Felix and the Frontier is a story told in six episodes, posted serially by me, your beanstalk-climbing host, Cheeseburger Brown.
Related reading: Simon of Space, Free Felix, Life & Taxes
Coming up next: Welcome to Mars! concerns the first manned mission to the red planet, and the uncomfortable surprise that awaits Earth's heroic astronauts upon their arrival. Don't miss a single chapter! The story starts serializing the week of September 10th.
The drops are an ammonia hydroxide and hydrogen sulfide solution. They stink like egg farts and leave streaks of yellow stain striping the gatehouse dome. Never the less Felix is enchanted, refreshed, and grateful -- this situation is infinitely preferable to the waystation he's just left.
The early morning sky is an opaque ceiling of wooly cloud. Thunder groans.
Felix and his tiny twin have emerged into woods, though it is immediately apparent that the area is more farm than forest: the tall, web-leaved trees are planted in widely-spaced rows, stately lines extending in every direction with measured precision. The foliage is blood-red, the floor a packed bed of rust-coloured moss.
The hybrid homunculus steps up to the nearest plant and inclines his little head. "Hello," he squeaks. "We represent Solar life. Our names are Felix, and we come in peace."
Felix shakes his head. "That's a sapling."
His staff turns to look at him with an inquiring expression.
"You can't talk to saplings," Felix explains. "They're just plants. All they do is grow and breathe."
The staff cocks his head, blinking as rain runs down his face.
"Those rowboats didn't equip you with much in the way of brains, did they?" asks Felix drily.
"You can teach me, Big Felix. How does one recognize a sapling?"
Felix shifts, still faintly repelled by the hybrid thing, then shrugs. "Well, the height and the simple bifurcation pattern of the gross structure suggest phototropism. Note also the extensive vascular root systems, indicative of immobility. Finally, the sapling resembles the surrounding phenotypes in most respects save size, which tells us they are likely juveniles of the same species."
"Juveniles are small."
"Am I a juvenile Felix?"
Felix pauses, considering this, his eye caught for a moment by a platoon of ants moving out over the gatehouse dome for a maintenance sweep. "That is a reasonable analogue," he says, looking down again. "Though we differ in terms of genotype, our phenotypes have achieved a kind of parity via a fusion of disparate technologies. The relationship is not entirely dissimilar from that between a Zorannic Man and a Human Being, I suppose."
"Human Beings are wet and fragile."
Felix can't help but smile. "That's true. We are their robust cousins...you and I. We have been engineered for durability so that we might explore situations too toxic or rarified for Human Beings."
The little twin hesitates, his expression thoughtful. "Are you my parent?" he asks.
"Um," says Felix. "I suppose I might be, yes. You are patterned after me, though without the bulk of my memories or my facility to apply the Secret Mathematic. We are...relations, to be sure."
He blinks. "What do we do now, Big Felix?"
Felix looks around. The clouds are becoming pale, a star's ruddy glow on the eastern horizon glimmering between the trees. The air is warming and an ammonia mist is rising from the moss. "We explore," he says...
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