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Chapter 1


-Zyan Brenth – 11 – Landing Compound

The doors of the shuttle slid open at an excruciatingly slow pace for the eleven-year-old. A gap wide enough for him to slip through appeared, and he fought the urge to push through the crack knowing that his father, the colony leader, would want to be the one to take the first steps on their new home world.

Soltan, the boy thought proudly – for he had been the one who helped his father and grandfather to come up with the name for the Earth-like world that sat near the edge of the galaxy. The planet that the Soltan Expedition had traveled nearly thirty years through the depths of space just to arrive at and make their own. The world that was meant to be their second chance at life.

When it was discovered in 2125AD that Earth wouldn’t be able to sustain human life for much longer, the Association of Colonization and Exploration was formed to aide in the search for habitable worlds in order for the human race to survive. The first projects were nothing more than test subjects, which helped refine the process for those that followed, and their losses were never easily forgotten. A.C.E. began to put new regulations in place that were designed to make the transitions safer for the colonists but, those regulations came at a cost. A cost that soon made it impossible for any person without rank on Earth to partake in the new colonies that were being formed on a routine basis unless they signed life-long contracts to work off the costs of their transportation. 

Zachary Brenth founded the Soltan Expedition in 2131AD with one simple dream – the dream that any human being that lived on Earth would have the chance to enlist in the project. A dream that the Association of Colonization and Exploration tried to dismantle at every opportunity – until Admiral Brenth’s own father, the Ambassador of A.C.E., stepped in and funded the expedition from his own expense account. Adam Brenth even went as far as to donate four ships to the Soltan Expedition knowing that his life would be put on the line the moment the ships left their orbit around Earth to begin their long journey.

The boy was taught throughout his eleven years of life to never linger on past memories for only the future truly mattered. Only the future could set the people of Earth free from the grip of religion and technology – the grip that had started three world wars in less than a century, and a war with two alien races that left Earth in tatters. That was the moment that Zachary Brenth knew that something had to be done. The boy knew the stories of the wars, but he knew that his father was one of the few true heroes in the last two wars.

The door finally opened the remainder of the way, and the eleven-year-old stepped to the edge of the door to glance out at the field that was covered in a light dusting of snow that reflected the morning rays of sunlight like billions of tiny diamonds. He shielded his eyes against its brightness as he took in the view of mountains far to the east that reached up to seemingly kiss the sky. The air was filled with the scent of saltwater and snow and was so fresh that the boy couldn’t get enough of it. He breathed in deep of the air as he waited for the order to be given that would give him the permission to disembark from the back of the passenger shuttle. Behind him he could hear the eighteen other colonists aboard the shuttle talking excitedly as they too waited for Admiral Zachary Brenth to take the first step. His father had made a small-pretty speech during the Drop about having a duty to perform before anybody could venture off on their own. There were three other colony ships still in route to Soltan, but they were not due to arrive for another ninety days. Together, the four ships carried just over seven thousand brave explorers waiting to start anew.

The boy felt his father’s hand on his shoulder, but he ignored it as he thought his father was steadying himself to take that much anticipated first step. Instead of seeing his father step past him like he had expected the Admiral to do, the boy felt his father shove him forward. He yelped as the ground rushed up to greet him and his hands slid into the icy-cold snow. Instantly, the boy jumped to his feet thinking that he had just fallen from the back of the shuttle. He whirled quickly to face his father, expecting the man to chastise him for his clumsiness and ruining the Admiral’s own chances at begin first on the surface. Instead, he found himself staring up at his father and the other colonists still aboard the shuttle who were all laughing and cheering at him.

“How does it feel to be the first member of the colony to set foot on our new world, Zyan?” Admiral Brenth asked in his deep voice as he smiled at the confused boy.

“Did you push me, father, or did I fall?” Zyan asked meekly. He was desperately hoping that he had not fallen, and the hand he felt was his father trying to catch him.

Brenth laughed heartily as he stepped down next to his son. “Of course, I pushed you, Zyan.” He stated merrily before motioning at the others behind him. “Everybody was waiting on you, but you seemed frozen in place for some reason. I had to do something,” the man added slyly. “We were getting anxious to get off the shuttle!”

“I thought that you were going to be first, father.” Zyan said in a confused tone.

“The other passengers and I took a vote before we left the Ambassador,” the man explained as he slipped his arm about his son’s shoulders affectionately and led him towards the rear of the shuttle where some cargo was waiting to be unloaded. “You were the lucky winner, son. Take pride in the fact that you won unanimously. It wasn’t even me who nominated you.”

“Who did?” Zyan asked as he glanced back to the other colonists.

“It was Pilot Combs.”

“Oh,” Zyan stated in a confused tone of voice. 

