Morning came and the sun was just making its appearance over the horizon, staining the sky a dusty green. On the opposite horizon the planet's twin was also rising, its brilliant rings glistening as they caught the suns rays. The planet itself was just beginning to wake as the morning's warmth began to melt the cool night's mist away. Timidly birds and insects began to call out as they basked in the light and shy creatures left their burrows to feed before the day became too hot.
Suddenly a high-pitched wail disturbed the peace. Animals of all kinds looked about wildly, searching all sides for the intruder. It never occurred to them that the source could be somewhere above.
Then everything panicked and ran for cover as a large shadow covered the land. The sun was blocked momentarily as a metal leviathan screamed as it fell from the sky and into the soil, throwing up dust clouds that temporarily shielded it from view.
When the dust realized that nothing else was going to happen it began to settle, revealing a pyramid-shaped spacecraft nested crookedly in the large crater it had just created.
Soon all was silent again, and the insects cautiously began to chirp to each other to make sure everyone was alright. When nothing tried to eat them, the insects became braver and produced their usual amount of buzz. Soon the birds deemed it safe and joined in. Peace reigned once again.
The hatch of the craft slid open and fifteen-year old Aiden Reynalds stumbled out.
"I'm alive!" he said happily as he fell to the ground.
"Of course you are," an older man in his early forties said from the hatchway, "That's because my wife is the best pilot in the universe!" He turned to the woman who joined his side. "That landing was almost as beautiful as you are," he smiled as he leaned down to kiss her.
Aiden rolled his eyes. "Uncle Dom, there's a giant hole in the ground!" he protested.
"He's got a point, Atia," another man in his late thirties said as he peeked out of the hatch to see the new world they would be living on, "That wasn't exactly a smooth landing. Do we have to ruin the landscape of every planet we land on? I don't even want to see the condition my lab is in now that we crash-landed."
"If you want smoother landings than you need to buy me a new gyrodrive, Tobias!" Atia snapped at him, "The one we have now is so old that I can see through it! And we can't replace it until you agree to land on a planet with at least one city that's advanced beyond something as simple as local teleportation!"
"Calm down, dear. My little brother didn't mean anything, did you Toby?" Dom soothed, hugging his wife tightly as he kissed her head. For a woman in her forties, Atia Reynalds had a fiery temper. "Don't worry," he continued, "I can fix it up in no time."
"We'll need a new one eventually," Atia sighed as she let her husband calm her down, "No matter how good of a mechanic you are."
He smiled. "We'll make do."
Aiden shook his head. His aunt and uncle were so cute together; it was disgusting! "Hey Dad," he called as he stood up, "I'm going for a walk now while you guys settle this."
"No Aiden, you're staying right here," Toby said, looking at him, "You need to stay on the train until we know more about this planet."
"But Dad!" Aiden pouted, "We just traveled for two weeks straight!"
"Aiden, I said no," Toby said as he gave him a warning look not to argue.
Aiden huffed and crossed his arms. "Fine," he muttered as he sulked back inside.
Toby shook his head. "He's going to be unbearable for the next few days."
"Just like he always is when we first land," Dom said brightly, mussing his brother's hair, "Don't worry, we're used to it. I'll just make lunch for everyone and we'll all cheer up. Then I'll run a check on the engines and equipment."
Toby pushed Dom's hand away. "I wish you'd stop doing that," he said as he adjusted his glasses, "And your cooking depresses me if anything." He smiled slightly.
"Yeah, because you're jealous of my skills," Dom teased back.
"Think that if you want," Toby said, fixing his hair.
"I will," Dom smirked as he messed his brother's hair again before walking inside to the galley.
Toby growled in annoyance as he fixed his hair again.
Atia had to laugh when she saw the look on his face. "He's only doing that because he loves you," she said, "You're lucky; I was never that close to any of my siblings."
"I know," he sighed, "It doesn't make it any less irritating though."
