I am the first to set foot on it in all humanity.
Well, I say set foot on it.
In it would be more accurate.
If the earth is a blue marble, then EM4 is just a blue ball. A giant, blue ball.
Gravity is slightly higher than earth, and the surface is about half a foot deep. And the surface practically gaurantees death. But I feel we have to do this as a race - we have to walk on this planet, after all we've done.
We? Who am I kidding. I.
It isn't a solid blue now. Great swathes of the planet have long grey scars, thin lines that look like someone has scratched it with a comb. Despite no human ever coming here, we've still had our impact.
My foot sinks into the blue mat. I'd thought about some first words, but decided in the end that this should be done in silence. It seemed fitting.
I've chosen a clean area, consistently blue in every direction to the horizon.
The vast expanse of blue is disorienting, with just occasional gentle slopes up and down but no points of reference to help differentiate directions. I'd planned for this, but had no idea just how discomforting it really was until now...
I've tethered myself to the shuttle, which is hovering above me. It isn't going to touch down. Too dangerous.
My boots touch bedrock as I sink into the blue. I shuffle forward, as if in mud - partly due to the gravity being 1.3g, and partly because the blue is swarming around me.
An alarm goes off. My boots aren't lasting as long as I'd thought they would. I instinctively pull the retraction cord, and the tether pulls me back up slowly. I drop the boots on the way, and they sink into the mat.
Below me I see them sinking into the blue - solid gold crumpling and folding into the endless blue, until there is nothing left.
The shuttle scans me, blue lasers sliding over my form, and a chirp declares me clean. Still, I am blasted by jets of flame, then water, before I can step through the airlock. Through the window, I see the excursion platform that I was just standing on drop into the blue. I can't risk bringing anything back.
Whatever blue is, we'd had no idea it could be so competitive. It isn't quite single celled, but it's close. And it doesn't like higher lifeforms. Or lower lifeforms. Or anything, really. It seems to exist to eat, and nothing else.
It had been getting more aggressive recently. Maybe it was reacting to the harvesters.
A glint of gold on the horizon showed a harvester heading this way. At least, I think one is. Above a featureless blue expanse, it's hard to tell.
My harvesters. They are what has made my family rich for two generations. Solid gold harvesters, sailing above the blue, stripping the rare elements that it - and it alone in the universe - doesn't seem to be harmed by at all.
Blue can strip any rock into component chemicals, if you wake it up. Put in sodium chloride, get out sodium and chlorine. Put in sulphuric acid, get out sulphur and hydrogen. Leave it long enough, and it'll even begin to eat those chemical components. Even the gold we build our processing machines with. Gold is just what survives longest at the lowest price.
I knew that Gold had once been a prized commodity for luxuries, but to my family it was just an industrial metal that did a job. Still, it made for good marketing when selling in some places...
I order the ship back to orbit, back into range of our orbital processing platforms. It took me back into range of the comms relay, and my reverie as interrupted with a ringing that meant I'd been expecting, but trying to avoid.
I answer the call.
"Sir, the Commission wishes to speak to you."
When we'd found it, it was dormant. Blue had conquered its world, and we only ever took it to a remote analysis station. That didn't go well.
But we persevered.
We found a use for it, and although our refining process was expensive, it guaranteed purity.
It made us rich.
But someone had followed our ships. They'd decided to take some blue home for analysis.
And now Gleise was turning blue.
Nine hundred million people lived on Gleise. And blue didn't care any more about them than it did the rock I'd just stood on.
I can't see how we can be blamed. It was someone else's sloppy industrial espionage.
But this might be the first, and last, time any human ever gets a chance to set foot on this planet.
And I had to take that chance.
"I'm on my way, Commissioner."
I had to do it, just in case they decide to destroy it. Before we lost the chance forever.