The planet below was tiny, as planets went, the third from an equally infinitessimal sun, if a sun could be called infinitessimal. As of yet, it was the only planet discovered in the solar system that had proven even remotely fit for colonization, but the sight of it was a far cry from the glistening whites and blues of home.
HP231, the planet's temporary designation, was gray. So gray, in fact, that at a distance the crew had been quite positive that it was a gas planet; had it not been for the sensors detecting the presence of large amounts of water on the surface, the Xiaro IV might very well have left the solar system empty-handed. As it was, many of the crew members were still convinced that the sensors had made a mistake and that the reconaissance flight would take them right through the interior.
As the Xiaro IV broke the atmosphere and members of the reconnaissance team began to assemble in the landing port, the windows began to show the expansive oceans and rocky shores that the sensors had promised. Green dotting the landscape promised that the atmosphere supported at least plant life. The planet began to show more potential for colonization with each thousand vonts that were dropped.
But the planet was still gray; the air around the ship continued to cling to an eerie fog, and there seemed to be no sign of it letting up as the Xiaro descended.
The scientists might be excited about this rare discovery, but Lieutenant Commander Jenks Keclar was not so easily impressed. The ship's sensors had picked up on no radio waves, no communication drones, no sensory technology of any kind. Metal satellites orbitted the planet from above, but they were out of commission and looked to have not been fixed in many years. The planet showed signs of life from above, but was quiet and dead below the surface. Keclar didn't like it. Whatever the Xiaro's sensors might read, he didn't believe that a planet was suddenly uninhabited without a reason. If the previous owners had left in such a hurry, what guaranteed that his men would fare any better?
"The landing crew is to report to the port. Landing crew to port."
As if this intercom announcement were a cue, the world around Keclar began to resume. He snapped his gaze from the window and turned back from the viewing platform. His men were finishing their medical check-ups, double-checking their packs, reprogramming their weapons, and talking rather excitedly amongst themselves. They had been preparing for this trip for weeks now, and the commute to HP231 was not a short one. They were looking forward to the fresh air, even if it was a foreign air.
Keclar did not share in their enthusiasm. He had seen too many planets to be amazed by a dreary rock such as this one, and he had more pressing matters on his mind. His men were assigned to protect a team of scientists that would be studying the planet below, and it was this team of scientists that was bothering him.
For one, Keclar had never liked scientists. They were soft and arrogant and could spend many precious hours testing soil samples. Keclar had met many hundreds of scientists in his line of work, and only a handful of them were respectable enough to be worthy of his approval, and even those few were primarily an annoying bunch.
Second, one scientist in particular had put him in this foul mood today: Aiaysa Lexx. Keclar had never properly met the girl, though it was a small ship, but he knew enough of her reputation to know that she was not going to be one of the respectable few. She was a rookie, a highly educated child who was far too ambitious for her own good. She was in bed with the commander -quite possibly literally; he had heard rumors- however, and he had done therefore done nothing but enable her ambitions from the start. He had placed her at the head of a very sensitive operation with no on-site training whatsoever, and now Keclar had been charged to baby-sit her.
He sensed that it was going to be a very long day.