You sproing through the short bushes that cling to the grassy hill, muzzle raised to the cool air. Odd scents wash over you—this planet sure is stinky! The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue, lighter than the grey-blue of the distant mountains. Are all planets going to be like this one?
Frankly, part of you is disappointed. Aren’t alien plantes supposed to be more, well, alien? For another thing, there’s a odd artificial structure right at the top of the hill, clearly not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they, or what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, you rise up on your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s donna tell on you? Cow? It’s not like Cow’s every here. They’d be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing.
But you’re on an alien planet! It should be even more exciting, but still thrums of energy race through your bones, simmering beneath the vague disappointment. The grass isn’t made of crystal and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away form you.
All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better.
Oh, also and to complete your mission, you suppose.
You can hear the Whale as clearly as you did when he was standing in front of you, his long face scowling in your memory. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet and will have to find your assigned rendezvous partner, who will have the Matt. Once you find your partner, you’ll be briefed on a short mission, and upon your return, Matt back up to the ship.”
Look for clues, for anything out of place, obviously. Like the glaringly obvious building.
You sproing along, your hooves squishing in springy turf. The mountains rise and fall behind the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible.
The wind brings you further brand new scents, and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells out and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a little bit, so it’s probably pretty far aw—
Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side, dust making your eyes tear up. Your heart beats faster than it did during your first space walk, and you scramble to your hooves. Before you stands a Cougar, fangs a flash of white as he smiles at you.
“Not following orders, again, Goat?” he asks.
What was a Cougar doing out here? You glance at the building, so obviously where Cow would be waiting. It was too far. The Cougar would outrun you.
Another flash of white as the Cougar smiles again. “It’s supposed to be a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you’d followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”
“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.
“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises,” he responds, inspecting his claws.
You’re not about to cave to the threats he’s tossing about like the trees shedding pollen in the air. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it was the very first alien planet you’ve been on and you’re not about to lt the chance to explore more end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully.
You dig your small hooves into the arid ground and lower your head. A flicker of surprise lights the Cougar’s eyes, but then you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. And then, you spin and charge for the building, for safety. The Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does.
The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy platform as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks motivates you to move faster, so you abandon decorum and go to all fours. Twice as many hooves to propel you to the top of the hill does wonders, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for breath. Where’s the door? Where’s the door? The Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming, tiny building, and on your very first mission. That’d be embarrassing.
The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was clearly not made for hooved-species. Ironically, Cougar would likely have an easier time with it, but you don’t have time to wrestle with a space junked door! You kick it, and then lower your head and head-butt it.
It springs open, and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord, leaving you gaping. A cool grey banister stands one meter in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space. An enormous cavern of bustling workers spirals below you, along with Cow, waiting just one floor down. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors accent the space.
“How’d the Goat do?” the Cow asks.
Your mouth works, but nothing comes out.
Behind you, someone else has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for “using your head”.”
He grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”
“What?” you squeak.
Cow smiles. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” The bovine face turns serious, brown eyes boring into you. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”
Coming in at 1031 words, it’s rough, but I love it. I’m really excited to dig deeper into Goat and let their snark and attitude out further, even though I need to trim some words!
I definitely wanted to do something fresh, to turn it on its head a bit, so using a new point of view and vaguely recognizable situations, then flipping it on its head felt like the right move to me. Plus, Goat’s voice was just so spunky and kept me laughing internally.
I forgot my terminology so had to look it up. And that delete button kept calling for little typos, but I tried to avoid it, as I do normally fast draft. This draft was a lot slower than many of my drafts have been, but I have slowed down a little this year (last year my fingers were on fire I was drafting so fast!). Autocorrect still caught some of my typos while others I’m hoping I can figure out later!
The last words just popped into my head, and I rushed to write them down right away, because I felt they were a perfect end to my story, giving me the anchor to tie together the vague shape of the story that had come to mind. Don’t judge a planet by its drop site.