Well lit hallways, lined with plants on the sides, lay in a dormant state of early morning anticipation. Soon people would walk through them. Chat, both with their devices and in person, jest, laugh.

Hurry through them with important news on their minds.

Like Phineas Branston was, news he thought he’d get from the command centre, but obviously the communication officer just routed information along, without reading much into it.

Phineas scrambled around a corner, hurried onward to the tube access. Already in sight, he ordered a cab to the port. That was usually frowned upon, as one should use the access terminal next to the entrance to call for one.

But he didn’t have the patience to wait.

Too much was at stake.


“Morning!” He was greeted as he entered the meeting room. “Why did you call this meeting?” Clarissa Neubacher continued with a yawn.

“Because of this.” He pointed at the big screen in the room, after throwing a “Good Morning” to Clarissa and the others.

On the screen a planet appeared. On the side of the planet that was faced towards the camera that took the still image, was a continental mass spanning from one ice covered pole across the equator, ending in the south sea, and a smaller continental mass sitting on the equator. The rest was blue sea.

Patches of clouds covered parts of the planet, but it seemed to be a beautiful day on most of the shown side.

“I have gone over data sent from Explorer, and I proudly present to you, RV-p296!”


Anticipation in the room was almost tangible, Admiral Mirella Jagodic sat, waiting, at the head of the elongated table. The governors of the rings were present, seated to one side of the table, most of the other side was taken up by various scientists. Biologists, Geologists, Astrophysicists, Physicists, what not.

Phineas Branston, head of Destiny’s planetary development department sat on the other end of the table.

Normally he and the Admiral crossed paths only once a year, for the annual presentation of the proposed Destiny-colony once the ship reaches RV-p296. “I thank you all for coming!” The man with the curly blond, although receding, hair rose up. “A data package from Explorer revealed the first images of our future home planet.” He stated outright the reason why they all had been summoned. On the displays built into the table the images taken by the advance probes appeared. The north-equatorial continent, the separate equatorial continent, and two landmasses that are seprated by a narrow sea strait around the equator. Then there was a huge sea, only small islands were in it, over a presumed volcanic hotspot.

“It is beautiful.” Mirella smiled benignly, but she still didn’t fully understand why the meeting had been called.

“After the probe took these images, the onboard AI dislogded the ground surveyors. A group of drones designed to scout the planet and map out for potential sites so we could establish colonies right away when we arrive.” Phineas opened a schematic detailing the ground surveyors.

“There had been a lengthy discourse on Explorer already before the data was sent, Horizon forwarded it right away, but the discourse is still in progress there.” He opened up the image of the two continents that were separated only by a sea narrow. It was a series of still images. Four dots against the image of the planet indicated the descending surveyors. “The probe continued orbital survey as the drones landed. One was destroyed upon landing, due to faulty equipment. A replacement was dispatched.” He explained another dot in the following image.

After that he followed up with a zoomed in image taken from the landing site of on of the probes directed at the continents with the narrow. After a while he stopped.

A small red circle appeared. “This is the landing site of the eagle ground surveyor, Hawk landed on the southern continent. Another circle appeared around something in the thick green of forests that seemed to spread over much of the continent.

“This, is the cause for this meeting.”

Puzzled the others stared at the screens before them. Only Gale Whittaker, a geologist,  raised her eyebrows and let out a whistle.

“It isn’t a natural formation. Is there a better image?” A sly smile appeared on Phineas’ lips. “The AI was as curious as we are, and therefore, yes there are better images.” A series of pictures opened up.

“What is it we are seeing?” Mirella asked what was on the minds of the others as well. “Stone structures.” Replied Gale. “A town? Temples? Your guess is as good as mine. But that is not all.” Phineas wiped his hand over the screen, bringing up more footage. A small line of text in the upper right corner revealed it was footage recorded by the eagle drone.


After the landing, it established a connection with the orbiter, a clear line of sight was confirmed with a laser beam.

