Int. Orbitus Kaltrone Pod, Space.
An overhead light flickers. Albertan is strapped in a red five-point harness. He is dressed in a beige coverall with ‘RESEARCH’ embroidered in black on the left side of his chest. His gloved hands clasp the belts, which are fastened tight over his shoulders.
The craft shudders as it descends. The sound of metal against metal is jarring.
There are seven seats to the Pod, minus the PILOT. Two seats are occupied by military personnel; Albertan, Kamon, Dr Glynn, Dr Fallon and Dr Rune are cramped in the remaining space. Kamon sits next to Albertan, who stares up at the quaking ceiling.
You still with us?
Albertan nods. A bead of sweat collects on his top lip. He licks it off.
Get ready folks.
An automated voice comes over the Pod’s intercom system.
Approaching Ground Zero. Impact in three, two, one.
Silence. Albertan braces against his harness.
The Pod shutters violently.
Welcome to Ground Zero.
The pilot opens the steel door and bright light filters into the small craft. A breeze shifts the hairs of those closest to the door.
Kamon, shielding his eyes from the light, turns to smile at Albertan. The light runs a line across Albertan’s face, which is still mostly shadowed in darkness.
Ext. Foreign terrain, Planet III, Ground Zero.
The Pod has landed in a sea of green grass. Its burnished silver stands are stark against the deep colour. Beyond the valley of emerald green is a dark forest.
After the pilot, Dr Glynn is the first to exit the Pod. Her foot lingers in the air before landing on the soft grassland. Her expression changes from uncertainty to relief, and she continues forward with a glint in her eye.
The remaining scientists exit the craft one by one. Albertan stands tall and absorbs his surroundings.
Military have already landed on the site and are setting up tents for sampling. The site is crowded. In the distance, Captain Pae is speaking with Nova.
The team are greeted by Lieutenant Moreau flanked by two military officers. Dr Fallon pushes forward to shake his sister’s hand.
Laci. This is just magnificent. I can’t believe you did it.
Lieutenant Moreau looks amused.
Glad you are enjoying this, brother.
Just look at this landscape. I can’t believe this is the planet I get to sample. I bet I could grow anything in this soil – there’s just so much life.
It’s greener than most, that’s for sure.
Kamon and Albertan join Dr Fallon and his sister.
[Nods to the forest boundary]
What’s beyond there?
Albertan looks expectantly at the Lieutenant. She glances back at the forest.
Nothing you need to concern yourselves with. Our scouts are currently searching the area. I must advise, though, that you are not permitted to leave basecamp.
I thought the drones searched the area before landing.
They did, but our preliminary reports are showing inconsistent results. We just want to make sure we haven’t missed anything.
Dr Rune jumps into the circle, putting a hand on Albertan and Dr Fallon’s shoulders. Albertan tries and fails to shrug him off.
What could military have missed? The drones are meant to confirm life. At least, that’s what Head of Research says.
My updates work. We’ve used my drones on three planets now. You’d think if something were amiss, military would have noticed.
You could have just made a mistake, old man.
Albertan’s face turns cold.
No need to get snarky, Mr Rune.
That’s Doctor to you.
You think there might be life on the planet? And that’s what the drones missed? I thought we couldn’t land if we weren’t certain the planet was uninhabited.
Lieutenant Moreau looks concerned for a beat, but her military training kicks in and her face switches to neutral.
You are not cleared for that information, Mr Higashi. None of you are. We are leaving Ground Zero at 1700 hours. I expect you to get to your stations.
Lieutenant Moreau leaves the group, heading towards the Captain’s tent. Dr Fallon looks proud of his sister. He turns to the other men.
You heard her. Best get started while the sun’s still up.
Dr Rune slaps his hands together and walks toward his team.
Let’s move, Medical.
[Looks at Albertan]
And Art, I wouldn’t worry. You know how serious Major Lovas is. They do scouting all the time, regardless of what the drones say. It’s part of Terra’s law.
Albertan nods. Dr Fallon smiles and excitedly walks to his station.
Captain Pae and DR ISLA MATHISON, Head of Astronomy and Engineering, walk past Kamon and Albertan, their voices carrying over.
It’s daylight, Captain.
I am aware, Dr Mathison. There is plenty for Engineering --
[Voice fading as they move on]
Not just Engineering Captain – Astronomy – what I am to do down here?
About as much as Medical can.
Nova runs at Albertan, engulfs him in a hug.
Can you believe it? We made it.
And you thought it wouldn’t be possible.
I never said that … but I am a realist. I would have thought as a scientist you would be too.
Can’t change a dreamer.
Changed your watch yet?
Nova laughs as Albertan rolls his eyes. She walks away and looks over her shoulder at him.
Please don’t flirt whilst we’re on the ground. Is nothing sacred?
Albertan nods at CADET JEWEL-BIRD, Kamon’s girlfriend, who is helping Dr Fallon set up his station. Her light brown hair is cut short and keeps falling in her eyes. Every few seconds she looks over to Kamon and Albertan.
Still haven’t heard from JB?
Not a word.
She’ll come around. You both fight all the time.
Not like this. She was so adamant on keeping me on the ship.
She’s protective. And rightly so.
We need to stay alert. Everything is just about to fall into place. If my observations are correct, we’ll have our sample by tonight.
I told you military would have a back-up to the drones. They’re not stupid. Do you know how many protocols we’re breaking? They’ll figure out that the code you added mirrors the drone’s findings to your computer. And once they do, they’ll come for us.
They won’t figure it out and besides, our work is what is important. Once they see that, they’ll understand.
We’ve never landed on a planet with intelligent life forms. Never in our history. We are breaking more than just military code. We’re breaking Terra’s moral ethics.
We are inspiring, Kamon. And you believe in the work.
Kamon looks down at his gloved hands. He squeezes his fists.
I’ve seen what you can do, that’s for sure. And you know that I am indebted to you, Art.
To the work.
That’s what I meant.