One Small Step
California, United States
No one had seen the planet this close before. The sight of their destination enamored the viewers, filling them with adrenaline that only served to make the crew more anxious in their tightly strapped seats.
Back at mission control, the Head of Engineering, Dass sat in his chair warily. He hadn't gotten as much sleep as he should, but then again, nobody in the branch had. The drink in his mug was cold; he had long forgotten about it while intently watching the glowing camera feeds. Today was finally the day; if all went according to plan, they would officially become a multi-planetary society.
Dass let his mind wander over the decades of work building up to this point. So much sweat, tears, and even blood, as Dass recalled some of the previous failed attempts, had gone into this mission. The pressure was extreme, but there was little chance it could go wrong now. The biggest threats were in the earlier stages, with the launches being particularly dreaded.
This operation had been underway even longer than Dass had been alive. The first two missions planted advanced technology on the surface. The first landed the basic resources for construction and development, stuff like steel and reinforced polymers. The second mission placed down machines, guided by complex artificial intelligence, designed to construct the life support systems that would be vital for the incoming colonists. Everything was in order for successful inhabitation.
The most recent addition was the subsurface capsules. These mazes of bunkers were nowhere near as impressive as the domes and laboratories on the surface that previous generations had pictured, but the conditions underground would be much safer. The temperatures would be better regulated, as to ensure the colonists would be safe from violent fluctuations, and the structures would be better protected from natural disasters. All the studies had also shown that the below-surface conditions would grant longer survival should life support fail. The scientists had taken every precaution they could to ensure the longevity of the colonists.
Time seemed to wing its way faster than light itself, and soon the moment came upon them where mission control was called together. This was to be the briefing before the landing, which was close at hand. The Mission Director, now getting on in his years, shuffled his way up the stairs onto a raised stage, cameras were in position for a short and (hopefully) informative update for the live viewers. The colorful graphics and simple narrative wouldn't really tell the masses much, but it would make the spectator feel knowledgeable.
Once the formalities were over and the stage broadcast concluded, the Director ordered each of the specialists to their stations to prepare for any possible interruptions or complications regarding the landing of the craft. This was what they said, anyway. What they were really doing was holding their breath and sending silent prayers that nothing would go wrong, because they couldn't do much from the headquarters, millions of miles from their destination.
Dass sat at his control station. The camera feed here was better than in his office, but it didn't matter much, the cameras were blurred by the powerful crush of atmospheric entry. The landing craft blazed through the sky, getting ever nearer to the docking bay. It had taken months just to figure out the best place to land. No point in spending so much time and resources just to land in the center of a sandstorm or hurricane. They had selected a very secluded part of the planet, where resources were likely high, and dangers low. A perfect place for a futuristic hamlet.
Unlike the cameras in front of Dass, the windows on the ship provided a brilliant spectacle for the crew. The vivid color and light of the planet, after so long through darkened space, pulled them from uneasily watching their complicated dashboard instruments. The sight was nearly blinding to them. Their fretful readjustments in their seats morphed into a determined acceptance, either their adventure would end here, or they would be the planet’s forever-famed pioneers.
Those who hadn't already been holding their breath definitely now were as the craft attempted to slow to the appropriate speeds to dock safely on the surface. Even the hardened Director could be seen wiping his brow. This was to change history if it succeeded. The cameras showed the horizon nearing below as the craft descended, suddenly the feed went black. The room was silent as space itself, anticipating something, anything, to happen.
After what began to feel like eons, a static crackling pierces the silence, the feeds flash, and the cameras successfully reboot. The cheers of the colonists reverberated through the room's speakers. The entire control team shot out of their chairs, shouting for the joy of their victory. Live broadcasts displayed to the world their achievement, they had finally conquered the void of space and made themselves a multi-planetary society.
The shock and joy would not soon dissipate, but for the colonists, they now had a new objective: getting rid of these "humans".
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