Zenith never understood the need for soldiers and rankings in the ship. They were a band of survivors floating through the universe looking for somewhere with life, somewhere that they could call a new home. It wasn’t like the soldiers of Reissnik station had anything to fight, unless they had a burning hatred for asteroids. Commanders, Captains, Generals. Most of them were just the ship’s police force. They trained and drilled for combat that never came. She knew it was just to maintain the power. Those who had strength, held the power. Those who had the knowledge, had no choice to do their bidding. That was the unspoken way that it worked in Ship 31.
“You called me, sir,” she said. The commander was an old man who refused to retire. The automated wheelchair he used to get around squeaked as he rolled himself around to face her. The lines on his face were innumerable, a networking combination of sparring scars and wrinkles. The only thing that kept him in power was the respect that his disciples had for him.
“Ms. Mishra. We have come upon another prospect.”
“It was bound to happen, sir.” She hated every time that they found another prospect. It was the shortened phrase for a prospective planet. So far, they had found thousands and none that qualified. She remembered the stories of how people had searched for diamonds in the olden days, sparkly little rocks of no real use. They were doing the same, trying to find diamonds among coal.
“This one is a bit different.”
The tone of the commander’s voice was different from anything she had ever heard before. It wasn’t hope, not dejection, not the confidence that came with a prospect he thought would be perfect. It was pure doubt, and didn’t sound right coming from the mouth of the most arrogant man she knew.
He continued, “The planet has the perfect balance of atmospheric gases, very similar to Earth. The winds have eroded the rock and created a substance that should act like soil. The drones brought back some promising samples.”
“Promising as in?”
The reports opened up on the wall in front of her, the opaque glass transforming into a mosaic of biochemical structures and figures. It took her a few seconds to different the information, to understand all of it. When she did, she knew what had brought the commander to his knees. The planet was perfect for life. There were an ozone layer, very promising soil, two suns that gave them a favorable temperature. It had every indication of being a flourishing ground for life, but no life at all. No simple amino acids anywhere, no strings of biomolecules. She knew they might’ve been lucky and the planet was just waiting for them to engineer life on its surface. But it was far more likely that they had missed something important, some poison that was acting as a barrier.
It was a question of what risk they were willing to take. She knew that although Ship 31 would survive for another thousand years in space without problem, they might not find such another planet in that time.
“What has the Council decided?”
The council were the highest ranking Reissnik officers, responsible for all the big decisions about their future. Their rules were unquestioned and their decisions absolute. The group of men often were brash, and researchers like her were left picking up the pieces. She despised them, an opinion she couldn’t voice aloud to anyone.
“The council has decided to send a team to scout the area, to establish a temporary base. If they survive for a year without problem, we establish a colony.”
It was an idiotic decision. There were a million things that could have been the reason for the absence of life, and any of them could kill off the entire team within the first second. She wouldn’t be able to pick up the pieces on this one.
“You’re sending them on a suicide mission,” she stated frankly. “I suggest that you proceed much more cautiously on this.”
“I have no choice in the matter. No one does after the council has made their decision. They specifically appointed the members of the scouting team. They are sending you on that suicide mission, Ms. Mishra. I suggest that you try to keep yourself alive.”