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Thanks Are In Order by Keith Kitchen
SUMMARY: A new planet has been found that can support life where it shouldn't be able to. When the Explorers investigate, they find a surprise.
The ship was large, blocky and to be honest, ugly. When looking upon this behemoth, one would wonder whether or not it's designers had ever even imagined the wings of a butterfly floating on the wind, a silk scarf in a breeze or even a crow sweeping in to reap the benefits of someone else's kill. Large blocks were set upon even larger blocks in what appeared to be a tantrum of unconnected events sewn together by a sociopathic delinquent and then had hyperdrive engines thrown on as an afterthought. The ship was a coal-black color, separated from the black of space only by the few lights and windows that allowed a small escape of light through.
The vessel slowed into the latest star system it had encountered on its interminably long voyage. Its crew had been given the unenviable job of searching for a planet suitable for its kind. They had filled up their home planet, moved on to the other habitable and semi-habitable planets in their star system, had forced another several moons to support their life and then realized that they had to move into the stars before their civilization collapsed under the weight of its own population.
"Report," the commander barked, his voice harsh and grating. His skin was a pale green with yellowish spots located erratically over his body. He had several tufts of grayish hair that erupt from several spots on his head, a point of great honor for only the few and the great had hair of any kind. He was gifted and was aware of it. He was dressed in the ceremonial leather of the aurma beast, a great honor bestowed upon him by his Em-leader. It also carried the minor curse that would kill him if he failed his Em-Leader, but he never worried about that.
"We are registering seven planets, although there may be an eighth at the edge of our sensor sphere. Three are gas giants and useless, yet three of the other four are within tolerance range." The underling responded. His skin was the same pale green as the commander, but he had no hair and wore the standard-issue boley-cloth uniform. "Ah, there is definitely an eighth planet but it is of no consequence as it is a gas giant. I am also reading a pair of minor planets at the extreme edge of the system, again of no consequence as they are balls of ice, nothing more."
"Options?" The commander grunted.
"Planet One is a cinder, too close to the star. Planet Two might be good. From the data I'm receiving, Number four is probably useless and Three is probably..."
"Full of chlorophyll," the Commander finished with disgust.
"I said ‘probably'. That would be the best suited for us, but it's in the center of the star's chlorophyll-zone."
"How long till we arrive?"
"Approximately four hours."
"We'll find out then. Take us to the third planet."
The tremendous ship slid effortlessly into orbit around the planet and the crew immediately noticed signs of civilization. Their sensor sweeps detected hundreds, then thousands of artificial satellites orbiting the planet. As they neared the end of their first orbit they detected what could only be a primitive space station.
"Send a standard greeting," The commander barked.
"Yes, Commander," the communications officer grunted.