Once upon a time, there was a pair of explorers. They were a husband and wife, and they travelled to star systems that nobody else had been to. Their vessel was small, but it was fast, allowing them to travel further than people normally ventured from explored space. They would catalogue interesting phenomenon they found. If there was anything especially interesting, they would inform others of the location. It wasn’t a specifically scientific venture, but rather exploration for the sake of exploration. However, with the many places this duo visited, there were always interesting things to find.
On one particular venture, they visited a system with a dying star. Stars die so slowly that it would be centuries or millenniums before it actually died out. The system was in a delicate point in its existence. There was one planet that had life inhabiting it, but the radiation from the star had increased so significantly that it would likely all die out soon. Even the atmosphere was being steadily eaten away by increased radiation.
The couple landed on the planet, interested to see what lived there, although they were protected by radiation suits as a precaution. What they found was quite surprising.
The life that they observed had a startling diversity, because they had assumed many plants and animals would have died off. However, it also seemed that there were not many of any particular plant or animal. That was strange, as certain forms of life should have perished from the radiation before others, yet that didn’t seem to be the case. The strangest thing was that all of the life seemed to be concentrated on one part of the planet, even though there was nothing particularly special about it, and some of the plants didn’t seem like they should have been native to the area.
Then, a group of animals started to gather around. Some that would be termed predators, others that would normally be prey, but neither of them seemed interested in the others. Instead, they seemed to be working together. They indicated as well as they could with movements of their heads and eyes that the explorers should follow them. At least, that was what it seemed to indicate, and when they carefully followed behind, the animals continued to turn and check for their presence.
They were led into a series of buildings, the first that had been seen. Many of them were in a state of disrepair, but as they moved further in there were some that were still well maintained. As they approached a particular building, a door swung open, revealing a short figure. The figure had all of the expected features of a humanoid, a head with two ears, two eyes, a nose, and mouth, as well as arms and legs. However, it was much smaller than the two explorers, about half their height, and its proportions were strange, with long arms and short legs relative to its torso, such that the arms could almost reach the ground.
The figure wave its hand as if calling the couple inside. It brought them to a small bed, where a figure lay. It was even smaller, but that was because it appeared to be a baby. However, it didn’t look exactly like the one that brought them in. For one thing, it had a few small feathers coming out of its arms in seemingly random places, as well as tufts of different kinds of fur growing from various points. Every part of it seemed to be in a different state of growth, and the growth didn’t even seem to be going toward the same goal. Instead, it appeared sickly, as if at any moment it would break down and cease becoming any of the things it resembled.
Then, the older figure started gesturing. It wasn’t clear at first, but it seemed to indicate the couple, as well as the child. However, not all of the gestures made sense, so it took some time. However, when the child was picked up and placed into the arms of the man, some of the intentions became clear.
Then a seemingly normal stone was handed to them as well, though it was more of a perfect sphere of rock. However, it didn’t look to be special other than its shape. The short figure gestured again. He used his hands to indicate the child, and seemingly its length. Then it indicated the height of the couple, then the rock, giving it to the child. However, he then placed the rock in the care of the woman.
The man and woman looked at each other and discussed. They agreed that the child was being entrusted to them. Neither of them had any objections to trying to bring it with them. The stone also seemed to be something for the child, perhaps when he was grown? However, the child was so small he didn’t seem like he would ever reach their height, but the idea was still there.
The explorers wanted to take some of the other inhabitants of the world with them, but they didn’t have enough supplies. Even more, the inhabitants did not want to come with them. The explorers tried to explain that the planet would die, but they were still rejected. They couldn’t be sure whether they were understood, but they thought they got the point across. In fact, it appears that the inhabitants of the planet knew that they would die. The explorers were saddened at the thought of seeing the end of so many species.
The explorers left the planet, taking the child with them. They were unsure at first what to feed the child. They only had the option of human foods, so they gave it synthesized milk. It seemed to do well eating this but then a strange thing happened. The child started to look more and more like a human baby, and to the surprise of the exploring duo, within a few week it looked entirely like a human baby, if a very small one. When they had returned to human civilization, even the dna of the child read as human. There was no way to tell that it had ever been anything else, except if one had the right equipment, they might detect a strange energy signature.
The explorers returned to the planet later, with a larger better supplied ship, but too much time had passed. The planet was dead, except a few small extremophiles which were dying when the explorers arrived. The atmosphere was much weaker, and the radiation was too strong for any of the former life to survive.
So, since there was no one else to raise him, the explorers took the child as their own. They had not had any children of their own, but they loved this one just as much as if he were born to them. He even grew to look like his adopted father.