/"/... but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another, and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of providence, determined still to do our best to the last" Robert F. Scott
Jupiter arrived at the temperate zones, and it was a bit chillier than she expected. Her long cloak was found and wrapped around her. Her personal Greenbacks were making sure she did not snag on anything as she went. The craft sat on the edge of a massive forest. Indeed, if one were to look up the definition of"virgin forest" in the dictionary, it would be certain that pictures of this sight would be the images by which the word would be defined. It was what we would call a pine forest, with a mix of deciduous trees in the mix. However, the trees themselves towered over them intimidatingly, the trunks themselves being so massive that one could have driven a mid-size car through it with ease. It was into this natural city of wooden skyscrapers that the party entered. Standing right next to the trees, one gained a sense of his own smallness as he looked up at the seemingly endless trunk. They seemed to go on forever, and seemed to give no indication to their tops save for the green carpet they formed which darkened the forest floor, which was pockmarked with beams of light that were allowed to break through the green barrier. The effect was an odd mix of dark and enigmatic and serene peacefulness as the beams of light gave the whole scene a cathedral effect to the area. Indeed, because of the canopy, any plant life that could not reach up high enough had no chance to grow as massive. This had the result of several short trees, and no scrub growth. This allowed for ease of passage through the seemingly limitless forest before them, and also allowed for a thriving ecosystem to function within its nurturing boughs. Jupiter took note of this, and she made sure to state in her journal that, if the area was ever lumbered, it had to be done so that these same conditions were maintained. It could be used, but centuries of lessons on Earth that mankind had learned taught him how to lumber and manage forests wisely. It was so engrossing that they almost forgot to keep vigil. It was beautiful, but also an unknown. There was no telling what they may find within the forest as it stood.
Jupiter was enjoying the fresh pine scent that permeated the location. Indeed, it was asmell that one could not avoid if they tried. They made their way slowly, but not so slow as to be too cautious. If there was a chance to encounter docile animal life, they did not want to give off the effect of acting like apredator. Yet, as they made their way along, they were encountering some of the smaller animal life, and they were not too shy about approaching the party. There were creatures that looked partially unusual to the eyes, but had slightly different structures to their bodies, and different color schemes. One thing that caught their attention was a kind of what had to be described as a large flying squirrel. However, the fur was all black, and it was about the size of a skunk. It surprised one of the guards as one landed on his shoulder. Instinct made the sailors reach for their weapons, but they all calmed down when it was seen that it was not going to attack him. It then began to sniff him a bit, and then began to clean his hair, sniff in his ear, and even gave a few licks in there. He had all he could do to keep from laughing. It was indeed a rodent-like creature, and looked like a giant squirrel. However, when it lifted its tail, it was then they saw what looked like scent packs, and they said, "Just let it do what it wants, because I think you wouldn't want to get it riled!"
It finally hopped off and went about to explore everything about the new creatures to its world. While that was going on, the avian creatures started to take an interest in the party. They looked like tropical parrots, but their colors were more akin to the forest. They could only assume that these creatures had adapted to their environment to hide from predators. They were from the size of budgies to macaws. This also begged the question: were there raptors on this world? Some of the budgie-sized birds landed on Jupiter and sang their beautiful songs. It was then that she noticed that the feathers were not like what we would expect. They had the structure, but while the main part of the feather was as we would recognize it, on the ends it became downy, and gave the appearance of fur more than feathers. A larger one landed on Jupiter, and it seemed very affectionate. He saw the trail mix upon which she snacked and helped himself to it without so much as an offer to it. She was now afraid because she was not sure if the bird, (if that was what it could be called,)had a metabolism that could handle earth foods. Seeing the concern in her face, one of the medical team came up and did a scan with his mini-MRI device, and he said, "Well, there are no ill effects, and it seems like it is digesting things well, and it does not seem to be poisonous to it, so I guess it's okay."
It cocked its head a couple of times, and it said, "I guess it's okay!"
"It's a mimic too!"she said, happily surprised.
"It's a mimic too!"it said back, and in her voice.
Everyone looked amazed at this, and they wondered how intelligent the creature was.
As they went, they were amazed at the bovine-like creatures they encountered that did not look to dissimilar to elks and caribou on Earth. They were contently grazing on the patches of grass in the spots were the light was allowed to shine and permit such to grow. They too were docile, not knowing to be afraid of creatures that they had never seen. Yet, at that point, Jupiter felt a harsh pinch on hear earlobe as the mimic creature bit onto it. It was not hard enough to draw blood, but it was enough to get her attention. It then flew to sparse underbrush that did grow there, and Jupiter began figure it out. On Earth, birds like that would bite to warn comrades of impending danger. She took the hint and headed for the underbrush herself. The others took the hint and hid. The creatures around were sensing the stress off their visitors and started to spook a bit. It was just as the last of them hid was when it happened. Abunch of gray catlike creatures about the size of wolves came out and started to go after the herd. Indeed, though they seemed feline, they attacked in apack as if they were wolves, and the herd started to scatter. As they did, they almost trampled those that were hiding, but they were able to avoid them. It was one of the slower ones in the back that was not as fortunate. They all swarmed over the poor creature as if they were fire ants on a cube of sugar. Needless to say, it was quick for the animal, but not pretty. Jupiter felt sad for the creature, but she also knew that this was such as it was for nature, and she had to let it go. However they were wondering how long they had to hide.