He had never witnessed the Admiral acting in this way, and it baffled the boy considerably. He spent the next three months trying to figure out the change in the normally serious man but gave up when it became obvious that there really was no answer besides the fact that Zachary Brenth was merely excited to finally be having his dream come true. The dream that everyone on the expedition shared with him. 

-Commander Zachary Brenth – 47 – Landing Compound

Zachary Brenth, as senior officer located planet-side, took charge of the offloading of the shuttles in order to get them back in the air before their allowed timeframe of fifteen minutes had passed. The colony leader didn’t want to fall behind on the first Drop of the entire expedition. 

“Hey, Zyan,” Brenth called out to his youngest son as he watched the dark-haired boy helping his friend Christian carry a large tote out of the rear of the lead shuttle. “Come over here once you guys get done with that. Bring Christian, too!”

“Okay, dad!” His son yelled back as he and Christian shuffled over to the side of the landing strip. Both of the boys were puffing and had red cheeks when they joined Zachary. “What’s up, dad?”

Brenth couldn’t help but smile at how happy his son and friend looked together. The two boys had been inseparable since they had first been introduced to each other two years prior when the colony leader started recruiting contractors and other members to fill the seventy-five-hundred spots on the Soltan Expedition.

“I would like for you guys to find the crate that has the pennants in it, and then I want you to use the g.p.s. to make sure they are placed in the right spots for each group,” Brenth told the two boys. “Can you handle that for me?”

“Of course, Commander,” Christian said with a grin. The brown-haired boy grabbed Zyan’s hand and ran towards the steadily growing pile of crates without saying another word.

“They’re excited to be here,” Kyle Corvan said as he joined the colony leader.

“We all are, Mister Corvan,” Brenth told the seventeen-year-old. “Make sure that you take some time today to explore the Landing Compound, Kyle. You’re only seventeen, take a chance to be a kid before we all have to grow up.”

Kyle laughed lightly.

“Is that an order, Commander Brenth?”

“It is, Mister Corvan,” Zachary said with a mock growl. “Besides, you can use your exploration time to gather some more data. That way you don’t feel like you’re free-loading, anymore.”

“I haven’t felt like that since we left Earth,” Kyle admitted. “I’ve been too busy preparing everything for the orientation classes to worry about my standing within the expedition.”

“That’s good,” Zach said. “I’m proud of the young man that you are becoming, Kyle.”

“Sir?” Kyle looked up at the dark-haired man in disbelief. 

Zachary Brenth smiled down at the young man and clasped his shoulder.

“You were very shy and quiet, when I met you two years before we launched,” Zach told the teenager. “You were thirteen-years-old when we I first found you living with your grandmother. You were a boy-genius, Kyle. I had to have you as part of the expedition. You made me want you as part of the team, even more, when you refused to come along without your little brother.”

Kyle blushed at the praise.

“You’re like a son to me, Kyle,” Zachary continued. “Zyan and Cole have both told me that you act like the older brother when they are around, and we all can see that Christian and Zyan are both inseparable. It surprised me, even more, when you volunteered to remain on watch for two years of our journey, as well.”

“It was the right thing to do, sir,” Kyle said humbly. 

Zachary Brenth chuckled and clasped the teenager’s shoulder. “You will be rewarded for your services, Kyle,” the man assured the Data Analyst with a warm smile. “I can promise you that, at least!”

“Thank you, sir,” Kyle said with a slight bow of his head. “I appreciate it.”

“Now,” Zach said, changing the subject. “How are things going for your orientation class?”

“I’m not sure, sir,” the teen stated with a shrug. “Commander Adler radioed that the supplies I asked for should be included in the next cargo drop, but he didn’t seem to confident of that. So, as of the moment, I’m going to be relying on the data that I’ve saved on my tablet.”

“I’ll get in touch with Jessica,” Brenth said with a nod. “She’d be the one to ask, Kyle. Just go to her, from now on. I’ll make sure Jess knows that you’re going to be in touch with her if you need anything else.”

“Thank you, Zachary,” Kyle said with a smile. “I don’t mean, just for the help with my supplies, either.” Kyle hesitated for a moment as the younger man seemed to gather this thoughts. “I, also, would like to thank you for bringing Christian and I along to Soltan with you. This has been the craziest experience I have ever been a part of, sir, and I wouldn’t change a single moment of it for anything.”

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way, Mister Corvan,” Zachary said proudly as he smiled at the brown-haired youth. “Are you going to be needing anything else for your orientation classes?”

“As long as the satellite receivers are up and running, sir, I should have everything else that I need.”

“Very good, Mister Corvan,” Zach acknowledged. “I look forward to your first session.”

