Hard Landing
The shuttle seemed to glide through the air like a powerful bird during flight. Alison Mundy brought it around and took off like a bullet through the thick bellowing clouds. She made one complete circle around the perimeter then turned and headed straight down into the planet’s lower atmosphere.
The mountains dominated the landscape, forming a range traversing the center of the main continent region. Out as far as the eye could see Heaven’s Peak stood almost twice as high as Mount Everest back on Earth. The origin of the name Heaven’s Peak was a point of contention for the team.
The early probes recorded the mountain and referred to it as the ROOF OF THE WORLD and from then on it became the focal point of all explorations to the planet. One likely possibility that the mountain memorializes the explorer probes lost trying to reach Alniham during the early wormhole runs.
On the mountain plateaus the winds blew very strongly, and there were severe blizzards even during the summer months. Permanent snow covered the highest mountain peaks. Valleys became snow traps as the high winds carried much of the snow from mountain peaks and ridges.
Sadia Mirza could pinpoint the signal as coming from Heaven’s peak itself. Dr. Deforest figured that it was unlikely though since no one could survive a climb to the top. “Heaven’s peak is the place to start.”
“And that’s where we’re going?” Sgt. O’Donovan lamented.
“That would be correct.” Matt confirmed.
FOOT NOTE: Four-hundred times I get asked why the ship doesn’t land itself. I’m old school, it would take too much fuel to land the ship so they use shuttles instead. When they write their own Sci-Fi they can do whatever they want to.


Jihan Aurora stood on her mountaintop lookout where she could see the entire desert all the way to the mountain ranges they called the outlands. She could see a mighty dust storm sweeping across the desert floor and she hoped none of the desert dweller’s caravans were caught in it though she knew the dwellers and the outlanders were a hardy bunch so she knew the storm be nothing special to them.
Then she turned her eyes to the night sky. It was an exceptionally clear night and in the distant darkness she could clearly see the bright stars Mintaka, and Alnitak. along with their sun the star Alniham they formed the BELT OF ORION as seen from Earth. Her grandfather spoke fondly of Earth, with its green valleys, purple mountains, and blue oceans and matching blue skies. That was hard to imagine.
The other two stars supposedly had no inhabitable planets. As she gazed around her desert world she wondered if her planet was in fact uninhabitable too. Life there was difficult on a good day. But Alniham Orion 4 was the only world she had ever known. Its oceans were pale purple and the sky was a reddish pink in the day and hazy indigo at night.
Then there was the Khad. They enslaved the colony upon their arrival. Like the planet Jihan knew no other way of life. The struggle that came with it had driven her to often want to escape. But even the calm night could not soothe her troubled mind. She was being forced to marry the prince of the House of Basrilian. Many colonists blamed them for the deaths of the original crew including her father Captain Aurora and that had been a thorn of contention for the Khad Regime.
Jihan sighed realizing just how much she missed her Governess Old Bethany. She predicted things would change one day. A spaceman would come and rescue the colony. this very same spaceman would become her Jihan’s husband. Old Bethany had never been wrong. Still the whole thing sounded like a fairy tale and how could it ever come true?
Just then Jihan was startled by a bright flash of light in the sky. Having watched the Khad Armada ships come and go for years she knew the difference between a shooting star and a spacecraft entering the atmosphere. But this one was somehow different from any she’d ever seen.
The star seemed to be decelerating until it was on a smooth trajectory as it disappeared beyond the east horizon. If it was indeed a spaceship establishing orbit it would have to reappear over the other horizon at or near the same height.
Jihan rushed across the mountaintop to a ledge where she could see the western horizon. Trying hard to catch her breathe she eagerly waited for her star to reappear. After several moments, nothing happened.  ‘It must have been a meteor.’
Disappointed she began to walk back down the path wondering how she could have let herself get so excited. Then it occurred to her it was decelerating meaning it would take longer to travel around the planet. With renewed energy, she sprinted back up the path. Before she could catch her breath again she saw her star coming into view over the western plain.
“OH MY GOD THEY’RE HERE.” She shouted. “Old Bethany you are never wrong. I should have never doubted you.” Her mind raced as she tried to put what was surely the impossible into perspective. “The prophecy… it’s true.” It took a moment then for the first time in years Jihan believed again. Bethany stood before her always in her working garments with her unkempt hair a blanket of clothes under her arm. ‘One day a ship from Earth will come. The ship will be led by a spaceman. He will free us from the Khad Empire. And you will marry the spaceman and become the first Queen of Alniham. When that day comes don’t forget to pray.’
Jihan fell to her knees and began to pray.


FOOT NOTE: NEW STAR HORIZON came about from a short story I wrote about a picture for an online contest. Turns out the contest was actually for children, probably why it got my attention. The host site really liked my story idea thought it was not appropriate for their age group. But it sparked me to try an write a novel based on the idea.  As they say; the rest is history…