Leroy and Jillian collected extra water canteens, stuffing their packs to the limit. The humans seemed intimidated by the dry, desolate world they landed upon. As a form of sentient carnivorous plant life, Bloom found that exploration of other worlds with sentient animal life evoked all sorts of curious behavior. The pair showed affection for one another, at times risking their own safety for the other’s, yet would never admit their desire to be mating partners. Bloom and her mate never encountered this strange sort of denial during their courtship.
“Let’s be sure you stay hydrated too Bloom” Jillian tucked a slow release water spike into the loose soil in center of Bloom’s encased root cluster.
Bloom patted her companion on the back with a prehensile vine arm. “I sense that the local life forms have detected our arrival and approach the shuttle.” Lacking the sensory organs humans are equipped with, Bloom used telepathy to interact with others. Bloom probed the alien minds until she grasped their form of communication, then the trio met with their hosts.
The Aridites thrived as a society of moisture collectors who inhabited a vast network of caves beneath the planet’s barren surface. Leroy offered drawings of simple moisture collection devices to the desert bound species as an offer of friendship between the LARC5 colony and the Aridites. Just as the man began to think this the smoothest introduction he and Jillian had been involved in to date, cries of alarm ran through the cave mouth where they stood.
An Aridite youth waved frail limbs at its elders who barked a short response to Bloom before all the Aridites present disappeared into the dark depths beneath their meeting place.
“Someone in this tribe of Aridites has committed their ultimate crime, water theft.” Bloom reached out through her senses during the silent moments while the trio awaited their host’s return. “An Aridite is coming, but I don’t think it’s one we’ve been speaking to.”
Jillian moved forward into the darkness and whispered to the others “If this is the thief, you two distract it and I’ll grab from behind.”
“Hello there little buddy,” Leroy called to the Aridite who hesitantly approached, knowing he wouldn’t be understood, but hoping to arouse its curiosity.
A swollen figure emerged from the dark and lumbered toward Leroy and Bloom, it barked a nervous response as it approached.
“The Aridite claims that there has been a misunderstanding,” Bloom said as she spread her arm vines in a welcoming gesture.
“Put it there pal” Leroy said, approaching the water thief with his hand outstretched.
Jillian used Leroy’s distraction to tackle the Aridite around its middle, the pair rolled across the cave floor in a cloud of dust. Apprehension showed clear on Leroy’s expression as he waited for the dust to settle. Jillian uttered a low painful moan. A sloshing sound began in the dust and faded into the dark depths of the cave.
“Jillian, are you alright?” Leroy groped about the dusty scene until he found the woman and pulled her to the shuttle’s open hatch. “Bloom, she has somehow suffered severe dehydration. I’ve got to hook her up to an IV solution right away.”
“I’m going after it,” Bloom replied. She did not wait to see Leroy’s distracted nod. Now that the telepath had touched the mind of Jillian’s assailant, tracking the Aridite proved a simple matter. Four vine limbs propelled Bloom with inhuman speed. She had wrapped the culprit in her grasp in minutes.
The Aridite barked a harsh warning and struggled to free itself. Bloom began to feel her vines wither from dehydration, the water spike near her roots quickly drained and weakness washed over her entire body.
In a final desperate effort, Bloom dislodged a root cluster and jammed it down the Aridite’s throat. Its eyes bulged and it spluttered, attempting to speak through the root mass. The water bloated figure collapsed in a heap and Bloom felt the moisture return as her captive drained off excess moisture.
Bloom emerged from the darkness to find the Aridites offering vessels of drinking water to Leroy. She deposited the thief at the feet of its peers.
“Bloom, great job!” Leroy rustled her upper vines in what he meant to be a pat on the back. “Please tell these guys Jillian will be fine and we’ve already begun replacing her moisture. Oh, and tell that guy,” he pointed to the culprit “to keep his sponge off my partner!”