Voices/Future Tense

An Orions’ Arm E-zine

Fall From Grace

Steve Bowers

The great drogue parachute that had carried my lander to the surface suddenly opens a thousand vents and collapses. With a very short puff of retro rockets the lander is on solid ground. Nice touch-down, I think; and it is a beautiful day in this location, here on the surface of this unnamed world.

That is to say, it has no name in the gazetteers except a soulless catalog number (which happens to be JD 2666201c, if you are interested). I do know that it is inhabited, and I also know (thanks to the catalog) which great Power claims this world for its own, but little more. This little speck is just one planet among millions of similar worlds in our corner of the galaxy, worlds which had been altered by extreme technology to resemble Old Earth in climate if not in geography. So many worlds that a few are forgotten backwaters, never visited by outsiders.

Just the sort of world that I specialise in.

You might call me an anthropologist; me, I prefer to call myself a *humanologist*. There are plenty of intelligent species out there to study nowadays, most of which have been developed from the wildlife of our ancient homeworld; I like to specialise in those species which have developed from humans. A pretty varied bunch, I can tell you; I am not included in this set myself, so perhaps my perspective is a little skewed.

So, humanologist, here is a world about which the outside universe knows nothing, except that it is believed to hold a human derived species, and it is a protectorate of the isolationist Utopia Sphere. If the Sphere archai permit me to make contact with the population here, and to leave with my memory and research materials intact, this world could supply some excellent academic fodder. A long shot, perhaps, but that is what I do.

Outside the lander there stretches a steppe-like parkland; a little dry and scrubby, but pleasantly warm. A few grazing animals can be seen about a kilometre way. They had been closer until the retro‚Äôs fired, but this sort of craft makes minimal fuss when it puts down, so they hadn’t gone too far. Perhaps a sweep with a broad spectrum scope might turn up a couple of locals. Why not; I’ve always been lucky.

Yes; there they are; quite distant, hiding behind some unknown species of scrub. Big eyes too, under heavy brows; they probably have good eyesight, so don’t need to come any closer. Well, I’ll give them something to look at.

Check the breather; yes, the atmosphere is fine for my kind, a little thin perhaps. I open the door at the top of one of the landing legs, and swing to the ground. No ladder of course; my kind laughs at ladders.

A great slap of my hands on the ground in front of the landing site, which is my way of celebrating planet fall; this display raises a cloud of dust, and that should be visible to my eagle-eyed observers.

Next I hold my long arms up in an open gesture – ‘Look, no Weapons’.

Not true of course – the lander has plenty of firepower and a deadly launch motor (to get me back into orbit it needs quite a bit of punch). In a pinch I could get it to take off and hover over any opponent’s location- that would maroon me here, of course, at least until the backup lander comes to my rescue.

But here, in the peaceful Utopia Sphere, I hope that will not be necessary. I anticipate that the natives of this world will be friendly, or at least sophisticated enough to welcome me. The Sphere never gets involved in conflict (unless attacked), and reports no strife whatsoever within its population; as a humanologist I am interested to see what kind of perfect specimens inhabit these secretive worlds. As a matter of fact few reports of any kind ever come out of the Utopia worlds, and so this is pretty much new territory for my field of expertise.

A little more luck; the watchers are standing in full view now, and actually walking toward me without apprehension. Surely they have not seen my kind before – unless there are nonsophont primates on this world; the Utopia Sphere only lists a single intelligent species in this system, and I can see that they are pretty much human.

No fear of strangers, especially one as strange as me, eh?


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