As if it were an answer to the question, one of the creatures started to sniff the air, and it went to a place where some were hiding along with about eight other curious companions. They started to sniff, and then one pounced on one hapless sailor and had him pinned to the ground. However, none of the others attacked, but they began to sniff him over. Because the scent was different to them compared to anything else they sniffed, they seemed to be trying to determine if they were food. Suddenly, the creature started to purr, and curled up on his chest. Another was rubbing on another's leg, and she reached down and stroked it, causing it to purr louder. They could not understand what was going on. They would have to find out another time why they would not attack, and instead acted quite affectionate towards them. As they emerged, however, one of them caught sight of the mimic creature and looked like it was getting ready to pounce. Yet, Jupiter spotted this and used a one finger Shockwave to knock it out. All the catlike creatures jerked in surprise and then began to back off them all, but once it was quiet, they calmed and approached again. By then the science team began to observe, and they began to analyze the creatures. They then realized after some data came through that, for some reason, the pheromones that humans created were exactly the same that they made, and that caused them not to attack. Jupiter looked amazed at the fact that there was still so much more to learn.
As they went, the mimic was still on her shoulder, and she wondered why it did not fly away. As they went, they then came along a spot in the forest where the canopy seemed to open up for about one thousand yards down and about one hundred yards wide. However, instead of there being an abundance of grass and sod, it was barren and sandy. Also occupying the area were deciduous trees that were about 800 feet tall, and all the foliage seemed to rest on top of the trees as the branches seemed to grow straight up, spreading out only slightly. The trunks were thinner than the other trees, and they all sat in a bowl shaped area about 40 yards wide. One of the science team came across one of the leaves that was old and dried up, and it was huge, it was about a foot in width, and about ameter long. As the scanned it, they began to realize that there was something odd about it. The further along they went, they realized that the leaf had been once covered with a highly sticky substance. As they pondered what that was about, they got the answer in a way they did not want.
One of the science team started to enter the bowl to go and study the tree when suddenly the boughs of the tree wilted down to just greater than the width of the bowl and about 50 feet above their heads. It was then the leaves started to drop. They had one thing about them, and that as the massive leaves began to fall, they all had their center vein blood red and pulsing. It almost seemed like aliving creature, but gave the sense of something that would make your skin crawl just to think about it touching you. Once the other scientists realized the nature of the leaves, they called back everyone, "RUN FOR IT, AND STAY OUT OF THE BOWLS!"
For the one in the middle, however, she was not so fortunate. A leaf made contact with her and immediately wrapped around her, forming to her body. She let out a blood curdling scream as two more hit her and did the same thing. She screamed, "IT HURTS, THEY'RE...THEY'RE...UGH...tight!"
It was evident that it was constricting the life out of her, and they had to act before she was encased. Jupiter had the answer, however, as she yelled, "SPARKLING WIDE PRESSURE!"
The blast wave of the attack created a stiff enough breeze to bend back the boughs and blow the remaining leaves away. However, the ground in the bowl began to undulate and seemed to be moving her towards the base of the trunk. As they looked they now realized that they had never taken a good look at the base of the tree. It was surrounded by dead leaves that looked like they once encased something. The Greenbacks, however, were not about to let this happen. Because the tree was now devoid of leaves, they charged into the bowl, and pulled her out, being careful not to touch the leaves themselves. Once they had her out, the medical team went to work. She could barely breathe now because of the three leaves on her, but they began to use their surgical tools to cut them off as best they could without harming her, and doing so as to kill the constricting effect. As they cut, and much to their amazement, the leaves began to bleed! Analysis showed well that the substance was so sticky that, to get it off, they had to cut away the layers of cloth to which it stuck, and one layer of skin where she was bare. There was no time for anesthetics, so she had to endure the pain. As she began to regain air, she was now crying, too hurt and confused to scream anymore. They now realized that the blood colored substance was the tree's sap, and it indeed seemed to consist of blood, and the stickiness was not to different than platelets found in human flesh-one of the stickiest substances known to man. They patched her up as best that they could, and it was decided that this was enough exploration for one day. They would leave, and take her back to the ship, and treat her there. It was a harsh reminder to Jupiter that exploration was not necessarily something of glamor, but was something wrought with danger. She only hoped that her husband was faring better.
Sign up to rate and review this story