Following the connection establishing, the drone underwent a series of self tests, which took up an hour. After that time the Eagle began a preliminary examination of its surroundings, accompanied by a few snap shots. There were green leaves of plants around, not surprising as RV-p296 was earth like, orbiting around a G-type star like earth’s sun.

The eagle’s commands were simple in the first stage. Scout the land, map out dangers, landmarks, rivers, and coastlines. Only later once a preliminary scouting had been done, would phase two commence. Biological cataloguing.

Quickly the balloon of the Eagle filled with gas. For now, bottled gas sent along with the drone, soon it would produce its own. It hovered in the air, adjusted the electric fans used to steer and for motion.

Something moved in a shrubbery like growth near the drone, immediately the primitive AI scanned the place. A small animal crept out from underneath the branches, and looked quite curious at the unusual sight, assessing whether it posed a threat and should be feld from, or not.

Eagle took higher, and steered clear of the tree like plants. Soon after leaving its landing site the orbiter redirected Eagle to investigate the unusual structure.

If it truly was artificial that meant that the continent was inhabited, possibly not suitable for colonisation.

An hour of flight had passed, from a distance Eagle noted a volcanic mountain, reported the position to the orbiter, when Eagle’s sensors picked up a column of smoke.

Slowly Eagle approached the site, way above the trees.


“Each of these surveyor units is equipped with six crawler units, they are solar powered, have a limited battery run time and range. They stream information to the surveyor, which in turn transmits to the orbiter.” Phineas explained the following pictures.


The crawler, about the size of a standard plate, impacted roughly near the campsite that Eagle had detected. Slowly it navigated on it’s spider inspired, eight legs through the underbrush. There were huts around the campsite, simple accommodations, temporary accommodations.

Later the scientists aboard Explorer would assume a camp of hunters.

A group of creatures stood in the clearing around the fire. They had two slim legs, that reached to the front, and a thick muscular one that bent in the other direction.

They pointed with hands, that sported three fingers, at the treeline, in the direction of the Eagle module. They had clothing, and bows, indicating that they at least were somewhat advanced.


Immediately upon viewing the creatures Akira Matsuhoshi, the Biologist at the conference table grew exited. “Is there any more known about these creatures?”

“Data about the natives will be available to you as soon as this meeting is adjourned. This meeting was called in order to start the discourse on how we proceed with the settlement preparations.” Again the planet appeared, this time it was a representation in form of a globe. “So far, orbital observations indicated their presence on the two continents that are separated by the narrow straight, and the largest of them all. The one on the equator seems to be free of them.”

A short moment of silence followed Phineas’ words. “Just to inform you, Explorer opted out from settling on any landmass inhabited by the natives, Horizon is still in debate.”

Leaning her face on one hand Mirella sighed. “I move that we follow Explorer’s example.” She rose to her feet. “But ultimately, it is our children who will be tasked with deciding this, any resolution we make, they can overthrow.”

Again a moment of silence followed. “Admiral.” Gamma ring’s Governor, Vladimir Petriev also stood up. “I am all in favor of letting the indigenous people dwell untouched by us, develop uninfluenced, but what if they are on that last continent too? We need room to grow food, to mine minerals, to spread. After three generations holed up in these ships,  our children, and grandchildren, will want to spread.” He gazed down on the virtual globe before him. “If I look at this planet, I want to spread!”

A smile dance over Mirella’s lips. “As I said, any resolution we find today, next month, or a year from now, the group in command when we reach the planet will be able to overthrow our decision.” Mirella followed his gaze to her own display of the globe. “This equatorial continent is much more distanced to the others than they are from one another. I doubt they reached it. Even during an ice age there’s still a large distance over the sea. Judging from what I’ve seen so far they don’t sail that far.”

“Ancient human explorers and settlers sailed with pontoon boats across vast distances. From earth’s polinesia to the easter islands, and presumably on to south America. A sea isn’t a border, it’s a transport way.” Sheldon McCormick winked, he too was in the biology department. And apparently a history buff.

