“We don’t know them.”
I raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know you.” His eyes met with mine. “Lucien, I appreciate you helping me, because I don’t know if I’d have been able to get off the Paladin otherwise. This…” Gesturing, at a loss for words, I bit down on my bottom lip. “We know nothing about this world. Surviving isn’t going to be an easy task, and I believe more of us will make them simpler. Especially if we are somewhere dangerous.”
Lucien glanced at Alex and Bonnie. “Trusting them might be a mistake.”
“Anything could be, but they have skills we don’t. Skills we’re likely going to need.” Slowly, I looked around, taking in where we’d landed for the first time. The nausea was fading, fortunately. “We have what we came down with. Nothing more. How are we going to do this?”
For a few seconds Lucien was silent. I had no idea what he was thinking. Travelling to a planet with a vetted group of people, albeit not as vetted as they seemed to need to be, was one thing, because we knew the group together would be able to survive. We had supplies. There were prefabs in the Paladin for us to start with.
Being on an entirely unknown planet, somewhere on the route we were taking, decades away from where we were supposed to be, changed everything. It might be inhabited, it might not. This could be a dangerous world we’d struggle to build a new home on. It was the same with the other world, but, again, we’d be with more people. Some of those, I knew, were prepared to deal with anything the world might throw at us.
So far four of us had successfully dropped down onto the world. Were we going to see more people? What skills, if any, were they going to have? There was still so much we didn’t know about what had happened to the Paladin, but, as I looked up at it, I could see it was struggling. I didn’t think the engineers were going to be able to fix whatever damage was done. If the Paladin crashed it might not be anywhere near us.
Raking a hand through my hair, I looked back at Lucien. He gave me a smile. “You’re right. I know you’re right, but…” He breathed in deeply. “It makes sense to be wary. Either of them could be behind what happened to the Paladin, Blake. Accepting their help makes sense logically. I just… I’m not certain there are any right choices.”
“Neither am I.” I sighed. “It is what it is. All we can do is make the best decisions we can. For now we have to focus on surviving.”
“You don’t think they’re going to fix the damage?”
“Honestly, no, and I’d rather prepare for the worst than hope for the best. We might get lucky. They may be able to save the Paladin. If that happens then it will all be for nothing, but I’d rather use the time to start planning next steps, finding water, and potentially looking for shelter, instead of doing pretending things are definitely going to be okay in the end.
“They aren’t okay. When I agreed to be a part of this I did it believing we’d have what we needed to start out. Here we don’t. We have nothing. No water, no food, and no shelter. Our first priority is water. From there we can think about food and shelter. I know we have a little on us, but that’s not going to last long.”
Blinking, Lucien studied at me. “You know more than I thought you would.”
“Preparing for the worst.” I almost smiled. “Even though I had no reason to think the Paladin was going to crash I still did some research, in case something like this did happen. I wanted to know what to do. I just… I don’t know. It made sense at the time.”
“Making you far better off than I’d be, if I was down here alone.”
“Fortunately we aren’t. We have two engineers with us, and, if the others manage to get out, then we might have more people. There are both advantages and disadvantages to having numbers, depending on what this world is like.” I shrugged. “All we can do is wait to see what happens next. For now I think the best thing to do is stay put, at least for a couple more hours, until it’s unlikely anyone else will land here.”
“Do you think we will see more people?”
“We should.” I looked up at the Paladin again. “Knowing there was sabotage… I don’t know.” A shiver went down my spine, as I thought of what one person would be able to do with everyone else in stasis. “We got lucky. It might not seem like it, but things could be much worse.”
“Sabotaging the Paladin doesn’t mean they were going to harm us.”
“No, it doesn’t, but, at the same time, we can’t know what they did. Obviously they knew the Paladin well enough to be able to keep the engineers from seeing the problems until it was too late.”
Again, Lucien glanced at Alex and Bonnie. “How? The engineers are there to keep anything from happening to the Paladin.”
“They are, but they have to rely on automated systems to let them know if something is going wrong within the machinery, as it’s not as easy as you think it might be to see a problem within something from the outside.” I did smile then. “My older brother worked as a mechanic. He taught me enough for me to understand what it would be like to be an engineer on the Paladin.”
“Why did you choose to make the journey to another world?”
