I swore I wasn’t going to spend any time writing anything other than Princess of Shadows, but then I starting doodling with my idea for Dinosaur Planet, and then I had a thousand words or so, so I figured, what the heck, I’d post it here. I might even post continuing episodes whenever I need a break.
WARNING– the following fiction is derivative, probably bad for your health, and certainly lacking in redeeming social value. It has also not been closely copy-edited. It is, however, copywritten by me, Doug Daniel, 2013.
Escape to Disaster
They came out of sub-space, and the scout ship screamed. Not with the voice of organic life, but with the sound of ruptured structural members, and the shriek of alarms. The ship shuddered, as if convulsed with agony.
“Jump complete!” Paul said. The alarms going off assaulted his ears. “We’ve got multiple failures…power, jump-drive, internal integrity field…holy crap….”
“Is there any pursuit?” Mackemann called from his command seat, behind Paul’s pilot position.
Paul scanned the holographic readouts. “Negative, negative…all sensors are clear. That last push shook them.”
“Thank God,” Mackemann said. “Jasper, turn off those damn alarms.”
“Those damn alarms are there to tell you something, commander,” the ship’s AI answered. “The ship was hit hard by the last volley from that Verturi cruiser. It’s barely holding together. Primary systems are failing across the board. Artificial gravity is offline. Main shielding—scratch that, all shield systems—are down.”
“Damn it,” Mackemann said. “Luropanca, what’s going on?”
“That hit fried our primary shield generator, and the back-flow overwhelmed the secondary and damaged our power-core.” The image of the ship’s tech, a marsupialoid from Gettes IV, appeared in the holo-screen on Paul’s right. He was trying to close an access port as he spoke, and having a difficult time in the sudden free-fall within the ship. “We got a runaway degenerative cycle, and I can’t control it! We have to jettison the jump-drives.”
“We’ll never get out of here if we do that!” Mackemann said. “Wherever the hell here is.”
“We’ll never get out of here if we blow up,” Jasper said. “God, I wish you organics could think clearly in crisis….”
“Shut up!” Mackemann said. “Luropanca, dump the damn engines. Franklin, give me a position report. Jasper, kill those pilking alarms!”
The ship shuddered with dull thuds. Paul activated external viewers, just in time to see the jump-drive pods detach from the hull and tumble away. All three were venting coolant and hydrogen fuel. Along the ship’s hull Paul glimpsed gaping holes and scorch marks; Class V scout ships of the Alliance were not big vessels, and a distressingly large portion of the ship looked damaged.
The alarms stopped. Paul’s ears rang in the sudden silence. “Jump drives jettisoned,” Luroponca announced.
Paul ran a position check. “I read our position as 95120.00-delta-67, minus 18 degrees from plane– we’re deep into a system, G2 primary, probably that was the gravity well that pulled us out of jump. First scan shows several planets, mostly terrestrial. I’ll cross-reference and get a system information dump in a minute.”
“We’ve still got problems down here!” Luroponca cried. “I’ve got to scram main power before the containment fields fail. And the secondary generator….”
His words were wiped out by an explosion. The shock threw Paul sideways against his restraints. The ship shuddered again, and Paul felt it tumble and yaw at the same time. The inertial dampers have failed.
“Luroponca!” Mackemann cried. Amid fresh alarms Paul heard his commander unbuckle from his seat. He glanced around in time to see Mackemann grab a handhold on his seat in the weightlessness.
“Explosion and fire in the engineering space!” Jasper cried. “Internal fire suppression system offline!”
“I know! I’m going down,” Mackemann said. He opened the floor hatch at the rear of the cockpit. Paul felt a waft of heat and smelled smoke. Mackemann pulled himself headfirst through the hatch and shut it behind him.
Paul fought with his controls. Fly-by-wire was not responding; he switched to manual. The ship was tumbling in three directions at once. He activated the reaction control system; with the jump drives gone, he would have to rely on the ship’s reaction jets and its normal-space impulse engines to control it. He fired the starboard jets, a long burst, and then the forward up-pitch.
After long minutes, and sweating effort, Paul nulled the extraneous motions of the scout-ship. He found himself panting at the end, but the ship was stabilized on a single vector. Vector to where?
The lower hatch opened. Mackemann pulled himself up into the cockpit. Paul looked back; the commander’s face was smudged with soot, and the back of one hand was red with what looked to be a nasty burn. “The fire…?” Paul asked.
“You’re hurt,” Paul said.
“It’s nothing,” Mackemann said. He sounded out of breath. His face was fixed and grim. He climbed into his seat, strapping in. “Luropanca is dead.”
Paul closed his eyes. A memory; he and Luraponca working together, heads down in the main engine housing, trying to chase down a system flutter. Why?
“Didn’t have a chance…the explosion….” Mackemann didn’t finish. “What’s our status, Jasper?”
“We’re screwed,” the AI said.
“Could you elaborate a little?” Mackemann said, exasperated.
Paul swore he heard the AI sigh. “We’re on auxiliary power, but we can only function on it for about six hours. After that, life support for you organics is going to fail, and I won’t be doing so good, either.”
“We have to land,” Mackemann said. “Any prospects in the area?”
“There is a terrestrial planet, Class V, within range, and not far off our current vector,” Jasper said. “It reads as habitable, well within you organics’ required tolerances, and with a lot of life form indications. Aside from that, I have almost no information on this system—it’s not been surveyed by any ship from the Alliance. There’s no way of knowing what’s down there until we’re there.”
“Can we make it?” Mackemann asked.
“We have enough power to reach the planet, but I am not too sure about a controlled landing,” Jasper said. “Once we come out of re-entry we may be dead-sticking it all the way down, and there’s no way to predict if we’re going to find a suitable landing spot. And then, of course, there’s the junior Space Cadet I-still-got-my-training-wheels flying this thing….”
Paul felt himself flush. He wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or anger. Mackemann growled, “Keep your damned opinions to yourself, short-circuit. Paul, lay in a course. Meanwhile we’ll shut down everything not needed, to save power. Jasper, generate a list of systems to close out.”
“It’ll be a short list,” Jasper said, “because most of the systems we might have shut down are dead, anyway,” Having said that, though, the AI shut up. Paul tried to focus on setting up a course. As he did, system indicators on the control panel began to go dark.