The title of this FridayFlashFic was randomly generated from a military site through terribleminds.com. The site gives five Military Operation names and we had to pick one for our title. The names I got were; Steadfast Bandicoot, Perpetual Ogre, Humane Emu, Culturally Imperative Lover, and the last one actually was Platinum Jungle Cat. It was the only one I immediately saw any story in at all. Word limit 1000. Mine 1223. So no cigar for me, this week. But I felt the story needed every word I used. http://wp.me/p1BAlV-32
Platinum Jungle Cat Louise Sorensen April29, 2012
Ian steals into our cabin on silent feet, plops his skinny butt down beside me and gives me a hip bump.
“Hey Babe,” he says, with a hideous grin. He drops a small yellow apple on the bed. Up early before the start of our twelve hour shift, he’s been to hydroponics for this gift.
“Thanks.” I lean forward to kiss him. Half in and half out of my jumpsuit I almost fall over.
“Hold on,” he says. “I’ll wait ‘til you change.”
I pull on my clothes, grab his face with my hands and proceed to say good morning in the second best way I know. My heart rate goes up and he’s breathing hard, but there’s no time for more. Routine on this under-manned mining ship is strict.
I relieve Second Officer Baker at Control. His bones crack as he stretches. The ship’s on autopilot, and he’s been playing solitaire. Captain, if she were still alive, would be pissed.
Switching away from Baker’s card game, I see Navigation looks a little off. The Nav screen shows the ship’s path for the last twelve hours is a spiral. Have we been flying around in circles? I pinch my lip and go into the program–the only sound the tapping of my fingers on the keys. This would go much faster if the voice interface still worked, but it’s been offline for two years.
After half an hour getting nowhere with corrections, the screen shoots me error messages. I comply again and again. Suddenly, it goes black. External camera feed shows static. I call Ian. At least the intercom still works. We’re lucky life support is on a different system too.
Ian, Sheila “Mac” MacArthur and I tinker for four days and finally get Nav and cameras back on. Don’t recognize any stars. We’re way out past the end of the asteroid relay stations.
Two days trying to figure out where we are yields zip.
We’re sitting around Control drinking cuffee and choking down jelkie when the asteroid monitor, also calibrated for terrestrial planets, pings. We’ll find out where we are eventually, and a terrestrial planet is a tremendous find, so Ian, Mac and Baker are all jumping up and down to go and take a look. I’m left behind to baby-sit the Malus.
I peer out the airlock at Ian, keeping him in sight as long as possible before he closes the lock on the scout ship.
They’re not down there half an hour before I get a transmission, “Oh my god… it’s incredible down here. You should see it…“ Followed by excited babble.
They sounded happy-excited, not terrified-excited. Of course Ian as a geologist, gets excited over anything minable. So the news must be good. Right?
Twenty four hours. No response.
I can’t leave without them.
Taking the last scout ship, I find no sign of survivors or even their ship itself at the landing co-ordinates. A circle of melt confirms they were here.
I land nearby, on the side of a silver white jungle.
My ship, forty feet tall, shudders and settles a little. It shouldn’t be doing this, instruments say the landing area is solid.
The ship settles a little lower.
I fire the engines. Got to get out of here. Nothing happens.
The ship groans and collapses in upon itself. Ten feet of freefall, then an abrupt halt.
I pull a space suit on in a rush. Leave the helmet open a crack as the suit has only four hours of air.
Another shudder, more freefall. There’s not much ship left beneath me. I don’t know if we’re caught in a sink hole or being swallowed by something. Whatever it is, we’re going down. Pushing a sidearm into my suit pocket, I seal my helmet and blow the escape hatch.
Light gravity. Good landing.
Adjusting the filter on my faceplate I see a misty orange atmosphere, and through it, the platinum jungle. The tip of a vine covered pyramid towers over the treetops.
No one answers my calls on the suit radio. I put it on automatic.
Big holes are growing in my ship.
I slip across the landing area and sit down on a platinum rock to watch.
Round shadows are growing on my suit.
So close to earning my way out.
I wonder whatever happened to Ian.
One more hour of air. Should I crack my helmet and get it over with? A whir of motion catches my eye. Through the eroding faceplate, I make out a flying snake the size of a humming bird. It hovers in front of me, sticking out its tongue.
Checking out supper?
I reach out and it coils around my finger, folding up its wings. A ruff of feathers around its neck smoothes down. We stare at each other for a long moment before it coils up and darts away.
Will the shadows breach my suit before my air runs out?
Must have dozed off. A dozen platinum jaguars are slinking towards me. Their jaws are open in huge grins, their movement liquid. Forming a circle around me, they sit down. Yawn. What big teeth!
One of them saunters over and drops down at my feet. His hide is etched with iridescent rosettes. I swear he smiles, and then sinks his teeth through the fabric of my suit, into my leg.
“Jeezez damn! Bloody hell.” I paw for the gun and shoot without aiming, but the trigger breaks off. Covered in patches of white, the gun crumbles to dust. Shit! I throw the gun at the jaguar, but it shrugs out of the way and looks at me mournfully. I cannot interpret its expression by human standards. For all I know, it’s injected me with venom, and now the whole pack is going to sit back and wait ‘til it works.
After the initial pain, my leg doesn’t hurt. It bleeds a little, then the edges of the skin turn a dull platinum. The one that bit me gets up and wanders into the forest. The others leave too. I guess they’ll come back later to dine. I can almost hear them murmuring as they wander off, like people discussing the latest game results. No mention of me, dying here. This doesn’t disturb me as much as I think it should.
I try to appreciate the otherworldly forest and the animals flitting through the trees, but their beauty is lost to me.
Dozed off again! My suit’s gone. Naked on yellow grass, my whole body is platinum. No problem breathing. The orange mist is gone now, the air clear. The trees and vines are purple-green, with sparks of pink and orange blossoms everywhere.
A platinum jaguar saunters back. Sits down beside me. He drops a golden apple, gives me a hip bump and opens his mouth in a hideous grin. I can almost hear him say, “Hey Babe!”
My wrists end in bulbous paws. I waggle one, and flex an arsenal of shiny claws. My arm has become lean and muscular. My legs are still human. I turn over on my side and struggle to get up.
“Hold on,” I hear more clearly in my head. “I’ll wait ‘til you change.”