by Christopher Wood-Robbins
Interplanetary Hydroponics Expert Arnold Trainor stared sorrowfully out the window of his egg-shaped escape pod. The transport starship that was bringing him to a trade show in the Andromeda Galaxy had suffered an abrupt mechanical failure. He barely had time to load his seeds and equipment into the pod and escape before the ship exploded. Once he landed on the nearest solid-surface planet, he opened the pod’s hatch and stepped out into a world of shattered buildings, groves of star trees that stood twenty meters high and no humanoid life remaining. Arnold was all but marooned on the planet Ceris.
Ceris was once a thriving industrial colony in the Regtillian solar system. However, it eventually failed when the funds ran out, and the entire planet was abandoned several decades ago.
Feeling helpless and vulnerable, Arnold clung to the rubbery trunk of a star tree and sobbed for the first time in ages. But then he felt something gently stroking his head as if he were a pet. He looked up and saw a brown hairy creature the size of a Terran bear. This creature could be best described as a cross between two other mammals native to Earth; an ape and a dog. When the Cerian ape-dog took Arnold in its arms, the bewildered hydroponist froze in fear, believing this was the end. But after a while, he calmed down because he realized the creature’s intentions were compassionate. The ape-dog held Arnold and rocked him back and forth, the way Arnold used to hug his family’s pets when he was a child.
When it finally put Arnold back down, the ape-dog climbed up one of the nearby star trees and stayed up there for a while. It must have been eating the tree’s fruit, because pinkish-orange seeds the size of tennis balls would frequently drop to the ground.
Eventually, the ape-dog climbed back down the tree and placed a few fruits at Arnold’s feet before running off again. The fruit tasted somewhat like a mix of coconut and apricot.
Arnold knew what he had to do. He picked up the seeds from the star tree and put them in the suitcase along with the rest of his seeds. Carrying these in one hand, and his hydroponic equipment in the other, he set off to grow as many trees and plants as possible to restore the desolated landscape. After all, he was on a world named for an alien goddess of love, harmony and nurturing. It was time for the planet Ceris to live up to its name once again.