Brook donned her worn, cumbersome pressure suit piece by piece, sat on the uncomfortable bench in the airlock, and waited for equalization. She found a Zen-like solace in the rushing sound of dark viscous fluid filling the lock and she tried to harness it into something positive. Her crewmates had surprised her with a pastry and a promise of krusha in the evening—a spirit Hunter distilled in his free time from the shell resin of the local mollusk-like creatures. A bitter drink for a bitter occasion.
It was her two-year anniversary on Delta Draconis II.
The Colonial Corps was established when she was just a preteen, but she was as precocious as she was enamored, and she set herself down a path to make the cut. A decade later, she was in the final graduating class of what was called the First Wave. A million people on five thousand ships went to a thousand extrasolar planets. Forever. Brook had traded her long and certain life to live in the light of another sun.
And then she arrived.
Delta Draconis II was completely covered in a sweet, oily ocean three miles deep. They hadn’t the equipment to establish a floating settlement on the surface—though it became a long-term goal—so they did the only thing they could. They anchored their ships to the ocean floor. The ships had been meant for transport; they were supposed to take their passengers to the freedom of the frontier, not maintain them permanently. After splashdown, Brook transferred to another ship, the CC Dachshund, which had arrived three months prior, just for a change of scenery, but it turned out not to matter.
The dark fluid finally filled the lock and the outer door opened. She stepped out onto the ocean floor of another world, and around her, and in front and above, she saw only the infinite black. No starlight reached these depths, not from the foreign constellations or the distant point she’d once called home.