“What a day that was,” ZynarQ49 stated, as she sipped Alturian wine from a crystal flute forged on the planet Fenn 13. “Remember how much fun it was to ride horses to the top of the mountain, then ski down?”
“Yes, I remember, but things weren’t as they seemed.” Gonar675 replied. “There was a lot going on we weren’t aware of that led to what we’re seeing now.”
ZynarQ49 pouted. “You promised we weren’t going to talk politics during this excursion. Besides, we virtually have the planet to ourselves except for the wildlife. The humans caused their own extinction, so going on about it won’t change a thing. Look how beautiful of a day this is,” she said, as she set their cruiser down on a grassy field filled with thousands of flowers.
Gonar675 sighed. “You’re right. I’ve been a grumpy Gus lately, but I liked humans. Their quirks were interesting.” Raising his flute for a toast, he clinked her glass, and said. “Let’s open the hatch and grab the portable food dispenser. I’m hungry.”
After lunch, they lay in the field feeling the warmth of the sun for a while, then rose to go for the hike they’d planned. A game trail led to a stand of trees whose limbs towered over a stream bordered by moss-covered rocks. They crossed the stream on a fallen log and followed the trail up a gradual slope they hoped would lead to a panoramic view of the lands beyond. ZynarQ49 specialized in selling landscape photos on planets devoid of such natural beauty, and her work provided the credits to enjoy their Traveler lifestyle. Her eye and technique had gained notoriety throughout the galaxy and Gonar675 was happy to play second fiddle without enmity. His skills in programming the food dispenser and maintaining the cruiser made them a great couple.
When they reached the top of the slope, there was a great vista indeed, but it was spoiled for ZynarQ49 by a ramshackle log hut with smoke streaming from a battered metal chimney. Signs of human habitation were unexpected. Frowning, she said. “Let’s go back to the cruiser and find a different spot. I wish we’d noticed this before landing.”
Gonar675, on the other hand, was excited. Supposedly, all humans perished in the Great Plague that other lifeforms were impervious to. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s check it out. I’m dying to know how someone survived and what they’ve become.”
When his companion reluctantly agreed, they worked their way down slope, and approached the hut cautiously. As they got near, they could hear that someone was crying. Gonar675 unsnapped the restraint on his blaster but hoped to not use it as he knocked on the weathered door. When a child of about ten answered with tears rolling down her cheeks, they were surprised.
The child cowered at first, obviously expecting a human visitor, but eventually told them her story using the Universal Translator. Evidently, a handful of humans possessed a gene variation that made them immune from the plague. Her family was the only one inhabiting a vast territory where food was readily available but company was wanting. When asked why she was crying, she showed them a children’s book from the past. “My dad left it for me to read while he’s out hunting,” she explained. “Seeing all those children having fun together made me cry–especially when they were with their moms. My dad will be back soon. Want to stay for dinner? We haven’t had company since a bear killed mom.”
Concerned that the father could resent their intrusion during his absence and their different appearance, they declined, but were moved by the girl’s impassioned pleas. “Tell you what,” ZynarQ49 said. “As we look for another place to photograph, we’ll see if someone else might be living in the area. If there is someone we’ll fly by and drop a capsule with a map in it for you. Who knows? They might have children for you to play with. How does that sound?”
Sniffling, the girl nodded her head. “What if there isn’t anyone?” She asked.
“Then we’ll use our replicator to make you some talking dolls,” Gonar675 said. “We’ll beam them down to you, and you’ll have someone to talk to.” They already knew there was no one but it was the least they could do. The walk back to the ship was without conversation but if they could make one little girl happy it would be a successful outing.