"What's for lunch? You didn't try another weird experiment, did you Uncle Dom?" Aiden asked warily as he sat at the table. Those never tended to end well.
"Relax, I made toasted ham and cheese sandwiches with some salad on the side," Dom said as he put a hand on his nephew's head while setting a plate of food on the table, "Your Daddy's the one who does 'weird experiments'."
"What's in the salad?" Aiden asked, eyeing it with apprehension.
"I added peaches and ham," Dom answered cheerfully, "I thought the ham would be good because then it connects the salad to the sandwiches, and fruit in salad always goes well."
Aiden blanched. "That's disgusting! I'm not eating it!"
"Yes you are," Toby said as he sat down, "You need your vegetables."
"But Dad! Did you hear what he put in it?!"
"Yes, and you should be glad that it's not as bad as last time when he tried putting pickles and bananas in it," Toby said, slightly amused.
"It seemed like a good idea to me," Dom said grudgingly as he carried the rest of the food to the table.
"Fine, I'll eat it, but I'm taking out the peaches," Aiden grumbled.
"That's perfectly acceptable," Toby said, smiling, "I'll be doing the same."
"Everyone's a critic," Dom sighed. Then he pressed an intercom button on the wall. "Honey, lunch is ready."
"I'll be down in a few minutes," his wife's voice replied through the speaker.
Dom sat and waited for her.
Aiden began to pile food on his plate. "So Dad, when can I go outside?"
"Well, it's hard to say," Toby answered, rubbing his chin, "We'll need to wait a full day and night, however long that is on this planet, to let the instruments gather the information we'll need. For instance, do the conditions differ between day and night? Will the temperatures drop, and if so, how quickly? Are the atmospheric components constant, or will oxygen levels be highest one hour and carbon dioxide the next?"
Dom leaned towards Aiden. "That's why you never ask a scientist anything."
Toby rolled his eyes at the comment, then sighed. "If conditions stay safe then you will be able to go out as long as you stay near the train and bring someone with you. We still don't know about the weather, precipitations, or wildlife. And we won't know more about them until at least a week has passed, if not more."
Aiden pouted as he took a bite of his sandwich. "That's not fair! You worry too much, I'll be fine!"
"I'm not going to argue with you," Toby said sternly, "If you set one foot outside before I say it's okay you'll regret it. And I don't see any salad on that plate." He raised an eyebrow.
Aiden huffed and added the smallest amount of salad to his plate that he thought he could get away with.
Toby looked at him, then took his plate and added more.
Aiden almost protested, but he didn't want to get in trouble. Instead he immediately started picking out the peaches to eat them separately.
Soon Atia came down from the hull and sat next to Dom. "Everything's set in the bridge," she said as she got some food for herself, "How long are we staying this time, Toby?"
"It depends," Toby said, chewing thoughtfully on his sandwich, "If this planet has a rich biodiversity, I might want to spend a few years studying it. If not, maybe a few months."
"What if it's dangerous?" Aiden asked.
"Well, unless there's something here that can destroy the train, we'll stay. You'll just have to stay in here the whole time."
Aiden looked at him open-mouthed. "What?!"
Toby cut him off with a hard look. "We don't even know if that's the case yet, so don't start arguing. If it does turn out to be that way then you can have your temper tantrum, but save it for later."
Aiden closed his mouth and glared at his salad. That just wasn't fair.
Toby sighed. "Look, I know you aren't happy about this. You've been cooped up inside the train for two weeks; we all have and we're getting stir crazy. I'm only trying to keep you safe, so please bear with me."
Aiden looked to the side. "Fine, for now."
Dom looked at his brother in amusement. "You know, I think your son takes after you more than you realize."
Toby looked at him and smiled. "Are you referring to my stubbornness or my love of exploring?"
"Neither. I notice a distinct lack of salad on your plate that's been there since the beginning of the meal."
Aiden looked at his dad accusingly.
Toby sighed and took a small amount.
Dom smirked and added more.