- A Christmas Cactus for the General
Exiled to Earth for perhaps the worst failure in Irasolan history, General Teer must assimilate or die. Earth is too warm, too wet, too foreign, but he does the best he can even though human males are loud, childish louts whom he can't imitate successfully. When a grieving seaplane pilot strikes up a strange and uneasy friendship with him, he finds he may have been too quick to judge human males. They are strange to look at, but perhaps not as unbearable as he thought.
So much water. General Teer checked the boards again, but he had read his instruments correctly. In the entire vast universe, there were bound to be planets such as this one, but his Irasolan brain refused to accept it. So much water.
Granted, much of it was saline, but those huge salt-laden expanses drove weather patterns. There would be rain more than once every few years. Enough rain that plants grew on the surface, huge plants in some cases, the likes of which he could not have imagined in dreams.
Oxygen levels ran a bit high, the average temperature too warm for comfort. I have only two choices remaining, though: acclimate or die. Perhaps it would be better…READ MORE
No. His Exalted Keeropness had taken that from him. Denied an honorable execution and sent into exile, his last shred of honor would burn in the winds of this alien sun if he took his life now. No one would know, of course. Still, the idea was too repugnant to entertain for more than a moment.
Teer tapped into the record pod to send his final message home. "I, General Teer of the Second Horath, hero of the Violet Day Offensive, acknowledge my arrival in orbit around the planet of exile. I confirm that I have no knowledge of this system's coordinates. My stasis sleep remained uninterrupted throughout transit. I failed you, Karet. For that, I am deeply sorry. For the good of the people and the Keerop, I resign myself to this uncharted gravity well. May the mother of seeds have mercy on me."
With a sharp hiss, the landing pod closed around him, molding to his body so tightly he felt he would suffocate until the inner membrane began to feed him oxygen in little sips, just enough to keep him alive. The edges of his vision darkened. It was better to make these pod flights half-conscious.
The words of an old spacer's prayer whispered in his head as the pod launched. I step out of the great night into the unknown. May the gravity pit's clutching embrace leave me breath and bone.COLLAPSE