(Part 2 of 4. An introduction to Drifters Rising, the first novel in the Finding Earth series. Drifters Rising will be available on 5/2/2017.)

Laird glared at the screens.  What he wouldn’t give for a physical view. Camera screens were not the same.  He listened as the crew completed their tasks and gathered as much info as possible on the planet.  Once the ship was on the ground the only way to gather additional data would be personal observation. The ship had no smaller airships or even land vehicles. All available space on this ship had been used for supplies, and stasis pods, and still they left most humans behind on a dying planet. Laird dropped them below the atmosphere for their first detailed view of the land.

CetusTouchdown20170413“Beautiful,” Fola gasped as she modified camera perspectives to zoom in.  Plant life was plentiful, albeit unusual in color and structure.  There were plenty of rivers, and one large ocean. A pack of animals similar to a bear, a few prides of large cats, and birds were visible.

Laird agreed.  When they left earth, the sky was a thick haze on a good day, plant life was dying and the only remaining water pooled in the two large oceans that were almost dry.  This planet looked like Eden.

He continued to slow the ship and angle toward his destination, the flattest section of earth in their trajectory.  They would make landfall on a large triangle of ground with rivers exiting a large lake creating two of it’s borders and a sea, or ocean, on the third side.

“Commander, touchdown in 10 minutes.” Laird took a deep breath and prepared to land. As the senior pilot he had the most experience landing this large ship… in simulations. No one had ever landed a ship this large for real.  It was a population ship, designed as a last ditch effort to save the people of earth. Once landed it would not leave orbit again. They would survive on this planet or die.

“Attention all stations, touchdown in 10 minutes.  Brace for impact,” Piers announced over the intercom.

“Brace?  I was told this would be a gentle landing,” Nelson all but screamed into the intercom.

“What are you doing?” Gilles demanded in the background.

Piers snorted, “Secure all civilians for landing.”

Nelson only had time to sputter before the COM went silent.

Laird kept his eyes on his console, but couldn’t keep his lips from tilting up in a smile. Gilles was not the most politically correct officer, but he knew how to get results. Every member of the crew had wanted to shut Nelson up over the last five days.  Noticing his COM had been activated ship wide, he announced, “Two minutes to landfall.”

No one spoke. The tension was palatable when Fola asked from the environments station, “Commander, once more around the planet?”

Everyone laughed and the tension eased in Laird’s shoulders.  He smiled over his shoulder at his friend, “One minute.”

“Count down for the ship Fola.” Piers kept his eyes on the screens.

“Thirty seconds.”

“Twenty seconds.”

“Ten seconds… five, four, three, two, one. Landfall, and a perfect landing by Laird.” Fola’s excited voice carried, but Laird didn’t hear her and he barely noticed the claps on his back.  He took a deep breath, relieved that the landing was without incident. Just a gentle jolt when the ship connected with the land.  He hadn’t done that well in the simulations.

“Barton, take your recon team, get boots on the ground and report in every fifteen minutes. Gilles, what’s the status on the air?” Piers’ no-nonsense voice reminded the command staff that there was still important work to do before debarking the ship.

Fifteen minutes later the first report came in from Barton, “ So far, so good. The belves and cats are giving us a wide berth.”

“What are belves?” Piers demanded, his teeth clenched tight.

“They look like bears and run in packs like wolves. So belves.”

Laird and Fola chuckled when Piers shook his head, “Don’t name anything else.”

“Yes sir,” Barton’s smile came through the audio just fine.

“Commander, nothing toxic in the air. It’s better than anything breathed on Old Earth for the last few hundred years,” Gilles spoke as he climbed the last two steps onto the bridge. “Permission to open the ship’s vents and bring in air. Ours is nearly depleted.”

“Permission granted.”

“And Nelson wants to know when we’ll start waking the others?” Gilles’ expression spoke volumes about his opinion of that question.

Piers punched the intercom, “Nelson, report to the bridge. Get an escort if you don’t know the way.”

A few minutes later Nelson squeaked on the steps, “Don’t manhandle me.” He had stumbled on the top step and was caught by a soldier that placed him on the level bridge floor.

“Sir, I was simply offering my assistance. You looked a bit unsteady.” The soldier’s face was resigned.

“That’s all, Demir. I’ll escort Nelson back to quarters,” Gilles said.

“Yes sir.” Demir left quickly, as if to escape before Gilles changed his mind.

Piers narrowed his eyes on Nelson, “You have questions about the schedule for the awakening?”

“Yes. That is, I thought everyone would be revived as soon as we made landfall.”

“No. If we awaken everyone right now, we run out of food in six months.  We start with the science section, waking only those slated to determine edible foods. If you like, you can go into one of the vacated pods until the testing is complete. Your wife is scheduled for wake up within the week if our schedule holds. Your boys will be at least a month behind.”

Laird willed Nelson to say yes.

“No,” Nelson replied firmly.

Laird sighed.

“There you are,” Keala replied from the top of the steps, her hands on her hips. “We’re reviewing possible settlement sights and your input is needed, assuming you and the Commander are finished.” Nelson preened under a request for his opinion and didn’t object at all when she grabbed him by the arm and headed to the steps. Keala looked over her shoulder and mouthed, you owe me.

Piers nodded. Whatever she wanted in payment was more than worth it.

CLICK HERE to read more flash fiction from the Finding Earth series.