“The tiny islands on the far side of these continents should provide plenty of room for settlements.” Mirella shook her head with a chuckle. “However, we should wait for more data to transpire to us. Until that time, I would appreciate it if you all worked on the data you have, we should form informed opinions, not rushed ones. I expect reports to trickle in within the next week.” She winked at Phineas and left the governors and scientists to themselves.


Sitting in the garden of the sub alpha ring Mirella enjoyed a cup of tea. It was a rare commodity, she knew a guy from her schooldays who grew tea in his quarters, as did his parents. Most of his family in fact.

Again and again they had applied to get some spot in the gardens to grow some. But she couldn’t help that. Except when he approached her to plant them in the sub alpha garden. A section of that garden was a training course for the military on board, and there he could grow his tea, harvest it at night.

But still. A rare commodity, supplies of tea were limited, and the demand for it was huge. With a soft smile she appreciated the fact that they were able to produce coffee flavor and caffeine in the lab, the coffee riots her parents had told her about made sure research went in that direction. Before then there had been one woman on the entire ship that had coffee. Growing the beans in her crammed little quarters, and refining them in an unused storage room her son in engineering had access to.

After she died he retired from engineering and he and his wife continued her work. Mirella glanced in the distance, to the training grounds, where the tea was grown in between tracks and shooting ranges. It would be nice to live on the equatorial continent, she throught. There was plenty of room to, to do what exactly?

“Admiral?” Feeling a little lost she looked to the source of the voice. “Phineas! Come have a seat, and call me Mira, like in the old days.” She winked, patting the spot next to her, on the bench. “I can’t, I’m here to speak to the Admiral, not my friend.” He too smiled and winked, but sat down regardless.

“Okay? Tell me Dr. Branston, what brings you here?”

“You must sway the others to follow Explorer’s example. Right now the scientists are on your side, and alpha governor Rooney is as well. But beta and gamma governors are pushing for the opposite.” With an elongated sigh Mirella leaned back. Rubbing her left temple. “I don’t want to be on the ship that invades the natives home turf, rips the treasures out of their land, spoils their culture with ours. It may be our children who will settle on that planet, and I may not live to see it in person, but I can’t live with the knowledge that they will do these things.” He went on, Mirella’s tea got cold, much to her dismay. “I don’t care what lurks on their homeland, diamonds, gold, iron, rare earths, or the once oh so important oil, or soil perfect for cultivation. It is plain wrong!” Finally Mirella raised her hand.

“Doctor Branston, I very well understand your concern and frustration, but how should I sway them? In any case, our children, or who ever is in charge when this ship arrives at RV-p296, can, and probably will change the resolution we find.” She took a sip of now cold tea. “Phin, if it was my decision alone I’d set everything in motion for us to colonise the small islands on the far side of the planet, where we wouldn’t run into the natives for centuries, or however long it’ll take for them to build large ships and explore their home planet in its entirety.”

Smiling benignly she put the empty cup away. “Great speech, by the way. Perhaps you should’ve given that to the governors.

He turned to face her in a more casual way. “I did, that is how I swayed Rooney.” He too smiled, gently touching her shoulder. “How come we only meet once a year, and then only talk business? We were friends once.”

Taking his hand into hers Mirella shook her head. “We drifted apart, I have a busy schedule, and you chose to,” she mused for a moment, “you didn’t know what I felt for you. So you chose to go for Miranda Hollande.”

Both chuckled, knowing what mistake Miranda was for Phineas. After one year of marriage and a baby, she divorced him for some dude from the garden maintenance, beause he was buff, and Phin wasn’t.

“Killian is doing good, by the way.” Being a single dad of a pubescent boy, wasn’t easy, but he felt that he was doing a decent job. “Anyhow, I must get back to that meeting room.” He rose to his feet again. “So,” he paused, “I have your support?”

Simply nodding Mirella watched him leave.

