit. We aren’t allowed anything too sweet or acidic, it could hurt.”

   Damian nodded. He did not speak after that, he only wanted that answer. He had already eaten most of his egg, and he gleefully finished off the rich runny yolk. The hexapod was eyeing at the egg and his mouth. Maybe it was one of those people that weren’t comfortable with silence. Or maybe it had never seen a spacer before and it was curious about the fangs. He decided a little more conversation could help.

   “What’s your name?”


   An Eko-el name, interesting. He told it that his own name was Damian Forsythe and that it was nice to meet it. It curled its lip corners up in a soft imitation of a human smile. How endearing. He smiled and blinked slowly in response.

   “Have you ever traveled through space before, Aroo?

   “A little bit…” It looked down at its own fidgeting hands. “I grew up in a space station, so… I’ve always been in space, y’know? But… This kind of stuff is new.”

   It glanced up to meet his eyes and he nodded. “My old job was entirely space travel, I was basically a mail man that delivered stuff between space stations. But, yeah, I’ve never done all this stuff before. Ships that are space-only are… Very different from the kind that can launch from and land on planets.”

   “And it’s scary! But at least we’re done with all of that for a while.”

   He tilted his head at that and found it a bit confusing. “Is being on an alien planet any scary to you?”

   “Um… A little bit. But I’d be just as scared on any other habited planet. I’m not used to being grounded.”

   Damian grinned. “You’re not even a little bit afraid that a xenomorph or something could be out there?”

   Aroo scoffed at that, but its smile imitated his own. “No! Monsters like that aren’t even real!”

   Damian chuckled to himself as Aroo returned to sipping its drink. The conversations around them were steadily growing louder, and the two of them were slowly growing sick of it. He could sense the tension in Aroo’s human-like body language and when he got up to return his dishes, he leaned towards them and said,

   “I’m gonna go look out the windows.”

   “What windows?” It asked incredulously. “Spacecraft don’t have windows.”

   “This one does. I can prove it, if you want to come with me.”

   It glanced down at its almost empty cup, antennae twitching. It glanced around the still filling cafeteria then looked back at him.

   “Um… Okay… It’s getting too loud in here anyways.”

   It wasn’t until they were at the door of the vehicle bay that Aroo finally asked where they were going.

   “This door here goes to the vehicle bay,” Damian began to explain. “There’s two doors, the outer metal one, then the inner one with windows. The outer one should be open right now, so the window one will have a view of the outside.”

   He struggled to read its expression. It emoted like a person, but also… Didn’t. It emoted a bit like a hex, too, but it didn’t do that quite right either. But no matter what, he could tell it felt some sort of intrigue towards him. He slowblinked at it again before he pushed the door open.

   The vehicle bay was dark, and they both slipped into it quietly. They both glanced around curiously, there were trucks and construction vehicles all tied down nearby and… a mech. They both stopped at it. The details were lost in the darkness, but it was absolutely a quadrupedal-style mecha.

   “What… is this?” Aroo asked.

   “A human mech. They’re used for construction. These things can do just about anything ‘cause they can carry things and crawl over any sort of terrain and pick themselves up if they fall and shit.”

   After a moment of silence he added, “I can drive these things pretty decently. Got certified for it some time back, so maybe I’ll get the chance to drive it sometime. You know, if all the other drivers get sick at the same time or something.”

   Aroo hummed in acknowledgement, still transfixed by the strange machine before them. Slowly, the ambient blue light coming from the large windows on the bay’s door was joined by an orange-yellow light. He cast a curious glance to its source, and saw that Aroo was glowing now. Their orange antennae and some yellow spots along their neck shone softly. Oh, right, hexapods are bioluminescent.

   “Sorry,” they say quietly. “I wanted to see better.”

   They angled their antennae forwards as they leaned in to examine it closely. It was barely anything, but it was still helpful to him. It wouldn’t have been to a typical human. But to him and his eyes that were prenatally genetically modified to be better at seeing in the dark…

   The mech was lying like a sphynx with its head resting on the ground between its tied down paws. Of course, its head was just a large metal scooper with headlights where an animal’s eyes would be, and its paws were nubs that large metal claws could extend from, depending on whether it needed to dig into the surface of whatever it was walking on. It almost looked like a child’s toy, being so animal-like and bright yellow, lovingly posed and carefully left to sleep in this dark room.

   “That helped me see, too.” He said as it leaned back and turned away. He remained where he was to continue admiring the mech for a little bit. When he turned to where Aroo had gone, he saw it gazing outside the vehicle bay windows.

   “See anything?” He asked as he silently walked to its side.

   It didn’t say anything. Its eyes stayed fixated upwards. He followed its gaze and looked out across the alien tundra before them. Far away, mountain ranges shaped the horizon with their silhouettes and a sparse amount of white snow lay against red plants.

   Most notably of all, the sky was alight with a green aurora borealis. It flickered and shifted around like a fire. The sight sent shivers down his spine, making his fur stand on its ends. He stared at it for a long time, and then looked over at Aroo. At its fascinated face being lit up by the green light, with its own orange and yellow bioluminescence shining alongside that. The lighting flattered its face and jaw shapes quite handsomely. His eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat for a moment. God damn it.

   Damian took in a deep breath as he leaned away and nodded to himself. Aroo glanced at him quizzically. But the aurora was fading now anyways. He exhaled hard. Aroo backed away and turned to face him.

   “That was pretty.” He said.

   “Yeah.” Aroo replied. “It was.”