As she descended through the clouds, she made a note. “Clouds: a promising sign.” This was the first planet she had found with water, or anything like water.
Once she’d passed through the atmosphere (an atmosphere, too!), she gasped. Vegetation? They were of unusual shapes and bluer than ones she’d known, but unmistakably alive. She scribbled furiously in her notebook, drawing the round and spidery plants with all the detail she could see.
She found a rocky peninsula to dock her ship, one of the few crops of unoccupied land on the hemispherical horizon. These specimens were precious, and she would not disturb a single organism if she could help it. Some diagnostics revealed the outside temperature, 25 degrees, and revealed the air to be more or less breathable. She wouldn’t take off her helmet just yet, but what were the chances?
Her instruments confirmed that this was not Earth. A cynical part of her posited that maybe she’d experienced some tragic relativity and left humanity behind, but no. She was in a different galaxy. She was as remote as anyone had ever been, as far away from any of her species as the last rhinoceros had been, the last anteater, the last anything, but her society was still alive and well.
She took a step onto the surface, getting a sense of the gravity. It was comfortable.
A particularly vivid cactus-butterfly-looking plant caught her eye. It looked fuzzy. It looked warm.
Impulsively, she removed a glove and brushed the plant with her fingers. Its color changed, all through the spectrum, until finally it settled on a white and collapsed. Plants near it went through the same process, and she watched the kaleidoscopic blight unfold all around her.
She ran back to the ship.
She made a note.