“You’re going to be there, too, sir?” Kyle asked with a hint of fear in his green eyes. 

“Of course, I will be going through the orientation classes, Mister Corvan,” Commander Brenth stated dismissively. “What kind of leader would I be, expecting all of my subordinates to go through the class, while I sit and do the opposite? No exceptions, mean exactly that, Kyle. No exceptions. Nobody will get a pass to leave the Landing Compound until they have completed one of your basic courses. Once we know everything that we have to face planet-side, we can offer advanced courses for those colonists that wish to learn more about our new home.”

“Of course, sir,” Kyle Corvan agreed. “Judging by the interests that each member of the expedition listed, we shouldn’t have too much of an issue finding students for our classes, sir.”

“That’s another thing we need to discuss, today, Kyle,” Zachary said with a slight frown. “We’re going to need a school for the children.”

“I’ve already come up with a plan for that during the past few months in space, sir.”

“Oh?” Commander Brenth asked with a raised eyebrow, causing the younger man to blush in embarrassment. “I look forward to hearing about it during our next break, Kyle.”

“The next break, sir?” Kyle asked dubiously. “Do you, honestly, believe the we are ever going to get another break, now that we are here?”

Zachary couldn’t constrain his merriment, and laughed heartily as he clasped the seventeen-year-old on the shoulder. “Well said, Kyle!” He told the dark-haired youth. Then, the salt and pepper-haired man motioned towards the nearby beach. “Let’s walk and talk, Kyle. All I need to know is the gist of your idea, anyway.”

“Sir?” Kyle looked confused.

“Didn’t I tell you, Kyle?” Brenth asked with a smug grin. “You’re going to be the Headmaster of our first school.” Kyle’s mouth fell open in disbelief. Brenth continued as if nothing had happened. “As long as you are fair to the children of this world, and anybody else that wants to learn, I do not care what happens, or what subjects you teach. I trust you to figure out everything that is needed to help our colony grow, Mister Corvan. We don’t need to focus on the past anymore, all that matters for us is the future.” The two men reached the sandy beach that lined the northern shore of the lake, and Zachary paused to take in the view of the windswept lake in front of them. The surface of the lake was covered in whitecaps as the wind began to grow stronger in intensity as they stood there and waited for the next wave of shuttles to arrive. The air was getting colder, and Kyle zipped his flight jacket up all of the way before shoving his hands in his pockets. Brenth smiled. “Make sure that you ask Jessica for a beanie cap, Kyle. She’s coming down on the same drop as the first cargo shuttle.”

“Hopefully, they get here before the snowstorm does,” Kyle said absently as he glanced to his right, and saw the gray clouds forming low on the western horizon. “I think it’s going to get here faster than I originally thought, Commander Brenth.”

“I believe that Soltan is going to teach us all about herself, Kyle,” Brenth said solemnly as he too saw the approaching clouds. “I’ll get someone to start getting the Command Tent erected. I don’t want to have to do that in the wind.”

“I’ll go find Christian and Zyan,” Kyle told the older man. “I’m going to need their help for a few hours, sir.”

Brenth nodded in agreement.

“Have them stay flexible, today, Kyle. Ask for volunteers to help you out until you’re certain you have a decent sized staff,” Brenth suggested. “Then, I want you to start training different people to give the classes. I’m sure you can find a few former teachers that would be willing to assist in the orientation sessions.”

“Of course, Brenth,” Kyle acknowledged. “I’ll be ready to start cycling more people through sessions once the next drop gets here. Each Data Pad is uploaded with the latest satellite and probe information, and I set each one to update automatically.”

Brenth smiled proudly at the younger man, genuinely surprised at how much the teenager could get done on his own accord. “Damn, Kyle. I didn’t even think to do that,” Brenth admitted with a chuckle. He clasped Kyle on the shoulder, making the teen boy blush, again. “Just keep doing what you’ve been doing, Headmaster Corvan! I’ll make the announcement official, tonight.”

Zachary was about to say something else, when he heard his name being shouted from nearby. Brenth turned to look behind him, and saw a man with brown hair, and a scar down his right cheek, heading towards him. 

“Is that Thorn, sir?” Kyle asked, confused as to why the spy would be approaching them so openly. 

“It is,” Brenth said, his confusion evident in his own tone of voice. Zachary could hear the strange tone in the man’s voice, though. He knew that this was nothing but another one of the man’s ruses. “Just follow my lead, Kyle.”

Then, Brenth smiled in as much of a welcoming manner as he could muster. “You’re overdoing it, sir,” Kyle muttered from beside him, making the older man almost lose his composure with laughter. Zachary quickly schooled his expression, making ti seem like he was running into an old friend, instead of a long lost lover.

