An Aquarium Short Story
The Aquarium was unremarkable, all things considered.
Young children ran and laughed and dared each other to get close to the exhibits. Older children and adolescents alternated between staring at their technological devices and fancying themselves above it all, only dragged along because their parents didn't trust them to remain home alone. Some adults tried to wrangle their young into submission, while others internally debated if this had really been the best choice of location for a date, and a rare few tried to ignore the chaos around them, focused on the beings that swum endlessly in the confined waters.
Today, there were more of the genuine enthusiasts than usual. A research expedition had recently returned from far-off waters, and brought back a new exhibit.
A Human, from Solaris-3!
The Human was all in black, and the information placard claimed that it possessed a hard exoskeleton. The exoskeleton could be shed, the placard claimed, but doing so left the human very vulnerable. The human towered over most of the native species, standing two or three times as tall as the average Qua"rian.
Even the adolescents stopped feigning boredom and looked impressed.
A young Qua"rian tugged on its parent's arm. "It doesn't seem to want to be here, Mummy. Is it angry?"
In the way of young children trying to whisper, the child's voice carried, and the tour guide smiled indulgently, despite the niggling suspicion that the Human was making a rather obscene gesture as it flailed its appendages. There were rather a lot of bubbles.
The guide shelved speculation for later, and resumed a professional expression. "The human is used to it's own world, and freedom of movement. It will take time to adjust. We hope to gather more specimens so that this human - while apex predators on Solaris-3, they are social creatures who thrive in groups - can have company."
Seventy Five rotations later...
Humans had evolved since the first one was brought to The Aquarium.
The breeding program had been un-successful. Human females - at least the ones that researchers had managed to capture - were apparently quite picky in who they mated with, and none of the captured males had measured up.
Nor had their aggression toward handlers and spectators died down. For all their primitiveness, Humans were very intelligent animals, and had an annoying habit of escaping their enclosures, though they rarely survived long afterward.
From the specimens taken for research and observation, they had evolved quite rapidly over less than a hundred rotations. The hard exoskeletons replaced by smooth, flexible skin, thick and surprisingly difficult to penetrate. Some deep-sea Humans still retained the exoskeletons, which scientists had theorized was to deal with the water pressure at such depths.
Today, the lead researcher and Human Specialist was blending into the crowds, mingling into a random tour. Insight could come from surprising places, and it wouldn't be the first time a child had accidentally suggested a new direction of research amid the incessant repetitions of "Why?"
This Human had spent much of the voyage back making what the researchers suspected were thoroughly obscene gestures, but now that it was in the tank, appeared to be rearranging the shells and rocks provided as enrichment materials. There was no rhyme or reason to the arrangements that the researchers could determine, but perhaps it was a form of art.
The Tour Guide glared at him discreetly, having drawn the short tube and been stuck answering questions today. No-one liked the duty, but they all did their time on tour rotation. Tomorrow it would be someone else's turn.
The Specialist ignored the glare, leaning back in their seat to enjoy themselves, and the Guide launched into their prepared speech.
"Humans do not acclimatize well outside of their natural environment. They must return to the surface to breathe frequently, though this specimen's unique adaptations have extended the time it can remain submerged, compared to prior specimens. Please visit the research center for a more detailed comparison. While this human has been brought here for research purposes, it is not recommended that Humans be taken as exotic pets, unless you have a very experienced handler. No one wants a repeat of the poaching ring disaster."
That had, indeed, been a disaster. The authorities had failed to stop the poacher's ship before it reached Solaris-3 and retrieved several Humans from shallower waters. Intercepting it on the way home had resulted in a ship that had been floating dead in space for several revolutions, poachers dead and specimens expired, having escaped their enclosures. The ship's logs had been frankly incomprehensible; translators and code-breakers were still trying to work it out.
Suddenly, token sounds of appreciation turned to cries of alarm. A Sdaon, the titans of the waters, seemed to follow the Human's direction, ramming into the glass of the enclosure!
Another ram, and another, and the enclosure was beginning to crack! The Guide fought their way past the panicking Qua"rians, making their way to the Specialist's side. The Human had raised its top appendages in an inverted arch. "Is it trying to communicate? What is it saying?"
The Specialist shook their head, "We haven't managed to get definitive translations of their communication, yet. I can tell you the sounds, but not what they mean!"
A handler appeared, ready to tranq either the Sdaon or the Human, and the Guide groaned, envisioning the mountain of paperwork that would be involved in their incident report. "I'll take whatever you can give me."
The Specialist shrugged. "Fine, but I don't know how "Marine Biologist, bitches!" will help any of us when we have to explain this to the investors."
A friend and I were talking about researcher bias, and I had the weird idea of aliens abducting scuba divers, and not actually realizing that humans are not necessarily amphibious.
So, they keep abducting humans as the previous ones die off, and thing that the evolution of scuba suits is remarkably rapid human evolution.
About the Creator
I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).
I'm an Indie Author, writing bits of everything I think of!
I live in Sydney, Australia
This is great, a really unique take on the challenge. Well done.
Wow! well written and creative!
That was a blast! So creative and thought provoking. I enjoyed the read :)