EARTH YEAR 2333, ALPHA CENTAURI A SYSTEM, PLANET FIORA, SOUTHERN CONTINENT
Jerome Sax stood at the door to a new world. This was it! His team had been chosen to make first contact with the only other known intelligent species in the universe, and a million thoughts flooded his mind. Would they be friendly? Aggressive? Would they be able to communicate? He finished loading his pack then turned and faced the others. "You guys ready?"
"Ready as I'll ever be." Sam smiled as she spoke.
"Let's do it," Jeff said, his hand on the door switch.
They'd done their homework while in route to the planet. Fiora was just slightly larger than Earth making its gravity a little stronger. The atmosphere was similar, so no breathing device was needed. They'd spent the last week on a drug regimen designed to boost their immune systems prevent any foreign infections from starting. It was important to meet the aliens face to face; they didn't want a space suit to hinder communication. The benefits of meeting them in their own environment far outweighed the risks of bio contamination...at least that's what they'd been told.
Jerome turned in time to see the door slide to the left, and a blast of air whisked past his face. The wind was warm, and carried with it the sweet smells of this new world. All three stepped out into the clearing where their ship had landed. The world looked much like the jungles found on Earth. The trees and plants were definitely different, but they were green and leafy.
There were a few simple structures about a hundred meters directly in front of the ship, and several bipedal creatures had stepped out of the buildings to investigate the commotion. The next few minutes seemed like hours, but the team eventually stood face to face with the beings. They were a little larger than humans, and appeared to be a bit stronger too. The creature that stood in front made a few clicks and glottal sounds then offered a basket filled with a yellowish food...possibly a fruit of some type.
Jerome accepted the basket, and then offered a gift in return. Some of the creatures in the distance were able to change their skin color to blend in with their backgrounds; they were hard to see until they moved. The group that had come forward was brownish in color...very similar to human skin. It seemed they were imitating human colors to make the meeting more comfortable.
The leader, however, was different. His right arm from the elbow to the tips of his fingers were green, perhaps a mark of authority. Customs in any society were important, and now was as good of time as any to introduce a human gesture. Jerome reached out to grab the alien hand...nothing quite like a good firm handshake to seal a friendship. At first he seemed to hesitate, but eventually responded. His grip was firm. His hands felt strange though, soft, yet prickly.
Skinmoss is a plant that grows within flesh. The plant starts as a needle like seed that breaks the surface of the species skin. Once inside, the needle develops slowly, sending out a root system centimeters in all directions. After about a month, the plant pushes up through the skin in several places. The tops of the plants can be pulled off, but they grow back quickly, and will continue until the root system is removed. The tops are made of small green leaves about 2 millimeters in diameter, and tube-like shoots. These tubes send out seeds to others when the plant tops are brushed or bumped, so pulling them often infects other parts of the body. There are no practical purposes for the plant, and it’s usually just a minor irritant. There have been a few extreme cases where root systems have invaded vital organs and have caused death.
The plant uses photo synthesis like other plants, but retrieves its water supply from the body of its host. Darkness can slow the spread and growth of the infection, but will not remove it. Initial signs of infection are dry skin, and slight thirst. Other symptoms include a burning or itching beneath the skin that doesn’t go away with scratching.
Treatment is by pill, and usually takes 2-3 weeks. One method used to keep the plant from spreading is to tightly wrap the infected areas. If left untreated, skinmoss can infect the person’s entire body. As the plant spreads it absorbs more water from its host, and will cause dehydration, and ultimately death. Those infected are encouraged to double their water intake for the duration of treatment.
The plant originated on a jungle planet in the Alpha Centauri A system. It was only found in that system until the 2330’s when humans discovered the Centaurians, then spread quickly to the Sol system, and it’s now fairly common within the Local Bubble.
Size & Dimensions
Leaves are very tiny, only about 2 millimeters in diameter, and barely break the surface of the skin. Infections usually only cover part of an arm or leg, but can cover much more.
The plant reproduces through needle like seeds that penetrate the flesh its victim. Once the seed enters the skin, it will germinate for about a month, and then start sending roots out in all directions. The roots eventually create seed pods just below the surface of the skin.