“Hey, Jack!” Brenth greeted the spy, using their code name for the burly man. “What can I do for you?”

“Commander,” the man began with a brief nod. “I believe that there may have been a mistake with one of the packages that was supposed to be on this Drop.”

“How many are you missing, Jack?” Brenth asked, his brow furrowed thoughtfully.

“Just my backpack, sir,” Thorn responded with a frown. Zachary nearly kicked the sand beneath his boots in anger, but it was bad enough that Thorn was already meeting with him out in the open, like this. Brenth didn’t want to take the chance of attracting any attention. “I think I may have spotted your eldest son with it before we set off, Zach.”

Brenth frowned. “Cole?” Thorn nodded and Brenth cussed silently for a moment. “Fine, I’ll get ahold of Jess and ask her if she’s saw it, or not. Stay flexible, Jack.”

“I’ll get settled in my campsite, and then, I’ll come back after dark to get the pack from you,” Thorn said, leaving no room for Brenth to object. 

“Make sure you find a spot for your supply drop, too,” Brenth stated. “I want you to be prepared for anything. Do you have enough weapons?”

“I have enough, for now,” the man replied. “I’m going to make a temporary bow once I get my camp setup.” Then, Thorn turned his gaze to Kyle, and the teen flushed at being caught staring at the man’s scar. “Don’t worry, Kyle. Everybody stares, at first. You’ll get used to it once we start bumping into each other, more often.”

“Were you able to intercept anymore communications between Adler and Bennet?” Zachary asked. “Kyle was able to remove the encryption from several of their messages for me.”

“There was one message received about an hour before Angel-1 left the cargo bay of the Ambassador,” Thorn told them. “I haven’t had a chance to take a look at it, yet.”

“Let me see it,” Kyle said. “I’m pretty good with encryption.”

“I would,” Thorn began, “but my bag with my communicator in it is somewhere between here and Earth, at the moment.”

“Oh,” Kyle said as he dropped his head. “Sorry, Thor-, I mean, umm, Jack.”

Thorn was grinning by the time Kyle had finished trying to apologize. Zachary couldn’t help but shake his head at the teen’s apparent befuddlement in the spy’s presence. Deciding that it was better to keep Kyle from embarrassing himself any further, Brenth changed the subject.

“Let me know if you find out anything else, Jack,” Zach said with a brief grin. “I want to know every time those two men even think about each other.”

“Oh man, I’ve got my work cut out for me, then,” Thorn said with a chuckle. “I’ll check in, later, Brenth.” The spy said before turned and nodded once at Kyle. “It was a pleasure seeing you again, Mister Corvan.”

“You, too, Jack,” Kyle said, almost dreamily.

Thorn chuckled lightly as he walked away from them. Brenth brought Kyle out of his revery by patting the brown-haired youth on his back. “Come on, Kyle. There’s work to be done.”

-Darren Adler – 28 – Ambassador

The Ambassador Colony ship was a bustle of activity as everyone prepared for their moment to leave the steel coffin behind, so they could begin their lives anew on the Earth-like world nearly twenty-thousand miles below them. The Ambassador was in a geostationary orbit above Soltan, giving each shuttle and pod a fixed position to fly to and from, rather than having to search for the massive vessel during each trip from the surface. Darren Adler, a Communications Specialist that had signed onto the expedition under his own motives, was on duty monitoring the expedition’s communication system during the first day of landing procedures, a shift that he had gladly volunteered for. Darren Adler was waiting for another communication from Alexander Bennet, his partner in his quest to take down the Brenth Family, once and for all. Adler and Bennet had been in communication throughout the journey, each man working on their master plan, not knowing that their plans were futile from the beginning. 

Darren studied the console in front of him, noticing that there was interference coming through the different radio channels. Figuring that he would be blamed for the interference, Adler began searching for the source of the problem, hoping that he would solve the issue before his scheduled Drop. Darren needed to get it resolved before he entered his own virus into the communication network. Darren Adler and Alexander Bennet were both members of a religious cult known as the Brotherhood, a group that had been deemed a terrorist organization in the old days of Earth due to their religious beliefs. The two men had been elected by the cult leaders to spread their beliefs to the Soltan Expedition, a belief that the man known as Zachary Brenth, stood firmly in the way of. It was up to Adler and Bennet to accomplish their task, by any means necessary. 

Then, once Adler was certain that his tracks would be covered, the overweight man uploaded the virus that would forever disable the communication network that the colony leaders were feverishly trying to get started. The only way to keep himself from being a prime suspect in the assault of the virus, was to set a timer on the program that would keep it from activating until a specific date. A date that Adler and Bennet had chosen before they ever left Earth behind. A date that would synchronize with the cult members still on Earth. With the virus uploaded, and the activation date set, Adler breathed a sigh of relief. The communication network would survive for one decade before the virus would force the colony into a deadline, unable to contact anybody from Earth, if they would be lucky enough to call their neighbors, if the people from Soltan had any neighbors that were close enough to call for help. 

