Disclaimer

While this story contains all original characters the universe is entirely the property of EA and Bioware.


The Red Moon Collection - 1 - Starside

Prologue

2166 – Earth

"Are you excited?"

The wind gusted softly through the green hills outlying Seattle. At the base of one of those hills William and Shansa lay motionless save for their slowly rising and falling chests. The grass beneath them had been recently cut and the smell wafted around them, a smell that Will breathed in deeply; he wasn't sure if he would smell anything like it for a long time. The sound of a transport shuttle engaging its thrusters and ascending into the overcast sky had made Shansa's question difficult to decipher. He glanced down his body toward the two remaining shuttles a few dozen meters away to be sure his reply would not drown out in a similar fashion. He was relieved, for numerous reasons, to see they were still being loaded by the dockworkers.

"I dunno if... excited is the right word. Maybe anxious."

The redheaded girl laying at his side glanced to Will.

"Anxious?" The tone of her voice implied more of a desire for him to continue with his response rather than explain it.

"I don't know," Will began, "I just think fifteen is a weird age for moving halfway across the galaxy."

Shansa, now clearly intrigued, rolled onto her side, using her open palm as a support at the end of her arm to hold up her head. "Uh huh..."

"If I was a little kid I wouldn't have anything really holding me here. And if I was an adult I might feel like I've already seen everything there is for me to see." Will had resumed looking to the blanket of clouds above them.

As Will finished his thought two loud buzzers rang out, signaling everyone at the shuttlebay to clear the landing pad. A few seconds later the same roar of sublight thrusters filled their ears and the second shuttle began to ascend into the gloomy sky. Will watched as the blue light that blazed behind each engine slowly faded into the puffy, gray expanse.

"Well, I'm excited." Shansa rolled onto her back once again, her lips curling into a smile. "Have you seen the vids of the colony?"

He had. Arvuna was gorgeous, to be sure. However, Will knew that because the vast majority of the moon was oceanic, the significant landmass would most likely be reserved for urban development. The picturesque beaches and tropical paradise seen in the vids were far from what his and Shansa's families would see in their day-to-day lives. That being said, he had researched the colonial fishing communities that floated around miles from the islands that dotted the surface of Arvuna and was content. It would certainly be a change from the weather they experienced a few dozen miles south of Seattle.

"Yeah, I think we're gonna like it," Will admitted.

Shansa took a deep breath and sighed. "It's going to be nice having you there, too. I mean, having someone I know and everything."

Will knew what she meant. "Yeah, it's-"

"Shansa! William! You two had better get your rears in gear!"

Shansa's mother, Mrs. Fischer as Will knew her, stood twenty meters away with her hands planted firmly on her hips. Will had always found it amusing that the only feature of her Dominican mother that Shansa had inherited was her mouth, both in terms of the physical appearance and her tendency to let her opinions be heard whenever they manifested. Will and Shansa instinctively sat up, looking to the woman and waving obediently.

"Coming, mom!" Shansa shouted in response.

The two teenagers reluctantly pulled themselves to their feet. Will stretched as he found his balance and looked over to the remaining shuttle twenty or thirty meters before him. The last hefty containers were being hauled into the cargo compartments and a shorter, balding man in a blue uniform had appeared from a now opened hatch on the side of the vessel. A large cluster of people had lined up to talk to him. Will's father, Alec Hume, was one of them. Shansa and Will glanced to one another before slowly lumbering through the short-cut grass to their families.

"Come on, Shansa. Your father's already in the shuttle with your sister," Mrs. Fischer informed Shansa as they approached her. The woman glanced to Will and smiled. "Excited for the trip, William?"

Unlike Shansa, Will had been in space only a few times. The Fischers were civilian pilots by trade which gave Shansa the opprotunity to fly in the cozy cockpits of transport and shipping vessels on occasion. She had even left the Sol system once.

"Yes ma'am." Will had always been short-spoken around Mrs. Fischer. She was an intimidating woman.

"Good! I'm so glad you and your father decided to join us. Now, Shansa, we should get aboard." She nodded Shansa along before looking back to Will. "We'll see you in a minute!"

Will watched as his best friend and her mother climbed the three steps into the shuttle before turning to his father. Alec stood with his arms crossed as the short, balding man cycled through a document on his datapad. Will admired his father intensely. Alec had served as an Alliance marine during the First Contact War and had only retired a few years ago after Will's mother had died. He had worked here and there since but made sure not to uproot Will in search of more permanent work. After a good thirty seconds the man handed the tablet to Mr. Hume for his signature. Alec signed and nodded in thanks before turning to see his son standing a few meters away. Will and his father took a few steps toward one another as Alec spoke.

"This is it, buddy," his father said with a smile.

Will couldn't help but return his father's infectious smile. "I guess we're ready to go then?"

"Mhm." Alec nodded as he slung the small pack that he held in his hand over his shoulder. "Last chance to change your mind."

Will smirked a bit. "I thought you already signed the paperwork."

His father, still smiling, nodded to the hatch of the shuttle. "I'll take that as 'no further objections.'"

Will looked to the shuttle and slowly began moving toward the open hatch. As he neared the door he could see a few people seated inside, including the Fischer family on the far side of the interior. Will turned back to take a final look at the wooded hillside behind him, then pulled himself up into the shuttle, ducking to be sure he didn't bump his head. The shuttle was dimly lit in comparison to the light of the sun outside. As his eyes adjusted he caught sight of Shansa waving him over; she had saved him a seat by the window. Will quickly hurried across the cabin and dropped into the worn, artificial leather seat.

"I figured you'd want the window seat," Shansa stated.

Will smiled. "Thanks, Shan."

She was correct about him wanting the window seat. He didn't remember much of the last time he left the surface, but what he did remember was the view: the breathtaking vista of the curvature of Earth slowly shrinking away as the ship rocketed into the black abyss. Will pulled his thoughts back to the present and watched as his father passed the two teenagers and sat down a row behind them next to Shansa's parents. After three more people climbed into the shuttle the short, balding man climbed in as well and tapped a holographic panel next to the hatch, closing it. He tapped another button and leaned toward the panel.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please prepare yourselves for takeoff by securing your safety harnesses." The man sounded very monotone.

Will looked to Shansa. Out of nowhere he was hit with a wave of exhilaration that he had been subconsciously holding back. Maybe he just thought at fifteen it wasn't cool to be excited about going into space, but at this point he couldn't help it anymore. He was going into space! And not to the moon, or some orbital space station. He was going halfway across the galaxy to colonize a new world! His mind began to race and his lips curled into a broad smile. Would he see an alien? He would have to see a few, maybe even talk to one. He had only seen an alien once that wasn't on a vid. Some kind of official from the turian government that was touring Seattle and other human cities a few years after the war. But even then he was so far away he could barely see the turian. He might actually get to shake one's hand!

"You okay?" Shansa had perked a brow and was looking to Will in amusement.

"Uhh... yeah. Sorry. I was just thinking about, you know..."

Shansa grinned. "I knew you were excited, too."