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Green Fingers Part 2

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Grade 6 | Narrative | Text-Dependent 


Learning Standards


Read the following excerpt from the story, “Green Fingers.” Write a narrative in which you continue the story, describing what happens during the encounter between the spaceship commander and the Russian scientist, Surov. Use the same characters, setting, and events from “Green Fingers” in your narrative.



Green Fingers

by Arthur C. Clarke 


I am very sorry, now that it’s too late, that I never got to know Vladimir Surov. As I remember him, he was a quiet little man who could understand English but couldn’t speak it well enough to make conversation. I suspect that even his colleagues found him a bit hard to figure out. Whenever I went aboard the Ziolkovski, he would either be sitting in a corner working on his notes or peering through a microscope. He clung to his privacy even in the tight and tiny world of a spaceship.  The rest of the crew did not seem to mind. When they spoke to him, it was clear that they  regarded him with affection as well as with respect. That was hardly surprising. The work he  had done developing plants and trees that could flourish far inside the Arctic Circle had already made Surov the most famous botanist in Russia.


The fact that the Russians had taken a botanist to the moon caused a good deal of amusement at first. It was really no stranger, however, than the fact that there were biologists on both the British and American ships. During the years before the first lunar landing, a good deal of evidence had pointed to the fact that some form of vegetation might exist on the moon, despite its airlessness and lack of water.


The complete absence of any sign of vegetation in the thousand or so square miles explored by our various parties was the first big disappointment on the moon. Even those who were quite certain that no form of life could exist on the moon would have been very glad to have been proved wrong. At the time of our landing, it seemed that Surov had come to the moon in vain.


He did not appear upset. He kept himself as busy as the rest of the crew, studying soil samples and looking after the little airtight greenhouses whose transparent tubes formed a gleaming net-work around the Ziolovski. Neither we nor the Americans had gone in for this sort of thing, having calculated that it was better to ship food from Earth than to grow it on the spot – at least until the time came to set up a permanent base. We were right in terms of time but wrong in terms of morale. The tiny greenhouses in which Surov grew his vegetables and dwarf fruit trees gave us something to feast our eyes on when we grew tired of the great desert surrounding us.


One of the things I disliked about being commander was that I seldom had the chance to do any exploring. I was too busy preparing reports for Earth, checking supplies, arranging programs and duty schedules, meeting with the commanders of the American and Russian ships, and trying – not always successfully – to guess what would go wrong next. As a result, I sometimes did not go outside the base for two or three days at a time. It was a standing joke that my space suit was a safe place for months.


Perhaps it is because of this that I can remember so clearly all my trips outside. Certainly I will never forget my only encounter with Surov. It was near noon, with the sun high above the southern mountains. A few degrees away from the sun, Earth was barely visible, just a thin slice of silver lit by the sun. Henderson wanted to take some magnetic readings at a series of checkpoints a few miles to the east of the base. Everyone else was busy, and I was momentarily on top of my work, so we set off together on foot.


I always enjoyed walking out in the open on the moon. It was not merely the unbelievable scenery – which one can grow used to after a while – that I never tired of. What really delighted me was the effortless slow-motion way in which every step took me bounding over the landscape. It gave me the freedom that, before the coming of space flight, I knew only in dreams.


We had done the job and were halfway home when I noticed a figure moving across the plain about a mile to the south of us – not far, in fact, from the Russian base. I snapped my field glasses down inside my helmet and took a careful look at the other explorer. Even at close range, of course, someone in a space suit can’t be identified. What I was looking at was the particular color and number on the suit – this would tell me who was wearing it. 


“Who is it?” asked Henderson over the short-range radio channel to which we were both tuned.


“Blue suit, Number Three – that would be Surov. I don’t understand, though. He’s by himself.”


One of the most important rules of lunar exploration is that no one goes anywhere alone on the moon. So many accidents can happen, which could be minor if someone were with a partner but deadly if that person were alone. What would you do, for example, if your space suit developed a slow leak in the small of the back and you couldn’t put on a repair patch? That may sound funny, but it’s happened.


“Perhaps his partner has had an accident, and he’s going to get help,” suggested Henderson. “Maybe we had better call him.”


I shook my head. Surov was obviously in no hurry. He had been out on a trip of his own and was gradually making his way back to the Ziolovski. It was no concern of mine if Commander Krasnin let his people go out alone on trips, though it seemed unwise practice. If Surov was breaking the rules, it was equally no concern of mine to report him.


During the next two months, my crew often spotted Surov making his long way over the landscape, but he was always careful  to avoid them. I learned that Commander Krasnin had been forced,  owing to a shortage of crew, to relax some of his safety rules. Even so, I couldn’t find out what  Surov was up to, and I never dreamed that his commander was equally in the dark.


It was with an “I told you so” feeling that I got Krasnin’s emergency call. We had all had people in trouble before had had to send out help. This, however, was the first time that anyone had been lost and had not replied when the ship had sent out its recall signal. We conferred quickly with each other by radio, decided on procedures, and sent out search parties from each of the ships.


Once again, I was with Henderson. We decided that it made sense for us to backtrack along the route that we had first seen Surov following. This route was in what we regarded as “our” territory, quite some distance away from Surov’s own ship. As we scrambled up the low foothills, it dawned on me that the Russian might have been doing something that he wanted to keep away from his colleagues. I could not imagine what that might be.

“Green Fingers,” by Arthur C. Clarke. Copyright © 1956. 

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