Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer
Peter’s office was on the fifteenth floor of Landfall Tower. He spent a lot of time staring out of the floor-to-ceiling window, at the neat, ordered rows of caskets on the field around the tower. They were still a shocking white, even after a year of rain. His eyes drifted to the twenty-two caskets which were open. They were all full of rainwater. Peter’s eyes came to rest on his casket. He stood there for a second, then turned away from the window.
Scoutships had found five habitable planets. Five names were etched on the walls of Near-Earth. Five colonies had been founded, and had succeeded. Five vivid dreams.
The sixth colony was going to be even better. They were calling it Paradise.
It was going to be perfect.
Peter had been one of the one and a half thousand people tasked with setting up the bridgehead: constructing a city, mass driver, and orbital.
He had woken up in the rain, the graceful shape of Landfall Tower lost in a wall of fog. Stumbling, slipping in the mud, half-blind and frozen to the bone, he eventually made it to the sanctuary of the tower. The tower was the guts of the landing craft that had touched down on the planet, bearing the colonists with it. Once it touched ground, it had fallen apart gracefully, leaving one and a half thousand caskets arranged neatly on what was supposed to have been a sundrenched field.
In total, twenty-one other colonists met Peter in the base of the tower. A spattering of technicians of various disciplines, a single medic, a couple of agricultural engineers, a few soldiers, and Peter, a single bureaucrat. Among them was a young stasis technician. He spent the next six days out in the torrential rain, amongst the caskets which contained the other colonists.
On the seventh day, the tech killed himself. Before he did it, he scrawled a message across the Tower atrium.
‘They’re all dead.’
In the days after that, two more followed suit. A month later, the lone wirehead killed himself after the rain shorted the last of the robots.
The colony — they still laughingly called it that — survived. Food, clothes and materials for one and a half thousand could keep them alive and comfortable almost indefinitely. They didn’t move away from the Tower out of a sense of duty to the drowned field and the dead of their colony.
After ten years in Landfall Tower, with only seventeen people, and the constant rain for company, the survivors had all become quite settled in their ways. Some made tours of the caskets out on the drowning field, paying respects to each individual. Some started projects. Peter’s life was subsumed with keeping their little community together.
On the first morning of the eleventh year after landfall, three black ships punched through the clouds. They circled Landfall Tower like scavenger birds. Armed men and paper-thin androids leapt from the ships to the top of the tower. They swept downwards, through passages and hidden ways, moving soundlessly.
They found Peter in his office.
Three heavily stealthed androids seemed to fold out of thin air. One grabbed each of his arms, and another dropped to the floor, locking itself around Peter’s legs. He struggled against them, but got nowhere.
A uniformed man approached him.
“Peter Vyse, you are under arrest under the Colony Protectorate Act, for conspiracy to murder one thousand, four hundred and seventy eight members of the Paradise Colonisation Expedition. You will come with us.”