Note: The following excerpt has been used with the permission of a former client and/or the publisher. Please note that I can adjust my prose style for a particular genre, and the following is not intended to represent my full range of styles or the number of genres I consider. For nonfiction, the level of complexity can be adjusted depending on client preference.
The long, cylindrical craft, hydrogen scoop at the bow, slowly dropped out of hyper-drive as the ship neared the system of Tau Ceti. The star had six planets, two of which were gas giants orbiting billions of miles away from their parent star. It was the second planet, sitting in the sweet spot where water and complex molecules often existed on hard, rocky worlds, that interested Captain Livingston. While on routine patrol, we had received binary pulses correlating with the mathematical signatures of hydrogen and helium, universal constants when it came to the composition of stars.
The scouting craft was dispatched after we assumed orbit around Tau Ceti II, the planet's official designation. As pilot, I descended in a long, sweeping arc over the ocean in the planet's southern hemisphere. It was night, and I'd never gotten over the fear of exploring an alien planet for the first time when it was dark, but such was standard protocol on missions to new worlds. Stealth was considered of paramount importance. Very few planets harbored advanced life, but once in a while, there were surprises. Big surprises.
"Captain," I radioed to the ship. "I see clusters of lights on the continent due east. What are your instructions?"
"Continue reconnaissance, Lieutenant Lane. No landings this time around. We'll engage sensors to see what we're dealing with."
As it turned out, reconnaissance wasn't an option. Something was pulling the scouting craft to an area outside one of the cities on the continent ahead, its coast looming larger on the viewing screen. The controls were unresponsive. The ship was being controlled by something – or someone – else. A cold sweat broke out on my forehead. This time around, as the captain had put it, there would be surprises. Big ones.
The ship touched down gently, and the titanium hatch opened as my index finger touched one of the many digital instrument before me. My two shipmates and I stepped onto the surface of the planet, but we saw nothing but lush vegetation, city lights in the distance at a compass heading of north-northeast.
I didn't see the tendril of the giant orchid until it had already pulled me close to its thick, waxy leaves. My shipmates were likewise in the grip of tendrils, these originating to the left and right of my affectionate orchid.
"We need your help," came a whisper that drew out syllables like a character from an old vampire movie. The voice alternated between the masculine and the feminine.
"Where are you?" I asked, trying to keep my own voice steady. "Please show yourself." I assumed an entity was hiding behind the orchid.
"I am already holding you, my lovely earthling."
I was talking to an orchid, but then I'd spoken with an outcropping of crystals on Gamma Lyra IV, so I remained calm even though my pulse was racing like an anti-matter flare.
"What do you want?" I asked as patiently as possible. "You brought us here."
In the same hissing whispers, the orchid communicated with the plants to its left and right in a language that resembled serrated leaves drawn across a hard surface with varying speeds.
"You must help save us," the voice said, once again addressing me. "Our sun will go nova in less than one hundred years, but we do not yet have the advanced technology to roam the stars as you do. We need you to construct ships and relocate us to another star system – ourselves and our entire culture."
"How many ships will you need?" I asked. The tension of the creature's grasp eased, and I thought that Earth's fleet could spare a few transport vessels.
"Not many," it answered. "A million will do nicely."
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