"Number Thirty-Nine Skink" by Suzanne Palmer
This story comes from the March 2017 issue of "Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine". by Suzanne Palmer.
This story was a little bit mystery and a little bit suspense rolled up into a fun Sci-Fi exploration of a new planet. We start off by being introduced to the character which calls itself Kadey. Kadey was in the middle of creating life with the blueprint "Number Thirty-Nine Skink." We watched the process unfold as Kadey mixed just the right molecules to form life. After the creature was created he releases Number Thirty-Nine Skink into the wild of an unknown planet.
We soon discover that Kadey is an artificial life form brought with a team of humans that were sent to explore the planet . The team used Kadey to seed new life on the planet and take samples of the local ground, water, and flora. Kadey also had a cool feature that allowed it to basically disassemble life on the planet and recreate the molecules. team that brought Kadey disappeared and Kadey was left alone with a sole person named, Mike.
Soon after everyone else disappeared Mike died. Kadey was left to fend for itself. So we followed Kadey around the planet while it seeded new life and explored it new surroundings. The mission was for a select area of the planet, but soon after Mike died Kadey goes outside the mission parameters. He starts to take on a life of it's own with no one left to direct it what to do.
During the night Kadey always shut down to recharge and conserve energy. One morning he discovers scratches on it's legs that couldn't of been from romping through the flora of the planet. So the next night Kadey doesn't completely shut down and stayed "awake" during the night. Kadey soon discovered the cause of his scratches. Some of the local plant life attacked him. That meant they had evolved defensive skills which meant there was a predator they had to look out for. There was more life on the planet than first realized.
Was this predator the reason why the mission was aborted, or why everyone disappeared? Or was there another reason. Kadey would have to access some off limit data storage to find that out, but if he was wrong it would shut Kadey down for good. He would have to discover what this threat to the local life was and maybe some of his questions would be answered.
This was a fun story. As I mentioned earlier it had some suspense and mystery mixed in. That added to the tension of the story. What normally could have been a fairly boring story just following around A.I. life around a new planet turned into a kind of whodunit story.
I like how the author created the character for this character although just a machine, was a very complex character. You almost could feel that a machine was expressing emotions. Loss over a friend when Mike died and excitement when new life was discovered. You felt for the character by the end of the story and for being a machine that was some well done writing.
Overall a fantastic science fiction story. I can see why it was the title story of this months issue of Asimov. I would be pleased to read some more from this author.