My smile faded. Even though it was a question I knew I was going to be asked it wasn’t easy to answer. “I needed a change.” Half truths were easier than lies. “Now I can’t help thinking it might have been a mistake, because this was not the change I was hoping for.”
“It wasn’t the change I was hoping for either.” Lucien looked around the same way I had. “Choosing to leave everything behind wasn’t something my family could understand, after I’d spent most of my adult life building up my career, but I never thought they would. This is something I did for me.”
“Your career?” I shook my head. “It’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it.”
“No, I’m good.” He ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “I was an actor. Eventually it got to the point where I realised it wasn’t the life I wanted. Acting… I love that part of it, but dealing with the fans was something else entirely. Going somewhere I wasn’t known… I guess it was the nuclear option.
“Having my family try to talk me out of it… that, I think, was the reason I applied, not thinking I was going to be accepted. It’s not as though I have any useful skills to build up a new settlement, but they must have had their reasons for the choice. Maybe they thought it was important we had multiple types of people. I don’t know.
“Being able to do something else… putting it into words isn’t easy to do. The hours were hard, and never being able to go anywhere without being recognised… I hated it. It wasn’t something I could ever explain to my family, because they thought I should be grateful for all of it, and they were right. I should have been, but I wasn’t. Having another person asking me for a photo when I was out trying to live my life wasn’t something I could be grateful for.”
Studying him, in a way I hadn’t done before, I shrugged. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I have no idea who you are, so that means you definitely got the new start you were looking for.”
Laughing, he nodded. “It does, a bit.” He reached out to touch my shoulder. “Sticking together seems to be the right thing to do, Blake. Get through all of this together.” He looked over at Alex and Bonnie again. “All of us, however uncertain I am about the new arrivals.”
A sound drew my attention, and I looked up, the same way Lucien did, the two of us seeing the drop pods slowly coming toward us. “More survivors.” I raked a hand through my hair, looking at the ship as I did, wondering if there would be any more. “Two pods. It doesn’t seem like enough. I thought there were going to be more.”
“Maybe it’s better that there aren’t. Feeding everyone isn’t going to be an easy task, especially on an entirely new world. This… I dread to think what might happen if we try to find forage, or anything else we can eat, but it’s not as though we have a lot of options, is it?”
“One step at a time, Lucien.” I didn’t take my eyes off the drop pods. Were the two people inside them allies? Knowing there was a saboteur… what did we do if they managed to find their way down to the planet? “Getting ahead of ourselves isn’t going to help. Water first, and then we can start thinking about food.”
“Water that might not be safe either.”
“If we boil it we should be okay. There’s a chance there might be something we can’t boil out, but it’s unlikely. As long as we can find it that should be a good first step. From there we think about food, and shelter.” Taking my eyes off the pods for a moment I looked at the sky more generally, before turning my attention back to them. “Another problem we have is we don’t know anything about the weather we might be dealing with, how long the days are, or what season it is.
“There’s so much we need to learn about this world, but, as I said, we take it one step at a time. Water, then shelter and food, before we start working through anything else.” I bit down on my bottom lip again, thinking about other issues we might have to deal with. They weren’t the kinds of things I wanted to put out into the universe right then. “Unless we have a reason not to.”
“Hopefully we won’t.” I knew he knew what I was thinking about. Everyone had heard about Deotis, and all I could do was hope we weren’t on a world like it. “You’re right. We do need to take this one step at a time. The next step is getting to know our new arrivals, and what places they might take in our new group.”
“Most of the people who were chosen will have some skills we need.” I smiled, although it faded quickly. “Of course there’s no way of knowing which part of the Paladin they were on, and whether they’ll find their way down here.”
Looking past the two pods I focused on the Paladin, trying to see if there were any signs of more people escaping, but there weren’t. We had all gone through training, to prepare for the very worst case scenario, but that training didn’t go into a lot of detail about what would happen if we did need to escape the ship. It didn’t seem to be something anyone wanted to believe was possible.
How many other ships had been lost during their journeys? Was is something that had been kept from us? I shook my head. It wasn’t as though those thoughts were going to change anything, was it? We hadn’t been told, so we believed we’d be safe, until we weren’t. All we could do was move forward, try to find a way to call this strange new world home, and I wasn’t quite sure if it was actually going to be possible.
“We don’t know them.”