The Strange New Sun

She tapped the Tower’s dashboard and waited.  The tread wheels twenty feet below were trying to find a grip on the hill, the last hill before she reached her final destination.  The treads sent a loud grinding sound through the entire valley.  Any other planet and birds or deer would be fleeing the scene.  Not here.  When told “planets should have flora and fauna” this planet stopped listening after “flora”.

What surprised her most of this Planet, designated Cygnus X5 Delta because only planets with cute animals with long ears received real names, was the single sun on the horizon.  All of her sci-fi books and space movies told her that outside of the Solar System, planets had two bright spots in the sky to cause windshield glare.  She stared out the window, her seat rattling, and imagined what a second sun would do the scene.

Trees here had no limbs.  Needles shot out of hundred foot tall trunks, collecting dew and sun alike.  The ground in front of the Tower was covered in vines wrapping themselves around short bushes.  The ground behind the Tower was tilled up by the tread wheels; pulling rich black soil to the surface.

She saw the Tower’s wake in a perimeter camera above her head and to the left.  The Tower’s cabin was full of camera displays.  She could even see the treads trying to climb the hill.

“Any day now,” she said.  She looked at a photo of her family; smiling kids, a pointy eared dog, all the things that brought her to this place.  She took the job for the same reasons anyone takes a job; good money, good benefits, and bragging rights.  Earth needed fuel and she was going to bring it to them.  She drove Towers into place, ensured the pipelines connected to the fixed position satellites above and on occasion fixed broken sprockets and gizmos.

She was the only living animal on the entire planet.  She looked at the single sun, the needled trees and the vine systems that spanned continents and felt splendidly at peace.

The Tower caught footing and her chair jolted.

“Bingo!” she started pressing buttons and checking gauges.  The Tower rolled over the hill.  The horizon was dotted with established Towers, pipes heading to the heavens above.  She admired her work for only a moment before the Tower began its alarmingly fast descent.

“Easy fella,” she pleaded.  The scenery blurred by the cabin’s window.  The treads were moving twice their usual speed and all she could hope to do was pull the right lever.  The hill was nearing its rather abrupt end.

“Stop!” she shouted as pushed one final button.  The Tower slowed and chugged to a full stop.  She sighed in relief.  Getting the Tower moving again would take hours, but picking a Tower up off the ground would take longer.  She took her wins when they came.

She pushed the necessary buttons and went back to waiting on the Tower.  So much of her time was spent waiting on the Tower.  She took one more look a the landscape, a landscape she never tired of.

She sat in her chair and looked at the window.  She hoped for a return to the peaceful feeling the view always gave her.  When she looked out the window, her pulse raced.  She fumbled over the control panel, trying to open a communication link with the space station she reported to.

When the link activated, she did not wait for the usual pleasantries of the communications officer.

“Station lead, this is Tower Control reporting some odd news.  I have smudge on my window.  The smudge had wings.” She could not blink, she could not bare to look away even for a moment.  Cygnus X5 Delta had life.  Cygnus X5 Delta was going to get a real name.


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