Adler sneered in satisfaction as he powered down his station for the last time, and made his way back to his quarters so he could get ready for his Drop.

-Riley Combs – 23 – Ambassador

Lieutenant Riley Combs was one of the youngest pilots aboard the Soltan Expedition, and he was also one of the best, with the various test scores to prove his competency behind the helm. Needless to say, Riley had earned the position of Chief Pilot for the Soltan Expedition. Riley made certain that his shuttle was completely locked down before he made his way up to the bridge of the Ambassador to begin his shift of monitoring the colony ship for eight hours, giving the morning crew a chance to visit the planet and to get some fresh air. Riley studied the display on the console as he took his spot at the pilot’s station, ready to keep an eye out for any possible hazards the colony ship may face. Kyle Corvan, the Chief Data Analyst, had taught Riley how to read the different layers of the vessel’s radar system, so the pilot could also keep Kyle alert of any possible storms heading towards the Landing Compound. The very first thing that Riley noticed was a snowstorm building off to the northeast, just on the other side of the mountains. The storm was still growing, and judging by the way the winds were moving in the area, Riley was certain the storm would cover the Landing Compound by sunset.

The pilot quickly keyed up his communications console, and found the frequency they were going to be using for the Landing Compound. “Ambassador to Landing Compound,” Riley called out into the headset he was wearing. It was only a few moments before a response came from the planet below.

“This is Landing-1, go ahead Ambassador,” the voice crackled in response.

“Advise Mister Corvan that a storm is incoming,” Riley stated. “ETA, seven hours.”

“I copy, Ambassador,” the person on the other end of the line confirmed before repeating the message. “I will pass on the message, right away.”

“Ambassador, out.”

Riley returned the headset to its stand, and leaned back in his chair. It looks like I’m going to be stuck here all day, now, he thought grimly. At least, it’s a pretty view.

Even though he would rather be on the surface of Soltan, the young man didn’t mind pulling a watch shift aboard the Ambassador. For one, it gave him a chance to relaxe, and for two, it didn’t force Riley’s body into adjusting to the higher gravity of Soltan, all at once. Riley sighed and leaned back in his chair, scratching his stomach as he did so. The green-eyed man was getting ready to grab a cup of coffee when he noticed a strange anomaly on the display in front of him. 

“What’s this?” Riley asked himself as he began to run several scans on the communications systems. Once the report was complete, Riley took several minutes to decipher the encrypted letter before he transmitted a copy of it directly to Admiral Brenth. Then, the Chief Pilot backed up a copy of the file to his own tablet before he erased it from the Ambassador’s database. Riley had a frown on his face as he thought about the message that Darren Adler had sent to Steven Alexander. Both men had been known to be associated with the group known as the Purifiers, a group of religious zealots that believed that Earth was the only home for mankind. Their beliefs were so strong, they had members of their cult infiltrate colonies in order to sabotage the various expeditions. 

I’ll watch them, Riley thought angrily. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure this colony survives.

-Zyan Brenth – 11 – Landing Compound

Zyan rushed back and forth between the pile of supplies and the Reception Tent, his arms full of stacks of packets for the incoming colonists. The rumor of snow, had made Zachary Brenth urge the colony into working faster, trying to get as many people down to the ground before the storms hit, as possible. Zyan was out of breath, and tired from working so hard, after being frozen for seven years, but he wasn’t going to let anything keep him from making a good impression in his father’s eyes. Heather Alandro, one of Kyle’s assistants, was busy powering up her terminal station as Zyan dropped another stack of envelopes into the crate next to her table in the Reception Tent. The green-eyed woman smiled at the dark-haired boy as he emptied his arms of his burden.

“You’ve been really busy today, Zyan,” she remarked as she continued to log into her terminal.

“I know,” Zyan replied with a grin. “I want the colony to succeed, so I’m working as hard as I can.”

“Make sure you stop by Kira’s tent to get your physical, Zyan,” Heather reminded the boy. “She needs to give you a clean bill of health before you should be exerting yourself like this.”

“I know,” Zyan replied cheekily. “I’ll catch her when she’s not busy.”

Heather rolled her eyes.

“Boys!” The woman muttered before she scowled at Zyan. “You won’t touch another piece of material needed by this colony until you go get your physical, young man.”

Zyan blushed at the woman’s rebuke.

“Err, umm,” Zyan stuttered sheepishly. “I’ll go, right now.”

