“The Scent of Distant Worlds” by W. D. County
For exobiologist Cassie Clearwater, the chance to explore the planet Obsidian is the opportunity of a lifetime. The austere black world has liquid water and a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere that might support life. She discovers a mysterious species of plant that emits copious quantities of complex chemicals. Her colleagues on the mission care only about the diamonds they’ve discovered, but Cassie wonders how these plants, and nothing else, thrive in such a dark and barren environment. In the society where young sprout Pepper lives, knowledge and memories are preserved in the thick trunks of the Elders, whose growth rings go back thousands of years. The Elders don’t appreciate the upstart Pepper, whose new ideas challenge ages-old wisdom, and they communicate their displeasure in a variety of odors. But when members of the grove are mutilated, abducted, and killed by a scentless and undetectable force, Pepper’s penchant for original thought becomes their only hope for survival.