Felix and the Frontier is a story told in six episodes, posted serially by me, your resident purveyor of free neutrons, Cheeseburger Brown.
Related reading: Simon of Space, Free Felix, Life & Taxes
Felix is very excited. The next candidate world he steps into has liquid water oceans, and he spends a moment standing outside the gatehouse on a windswept cliff, smelling the salty air from the sea.
A spectacular aurora fades in the north -- scarlet, streaked by violet, encompassing a third of the sky. Felix wonders whether anything could live under such a fierce bath of cosmic rays.
The sun is rising, a cheerfully fat red giant with strands of arcing fire glinting at its edges, its face festooned by sunspots. The sky turns yellow, then a vivid orange that glimmers with wide, diffuse decks of suspended dust.
The newest parts of Felix shine in the ruddy morning light, but most of him is too tarnished to reflect. His armour is a mottled brown and grey collage of repairs and stains, cracks and scratches. A dew of antibiotic drips from his arm, leaving tracks in the grime.
An insect whizzes by Felix's head. He blinks, tracking it with a smile. It's a tiny, flitting thing with an exoskeleton and two pairs of translucent double wings. "I've got a good feeling about this place," Felix says to no one in particular, made heady by the promise of this rich ecosystem.
Uncomfortable with the idea of another aquatic adventure, he turns on heel and walks directly away from the water, proceeding down an escarpment of fallen boulders and gullies of rock layered in jagged bands of deep black and stark white. More winged insects buzz about.
He climbs out of a gully and thrills to see a rolling purple prairie extending before him. The inky grasses wave in the wind, rippled whorls chasing one another to the hazy horizon. Felix takes a sample stalk and examines it, delighted to find familiar green chlorophyll working along with a novel molecule bound to a dark, nearly black, pigment to absorb the widest spectrum from the fat red star's feeble light.
Felix makes a note.
He wades deeper into the prairie. He notices bands of baldness where no grasses grow, and tracks them back to the seaside cliffs where they seem to correlate with the zebra stripes in the rock face. "Curious," says Felix...
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