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I'm trying to place a brilliant opening scene. Humans arrive by spaceship on Mars to great joy and celebration, only to discover on arrival that mission-leader's long-standing rival has — using alternative tech (maybe wormhole?) — beaten them to it and is waiting for them.

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This happens at the start of Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton, though it's a couple of students who have travelled to Mars via the wormhole, not the mission leader's greatest rival.

The mission has just landed and is setting up equipment when:

The commander was attempting to open out the little tripod on the base of the flagpole. His heavy gloved hands making the operation difficult. Wilson put out his own hand to steady the pole.

‘Yo, dudes, how’s it hanging? You need any help there?’ The question was followed by a snigger.

...

The helmet was the nineteen fifties classic goldfish bowl, a clear glass bubble showing the head of a young man with a scraggly beard and long oily blond hair tied back into a pigtail. No radiation protection, Wilson thought inanely. There was no backpack either, no portable life support module. Instead, a bundle of pressure hoses snaked away from the youth’s waist to a . . .

‘Son of a bitch,’ Wilson grunted.

Behind the interloper was a two-metre circle of another place. It hung above the Martian soil like some bizarre super-imposed TV image, with a weird rim made up from seething diffraction patterns of light from a grey universe. An opening through space, a gateway into what looked like a rundown physics lab. The other side had been sealed off with thick glass. A college geek-type with a wild afro hairstyle was pressed against it, looking out at Mars, laughing and pointing at Wilson. Above him, bright Californian sunlight shone in through the physics lab’s open windows.

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    I don't think they're teenagers? It sounds like they're university students (probably postgraduate students, given that they're working in a lab doing actual research).
    – nick012000
    Sep 16 at 6:55
  • I reread the book and Judas Unchained last month, they're early 20-somethings, as mentioned by Ozzy during his Silfen travels.
    – DonFusili
    Sep 16 at 11:23
  • @nick012000 Thanks :-) I remembered only that they were young. Sep 16 at 11:52
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    To be fair, they kinda become the mission leader’s greatest rivals, in a sense, since he is the champion for ships and they for portals. Though IIRC there’s a line in that very first chapter where the mission leader realizes he’s already lost the rivalry he’s only just discovered.
    – KRyan
    2 days ago

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