When the tiny insect flew into Suzanne’s face her bike almost hit a pothole. She veered, cursed, almost fell off, and straightened up again—all in a fraction of a second.
That was close.
Her heart thudding, she pulled over to the side of the road. Not that the rutted track deserved the name.
She looked up and out, over the valley, and gasped. The largest, and last, of Vega’s three moons was setting over the Tranquil Sea. Ripples of iridescence, like the inside of a sea shell, stretched from the shore to the horizon. The huge moon slipped lower in the sky while she watched.
Soon there would be no light to cycle by. As beautiful as the scene was, she had to hurry. The roads were dangerous enough when there was light to see. In the dark they could be fatal.
Suzanne adored Vega and everything about it. She’d arrived here ten years previouly, a young and enthusiastic bio-engineer. Everything was possible, she believed. She’d watched the barren, rocky planet transform, its sole continent blossom with trees and pastures, animals and birds and yes, even insects, annoying as they were. Everything was part of the Plan, drafted in detail before they’d left Earth.
Soon her job would be done, and the colonists would begin to arrive. The rutted, primitive roads, currently navigable only by bicycle, would be rebuilt and sealed. Proper housing would be constructed, replacing the basic huts occupied by the terraforming crew. Crops would be planted. And it would be time for her team to move on to another job, another planet.
Except for one small problem.
She’d noticed recently the plants weren’t growing in quite they way they should be. After careful analysis, she’d come to the conclusion that another, unPlanned factor was influencing their growth. Hence this week’s long trip, as far south as she could go. She’d needed samples, many samples, in order to compare them to the original stock.
The lab was in darkness when she arrived. She’d expected nothing less. She’d told no-one of her fears, and she was glad to have the place to herself.
Parking her bike in the lab foyer she hurried inside, turning on lights as she went. She prepared her slides and fired up the huge electronic microscope.
Within half an hour data flashed up on her screen, comparisons of plant samples from the many different places she’d reached inside a day’s bike ride from here.
The scientist in Suzanne was fascinated by what she saw. The human was terrified.
Something else was influencing the plant growth. Something uniquely Vegan. Something alien, and completely unPlanned.
And something was crawling up her neck.
She wondered if she had time to call for help.
The scientist in her said the Vegan influence was molecular, and she had nothing to fear. These weren’t the green, tentacled aliens of twentieth century folklore.
Something whirred and landed on the desk in front of her.
A ladybug. The insect had almost knocked her off her bike. It must gave crawled inside her clothing and only just found its way out.
Suzanne laughed out loud in relief.
Just a ladybug. She’d hatched the shipment herself. Nothing alien. Nothing unPlanned.
She scratched the bite on her neck, and went back to work.
(c) Jane New 2017
For Lloyd Hopkins, who posed the challenge – alien, bicycle, ladybug – genre SF.