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Redacted - by Khary Jackson

It was Day #4 on Planet Fenice. As usual, I was awake first. Shane, Morgan, Will, and Lila have always been night owls. Even here, underground, where you can’t see the sun. Not without traversing the Fenician surface in one of their “miracle suits,” as Lila called them. She isn’t wrong, but I don’t consider sound technology to be a miracle; it’s just the 10,000th light bulb, to paraphrase Thomas Edison. I probably had another hour to myself before the others were up and working, so I slipped out of our quarters and crossed the dirt road to what we labeled Tunnel M. The sound of water drops inside of the massive pipes, gentle and insistent, reminded me of the good days back home. I sat against the wall, watching in silence. This was our last day before leaving, after a tense conversation the night before that I could not shake. Today was the last chance to settle my mind. On Day #1, we’d arrived in our solo mini-crafts, fortunate that they were so resilient to Fenice’s surface heat. It was too dangerous, however, to step out in our suits. This might have been a very short trip were it not for Morgan leading us to a small opening a few miles south. Underground, we found an open area to land and climb out of our minis. Naturally, we were soon surrounded. I tried to alert our homebase back on Earth, but our signal must have been lost underground. Will and Shane had their defense weapons out immediately. Lila waved them back and turned to me. “Well, Nikki...now’s a good time to see if your app works, yeah?” I nodded. I whispered the access code, and each of our helmets briefly flashed green. The humanoid creatures surrounding us had been uttering a mix of hums and consonants that now, through our helmets, were translated into a rough form of English. They wanted to know who we were, and if there were more of us, and something about a parasite. Lila calmly answered the first two questions, and her helmet translated her English into what seemed like their language. Likely, it was rough, but it just needed to be decipherable. Lila then asked what they meant about parasites, and their faces shifted into a different expression. We didn’t have an app for nonverbal communication, so I went with my gut. “They seem relieved,” I said to the others. “These parasites seem to be a big deal here.” A few moments more, and everyone seemed less on edge. We were, temporarily, welcome. Today, Day #4, we finally got to explore the surface. The firestorms had subsided, and the soil was rich. They provided us with suits that increasingly impressed me the more we learned about them. On the surface, approximately 15 miles from the lowest of the underground levels, there were tall metallic pillars strategically constructed all over. They Part 3: Climate change 65 were made from the same mercury base as these suits. Morgan seemed to have the best understanding of how it all worked, but essentially the pillars were designed to alchemize the surface heat and fumes into energy and even water, directed to the underground pipes. Anyone who needed some of the energy was able to key the appropriate code at a pipe station near their home. It seemed like they had a communication system to make sure the energy was utilized equitably, so conflict was minimal. That in itself amazed me. In fact, I felt a sadness I couldn’t voice right away. Their surface conditions were about as chaotic as ours back home, but the way they dealt with it, without even a social hierarchy to enforce things...wow. This world was special. Too special. Given that our communication with the homebase team was impossible until we returned to our ship, we opted to compile all of our observations onto files that we could transfer to them later. This also meant that until then, they could not hear what we discussed. This morning, as I’d listened to the water in the pipes, I deliberated on what Lila and Shane asserted the night before. “You know what will happen,” Shane had said. “They’ll want this technology for Earth, no matter how they can get it.” Lila added, “We all know how home got so bad. What indications do we have that we won’t repeat it here? None of this is new to consider, but it’s more real now that we’ve been here...seen how they live. We’ll ruin them.” I had never been one to disobey orders. We were sent to find a second chance for humanity. We all agreed to that. Now Lila and Shane want to withhold crucial information at the risk of all our careers. Shane gazed at me gently. “Morgan and Will are already on board. Now it’s just you, Nikki.” I asked about the parasites, apparently called Parajeevees. “Couldn’t we help Fenice with the experiments if homebase knew? If it worked out, Parajeevees could replace their need for suits. They could actually see the sun for themselves.” “Maybe,” Shane said. “Or they could co-opt those experiments along with the tech. Either way, Fenicians will think every human is as careful as we’ve been. In a way, we’re lying to them.” After our thanks and goodbyes, after landing our minis back onto our ship, homebase was eager for updates. I’d never felt so hollow. By the time it was my turn to speak, I’d redacted the key parts of the Fenicians’ tech from our files. The information wasn’t gone, just encrypted. Only able to be opened by one of us. I took a breath. “It was a promising trip,” I said. “I hope one day, with care...we can come back.”

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