Was her schedule really that busy? Or had she just evaded personal matters with Phineas out of hurt feelings? Longing for answers to her questions her gaze fell on the tracks again, the tea plantation. I should open my schedule, at least enough to have a child.


The tripedal aliens looked directly at the eagle module. Mirella looked back at them through time and space. Into those three frightened eyes, on each of their faces. A sense of failure overcame her. They already had tainted their culture and development.

To her surprise she had received a communique from Kismet. The emir and his advisers had decided to follow Explorer’s example and settle for grounds that wouldn’t influence the natives. Coming from a group that, only two generations ago, was profit driven, who had sold tickets on their ship after their needs of scientists and engineers were met, she was genuinely surprised.

Phineas had called.

She hadn’t answered. He sent a message, apparently the decision of the Kismet crew had swayed beta’s governor, he too favored the non invasive plans now.


She looked into those frightened eyes. Were the natives on earth equally frightened when more advanced groups of people came in contact with them?

No, they weren’t. What stepped out of the ship, or plane, was people like them! In this case however, there was just a giant metallic thing that hovered above the trees. In one generation there would be creatures arriving so vastly different to them, that all they could do was meet them with fear.

With humanity’s advanced technology the natives would view them as what they were, other worldly. Perhaps divine.

Even if humans managed to keep away from the natives, if they were seen by them, it was enough to influence their culture, or cultures, beyond repair.

Mirella couldn’t help but doubt their right to colonise that planet, now that they knew it was inhabited.

Those frightened eyes.

She turned to the next image. From the crawler this time. An alternate image of the same event. Taken from the side, the faces of the natives weren’t visible as good, so she could at least look at it without a feeling of guilt.

The next image, also from the crawler was surprising her. The crawler was up in the air a bit, the natives still staring in the sky. Eagle had retreated out of sight, but they clearly looked where it went. Quickly she switched to the next image, a face with three eyes was up close, it seemed smaller, younger. Mirella gasped.

A child! It had picked up the crawler, investigated it with childlike curiosity. Staring into the curious, friendly eyes of the child she decided to make this the face of the natives in her mind, instead of the worried, frightened faces of the adults.

Over a series of images it became clear that the child had called for an adult to explain the unusual animal it had discovered.

The crawler later had been thrown into the underbrush around the camp, further images taken by Eagle revealed that the hunters abandoned camp, in a great haste.


“Governor Petriev, we have to evade the natives at all costs. There is no way to say what impact our arrival will have on these people.” The Admiral ignored the nagging voice in her head telling her again that they already had made an impact. At least on that group of hunters, and the stories they undoubtedly told after the encounter.

“Admiral, to establish a thriving colony, without the need to continue the infringement of our reproductive rights, it is essential that we have enough room to grow. I am willing to concede on settling on Equatoria,” they nicknamed the continent on the equator, “but if we discover that the aliens have spread there too, I will still motion to settle there.” Lights inside the governor’s office were bright, the interior was spartan. Although he had a wife and two children, there wasn’t a single picture of them to be found.

“Governor, how would you have reacted if the linkers had amassed on your domain, gamma ring? How would you have felt, or reacted, if they had taken not only part of your ring, but all of It, as it happened with Beta on the Horizon? The claim the linkers laid on the parts of our ships was as valid as is yours. They need room to grow, but would you have fought them? Even if that meant your certain demise?” Vladimir Petriev grew pale. Of course he would have. But was the Admiral really comparing him to the linkers? “We are, in this case, the invaders. The ones who want to take away that land from those who live on and off of it. That said, I direct you to our history, not just recent events. We can not, and shall not continue our forefathers mistakes. I hope you’ll consider this. And I can only hope that the crews that will arrive there, will also consider this.” Mirella got up, bid the now pale and silent governor a good day and left.


After her talk with Vladimir, Mirella wandered through the hallways of the gamma ring, paid a short visit to the gardens full of orchards. All the while pondering how fresh air truly felt. How wind, caused by nature instead of fans, truly felt.