“That’s a brilliant idea, Zyan,” Heather replied, smugly. “I’d hate for you to be late working as my assistant for the next Drop.”

Zyan’s blue eyes brightened for a moment. “Really?” He asked. “I’m working with you, Heather?”

“Only if you go get your physical, Zyan,” Heather reminded the boy. 

Zyan was out of the tent a second later, the sound of Heather’s laughter echoing behind him as he ran for the Medical Tent. Zyan was surprised to find one of the nurses standing outside of the tent waiting for him.

“Hey, Zyan,” the young man said with a grin as he put his hand on Zyan’s shoulder to lead him inside the canvas tent. The air was noticeably warmer in the Medical Tent, compared to the others, and the boy was soon wishing that he could shed his jacket after only being in the tent for a minute. The nurse didn’t notice Zyan’s plight, and continued talking to hear himself talk. “You’re right on time, Doctor Sutherly is just finishing up with her current patient. She’s squeezing you in, so you can get back to work.”

“She really doesn’t need to do that,” Zyan tried to protest, but the nurse wasn’t having any of it. He simply pushed Zyan through a curtain where a cot was waiting with a small blue hospital gown folded neatly int he center of it. 

“Hurry up, and get the gown on, Zyan,” the man said with the same smile. “Doctor Sutherly will be here in a moment.”

Zyan nodded and waited until the nurse had left, pulling the curtain closed behind himself before the boy quickly shed his clothes, and pulled on the paper thin robe. This is ridiculous, he thought the moment he realized that the back of the gown was open and his butt was exposed to the warm air in the tent. Zyan promptly sat on the cot.

“Hi, Zyan,” Kira said with a soft smile when she stepped into Zyan’s area. The nineteen-year-old medic pulled out a scanner from a satchel she had on her shoulder, and pointed it at Zyan as she hit a few buttons on the device. “Don’t worry, Zyan, this won’t take very long.”

“At least, it’s warm in here,” Zyan said with a grin.

“You’re one of the few who think so,” Kira said with a laugh. She made quick work of the physical examination, and soon, Zyan was on his way back to the Reception Tent with a clean bill of health.

“Welcome back, Zyan,” Heather greeted the boy when he checked back in. “Are you ready to get started? I think the next wave is about to land, at any minute, now.”

“I can’t wait!”

“Let’s see if you feel the same way, when we’re done for the day,” Heather remarked with a laugh before the unmistakeable roar of several shuttles could be heard approaching from the west. Heather promptly returned to making sure she had everything ready, much like the other receptionists were doing at their stations. “It’s time to get this party started, Zyan.”

-Commander Zachary Brenth – 47 – Landing Compound

Admiral Brenth waited until the remainder of the Council Members that were planet-side, were all present before he started the meeting. Data Analyst, Kyle Corvan, was the last of the five members to find himself a seat at the table that had been brought down from the Ambassador on the first Drop. 

“Sorry, sir,” the young man apologized as he took his seat. “My orientation ran longer than expected.”

“That’s fine, Mister Corvan,” Zachary acknowledged with a slight grin. Then, Commander Brenth began the first official council meeting. Five monitors had been set up on the far end of the table. Three of the displays held the faces of Captain Jameson of the Exodus, Captain Fritz of the Stargazer, and Captain Grey of the Explorer; the three other colony ships that were still three months away from arriving. One of the monitors held the image of Commander Lisa Knox, Zachary’s own Executive Officer, who was still aboard the Ambassador. The other monitor held the face of Jessica Brenth, Zachary’s wife and the expedition’s Logistic’s Director. “Good evening, everyone. It is now 1910 hundred hours here at the Landing Compound, and we are getting closer to sunset, and the end of shuttle operations. The plan is to resume shuttle flights at dawn, weather dependent, of course. Mister Corvan, have you had a chance to prepare a weather report for us?”

“Unfortunately, I have, Commander Brenth,” Kyle responded in a forlorn tone as he pulled out his data pad and entered a code on the device.. “You should all be getting a copy of the weather radar that Pilot Combs sent to me from the Ambassador, a few hours ago. Judging by this, I’ve been working on a new model that puts the storm over Landing near midnight.” 

“That’s going to make it difficult to get any of the houses built,” Jim Paxin, the Housing Director of the expedition, mused to himself.

“We can always set up cots in the common areas of the Ambassador when we bring it down, tomorrow,” Kyle suggested. 

Brenth nodded in agreement. “Will that work for now, Mister Paxin?”

“I believe it will,” Jim responded quickly. “It’s only Section-A, right?”

“Yes,” Zach responded. “The rest of the ship isn’t made for atmospheric flight, unfortunately. Now,” Brenth decided to change the subject slightly. “It doesn’t matter if the Ambassador is brought down tomorrow, or if we bring it down in a month. We’re still going to need food during that time.”

