Field Notes from the Planet Bass

Field Notes         Bass-12-9-44      MS-B-0013

Professor Magnus Selenius

Bass is a planet marked fundamentally for its high gravity, some 1.5 times that of earth. Visits are short and almost universally painful. On stepping out of the protected atmosphere of the vessel, the gravity hits you like a blow to the stomach. You immediately feel like you are carrying not just a sack of stones on your back but also bearing padding around every limb and joint of your body. Breathing is difficult as your lungs become compressed. You feel the urge to kneel or lie upon the ground to relieve the great pressure. Is this how an orca feels when dragged out of the supporting sea onto dry land, weighed down by its own massive girth?

Despite our immediate discomfort, with careful research, we did find our quarry: Nutwell’s Bass Behemoth. During our sixty-minute sojourn on the planet surface, we were able to make some observations of its behaviour in its natural habitat, quite unmolested by any of its purported means of defence via concentrated sonic waves.

Though, or perhaps, because it is equipped with these defence mechanisms, the bass behemoth showed no fear as we approached the pool where it was bathing. The land round about was sparse and bare. What few shrubs there were poked out of the ground like the last stems of trees after a volcanic eruption, buried beneath layers of ash. The behemoth glared at us from afar. Its eyes are situated on its flanks so it cannot see straight ahead. Only a sole black eye observed us from its left side as we dragged ourselves across the barren terrain.

It was a vast creature. Laid out in its pool, its sleek grey skin spread out like a giant rubbery pancake, some six meters across. Its great maw rested on the ground. From time to time, it would raise this up to allow strange eel-like creatures to scurry along the grooves in its bottom jaw. The beast was covered in these animals that slithered over its body, moving with the aid of fin-like appendages that propelled them around the behemoth’s bulk.

Other observers have noted that when the behemoth leaves its pool in search of a mate, these creatures cling to its body with the aid of their sucker like mouths, staying close to the source of their sustenance. To most of these animals, the behemoth is their world and they never leave the creature’s skin. Perhaps a hundred adults swarmed across its surface, and countless nymphs must have also remained sequestered within the grooves of its underbelly, invisible to the naked eye.

For some time, we watched the behemoth as it opened its huge mouth, pushing its body painfully up into the air, fighting the planet’s gravitational pull. All its nutritional needs were met by that powerful wind which surged constantly round the equator, rich in minerals and microscopic flies which the creature would sloop up into its mouth. It was truly a miracle of evolution that such a being could exist, able to live so peacefully and unmolested with a constant supply of food.

Strangely, the children were less bothered by the planet’s high gravity than we adults. Of course, they are not carrying forty years of fine dining around their midriff as I am. Kat lingered a while capturing still images on her tracking lens. She has a fine eye for such work and the composition of her photographs is excellent. Unfortunately, the camera picks up far more than she was able to guess at the time. Those microscopic animals in the air create an effect of dust before the lens. Thus many of the final images are unusable from a scientific perspective.

Of course, we only became aware of this once the shuttle had docked once more aboard the Ruskin. A return journey to retake the stills was unfeasible owing to the lack of commercial advantage to be gained from further exploration of such an empty world. Kat was distraught, but I warned her that it was not her fault. It is a useful lesson for the child. We are all at the whim of nature, no matter where in the universe we go.

(c) Alastair Savage, 2014

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