I took a look at the Tor.com site to see what recent SF was on offer, and going back a few weeks and skipping the horror/urban fantasy/YA fiction, there was some Hard SF. Truth be told, when I saw Rajnar Vajra’s name I almost continued skipping, as when I was reading Analog (a good few years back now) I had found his stories, like most in Analog, hard science and easy fiction, and the scientist fiction didn’t do it for me (which is why I stopped reading it).
However, I decided to go with the flow, and I’m pleased that I did, as the story feels very much like an Asimovs/Clarkesword kind of story, and not an Analog one.
It’s online here and the editorial intro summarises the plot – ” an encounter and budding relationship between two aliens, one human, who are the only living creatures occupying a planet in deep space. The human is assigned to guard a valuable find, while his colleagues leave, to file a report with the company that hired them.”
The protagonist, Poet aka Ross, is the team-member from the exploratory mission deemed most suitable to be left behind to act as a Vigilant, to stake the claim on what they have found, whilst the mission returns to Earth to alert the authorities. However, whilst they head back believing they have found a deserted ET camp, Ross finds out that there is much more hiding in the lake on which he is encamped.
Ross is alone throughout the story, and Vajra gets into his mind and thoughts effectively. He’s primarily a guard, not a scientist, and so science plays little part in the story, and it is about him, his loneliness, those he has left behind, and, finally, a decision he has to make, and the potential consequences of that that decision. And there’s poetry too!
All in all, an excellent story.