Johann Mikkus sat staring aimlessly up at the stars. It was a simple action he had done a thousand times before. He did it unconsciously out of habit, not knowing what else he should do. It had always comforted him in the past but not this time. Nothing was familiar to him now. Instead of the night sky being, pitch black and dotted with the many twinkling constellations he had been required to learn in his childhood it had a funny sort of hazy aqua shade that caused even the stars to be slightly veiled by it. The darkness of the night was illuminated not only by the stars but also, by lunar light from not just the normal one but three moons that orbited around Colonius Altari the fourth and only habitable planet in G-Mega 5 solar system. Colonius Altari was said to be Earth’s twin in every way, the air was breathable, the land was well watered and good for growing things, and the level of gravity was compatible the human needs.
Indeed even the vegetation and animal life was reported to be edible, at least according the preliminary reports that the Interplanetary Council’s Space Colonization Group had put out in its campaign to recruit volunteers to settle the new planet. Scratching his head Johann sat on a sandy bank near an unknown river with his knees to his chest. He had earlier built a fire to keep himself warm from the chill of the night air. Soon he would need to scavenge whatever he could to create a shelter of some sort because after the crash his shuttlecraft was completely destroyed and most likely was in no shape to provide protection of any kind. Even the radio and other instruments had been damaged beyond repair, in fact Johann had barely made it out with his life, although at the moment, to him that seemed to be only a small consolation.
Still staring into space, he strained to see across a span of some 15-light years to his home planet, Earth. He didn’t know if anything on this alien world would ever seem familiar to him or if he would ever see his home and family again. That didn’t seem to be a likely possibility if that explosion he had seen on the main ship just before his shuttle spiraled out of control was any indication.
Trying desperately to sort it all out, his mind whirled at light speed recounting the last days and hours before the tragedy. Could Darrgin Trey have really been as treacherous as he now seemed to be or was it all just a bad dream? No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to make any sense of it all.
Johann and Darr as he was called for short were cousins who had grown up together and had been the best of friends as long as Johann could remember. True, as boys they had competed for everything from sports trophies to girls and even the love of Johann’s father who had adopted Darr after his own parents were killed in accident during a lunar mining mission on Earth’s moon. Somehow, despite all of that Johann just couldn’t image how it had come to this.
The motive for his deception may have been transparent enough, after all Darr was the next in line after Johann. Since Johann was set to inherit his father’s position on the Interplanetary Council complete with the title of Lord High Councilor and all the wealth and accolades that went along with it, it was conceivable that Darr who had always competed with him for everything since childhood may have wanted the honor for himself. If that were the case, it would explain why Telius Nuvalu one of the crew who had befriended Johann on the trip claimed he had seen Darr tampering with Johann’s shuttlecraft just before Johann and the others had left for the surface of Colonius Altari. Shortly after they set out he had been informed that several of the others were having trouble too when the left engine of his own shuttle blew out and he had barely been able to control the craft after that. He had no way of knowing what had become of the others or even if they were still alive.
Trying to figure out what exactly had happened; Johann carefully replayed the events that took place shortly before the accident, in his mind. The trip from Earth to Colonius Altari had been a long, tiring one for the entire one hundred-man crew and had lasted more than a year even traveling at over five times the speed of light. When they had neared the planet, a crew of five shuttlecrafts was assigned to scout out the planet’s surface from close range and find a safe landing place for the main ship. Their job was to ultimately find the best location for what would be the first of many settlements on an otherwise uninhabited world. All had gone according to plan until just before the shuttles were to disembark from the main ship. Everything had happened so fast that Johann was not completely sure what was going on. There had been some idle talk upon occasion about a possible mutiny on the ship because many of the enlisted crew and some of the volunteers did not like the strict and rigid policies of Captain J. Bartholomew Ridgewood. He was a harsh exacting man and when Johann and Darr had heard he was picked for the assignment they both almost backed out of the trip because of it.
A noise behind him quickly pulled Johann back to the present. With his hand to his blaster, he looked in the direction it had come from. His eyes darted back and forth scanning the twisted and gnarled tree-like vegetation that formed a thick forest some one hundred yards away from him. The light of the campfire danced off of the misshapen plants casting deep shadows and making it impossible to see what had caused the noise. Suddenly a figure immerged from the underbrush and headed his way.
Feeling jumpy and nervous after all her had been through Johann aimed his blaster and nearly shot the one approaching without ever knowing whom it was. He only stayed his fire when he heard Darr’s voice calling out to him. In his excitement to see his cousin alive, he nearly forgot what he had suspected of Darr’s treachery. When the greetings were over his anger came back full force and he unleashed it on Darr without restraint.
Darr quickly danced away from Johann’s fire and denied all of his accusations at the same time. “I’ve never desired your position in the Council! And I didn’t try to sabotage your shuttle either. I have my own life to live and if it weren’t for me, your sorry butt would be dead right now. When I discovered what Telius Nuvalu had done to the shuttles, I quickly raced into action to repair them before the launch. Yours was the first one I tried to fix. Telius must have seen me undoing what he did and told you about it to cast suspicion on me instead of himself. I’ve been tracking his movements for two years now even before the colonization mission started.”
“What? What do you mean you have been tracking his movements? Why would you even care?” Johann replied.
“Because it’s my job to care. And if you will put away your blaster I will try to explain.” was Darr’s response. “Your job? What are you talking about? The only job you have is the one the Council assigned us and is the same as mine to see to the success of this mission on Colonius Altari.,” said Johann.
“Yes you are partially right but I work in a different capacity for the Council than you do. You see while you were being groomed to be the next Lord High Councilor I was being trained in a very different field of operation.” Darr said.
“So what are you saying? Are you some kind of spy?” asked Johann.
“In a manner of speaking yes. Just as you will one day take over for your father, I have already taken over for mine. Did you never wonder why my parents were killed in what should have been a routine mining mission? It was because of what my father discovered. He was part of an undercover peacekeeping operation for the Interplanetary Council and he had uncovered a secret plot to subvert half of the worlds that make up the Council. Telius Nuvalu is a key player in that plan and killing the son of the Lord High Councilor would have been a great prize for him. You see it is his mission to cause this new colony to secede from the Council and join the rebel forces. If that happens, I am sure I don’t need to tell you but it will mean war.”
“What can we do about it when it is only the two of us?” Johann wondered out loud.
“Do not worry so much we are not alone,” Darr replied, “The explosions you saw were only for Telius’ and the rebel’s benefit, those who are on our side are alive and well. It is a great relief that your shuttle did not explode like the others. We have already lost two men comrades of mine. I tried to save them but it was too late. So now I need to know are you with me?”
“Yes of course. I am with you.” Johann answered.
“Good, because I need all the allies I can get if this mission is to succeed;” Darr said, “Now come with me there is much work to be done.”