From her pocket she drew her glasses.

“Phineas Branston, PhD.” She ordered the software to call. “Meet me, subalpha gardens, 1800. Where I was the last time.” She left a message, hoping he’d get it in time.

On her way to the gardens she dropped by her quarters and changed from her uniform into casual clothing.

As she arrived the bench was empty, as she assumed it would be. The tracks on the training grounds were empty, save for a few workers maintaining the garden, they were remarkably empty. “Your call sounded urgent.” Phineas’ voice startled her, but in a weird, pleasant way.

Calming her nerves she sat down, she felt like a schoolgirl, and that was what she didn’t want to appear like. “It is, somewhat.” She admitted, gesturing him to take a seat.

Confused as to what was so urgent he sat down.

“You know,” she stammered, paused and sighed, causing Phineas to squint at her. “I reckon that this is not a conversation between the Admiral and Doctor Branston, right?” Mirella nodded with a shy smile.

From her expression Phineas took everything he needed to know. “Mira, would you go out with me?” A warm smile washed over her. “Gladly!” Squealing? I don’t think I should be squealing! Mirella cleared her throat. “I was hoping we could stroll through this garden.” Phineas looked around, and finally up. “Tonight there’ll be rain here.” The dimming light had a blue hue to it, gently informing anyone in the garden of the planned rain in a subtle but noticeable way.

“Exactly!” Again she squealed, immediately clearing her throat again. “I was looking at the images from RV-p296, and I hunger for this. For wind that is not artificial, rain that is not artificial, but I can’t have any of that. I realised that I had stayed away from even the fake rain here, and that I need to go in the rain. I realised that, even after your divorce, I had remained steering clear from you, out of fear of being rejected, hurt and because I was a little angry. But I was angry at the wrong person, I was angry at you, when I should have been angry at myself. Now you are aware of what I felt for you, and still feel for you. I want you to be in the rain with me. Dance in the rain with me.” She sprang to her feet, extending her hand to him. A boyish smile on his lips he grabbed it and sprang to his feet as well. “I’ll gladly dance in the rain with you, every day.” A few drops came to their attention.


Damp air surrounded Mirella as she awoke. Something had woken her, unable to tell what it was she rose, clutching the bedsheet to her chest. Beside her the bed was empty, had Phineas gone? She saw a cold glimmer of light from the adjacent room. As Admiral she had the luxury of a bigger quarters, even though she was single. Sometimes it bothered her that she lacked the greatness of character to deny these.

The cold light emanated from a tablet, it was in Phineas’ hands, he typed frantically. It was that light thatn had woken her. “Chatting with your other girlfriend?” She joked, got chuckles from Phin as a reply. “No. Killian contacted me to ask where I was, and after I had told him I was sleeping out, he replied with a winking smiley face and went to bed. After that I thought, why not get a bit of work done?” He showed her his screen.

It was split in two, the upper half showed various images, the lower half was text. “I received another interesting information just now.” He smiled.

As Mirella sat down on the cushioned seat in front of him he opened something on his tablet. “You convinced gamma. The motion carries, Destiny is not going to disturb the natives on RV-p296.” Biting her lip Mirella nodded. “I can be convincing, it was just a matter of history.”

They both leaned back, staring at each other. Where would they go from where they were? “What kind of time consuming work awaits you and the other scientists now?” Mirella feared the answer to the question of their relationship.

“Sadly, not much. Most of the research will be done by Explorer, what they don’t work out, we get. Horizon is, understandably short on man power, they are currently trying to figure out, how to build something out of the nothingness of space.” Although dark, they both snickered at his remark. “But what interests me more at the moment than the colonisation of 296, is, where do we go from here?”

The question she had dreaded to ask, finally spoken out.

Still biting on her lip Mirella shrugged her shoulders. “Where these things normally lead to. Us being together, maybe move in together?”

Phineas nodded with a smile. “Yes, I think I’d like that.”


