“Finding Sanctuary” just started with the idea of a human colony ship wandering through space in search of a home. Eventually they find one. But an alien planet suitable for life would of course have alien life, wouldn’t it? It would be nice to think they’d be welcoming, but…, well…, WE’D be the aliens then, wouldn’t we?
Here’s the blurb:
After generations searching for a home, the colonists of The Promise think they’ve found it. But is this seemingly perfect world where they’ll find Sanctuary?
A bit of sci-fi, a pinch of fantasy, a slice of horror; a good mix of what makes up speculative fiction. Add in alien spiders – how can you go wrong? Don’t resist your impulses – buy “Finding Sanctuary.”
And here’s the excerpt:
“… breaking, … Lieutenant, … repeat,” Captain Lawrence’s voice crackled through the radio.
“Sorry, Captain, there’s a significant amount of interference in the system,” Jim said as he altered his position for a cleaner signal. “I had to return to the edge of the nebula to be able to report in.”
“That’s better – continue your report.”
“I’m naming the third planet Sanctuary. The readings I’m getting are in the range we’ve been looking for, a near ideal mix of Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon, but the atmosphere is too dense with water vapor to see anything from orbit (as though massive amounts of H2O would be a problem.) Streaming you what I have so far.”
Eighty seven years of searching – all his lifetime and then some – finally over. Lieutenant Jim Masterson visualized the blue and white world he’d found as he thought-linked his scout’s flight plan and waited for a response..
“This data is impressive,” Captain Lawrence said. “We will change course. Estimate arrival your position in twelve days.”
“Sanctuary is three days into the nebula. I’m going in to go for a closer look. I won’t be able to send you another report until I’ve come back out.” Jim turned the scout back toward Sanctuary.
“Make sure you come back, Lieutenant,” a familiar female voice said before the static resumed, “with something…”
Jim’s heart skipped a beat; that last had been from Susan, their lead xenobiologist. Susan, who he’d grown up with on The Promise, the colony ship that had birthed them both. Susan, who had been his tether to the colony these seven years that he’d been flying patrol. Susan, who would be by his side as they settled their new world.
“For you, always,” Jim said. She knew, even if she didn’t hear him.
Jim deposited backtrack markers along his path during the three day trip back. Once he had penetrated Sanctuary’s cloud cover, he was pleased with how much the planet resembled the Earth he had only seen in his school lessons. A serpentine branching of mountain ranges formed a half-dozen discernible land masses, surrounded and separated by one huge, planet-wide ocean of water. Plant-life was abundant – he’d seen pictures of rain forests, but those had never given him the impression of scale and density that the real thing conveyed.
Jim couldn’t truly explore from the air; the Sanctuary called out to him, and he wanted to experience it. He directed his scout to land on the jungle-side edge of a plateau at the foot of a mountain.
He stepped out onto grass – actual grass – that became taller as he walked away from the jungle. The ground felt springy under his boots, almost like the workout mats they used on The Promise’s training deck. He looked up at the trees on the edge of the plateau – sixty or so feet at the edge of the plateau, climbing to close to two-hundred feet further in. Their broad bases were more rapidly tapered than Earth trees. No sample would do them justice, but Susan would see these for herself soon enough.
There wasn’t just plant life. Jim took a couple of steps back when a blue, multi-legged, armor-plated creature as long as his arm startled him as it wove its way around the tufts of grass. Alien life. Jim tried to reach its mind through his implant, but there was only low-level animal intelligence – nothing the experimental translator Susan had built was able to communicate with.
Still, there might be sentient life here. He looked back at his scout ship – its sleek white metal so obviously alien against the jungle backdrop. He had gone beyond his transmitter’s range, so he walked back toward the scout until he was only thirty feet away and LINK ESTABLISHED floated into his vison.
The canopy closed none too soon, as three furry, ten-legged shapes the separated from the shadows of the trees. Their bodies were slightly larger than Jim, but the legs made them seem three times his size.
Why did they have to look like spiders? Jim thought, as he reflexively drew his phaser and backed away.
There were no spiders on the ship, but Jim had seen videos of them in Life Sciences as a young boy. The disturbing images of their hunting and eating habits had haunted him at night, translated his snug bed covers into a tightly woven web, and created a nightmarish fantasy of being snagged and devoured alive that still gave him the creeps. Through this he had managed to adopt a very human disgust with what they represented.
“But this isn’t Earth,” Susan would have told him. “They might be intelligent.”
He lowered his weapon and watched. A striped one skittered over the shell of his scout on its six rear legs, trying without success to pry open the canopy with the pincers at the terminus of its four front limbs. The other two creatures advanced cautiously on Jim. He tried to connect with them using his implant, but it was not necessary, as the two began talking in a clattering hiss.
“What is it, Erklidt?” the red one asked. “Prey or predator?”
Jim heard this translated quite clearly over the gurgling clatter of their native speech; Susan’s translator was a success! Of course, their mandibles moved badly out of synch with the words, like one of those dubbed martial arts movies in the ship’s library. It would have been comical, if they hadn’t been so obviously preparing to attack.
“It looks soft and weak,” Erklidt said. “Prey.”
There hadn’t been an opportunity to test out the translation algorithms on real alien life forms – he would have to assume it was accurate.
“I am neither one,” Jim said, backing away to keep them from flanking him. “I am from the people of earth.”
“Peephole?” Red asked.
So, they could hear him, but they didn’t seem to understand what he was saying. He tried reaching their consciousness again.
“Something is happening to me,” Red said. “It’s attacking my mind!”
“Nonsense – see how it backs away in fear? It doesn’t attack us,” Erklidt said. “It is prey!”
Erklidt leapt at Jim, but he was able to fire off a searing blast into its compound eyes that blew out the back of its head, and it fell in a twitching jumble of hairy limbs. Red seemed frozen in time at first, but then leapt directly over and behind Jim. He turned around and fired, but missed; the spider was skittering left and right, hopping and tumbling. Jim held his weapon steady, watching Red’s evasion technique – up, left, roll, up, right – but as he caught on to the pattern, a great weight hit him from behind and knocked him to the ground.
He’d forgotten the striped spider that had been prodding at his scout.
He tried to roll over and fire, but the striped one had him pinned to the ground, and one of its pincers was clamped on his wrist, slicing into it. Then Red was on him, and the two gripped Jim’s limbs and pulled him off the ground, holding him taut as though they intended to tear him in half, and while Jim screamed in agony, Red slashed a claw across Jim’s belly and gutted him. He felt the burn and the moist weight of his insides dropping out, and then something sharp and heavy pierced his back, and everything went black.
Believe it or not, this isn’t the end of Jim’s fun (or yours), but you’ll have to read “Finding Sanctuary” to find out how fun it gets (Come on – I really am serious! How can you go wrong with giant sentient spiders?) “Finding Sanctuary” is a sci-fi short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
“Finding Sanctuary” is also included in the collection More, And Yet Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND (If you purchase the collection on Smashwords with coupon code BT87H you will receive a 67% discount – that’s only 99-cents for SIX stories – such a deal!):
Which is itself included in the mega-collection The Last Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’ :
William Mangieri’s writing – including his most recent release “Truth in Advertising” – can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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