The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 11

My planned departure for the mountains was delayed by a sloth. At least their hands and claws remind me of a sloth—in fact, that is about the only part of the animal that is in the leastways sloth-like. I took one last look around my lander before lifting off, only to discover this Pseudosloth sleeping beneath it. Though the lander was once an ancient heavy lifter, its engine was one of the first things replaced. I could have easily lifted off without harming the creature thanks to the propellant-less Space Drive. Instead, I decided to try and capture this creature and study him while in the mountains. I doubt a week of captivity would harm the creature. The blank look in its open eye left me suspecting the creature probably would not have a clue what was happening.

            What was once the cargo hold of a heavy lifter is now an extensive biology lab. I adapted one of the isolation labs to serve as a terrarium for the Pseudosloth. I even went as far as to spend an hour bringing in sand and rocks for the creature. No point in unduly stressing it out. Since I planned to bring in specimens long before I arrived, I included adjustable lights within each chamber. With a simple command, the ship’s AI toggled them from the yellow/white light of Sol to a dimmer, redder light more comfortable to the creature. Every time I stepped out of the brightness of my lander into the relative dimness of the Sun Spot Desert, I feel more like I am entering a cooler place. Only looking at the temperature gauge on my E-suit’s HUD reminds me that this desert is closer to boiling than freezing. I left the isolation chamber at around three hundred forty Kelvins.

            Catching the Pseudosloth proved far simpler than I expected. The creature paid little attention to me. Whatever smells that remain on my E-suit from inside my own atmosphere meant very little to the animal. When my boot crunched on a particularly brittle piece of stone, the Pseudosloth’s head bolted straight up. Its eyes scanned all around me, but never once focused on me. Billions of years of evolution never prepared any creature for an alien encounter. Even a species as intelligent as my own (or so we claim) had its own difficulty in wrapping out collective heads around the concept of life off Earth.

            The Pseudosloth is a rather rotund creature, with a fat tail. I suspect, and later confirm, the fat tail is just that; a fat reserve. Lying down, the animal does not appear nearly as large as its true size. As I step even closer, the narrow (and sharply beaked) head finally turns my way. The dull eyes register that something is approaching, but the animal’s small brain cannot understand the nature of the danger. As the Pseudosloth stands, I am surprised to see the animal is as tall on all fours as I am standing up. I begin to wonder if the isolation chamber will even hold the fellow.

            It would, but the fit would be like a turtle in a glass bowl; functional and not as comfortable as I would like. Misjudging the animal’s size, I back off for a moment and reevaluate my strategy. An animal lighter than me I was prepared to haul inside. E-suits might not be powered armor, but their mechanical assistance would allow me to carry my own weight. The Pseudosloth is probably twice my size. Too bad teleportation was physically impossible; it would be a really useful tool at moments like this—even if it did kill the original in the process.

            In the end, all those worries proved themselves moot. When I made another, more assertive move on the Pseudosloth, it might not have understood the nature of the danger, but it understood danger stood before it. I never would have imagined a creature that knuckle-walked could move so fast. Perhaps Pseudosloth was not the best name for the creature, but I could not help but make the association with the extinct ground sloth. Oh well, I still have more than two months left on the planet, and I am bound to capture a live specimen sooner or later.

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