She had been human once. In those times, the stars had been a place of wonder and fascination, somewhere for the future and her imagination to roam. She never dreamt like that anymore. Now a custodian to thousands of lives aboard the
They had made first contact, they had been attacked and now they were on the brink of becoming unwilling subjects of the Zantanath Unity. The chance that they might encounter another civilisation had been treated with a level of disregard by the mission scientists back home; it had left them unprepared. Now, with an evil to confront, allies were needed, but how do you overcome a technologically advanced and malevolent culture? Leadership had fallen to Larsen. He had been capable, inventive and resilient, but—ultimately—she would need to control events.
Her life on Earth had presented its own complications, but she had sworn to herself that things would be different. When the fleet reached landfall, she would start again, put the old world behind her and focus on the new. But it was never going to be that simple, and now events were escalating. Things had to be put right; she would put things right.
Ellie had made the first step into that new world, and secrets, lies and violence had been her reward. But drastic events required drastic measures. She would bring resolution. Leaving her old life behind, it was time to embrace the new.
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.