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Zach grew up on a large terraformed ranch on Mars. His parents were one of the first wave of settlers to return to Mars after it had initially been abandoned by the Alliance as a decrepit backwater planet with no relevant resources. New advances in terraforming technology had allowed these settlers to transform the rocky planet into a verdant grassland; prime land for agriculture of all kinds.
Whilst his parents owned the ranch, they had little to do with its operation. His father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was more interested in socialising with some of the other more highbrow settlers than working on a farm. With his father frequently absent on military matters, and his mother more concerned with afternoon tea than his well-being, Zach had a relatively carefree childhood running around the ranch with the children of the workers.
He would always rush back to the ranch house, though, whenever his father returned on leave. His stories of the Admiralty’s exploits in the distant wars intrigued the young rancher, and Zach was desperate to find out as much as he could about the Admiralty and their immense starships.
As he grew more infatuated with his father’s tales, Zach’s games turned more and more into fantasies of flying around the stars, doing battle with all sorts of criminals and alien races. It was from these games, against the peaceful backdrop of colonial Mars, that Zach’s fervent desire to become a fighter pilot grew.
His peaceful, innocent childhood quickly came to an end, though, in his 13th year when raiders attacked Mars. No-one was entirely sure why Mars was targeted, or how they detection, there was little of value on the planet except animals and grain. Perhaps they simply needed to quickly resupply their fleet. Whatever the reason, though, this brief, violent episode would have an extreme effect on Zach.
The raiders touched down on his farm, quickly subduing the small resistance mustered by the ranch hand. It wasn’t long before they began plundering their homes for valuables, and loading most of the grain in the silos onto their ships. The raiders then left as quickly as they arrived. Zach survived by hiding behind some bushes near the house, but he saw many of his friend’s parents murdered before his eyes.
They were not the only casualties of the raid though. Zach’s mother was found dead by one of the ranch hands, killed as the bandits looted the house. His father had been on military service at the time, but he quickly returned home when he heard, retiring from the military to look after Zach.
Whilst these events increased Zach’s desire to become a fighter pilot even more – to bring justice to the raiders if nothing else – they also affected him on a more psychological level. Watching many of the people he grew up with killed in front of his eyes filled Zach with a deep fear of violence and death, something that would cause a lot of conflict in his life as he sought to fulfil his dream despite it.
Just over two years after the death of his mother, Zach applied to join the HMSS Fortitude as an apprentice deckhand. This was a far cry from his ideal position, but somewhere from which he could gain experience with fighters, and aspire toward a promotion in the future.
His service aboard the Fortitude did not last long, though – it was decommissioned just a year after he joined. He had made friends whilst aboard the Fortitude, though, and opportunity came with those contacts. Ending his military career, he accepted an offer from his old colleague Hannah as part of a new crew. His new Captain gave Zach the position of pilot, recognising his innate talent for flying.