Chapter 1

Draft 3/1/2020

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Zeke Taylor was an unremarkable teenager about to enter his senior year of high school in a small, rural Kansas town.

A chance encounter where he rescued a young man lying unconscious on the bank of a nearby creek started an adventure that led him off the planet to the homeworld of this young man. Anyar.

That journey, only the prelude to events described herein, included adventures and revelations:

Zeke is seen as someone who helped save the planet. Whether he deserves it or not, many think him a hero. That, he finds, was not as much fun as it sounds.

With more than a few reservations, at the urging of Danil and his father, Zeke agrees to enter the next class at the Academy, Anyar's training ground for fighter pilots. Too late, he finds that he will compete against other young people who have prepared for this honor for years.

He discovers that being from a backward planet has unexpected advantages.

Each new candidate attempts a traditional first test--a simulated mission named for the command pilot of a real mission. That pilot, Behrlende, led a convoy that was ambushed and destroyed by the Rogue, the name the Anyari have given to their attackers, while attempting to deliver critical components to a colony planet.

No cadet, before Zeke, has ever questioned the rules. By stretching the boundaries of what his AI companion will allow, he is the first to complete the mission successfully.

His fellow cadets and the entire planet, though, are resentful of his surprising success at this legendary puzzle. Zeke went from hero to vilified stranger.

Unknown to Zeke, the military's leaders, or at least one, General Yalt, are looking to Zeke, hoping for new ideas in the war they now realized they must undertake against Anyar's mysterious attackers.

As the class progressed through training and its competitive round of simulations, Zeke continues to find alternatives to the methods cadets have used for hundreds of years. As the simulation missions increase in complexity and difficulty, Zeke continues to lead the rankings.

His suggestion that the entire class cooperate and pool their experience and insights to increase everyone's performance rating is initially rebuffed, even by those who have become his friends. It is not, they say, the Anyari way.

Eventually, he finds interest with members of the class who are near the bottom of the rankings. As they achieve success, others in the class join their nightly "analysis" sessions. Soon, the entire class is converted and begins scoring higher than anyone in the history of the Academy.

After his success in the Behrlende mission, Zeke is called into a meeting with General Yalt. Unsure if he will be reprimanded for breaking with Anyari custom, he instead finds the General asking his advice on how to incorporate the new ideas Zeke is spreading within his flight. Zeke has no answers. He is, he tells the General, an average guy who's just been lucky.

If all this weren't enough to deal with, he has also attracted the attention of a couple of attractive young women, one of which is Danil's younger sister, who now writes him regularly and appears demure and sincere, a contrast to his first impression of her as vain and spoiled.

Zeke is unconvinced that her apparent change is sincere, but can't completely repress his interest in her.

At an analysis session one evening, the rationale for the current training regimen is discussed. After an attack many generations ago, the Anyari have pulled back from their few colonies and focused on defense, the planet's defenses had waned after a few generations without an attack. The last attack, which Zeke and Danil helped repel, was only stopped by Danil and Zeke's timely return. That attack has renewed the planet's and the King's determination to find a way to defend Anyar and defeat the Rogue.

The cadets decide that Anyar's biggest mistake has been to cling to their planet without any action to find out more about the Rogue, their locations, and their movements.

As the planet begins to ramp up military resources, the flight concludes that Anyar should build and deploy automated probes to monitor as many nearby star systems as possible in the hope that they will detect and report Rogue activity.

Zeke takes the initiative to send this suggestion to the General. To his surprise, he is called in to meet with him the next day. Zeke finds that their idea has been forwarded up to the heads of the military. Soon, they will fly to the planetary capital to present this the Grand Council and the King.

Several from the flight are chosen to accompany him. When Zeke and his companions arrive at the capital, he is met by Danil, whom the King has recalled and added to the group to show his support for their idea. Zeke finds that this meeting will be televised to the entire planet and suggests that the General, who has also accompanied them, is the right person to speak to the King and Grand Council. Inexplicably, the General insists that Zeke is the one best suited to explain their proposal and answer questions.

In the council chambers, Zeke spars with the Cilton, the council chairman, who is opposed to this new direction. Zeke outmaneuvers the chairman and makes his points, winning the support of the rest of the council and, reluctantly, Cilton.

After the meeting, the group is invited to the King's residence to stay the night before returning to the Academy. While there, Zeke finds Danil's sister, Enne, has indeed, it seems, shed the vain affectations he saw before.

Zeke is invited into the King's private office to discuss plans to being the search for the Rogue. He asks Zeke about Earth and explains more of Anyari history and the role the king plays on Anyar.

Shortly after Zeke and his group return to the Academy, they receive news that an abandoned Rogue base has been found on a moon of one of the outer planets. Their training schedule is accelerated and they are told that they will soon be assigned to the Redun, the cruiser-carrier Zeke and Danil brought back from Earth's moon--the only large warship that Anyar has.

Zeke's class graduates and joins a senior flight on a short-staffed Redun. Their mission will be to return to the last colony the Anyari abandoned, Mecran.

The Redun jumps to Mecran and searches the system, preparing for the reopening of the shipyard there. Soon after, the Redun starts its mission deploying probe's in star systems within a few jumps of Anyar.

Near the end of the mission, Zeke finds that probes are to deployed in Earth's system, with one drone designated to be stationed at Earth L5 point. Zeke is allowed to fly with the shuttle crew that will fly into the inner system and deploy the probe. Using the probes sensors, he sees his grandparent's farm and even his grandfather's truck parked beside the house.

Having left suddenly, with only a note to his grandparents, the guilt he has repressed overwhelms him.

On returning to Mecran, Zeke learns that the King has specifically recalled him. Zeke returns to Anyar.

Zeke returns to Anyar and is called to a meeting with the King in his private office. Zeke learns that the King has an audacious plan--to travel to Earth and enlist its aid in the battle with the Rogue.

The King plans to contact Earth with an offer to share Anyari technology--hopefully finding an ally against the Rogue.

The magnitude of this task causes Zeke to suggest that they contact his grandfather, John, and seek his advice. Through the probe placed near Earth, Zeke sends a message to his grandfather and tells him that he is alright. Soon after is sent on a mission back to the Sol system and, while General Yalt waits on the moon, flies down to Earth to explain the danger to his grandfather and ask him to help the Anyari.

After an emotional reunion with his grandfather, Zeke gets devastating news, but his grandfather agrees to meet with the General and takes a life-changing trip.

Back on Anyar, John and Zeke help plan the announcement to Earth of the existence of Anyar, and soon after, of the Rogue threat. They travel back to Earth, initiating contact in novel ways, culminating in a meeting with the UN Security Council.

As Out into Darkness opens, the Anyari, with John and Zeke as liaisons, is starting to contact individual governments in preparation for providing technology to Earth in a way that will minimize disruption and benefit everyone.

Meanwhile, the search for the Rogue continues...