The dropship had thundered through the atmosphere like a comet, chased and harried by Xannix ships. Splashdown brought its own set of problems. The chill waters cut to the bone, the darkness punctuated by staccato sparks of light in the flooded cabin. He had been told landings were simply controlled crashes – this had not been a controlled crash.

Since arriving in-system, life had become complex. Scientists had pronounced Hayford b to be a paradise, free from sentient life, ready for colonisation. They were wrong.

Larsen fought against the bitter cold of the icy waters and pushed for the surface of the lake. He and Rivers had survived the crash, but could they survive the hunt? Cut off from the fleet and marooned on an unknown alien world, how long could they keep up any escape and evade the attentions of the local inhabitants, never mind the tracker team? The whole world was hostile.

From the moment of first contact with the Xannix aboard the Intrepid, things had gone from bad to worse. But now he was beginning to feel that things had become personal.

Trouble had come to the Xannix homeworld. Being the prey in a global game of cat-and-mouse was never his intention, but you worked with the hand fate dealt you. He was convinced of one thing…

They were not going to die today.


Hiding in a starship crawlspace was not part of Larsen’s normal day. But then—what was a day in space when something wasn't trying to kill you? Ordinarily, he would be the one running towards the issue to fix it. Punctured hull, engine failure, comms problem—that was his normal fare. When the problem has a gun, well, that's when you find yourself a starship crawlspace and hide. At least until you figure out what to do. He was only lucky he had Silvers with him. Silvers was security, had his own gun and had so far kept them both alive.

Flashback: Lying on a couch in the tranquillity of the resuscitation suite, a cool refreshing drink and soft new skin. The colony fleet, having arrived within the target planetary system of Hayford b had begun waking its crews from stasis. The UTS Endeavour, UTS Indianapolis and UTS Intrepid were slowing for orbit and preparing for the colonisation effort. Only, the UTS Intrepid wasn't responding.

Flashback: Dawn—the UTS Endeavour's AI—and Clayton, the ship’s captain, giving a briefing on the mission. It's a comms issue, Clayton had said. Fix the comms array and find out what's going on over there. And that's what they were doing. Finding out what was going on aboard the UTS Intrepid. Comms array? I can fix that, he thought to himself.

He looked at Silvers taking an inventory: ammo, grenades, knife. He performed his own inventory: utiliplex multi-tool, utility belt, done. His heart sank. It was turning out to be more than your normal dangerous day as an engineer.