First Sight

Placing his hand on his chest, Rylan tried to force his raging stomach to settle. As his fingers went through the motions of lacing up his boots, his mind kept returning to the fact that according to the long-range sensors Laria was another dead world. Yet there was another planet in this system that teemed with life, and he couldn’t explain it.

As he finished tying his shoes, Cederic sat down next to him. “How are you holding up Rylan?”

Rylan sighed as he wet his cracking lips with his tongue. “I’m doing pretty well.

“Hitting you hard?”

“What?”

“Laria, it was your home.”

Rylan nodded as he turned to his locker to grab the watch resting on the upper shelf. “It’s hard seeing a graveyard when I looked at the scans.”

“Do you want to switch teams?”

Rylan shook his head, “No, I need to see this through to the end.” Cederic nodded and began to walk away, but Rylan rested his head against his locker and asked. “Why did you offer?”

Cederic’s cheeks flushed as he shuffled his feet. “I’m sorry, Rylan. I didn’t know.”

“No one did, Cederic.” Rylan said as he zipped up his jacket. “But that didn’t stop you from leading the rest of the crew to torment me as the reason the platform stopped working. Despite everything that happened I don’t want your pity.”

Swallowing a lump in his throat, Cederic nodded his head as he stepped towards Rylan. “I can’t change what I’ve done. But I want to say that it’ll be different going forward.”

“Thank you,” Rylan said as he walked out of the locker room towards the shuttle bay. When he entered, he saw his crew ready and waiting for him. “Is everything packed?”

A tall and lean man, Bran, smiled at Rylan and answered, “Loaded and secured.”

“Hazmat suits included?” Rylan asked as he walked up the ramp.

“Roger that,” Bran added as he followed Rylan to the cockpit of the shuttle.

Rylan sat down in the chair and pressed the comm button for the shuttle bay. “Shuttle two’s crew get on board and prepare for departure.”

As Rylan busied himself with the prelaunch checklist, the internal intercom chirped to life. “All the crew are on board, sir.”

“Rodger that, Rianna, get the crew ready for departure.”

“Yes, sir,” Rianna answered as the intercom cut off.

“Do you expect to find anything different with Laria?” Bran asked as he secured himself in the second seat in the tiny cockpit.

“It’s going to be exactly the same, but worse.”

“Why?”

“Laria was the central hub of the Federation,” Rylan said as the shuttle’s external comm system lit up. Activating the channel, Rylan asked, “Are we prepared to launch?”

“The other shuttle pod needs a few more moments.” The disembodied voice answered as Rylan continued to prepare for launch.

“Roger that,” Rylan said as he closed the channel. As Rylan finished his checklist, the external comm lit up once again. “Are we cleared to leave?”

“You are cleared to leave. Remember Laria is on the far side of the sun, so ensure that you give the sun a wide berth.”

“The course is already plotted with that in mind,” Rylan replied.

“Be careful on your search,” the captain’s voice boomed over the comm system.

“Yes, sir,” Rylan said as he turned off the comms and waited for the shuttle to finish exiting the ship. Once the arm was fully extended Rylan eased the shuttle to life and started his journey towards Laria while Cederic’s team flew towards the planet that held life in this system. As both shuttles drew close to the mysterious world, Cederic’s voice erupted into the silence of the cockpit. “Rylan, are you having any difficulties?”

Rylan stabbed the radio button and answered, “No, the shuttle is running smoothly, why?”

“Cederic, what’s wrong?” The captain asked breaking into the conversation.

“The shuttle is becoming sluggish to the controls,” Cederic replied with rising tension.

“Do you need assistance, Cederic?” Rylan asked as he shifted his shuttle from its course.

The line crackled as Rylan, and the captain waited for a response from Cederic’s team. Rylan flared his shuttle’s engines as he inched his shuttle towards the other one. But the shuttle’s flight smoothed out, and a much more relaxed Cederic finally answered the question. “No, Rylan, we don’t need any assistance head on to the other planet.”

“Roger that,” Rylan replied as he resumed his course to the distant planet.

“Captain, we are picking something up on the scans.”

“What is it Cederic?”

“Well, we can confirm that based on the land masses this planet is not Laria.” Cederic answered with a slight hitch in his voice.

“But what?” Rylan asked as the computer resumed the course to the other world.

“But the sheer amount of life on this planet is astounding. And I find it hard to believe that no one knew that it existed.” Cederic replied.

“Cederic, don’t forget that the Larians haven’t had a ship through this system in over three hundred years.” The Captain replied with a hint of a smile. “Are you really surprised they lost track of a planet.”

“Hold on captain, I have something else.”

“What now?” Rylan asked.

“I’m picking up a source of… Wait that can’t be right.”

“What is it, Cederic?” The captain asked as Cederic trailed off.

“Captain, this can’t be right, but the sensors are detecting a pair of ships embedded in the land mass.”

“Ships?” Rylan and the Captain asked in unison.

“And based on their configuration those ships are of Larian design.” Cederic said with surprise.

“Are you sure?” Rylan asked.

“Yes, it’s a Larian design. But one that hasn’t been used in over a thousand years.” Cederic said slowly.

“Cederic go investigate those ships. I want to know what happened and why.”

“Yes, sir,” Cederic said as his shuttle entered the atmosphere.