“I could always lend some of the housing crew to Miss Sutherly to beef up her hunting parties,” Jim Paxin suggested. “It’s not like they’ll have anything else to do until the snow is cleared, anyway.”

“I have a suggestion for that,” Lisa Knox spoke up, her voice crackling from some type of interference between the Ambassador and Soltan.

“Go for it, XO,” Zachary motioned for the woman to continue, knowing that she could see him on her display. “I’m open to any idea that will help keep us moving along, smoothly.”

“You could always use the shuttles to clear the snow from the future housing area, sir,” the woman stated as if it should have been obvious to everyone. “You could also use them to clear the landing field.”

“Will we have the fuel for that?” Jessica Brenth asked.

“Riley has already managed to put us ten-percent under budget on fuel, Mrs. Brenth,” Lisa replied with a smile. “I think he’s trying to make sure that he has a steady job for the next few years.”

Jessica laughed, making Zachary smile at the sound of his wife’s voice, suddenly remembering why he had married her all those years ago. Together, they made the perfect team. He was the adventurer, and she was there to keep the man from going overboard. Nothing would ever stop them, as long as they had each other.

Zachary steered the meeting back on topic, agreeing to Lisa Knox’s idea about using the shuttles to assist in clearing away the majority of the snow. They could hover over the area, melting the snow with their thrusters and making it possible for the housing crews to do their job. Kim Sutherly would be able to recruit more people to work for the kitchens, once the shuttles started flying, again.

“I’m more than grateful for the extra help,” the red-headed woman was saying with a genuine smile. “I think we should send them out to different areas everyday, though. It’ll keep us from hunting this area down, too fast.”

“I completely agree with you, Miss Sutherly,” Brenth stated. “Now, before I conclude our meeting for the day, I’d like to remind everyone that nobody is permitted to leave Landing prior to going through Orientation. Is that understood?” When Brenth was satisfied that everybody present understood the message, the man finally concluded the meeting. “I’ll see each of you at 0700 hours for our morning briefing. We’ll discuss what to do about the snow, once we have an idea of how much we’re actually going to get. Enjoy your evenings.”

With that, the room began to clear out, except for Kyle, Zachary, and Kim. The screens went blank with promises that the people on them would be present for the morning meeting, and Zachary was finally able to mentally relax for a moment.

“I trust there’s a reason that you wanted us to stay over, Zach?” Kim asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Of course there is, Kim,” Zach replied with a weary grin. “I’m just trying to decide how to tell you.”

“You could just say it,” the red head stated with a shake of her head.

“Darren Adler and Alexander Bennet are working against the colony, Kim,” Zach said with a frown.

“Oh geez,” the woman frowned in disbelief. “What can we do about it?”

“We could revoke their charters?” Kyle suggested.

“No,” Brenth replied with a shake of his head. “We’re not permitted to do things like that, without good cause.”

“How would anybody know if Alexander was to mysteriously come up missing in the depths of space?” Kim asked with an evil smirk on her face. The glean in her green eyes made Zachary nervous. “Adler could fall overboard out at sea?”

“Have you been planning things behind my back, Kim?”

“I’m just saying, that accidents happen, Zachary,” Kim replied with a smug grin. 

Zachary laughed and shook his head.

“Just keep an eye on them, Kim,” the man finally said. 

“Will do, sir,” Kim Sutherly replied. 

“Okay, let’s get out of here before somebody else puts us to work,” Brenth said as he motioned towards the doorway. “I could use some rest, and maybe some food.”

“An assistant, too,” Kyle added.

“There’s an idea,” Zachary stated with a grin. “I’ll have to talk to Zyan in the morning and see if he would like a permanent job.”

“You better do it before I do, Zach,” Kim said before she left the two men alone, mentioning excuses of having to check on her kitchen drones. As far as she was concerned, they couldn’t even boil a pot of water without supervision. Zachary and Kyle spent the next few minutes catching up with each other before they finally decided to call it a day, and went their separate ways. Kyle left to go find Cole, while Zachary went to go see what had been sent down from the Ambassador for everyone to eat.

-Zyan Brenth – 11 – Landing Compound

Zyan left the Reception Tent, tired and ready to crawl into his tent for the night. Christian caught up to Zyan just as they entered the first tent circle, and made their way to where a small fire was being watched over by a man playing around on a guitar. Zyan and Christian both sat on a log next to the warm blaze, and leaned shoulder to shoulder as they listened to the man strum absently on the instrument.

“They’re bringing the Ambassador down tomorrow afternoon,” Christian said softly, his voice just loud enough for Zyan to hear. “Kyle said that they have to beat the snow, though.”

