Wednesday, August 7, 2019


I was stationed for a while
on a planet—one of the remote rocks
in the Theta-962-A-9 system—
where it was wintry and freezing
for 24 months at a time.
My mission lasted 16 months,
so I never saw the summer there.
I landed at the base
in the middle of a blizzard,
the howling wind and ice
whipping me in the face
as soon as I stepped off the shuttle.
Through squinted eyes,
I saw a landscape dim and featureless,
seemingly unlit by the nearest star,
a thick blanket of grey clouds overhead.
I heard the new white snow
crunching beneath my fur-lined boots
and slid a little on a patch of ice
just in front of the station door.
I was welcomed heartily by Michael,
whom I had actually met before
on a previous mission,
but now he was fat and bearded,
and his exposed skin was pink and raw.
“Welcome to the freezer!” he announced,
clapping me on the back.
A few types of wildlife thrived on
this icy world; the most populous variety
was a large slug-like creature
with no apparent personality or cognition
but a very high percentage of body fat
that mostly served as a food source
for the other indigenous creatures
and our scientists.
Michael offered me a raw piece of this,
along with a shot of vodka.
“I had a large lunch just before we landed,”
I replied queasily.
Michael laughed and slapped me
on the back again.
“It’s an acquired taste,
but you’ll acquire it before too long.”
He barely touched the rations these days;
he preferred to live as a native.
“So you want to live here long-term?”
I asked him incredulously.
“I turn down every transfer I’m offered.”
“But why?”
“Because this planet is the most useless
rock in the galaxy.
We’ve looked all over
but have not found a single mineral or rock
worth the expense of mining.
There are no humanoids to colonize or exploit,
no factories to build.
The Corporation takes absolutely no interest
in my research.
It has no monetary value to them.
So the air is clean,
the water is pure,
the snow is white and unsullied,
there are predators and prey,
in their proper balance,
and in our station,
we just watch, listen, and observe.
We eat and drink well,”
he added, patting his well-padded belly,
“and we have a thriving hockey league.
It’s paradise!”
I did not agree with him;
I despise the winter,
and the slugs never grew more appetizing.
When I discovered several large deposits
of nickel and titanium in the northwestern sector,
I applied for a transfer,
explaining in the narrative section of the report,
“This world has no known
practical applications for the Corporation
beyond purely scientific and biological research.”

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