Beneath The Surface

by badly_knitted [Reviews - 1]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, Standalone

Author's Notes:
Written for Challenge 337: Wonder at fan_flashworks.

Set in my 'Ghost of a Chance' 'Verse.

Even after more than five decades travelling with Jack among the stars, Ianto still hadn’t lost the sense of wonder he’d felt in those long-ago early days of exploration and adventure, and he doubted he ever would. How could he when there was so much to wonder at? Wherever they went there was something new to see or experience. Art, music, architecture, food, landscapes, people, bizarre and extraordinary creatures… The universe was so fascinatingly varied it was impossible to even imagine growing bored and jaded.

No two worlds were precisely the same. Naturally a lot of them, at least on the surface, appeared very similar to earth, with green grass-like plants and growing things resembling trees, bluish or greyish water and skies, fluffy white clouds made up of water vapour, a single sun, and often a moon, but there were many more that were wildly different from anything he was accustomed to.

There weren’t so many worlds with two or more suns, binary or multiple star systems were in the minority, but there were hundreds, even thousands, that could boast several moons, and a fair few with nothing that could be considered a moon at all. On some planets the grass and trees looked blue, or pink, or purple, while the skies were green, or orange, or deepest indigo. There was even one world they’d visited where the sky was a luminous silver, and the plants came in shades of copper, gold, and bronze. It had been a bit hard on the eyes, but no less wonderful for that.

The people they met, and often worked for, were equally strange. Some were humanoid, with the expected two legs, two arms, and a body with a head at the top. Others had multiple limbs, tentacles, feathers, antennae, fur, scales, flippers, appendages he didn’t even have names for… the combinations were endless. There were insectoid races, others that had evolved from fish, reptiles, amphibians, rodents, or birds. There were even, much to Ianto’s amazement and delight, intelligent, mobile plants.

Back on earth, the trend had been towards a certain homogeneity. Everywhere he’d gone in Britain had begun to look similar. Older buildings were being demolished and replaced with structures that had no individuality. When he’d seen a high street on the television news, it could have been anywhere; there was little to distinguish one town from another. Out here though, everywhere was unique. He’d marvelled over cities made of crystal, others where the buildings reminded him of toadstools, or termite mounds, or strings of massive, multicoloured beads, Christmas baubles dangling from the limbs of trees as tall as skyscrapers, or burrows in the ground that brought to mind Hobbit holes…

On this planet, the cities were carved out of ancient coral reefs that were now on land instead of at the bottom of the oceans due to the shifting of tectonic plates. The coral was pearly pink, inside and out, while the vegetation was pale turquoise, and most of the flowers, the size of dinner plates, were various shades of yellow.

The people were tall, slender, and graceful, their skin made up of tiny silvery blue scales, and their hair a short pink mohawk fuzz that started just above their narrow, jutting noses, travelled across the otherwise bare dome of their scalps, and extended, or so Jack claimed, all the way down their backs to where their tails would have been, if they’d had tails. They wore one-piece tunics that covered them from their necks to halfway down their thighs though, so Ianto couldn’t be sure whether Jack was telling the truth.

They kept their arms, legs, and feet bare, and since they were amphibious, their long fingers and toes were webbed. Gills fluttered along both sides of their necks, and their voices were surprisingly deep. A peaceful people who mostly kept to themselves and their planet, since the oceans of their world were their true home, they traded sporadically with other worlds for any materials and technology their own planet couldn’t supply, which was why Jack and Ianto were there. They’d flown down to the surface in their small shuttle to deliver a load of machine parts and collect a shipment of shellfish and other marine delicacies, packed in stasis pods for transportation. They’d fetch premium prices in the Gallardi Cluster, which was the next stop on this run.

No one was in any hurry, however. There was no chance of the cargo spoiling, and it would be the best part of a day before all the pods arrived from the various coastal settlements, ready to be loaded aboard the shuttle, so the two humans had been invited to swim the reefs with Omaki, one of the settlement’s elders, a friendly woman whose hair was tinged with silver.

Once again, Ianto was filled with awe and wonder as he dove beneath the still surface of a coastal lagoon where the violet water was clear as crystal. Back home he’d seen several documentaries about life on earth’s coral reefs, although he’d never had the opportunity to visit one himself. Even so, this bore little resemblance to what he’d seen on TV. The pale coral formed almost unbelievable towers, spires, and arches, among which bizarre marine creatures in rainbow colours crawled, and drifted, and swam. Coral ‘flowers’ opened and closed constantly, snagging unwary creatures that resembled finger sized frilly eels, and other things like bunches of blue grapes with whiplike tails. One-eyed fish-like things crawled about, munching on this planet’s version of crustacea, and creatures that could only be described as underwater butterflies swam lazily around. It was breath-taking.

The universe was filled with endless wonders, and even if he and Jack lived to the end of time and beyond, Ianto didn’t think they’d ever get to see it all. That didn’t mean they couldn’t try, but there was no reason to rush. With all the time in the universe before them, they could afford to linger and appreciate each of the wonders they encountered to the full. This was one they wouldn’t soon forget.

The End