When Cillian’s daughter accidentally poisons a bison-sized alien child, he goes to prison. But intervention by another alien sends him and his family on a journey to a nearby solar system. Along with a group of humans and aliens, he investigates a planet with glee, but soon enough, all hell breaks loose.
Meanwhile, Cillian meets a priest named Father Whalen who helps guide him on a path to faith. Whalen is helpful ... at first. Shortly after the mission begins, he becomes obsessed with Cillian and will stop at nothing to have him.
Will Cillian shake off Father Whalen’s advances? And, more importantly, will anyone survive the ill-fated trip to a new planet?
It took another week before Iotan and its single barren moon came into view. Cillian, Jack, and Henri -- and about thirty other humans -- watched from a viewing station. The planet seemed huge, even though it was only slightly bigger than Earth. A great expanse appeared rocky and gray, but on the horizon, there could be no denying it: green and blue. One of the scientists warned that the coloration could be from the atmosphere or different types of minerals, but everyone rejoiced. Blue meant water. Green meant life.
Monk pilots steered the ship slowly toward the colorful section. It took a few hours, as they entered a normal orbit around the planet. As it came closer, the audience was able to spy a large ocean, tinged with green and brown on the edges.
“Trees and grass?” asked Henri.
“Could be,” Cillian answered, knowing full well that the life on Iotan would likely be very different from Earth. All things considered, he had no idea if Iotan had plants or not. It certainly looked like a possibility, so maybe she was right.
The sight delighted Jack, who held onto Cillian by the waist. “We’re gonna meet some new aliens.”
“Hopefully,” Cillian added.
Behind them, scientists debated the potential complications of their discovery. Was the life intelligent? Was it dangerous? Could they accidentally kill it just by arriving? And for that matter, would Iotan’s atmosphere support them? Their special suits, which everyone was taught how to use, should negate the problem, and some preliminary studies might answer these questions, but Cillian still worried that this mission might be a bad idea.
The Monks had a far less careful approach when visiting a new planet with life. They practically dove in and then dealt with the consequences later. In the case of Earth, this resulted in missiles being fired at their ships. Thankfully, they had invisible shields, and they waited until the humans calmed down to introduce themselves. This approach still caused a few deaths -- particularly because the Monks looked scary -- but the humans soon found out that they were peaceful.
Maybe the same tactic would work here.
If there was even intelligent life. They saw greenery, but no cities or obvious settlements. There were no unnatural satellites or space ships. Nothing to make them think that an advanced civilization lived on Iotan.
As the ship entered a stationary orbit, an announcement was made, at first in the Monks’ language. Then, it switched to English and began listing off names of people. Cillian and Zoe were chosen to act as a medical team, should they need the help on Iotan. Jack and Henri would stay on the ship for now. He kissed them goodbye. “I’ll be back soon. This is just our first trip of many.”
He reported to the large open area near the five vessels used for interplanetary travel. One of the first people there, he waited impatiently. About two dozen monks and fifteen humans were selected. Most of them were scientists. Thankfully, Father Whalen wasn’t one of them. Zoe showed up a few minutes after the main group. She smiled when she saw him. “Guess we’re going exploring.”
Cillian felt anxious. Anything could be waiting for them down on the planet. He wasn’t an expert on this type of thing, and he didn’t know what to expect. His hands shook as he donned his space suit made of thin but strong fabric. He took hold of the helmet and held it tightly. With a sigh, he tried to remember the brief explanation of how the suit worked. It had no oxygen tanks and instead converted his own breath back into usable air. It would not tear on jagged rocks, the Monks assured him, and the special plastic of the helmet was almost as durable as the Educator’s outer shell.
This information should have comforted him, but it didn’t.