“Look! Look! Lay Lay, I see Pluto!” squeals my little brother from the cockpit. I peer up from my research. Jimmy is standing on the stepstool with his tiny hands against the window. Eyes glued on a speck in the distance. His excitement is palpable, but I just cannot seem to grasp his level of exuberance. I rise from my work desk and walk over to see what he sees. I say, “Yes, I see it. It looks so tiny from here huh?” I push one of his blonde curls off his forehead to give him a light kiss. My own blonde curls fall into his face. He giggles and pretends my hair is his own. He attempts to wink up at me but only ends up winking both big blue eyes. “I’m a pretty girl named Layla” he manages to say through his giggles. I make my voice a couple octaves deeper and say, “And I’m a big strong boy named Jimmy.” He starts to laugh uncontrollably.
We contain our laughter and gaze out the window again. It amazes me just how quickly we are coming up on Pluto. Spending most of my life in space and yet I’m still enamored by the speed and grace our latest model can travel. I begin gathering my belongings and placing them in my desk. It’s almost time.
Jimmy and I look at each other with trace amounts of fear on our faces as the announcements begin. The animated voice is warning us of our upcoming landing. Anticipation weighs heavy on both of us. Even though this is our eighth time searching, I still feel my frayed nerves at risk of breaking. “Everything is fine.” I recite in my head like a mantra. “This time will be just as easy.” Jimmy has a bounce in his step as he gets his little bag ready. “Do you think we will find it this time?” He asks. I shrug and try to appear hopeful. “We will know very quickly if we do.” “It’s pretty hard to miss.”
The door opens and I step out in front of Jimmy. Jimmy taps me on the back. His little chest puffed out as he says, “I don’t need a protector. I am the man, I got this.” I laugh and gently remind him that he is still a boy, not quite a man yet. We depart the ship silently. I get a sense of foreboding when I catch a glimpse of the mountains in the distance. “I have seen many planets and many mountains, but these are just,” I am cut off by a loud, painful bellow coming from the tallest of the mountains. I turn on my slew of cameras and voice recording devices. Our employers require vast amounts of proof just in case we find it. Or perhaps to ensure we did everything we could if we failed to locate it. I peer over at Jimmy and there is no longer even a hint of the free-spirited boy in his face. All humor and fun have deceased. He is all business just as our training demands. Our short lives spent getting ready for this one job.
“If it is here, we will find it on that mountain.” Jimmy states the obvious. The massive, frozen mountains make me feel as though I am just an insignificant nuisance. An interference to its ominous plans. It’s nefarious ways of hiding the one thing we must find. I nod towards a path that appears to be the simplest way up and we start our climb. Not that there is a simple way up I muse to myself.
We do not speak as we ascend this monstrous Pluto Mountain. Instead, we put all our focus on climbing the icy mass. About three quarters up, I see a small crevice. “It might be an entrance.” I say quietly. Jimmy has seen it too. He is already making his way over to the crevice. I tell him to wait a second so I can go first. He laughs nervously and says, “This is why they made me small. I will check the area first.” I know he is right, but I do not want him to go alone. He barely fits into the crevice. He must shift many times to squeeze into the claustrophobic space. “Lay Lay, you gotta see this. We finally found it.” Jimmy booms from the dark depths. I pluck a pickaxe from my bag and start to expand the crevice. The amazing upgrades distracting me with their efficiency as I work. Once the crevice is expanded enough, I shimmy inside.
Jimmy was right. It is here. My nostrils flare as I catch the scent of the wounded body before I see it. The trail of oozing alien blood leads me to the area where the crevice becomes a cave. Of course, it would be on the last planet we check. Well, kind of planet, that is. I shake my head and think, “I will never get used to Pluto not being a planet.” I follow the trail of blood and listen to Jimmy’s little pitter patter of feet as he runs just out of view. I remind him to wait for me just in case it needs medical care. Scaring it might cause more damage. The obscene odor of the dying creature hints at very little time left to save it. I just hope I have all the supplies to heal it enough to deliver it back to its home planet.
My warning ignored; Jimmy has already begun an assessment of its needs when I arrive. The being is a massive blob of a substance akin to a jellyfish. Although it does not have appendages or a build resembling a jellyfish. The unique alien has appendages reminding me slightly of a gorilla. Its strong arms thick and long. Only instead of hair or fur, it has the strange jelly like skin. I interrupt my own assessment of the creature because it appears to be on the brink of death. I set to work on the disturbing gashes. I use the new medications our team just created to heal the creature’s wounds quickly. Administering the medication designed to wake it up, soothes my anxiety slightly. Almost done. The longer we are here with it, the more danger Jimmy and I are in. It is unconscious, but I manage to doctor it up enough for it to wake.
I turn on my translator so I can attempt to calm the enormous beast. I speak in soothing tones to ensure it knows we are here to help. It fully wakes. The Alien looks around frantically. I must move back, a step or two to ensure I do not vomit from the smell. Jimmy tries to hide his disgust when the waft of fear and stress scents reach him as well. The Alien regains his composure when it sees all the medical equipment. It speaks too quickly for our translators to keep up. Jimmy is trying to tell the thing that we are on a rescue mission for it. My translator picks up bits and pieces of the alien’s response. It seems to be asking Jimmy how a couple of human children plan to help it get home. Jimmy laughs and asks him how a couple of human children could even be on Pluto right now. It looks confused, maybe pondering the implausibility of the whole scene. It is finally calm enough for our translators to understand it’s words. The alien being says, “if you are not human then where are you from and why do you look human?” Jimmy raises his eyebrows and says, “oh, we are from earth but… Layla, you explain it” I speak vaguely of our origins. I tell him that our human creators ensured we looked like human children. To appear less threatening would make our purpose easier to fulfill. Underestimation is one of our best weapons.
My quick explanation seems to abate him slightly. I remind them to cease conversating so we can get out of here before whatever did this to it finds us. I look around the cave and emphasize the blood and other fluids all around us. The alien lets us know that our work is pretty much complete when he starts to transform into a sort of mist. He floats up and out of the crevice. I look at Jimmy with a puzzled expression. My sarcasm is thick on my words as I ask him why the humans couldn’t have included that in our design. He chuckles and responds, “Then we wouldn’t get to have ALL this fun climbing back down the mountain.” I release a sigh and say, “Let’s go get this big guy back home and collect our paychecks. Then we can get you enrolled in school.” “Won’t that be so much fun.” I tease.