A colony ship has crash landed on a desert planet, and something sinister is afoot.
Security Officer Alice Bryce stood atop a small, sandy hill and surveyed the situation. Survivors were gathering between the two halves of the LFCS Infinity, huddling in the relatively cool shadow of the broken behemoth as the command staff tried to figure out what to do next. Not that you could really call it cool, she reflected. Even in that shadow it was in the mid nineties on the Fahrenheit scale.
The "landing", as Navigator DuBois liked to call it, had been truly and terrifyingly spectacular. First a misjump, then system failure after system failure as they were pulled into the gravity well, culminating in a mid-atmospheric entry breakup. By some miracle DuBois had been able to not only to maintain control of the aft section of the ship, but tractor the forward section and guide it down alongside the aft. He'd even had the temerity to make a "split infinitive" joke afterward. Only her gratitude for surviving the descent had kept Alice from shooting him on principle.
Not that it mattered in the long run. DuBois was dead, the victim of a freak accident that looked an awful lot like murder. Which was just what she needed in the middle of this disaster. Worst of all, Captain Colier was the most likely suspect.
"All right," Alice sighed and turned to look at the small group of officers that stood just behind her. Each of them wore a uniform with the Lightspeed Frontiers company logo, just as she did. "Tell me what you know."
"I know DuBois was either dead or close to it by the time he hit the ground," Medical Officer Brundice told her. "The fall messed him up pretty badly, but I still found an obvious puncture wound on the torso. Somebody stabbed him before he went over. Without the equipment in the med bay I can't tell you much about the weapon, but I'm certain it wasn't just a piece of debris on the way down. Too clean."
"Did you tell the Captain?" Alice asked.
Brundice looked away from her, to the aft wreckage of the Infinity. It was where the ships command center was, where Captain Colier would be. "No," he told her.
"The First Officer?"
"No ma'am. Only you, and those here."
"Lieutenant Novak?" Alice prompted the ship's Comms Officer.
"Heard him, DuBois that is, arguing with the FO. Couldn't quite make out what it was. I was hip deep in an access panel at that point. Thought I could get a distress beacon going." Novak frowned. "Wouldn't work. Anyway, I heard DuBois say something about telling the Captain. FO said the Captain already knew, and he ought to keep it to himself. DuBois said he'd tell you instead, unless you were in on it. Couldn't hear the rest after that. I think they walked away."
"Did he?" Lieutenant Gavel addressed Alice. He was the ship's current Navigation's Officer despite the apparent redundancy of the position. He'd worked well and closely with DuBois.
"Did he tell you anything?" Gavel clarified.
"No," she focused her attention on him."But maybe you can help make things a little clearer. Any idea what he might have wanted to tell me?"
"We talked about things after the crash," Gavel recalled. "A lot of things. The misjump didn't feel right to him. The way the jump bubble collapsed like it did? There was no warning, none at all. And then it spits us out right on course for this sun baked sandbox. Convenient, right? All those system failures... one right after another, damn near every system fries but the ones we need to get down in one piece. And the break," he turned and pointed at the broken edges of the Infinity. "Dubby said it went too clean, like it was meant to break."
"That's ridiculous," Brundice interjected. "Who would want the ship to break up like that, and why?"
"Maybe the Company? Maybe to make sure we don't lift off again," Gavel shrugged.
"Am I hearing this right?" Alice asked. "Are you suggesting that DuBois thought all this had happened on purpose? That someone did this to us?"
"I think that's what he thought."
"Piss poor planning, if that's what happened," Novak snorted. "Maybe if we'd had a load of first wave colonists and some prefab habitats. But we don't. These people are third wave, ready for a comfy colony to settle into. If we don't get rescue a lot of them are going to die out here, but from what he says," Novak hooked a thumb at Gavel, "They wanted us to hit the surface alive."
Alice ran a hand through her hair and frowned down at the sand. "So DuBois brings it to the FO, only he and the Captain are in on it, so they kill him? I don't... I have no idea what to think of that. But say it is true," she pointed at Novak. "Why would they want us here, alive but unable to lift off again?"
"I don't know," Brundice frowned deeply. "But if it's worth killing for I think we'd better find out." The others nodded in agreement.