“I’d say we’d made a u-turn somewhere en route. This looks like Earth.”
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive" ~ Sir Walter Scott
The lid of the cryo-bed opened with a soft hiss. "Five minutes more ..." Scott mumbled.
"Captain, you're still dreaming. Come on, wake up." Melissa turned the oxygen dial full. "Take some deep breaths," she crooned.
"Where are we?"
"You're the Captain, you should know," she responded cheerfully.
Scott thought for a moment. The oxygen worked its magic and he remembered. "We made it, huh? Alpha Centauri?"
"We're currently in an orbit around the fourth planet."
Scott swung his legs over the side, stifling a small groan as his unused joints objected to movement. "Well, let me get a cup of coffee and let's check this place out."
"Aye, aye, Captain," Melissa said, giving him an exaggerated salute. "Anything else?"
"Yes. Tell me why I agreed to let you come along," he said with a grin.
"I'm a top-notch biologist. I'm perky. And, I'm married to the Captain," she said, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Well, there is that. Now, about the coffee..."
Thirty minutes later, Scott stood in the guidance center looking at the vid display of a planet. "If I didn't know better, I'd say we'd made a u-turn somewhere enroute. This looks a lot like Earth."
"That's the key word, Captain. Like," said Jerry Owens, his second in command and engineering specialist.
"Should I be asking what that means?"
"It's not Earth. At least not the one we left. Surprisingly, it appears a lot like Earth was a hundred-thousand years ago. It's warm and about 90% water. That's the best we can do from up here."
"Any sign of dinosaurs?" asked Scott.
Jerry just stared at him. "Really? Did it take all 4 years of our journey for you to think that up?"
Both men started laughing. Melissa just shook her head with a muttered, "Boys!"
Over the next week they watched and learned. P4 had a day around 28 hours long. No major storms were observed. It seemed idyllic.
"Next stop, the surface," announced Scott.
The descent and landing was text book.
Scott peered into the gloom. "This place gives me the creeps," he muttered. The landscape reminded him of swamps seen back on Earth with dark trees rising out of black water and long streamers of some gossamer substance – Spanish Moss? - hanging in the stillness.
"Creepy or not," Melissa said, "this planet has Terra-like water and atmosphere. My initial tests indicate that it's habitable ... at least from an environmental viewpoint."
Jerry looked up from the enviro-sensors. "There doesn't seem to be anything moving out there. A n y t h i n g." He drew the word out for emphasis.
Scott and Melissa turned to him. "What's that supposed to mean?" Scott asked.
"Just that. No insects, animals, birds, fish. Nothing."
"On a planet like this? That's absurd," exclaimed Melissa. A chiming sound diverted her attention. She went over to the science panel, peering at the read out. "You're not going to believe this!"
Scott and Jerry moved to get a better view.
"What the hell?" Jerry blurted.
"Wait," said Scott. "There must be something wrong with the unit."
"I ran full diagnostics and it passed. There are no micro-organisms in the air or water."
"Impossible. Where there's plant life, there has to be something! I'm going out to get some samples," Scott said.
"Hold on," Jerry said. "That's against protocol. It could be you're walking into a trap."
"There's nothing out there," Scott shot back. "You said so yourself."
Over his objections, Melissa helped him gear up and left him with "Be careful."
Scott broke the outer seal and lowered himself to the mud. Moving cautiously, he approached the nearest tree ... and stopped.
"Is everything OK?" Jerry's voice crackled in his ear.
"I'm not sure. This doesn't look like wood ..."
Inside, Melissa and Jerry watched in horror as the "tree" moved, resolving itself into an appendage as spider's silk wrapped Scott in a hungry embrace.
An entry for "Invalid Item" , a part of "The Great Summer Camp Out!"
Prompt: We have found a new planet. What did we really find?
Genres: Science Fiction/Horror
Word Limit: 300 – 2500 words
Word Count: 680