There was something about breathing the air of a new world, something about knowing that the oxygen you inhaled had never before sustained any human being. It felt crisp and new and strange and exciting. Not like Earth, which he had visited once, where every molecule had cycled through countless generations of humanity, where the same old stories had played out endless times on land trod by untold numbers of people.
Here, this spot, right there, had never before felt the weight of a person's foot. There, where trees with strange leaves and odd shapes marked where the grassland changed to forest, no person's eyes had ever before rested. Compared to this world, even the planets in the Alfar Star System felt like what they were now called, an Old Colony.
The sun overhead wasn't quite the right size for someone familiar with the sun that warmed the planets orbiting Alfar and looked a little too orange, but it was at the right distance from this world so that the heat it gave off allowed a person to walk about in shirtsleeves at this latitude and this time of the planet's year. The air had that fresh relish to it and could be breathed by humans. The green of the plants felt a little too blue, but that was all right.
A flock of small, birdlike creatures rose into the air with a thunder of wings and high-pitched, warbling cries. Like every habitable world that humanity had discovered so far, this one held an array of native life but nothing that could be considered sentient. If other intelligent species existed in the galaxy, they were still somewhere out there, beyond the current boundaries of human exploration.
Robert Geary knelt and touched the grass, grinning. Behind him, he could hear the rumble of machinery coming off the landing shuttles that had brought the devices down from orbit. Soon enough, those machines would begin constructing the first buildings of a city. Not an old city, with memories of generations of people and buildings, but also something new, not burdened with history but still awaiting history's first imprint.
A new world. A new beginning.
Unlike Alfar, the Old Colony he had come from. In human terms, a new place that had become Old in a few generations. Where "how we do things here" had fossilized rapidly into a society where no one was supposed to rock the boat because the rules set forth by the first colonists were the best and only imaginable ways to do things.
And if you could imagine other ways? If you wanted to try something different? Or, worse, change the way things were? Who do you think you are?
I think I am Robert Geary; therefore I am not going to put up with this when I can go somewhere new with other people who want to be able to breathe. Somewhere we can make our own rules.
The call from his comm unit jarred Rob from his reverie. He frowned at the worried tone of it. Why would the president of the colony's governing council be calling him? "Here. Is something wrong?"
"A ship arrived at the jump point from Scatha five hours ago. They sent a message as soon as they showed up, which we have now received."
"They say this star system is under their 'protection,' and we owe them what they call residency and defense fees."
"That's ridiculous," Rob said. "I thought we were granted full ownership here by the Interstellar Rights Authority."
"We were, and we intend on telling them that. But what if they don't listen?"
"Why are you asking me? I'm not on the governing council."
"Because that new arrival is a warship. And the warship is heading toward this world."
He gazed upward, where the blue of the daylight sky drowned out sight of the countless stars. Somewhere up there was...what? A warship belonging to some other recent colony? A private corporation wanting to sell security services in a new part of space? A pirate, absurd as that seemed? "What does the council expect me to do about it?"