“I thought we were only going to get a few inches,” Zyan stated, his blue eyes never drifting away from the crackling flames. “Do you think they have enough wood for the fire pits?”

Christian shrugged. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t think Kyle really knows, either. We’ve both been busy in the Orientation Classes.”

“Understandable,” Zyan said. “We’ve got a long day ahead of us, tomorrow, Christian.”

“I’m not looking forward to it, Zyan.”

“Why not?”

“It’s supposed to be cold,” Christian said with a mock shiver. Zyan giggled and leaned into his friend.

“Hey, guys!” Cole and Kyle greeted the two boys as they entered the tent circle. “Me and Kyle wanted to know if you guys felt like swapping tent assignments?”

“We’re allowed to do that?” Christian asked, a hint of excitement in his green eyes.

“Yup,” Cole confirmed. “I already asked dad and got permission, Zyan.”

“Sweet,” Zyan replied with a smile. 

“Come get your stuff, really quick, Christian,” Kyle said with a grin. “You’re bunking with Zyan from now on.”

Christian didn’t hesitate to follow his brother over to their tent. Zyan glanced up at his older brother with a hint of worry in his eyes. “Did I do something wrong, Cole?” The eleven-year-old asked timidly.

“Nope,” Cole reassured his little brother. “I just figured that you would rather hang out with Christian, since he’s your best friend.”

“Thanks, Cole,” Zyan replied with a sleepy grin before he yawned sleepily.

“No worries, little bro,” Cole grinned as he tousled the younger boy’s hair. “You should probably get some rest, Zyan. We have a long day ahead of us, tomorrow.”

“I know,” Zyan agreed with Cole. “I just wanted to look at the fire for a little bit. I’ve never gotten to see it before.”

“There’s going to be a lot of firsts for us, Zyan,” Cole told his brother. “Congratulations, by the way.”

“For what?” Zyan asked in surprise.

“For being the first person to set foot on our new home, Zyan,” Cole congratulated the boy happily. Then, Cole surprised his brother by leaning down and hugging Zyan tightly. Zyan fought the urge to push his brother away from him, slowly allowing himself to relax into the embrace. This was something else that Cole never did once he had turned thirteen, deciding that he was too old to hug anybody, not knowing the affect it had on Zyan growing up. “Sorry,” Cole said when he felt his brother finally starting to relax. “I guess, I should have never stopped hugging you, Zyan. I was too worried that it would make me look like less of a man.”

“What changed your mind?” Zyan asked timidly, afraid he was going to push Cole away, but he had to know what had changed in Cole’s perspective of the world.

“Grandpa had a little chat with me before we left Earth, Zyan,” Cole replied, matter-of-factly. “He told me that I needed to get my head out of my ass, and that I needed to stop listening to my friends.” Cole held Zyan against his chest. “I forgot how good it feels to hug you, Zyan. Don’t let me forget, ever again.”

“I won’t, Cole,” Zyan said softly, clutching to the arms that were around his small body. Cole kissed his brother’s cheek.

“Don’t stay up too late, Zyan,” Cole told Zyan before he stood up and ruffled the younger boy’s hair, again. “I’m waking you up in the morning.”

“Night, Cole,” Zyan said to his brother before the older boy walked away into the shadows. Zyan could barely make out the figure of Christian as his friend raced from his old tent to Zyan’s tent with an armload of blankets. Kyle and Cole were following along with the remainder of Christian’s belongings, talking to each other in hushed voices. Zyan watched as the two older boys helped Christian before they returned to their own tent to settle in for the night. Zyan took one last glance at the dancing flames of the fire before he went to join Christian.

“Hey, Roommate!” Christian greeted Zyan when he entered the dimly lit pup-tent. 

Two cots had been set up on either side of the tent, and Christian was in the process of stuffing his bags beneath his cot. Zyan flipped on their portable heater as he helped his friend make his bed. BEfore both boys climbed beneath their covers for the night, Zyan reached up and turned off the battery powered lamp that was dangling from the center of the tent. The heater’s orangish glow was just enough for each boy to see by as they lay on their sides facing each other. 

“Are you ready for this, Zyan?” Christian asked in a sleepy voice.

“Yes,” the younger boy replied firmly. “I’ve been thinking about it for a along time. I don’t know what I want to do, but I do know that I want to explore everything Soltan has to offer us. What about you, Christian?”

The only response that Zyan got in return, was a gentle snoring sound as Christian had already fallen victim to his exhaustion. 

“Goodnight, Christian,” Zyan whispered before he let himself succumb to his own tiredness. Then, Zyan glanced up towards the ceiling of the canvas tent and imagined that he could see the night enshrouded sky above. “Goodnight, mom. I love you.”


Chapter Two