Dismal Nitch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Wuten found Beauty. Not some personal eye-of-the-beholder beauty; she found Beauty. Absolute. Unqualified. Unquestionable.

Submitted: August 18, 2018

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Submitted: August 18, 2018



Dismal Nitch

Every galaxy has its Dismal Nitch. Every member of the Expeditionary Force knows that, yet Wuten, even with her many cycles of service, had never seen a planet quite like this. It was literally raining vermin. Shiskovny had christened the gliding spider-like critters dismites and dubbed their nagging bites nitch itch.

At the moment, a wicked downdraft from the volcano they were surveying had created a jet stream of the eyeball-sized dismites splattering against their outskins, reducing visibility so much that they’d had to lower their visors and depend on pocket drones to guide them. Wuten thought it was a crazy way to survey a planet. In this day and age, it could all be done by drones and bots. It’d be faster and more efficient. But it was not the EFing way.

The EFing way was old school. Boots on the ground. Literally boots, though these were covered by the outskins which acted as virtual epidermis and allowed Wuten and Shiskovny to collect data on a planet’s atmosphere, climate, flora, fauna and florauna without the unfortunate downside of being sickened and killed a thousand million ways.

Though sickness and death was part of the EFing way. Outskins were only as good as the last modifications made from recently surveyed planets. Their were always opportunistic life and semi-life as well as unpredictable geo-climatic events that defeated the outskins. That’s how it had always been. Expeditions were expeditions and that meant a certain tolerance for expendables.

That was not callous or cold. You didn’t become an EFer without knowing the risks. You joined because of them. Except in Wuten’s case, she’d ignored the risks. Or more accurately, she’d romanticized them. It could happen when you understood the EFing way.

The belief that exploration had to be felt. Knowledge was meaningless without an emotional component. EFers lived the planet they were exploring. Outskins would protect them from almost all serious threats to their health, while still allowing them to feel an algorithmically safe amount of the sensation an unprotected human would experience on the world they trod.

EFers needed to feel, name, countenance and suss a world. They were to map, write, draw, even though their outskins streamed continuous sensory data to their ship parked in orbit. Every step was to be scouted by human eyes, touched by way of outskin fingertips, toes and tongue. The beauty and beastly bits of any world were in the eyes, ears and nose of the beholder. The EFing way was to do that for humanity. Regardless if a world would ever be colonized, it needed to be cataloged—by human touch.

Wuten understood that romantic vision of the EFing way, but she was on a Dismal Nitch. A planet which sucked on every level. A bitey, smelly, uncomfortable world that seemed to have little to offer human sensibilities. Even the topology was terminally tedious. An endless stretch of gullies. It was like climbing out of one gutter and dropping right into another.

The lone volcano Wuten and Shiskovny stood at the base of was the only interesting feature on the whole planet and now she and Shiskovny were in the middle of a dismite downpour. She could feel the hundreds of bites which, though harmless in that no poisons could penetrate her outskin, were still disconcerting as if she were being eaten bit by bit. Wuten decided to find cover and waved Shiskovny nearer to an outcropping about fifty meters away.

That’s where she found it.

Wuten found Beauty. Not some personal eye-of-the-beholder beauty; she found Beauty. Absolute. Unqualified. Unquestionable.

The outcropping deepened into natural grotto which apparently formed the preferred nesting ground for the dismites. Every surface was a squirming carpet of dismite larvae being fed a disgusting vomit-slime extruded by flightless dismites. To Wuten it was a putrid, festering hell hole of repulsion and nausea.

And in the middle of the most dismal nitch on this galactic Dismal Nitch, Wuten beheld Beauty. Indescribable. Uncomparable. Unforgettable.

Shiskovny joined her, stood at her side. The dismites swarmed them, biting ferociously. Neither budged. They stood in the presence of Beauty and understood.

No probe or bot would have registered Beauty. Not even moravecian AIs would have recognized it.

It took Wuten and Shiskovny.

It took discomfort, pain and disillusionment.

It took heart.

There is only one EFing way to discover Beauty.


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