After the crawler had returned to Eagle the drone set off. It had received new orders from the orbiter, avoid contact with the natives. Ascending higher to avoid being too obvious the Eagle continued with its original purpose.

It mapped the volcano in greater detail, found it was active, but currently dormant. Turning north it furthered the mapped out regions.


“Hawk and Eagle found the Twins,” the unofficial nickname for the two landmasses separated by the straight, “are populated all over. The natives are scattered, much about the way they live resembles nomadic, and semi nomadic tribes on earth, like the native american people.” It had been three weeks of daily updates from the probes. Of course they were old when they reached Destiny, but to her crew and scientific community, it was new. Phineas glanced over the table, to his joy he found Mirella attending the meeting. He did these every third day, when enough information had been gleaned from the sent data.

“However, the Owl on the largest continent has found that its inhabitants live in conditions more similar to the bronze age.” Images of towns and cities appeared on the screens. “They have agriculture and as far as the Owl could could find out, they have trade, and they sail the oceans.”

Orbital images of sailboats and ships in harbours and the sea popped up. “It is only a matter of time, until they find out there’s another continent.” Someone else in the room said, commenting on the images.

Most of the conclusions and results were drawn by the Explorer crew, as Phineas had told Mirella, the Destiny scientists had not much to do. “Audio recordings of the different tribes, and nations, led us to conclude that they speak different languages. We haven’t deciphered any of them, but we’re working on it.” Proud of the work his department had finished so far and were in the progress of doing, Phineas let that information sink in with his guests.

What followed was a excerpt of the Bussard on Equatoria, no traces of the native people, plenty of wildlife, fertile soil.

“That was the good news, but there is a downside to it.” He displayed a short video, it showed trees shaking. “That was day 1. Bussard deployed crawlers, and seismographs. Day 3 and day 4, earth quakes. Day7, day 9, day 10 earth quakes. Then there was five days of rest, until it went on. The entire northern half of equatoria is unstable.” The orbiter image showed a series of fault lines running through the continent. “Bussard was sent to the southern half, which seems to be stable, but we have no information yet. I’m afraid the northern half will soon dislodge from equatoria. At least, that’s the conclusion that the Explorer geology department reached.” Soon, in a geologic manner of speaking. “Only one of the quakes was truly worth mentioning, the first one, then others were more like tremors, but still, any settlement plans have to take this into account.”

After a few more minutes the meeting was adjourned, and Phineas headed over to Mirella.

“I have had a glorious idea!” He smiled across his whole face, gently grabbing her hand.


After they had enterd the cab he blindfolded her, before telling the cab where to go. She noticed only that they became weightless for a while, and returned to a ring. By the duration of the ride she assumed theiy either had gone to alpha ring, or subalpha.

Leading her by the hand she soon smelled moist soil, and plants.

After a while he stopped. She heard a door open, and a gust of wind blew in her face.

It had come so sudden, so unexpected that it thrilled her.

Goosebumps ran over her skin.


He led her through the door, more wind gushed over her, again unexpected. It wasn’t like traditional wind simulations, not a continuous blow that varied in intensity. It stopped from time to time, came back in a gentle breezee, stopped, blew hard, and weakened.

To her it seemed to change direction too. “I hope you like the wind, it should quiet down soon, otherwise my plans will be ruined, or so I’ve heard.”

He lifted the blindfold from her head. They were at the tracks, at the tea plantation. From the corner of her eye she saw the wind turbines, they paused blowing, turned, blowed in a random setting of intensity, and paused again to turn, also randomly. “It was a minor adjustment to the program.” Phineas explained the unusual wind patterns that had thrilled her. At his feet was a picnic cloth, and a basket waiting for them.

Intrigued Mirella sat down, gladly accepted the sparkling water he poured her. Taking in the unusual scenery and setting, she was about to take a sip, when she noticed something at the bottom of her glass.

“I’ve always been an old school guy.” He gently took her hand in his. “Will you be my wife?”

Stunned Mirella managed to stammer “Yes.”