Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | November 19, 2009

Shimmershields

New England Aquarium. June 7, 2007.

Jellyfish

When the blue comes, I’m sure I’ve phased out. This is the end of the final T-987 robot. Soon my thoughts will wither into meaningless, repetitive signals. But then my sensors flicker back into life and the air presses close around me, thick and sloshy.

This isn’t death, it’s an atmosphere. A dense one. Almost like water, but it can’t be. My chemical sensors know water like human nostrils know fresh baked apple pie. But there hasn’t been any apple pie for millenia, and no nostrils to smell it, either. I only know because of the robots before me, the ones the humans sent out, each with a pocket of DNA.

The first generation, the T-1s, didn’t make it far. Only out to Neptune, where they reassembled themselves into the T2s. The reassembly cost one or two their lives, and so did every reassembly thereafter. I am the lone child of a thousand ancestors, and along with their memories, I’ve carried my load of DNA safely through star systems unknown to planet Earth.

But this one will be the last. As I plunged to the surface, I could feel my sensors and fuel cells weakening. But I’m still alive, and I plan to complete my mission.

If only this were a water planet, I think as I struggle to eject the safe box in my belly. My joints are starting to corrode–I was built to withstand all the common planetary atmospheres, but this one is different. Something acidic and soupy. Not the ideal home for my Earth DNA.

Have I failed? The very last of the robots, farther out in the universe than its human makers could ever have hoped, and my mission is for nothing. My cargo will die, and so will I. I’ll be dissolved in this blue deathtrap.

That’s when I see them: shimmering bodies floating in the blue air. They are coming closer, strings like tentacles reaching as their capped bodies propel them, forward.

Jellyfish, report my Earth animal memory banks. Yes, that is what they look like, but it’s certainly not what they are. This isn’t an ocean, and these creatures seem to know that I’m here. In fact, they are wrapping me with their tentacles, but it doesn’t sting. It feels… better. Whatever they are doing, it’s stopping the corrosion!

My chemical sensors are spinning with confusion. It seems these creatures have evolved a special coating that protects themselves and others from the harsh atmosphere.

Then the tentacles reach inside for my DNA cargo. Do they know what it is? Do they have any idea what they’re doing?

Quietly, with such sparkling serenity it calms my spinning sensors, they coat the DNA with a protective shield, and release it.

Will it evolve? Will this planet someday be home to clear-coated creatures who bake a thing like apple pie?

I have no way of knowing, but thanks to the Shimmershields, as I’ve named my saviors, I may be around long enough to find out.

 

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Responses

  1. So that’s how we got here! Wow! I would never have guessed. In that case, I sure do hope you’re still around…and willing to take on another transplanting adventure. Judging from the rate we’re trashing this place, it looks like we’re going to need one soon…


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