Section 1. Rough Landing
The energy wave came out of deep space. At one time it was a gravity wave and it registered as such, except that it was beyond the ability for read-outs to display properly. Only using arcane exponent figures, it was not difficult to decide — after the curiosity factor spiraled into…
“Shields!” Captain Soofy yelled before the wave hit. “Shields!”
But the shields, strong as they were, were woefully inadequate for the gathered energy being pushed in front of the wave. Warning alarms blared.
“Hold on to something, this is going to hurt!”
Then pain, darkness and silence.
His Royal Highness, Prince Bren U’Maile of the Pirate Confederation could hear nothing. He was numb in his face, but pain crept in, waking him from a dream.
An alarm klaxon blared…
Prince Bren hurt in his shoulders as when his bigger cousins had tried to pull out his arms when he was very young.
Bren opened his eyes, a sticky goo covered his right eye and he touched his face.
Blood. He was injured.
No. It was Nician’s blood, his best friend and cousin, they had struck heads and Nician’s nose was broken, bleeding like a hose.
Captain Soofy had grabbed Bren and was holding on to him as they tumbled, Nician Soofy was badly hurt but was hanging on to Bren U’Maille with an inhuman grip powered by his surge of survival instinct.
They tumbled across the ceiling of the bridge towards the nose of the warship.
Bren could see Nician’s lips move but he could not hear any sound in his numbed brain, the sound slowly began to register.
“…spin! We need to get control!” Nician was shouting. “Bren! We are in an inverted flat spin!”
A flat spin, in space it was a minor inconvenience while they would gain control.
This could not be that easy. Struggling to waken from his concussion, Bren could see the horizon of the planet they were near was spinning in and out of view— they falling into the planet’s gravity well.
“Flat spin! Bren, wake up! I cannot hold you!” Nician yelled. “Bren!”
“I’m awake. I have a rail, get to the helm!” Bren said. “Computer. Emergency stabilize.”
“Computer systems are down.” The bloodied navigation officer Lt. Yoa said. A member of the elite Pirate Raider force, she rarely raised her voice. Some said to get her to smile was an accomplishment. To get her to panic was impossible.
“We have lost power to critical systems!” She was yelling now, and not because it was loud in the bridge.
“Need to get to a hardline.” Nician said. “Independant power.”
Prince Bren began to climb up the floor. The flat, inverted spin of the big ship made floors into walls. The crazed world, altered by centripetal forces made the climb a challenge.
Klaxons shut down suddenly and the silence was deafening. If the crew was not struggling for footholds on floor and ceiling, all would be quiet and calm.
Profanities and grunts as the command and navigation crews struggled to get into position. The helm officer dangled from his seat restraints limply. No one could tell if he was unconscious or dead.
While he climbed up, Captain Soofy grunted and pulled on the Prince as they leapfrogged along the vertical floor-come-wall.
“It’s only about six-tenths gravity, we are lucky it’s not more.” Bren said.
“Yup. But the rotation rate is increasing. We are going to fly apart if we don’t stop her from spinning.”
“Agreed..ugh! That’s my face.” Bren said as they used each other to climb on.
“Sorry. Next stop, helm.” The Captain said. “Looks like you will be up, I’ll crawl over to navigation.”
The two cousins struggled with climbing over each other, Bren finally grunted over the edge of the navigation station.
“Ensign Wills! Wake up.” Prince Bren shouted and shook the helm officer. “He’s alive, but he has a nasty head injury.”
“Right. Let’s get him in a spot where he is safe.” The two men struggled with limp officer and finally got him wedged in place.
The prince tapped the communications button on the panel in front of him. Prince Bren bent over awkwardly with the increasing spin making the nose of the big ship “Down” from their position.
“Engineering! Flat spin, we are in an inverted flat spin. Helm is not responding.”
“Engineering here. Bridge apologies! All systems have rebooted, we have another two minutes to get the core computer online before we can reset anything from down here.”
“We are out of service for another two minutes? We will be in the stratosphere in thirty-seconds!”
“Bridge. You can reset systems locally there. Each system is independent. You have reset options on the command chair, helm and navigation.”
“Copy, what is the sequence?” Bren yelled. “We have to do it quick, we have increased our felt G’s to double normal gravity.”
“Afirmative bridge, we have it showing here. We are increasing felt gravity by zero-point-eight G’s per minute.”
“Yeah. I feel it, we are over two-point-zero now.”
“Sequence on reboot. Press the red button and hold for four-seconds all the buttons will illuminate then blue-blue-red, it will ask to confirm then green.”
“Engineering, this is Soofy, I have it up, I will code the reboot.”
“Seriously? We don’t have that much time. Who the hell designed four-seconds?”
“Your dad.” Soofy answered with a flat tone.
“Oh great, I am going to have a talk with him if we survive.”
Tapping in the code into the illuminated console, lights came back on and gravity systems reset.
“Okay, gravity and inertial damper are online at zero-point-two gee-per-second.” Captain Soofy said.
“Excellent.” Bren said, as he stood on the floor, then sat at the helm control and began to tap commands into the console. “Helm is responding, I am stopping the spin with reaction jets. We are still without power and are falling, but everyone will have command with their area’s.”
“Engineering to bridge.” The familiar voice of the Hawaiian chief engineer. “Whoever stopped the spin, good job! Our life just got easier down here.”
“We still need power, we’re inverted and falling into the planet still but at least we are not in a flat-spin. I am rolling into a conventional flying attitude and I’ll deploy landing gear.”
“Uh sir, with all due respect, but this ship is not really built for performance in an atmosphere.”
“Understood, but we taken a hell of a beating and if you cannot give me engines, we are not going to get to escape velocity and out into orbit.”
“Copy that, I cannot promise you engines in the next few minutes. We have all other systems coming online. Engines have been reset as well.”
“We are in control, just out of power. Why did all systems reboot?” Ensign Robert Wills asked as he got unsteadily to his feet.
“That gravity wave had a charge to it. The computer shut down to prevent damage.” Bren said. “I remember that from some plans of the designs that. We could have had a reactor overload.”
“Request permission to return to my post.” A bloodied Ensign Wills stood up.
“I stand relieved, but let us get you a replacement and you report to sick-bay as soon as possible. Dude, you were out like a light.” Prince Bren chuckled.
“Bridge to engineering,” Soofy called. ”We have attitude control but no directional navigation. We have stopped the spin, but we are going into the atmosphere. ETA on Engines?”
“Engineering to bridge. Cold restart procedures are in effect.”
“Okay, how long, chief?” The Captain asked.
“Five minutes, tops.”
Captain Soofy leaned over to the bleeding but recovering helm officer.
“How long do we have?”
“I figure three minutes.” Ensign Wills said. “Tops.”
“Chief, you gave a power ETA about two minutes longer than we have. Can we get partial power?”
“Nician, I just don’t have it.”
Prince Bren tapped on a calculator and nodded to himself.
“Nician, we can slow our fall with reactive thrusters at emergency override maximum.” Bren read his figures.
“Bare enough power. I would be happier with a zero point 5 better thrust. But these units are not built for that.” The Captain was ahead of his cousin.
“Can they produce it? It is not like we have a lot of choices, they produce it, or near. Or… Or… we crater.” Bren was looking for a way to not sound hysterical. He stood there with his black ceramic armor on, looking heroic, but in his head, he was in a panic and ran in circles.
“They can produce it but for a short period, we would have to replace them.”
“We will need to replace them anyway with emergency override.”
“Aye, true enough. Okay, helm, I am giving you the override codes.”
“Override’s got a hell of a workout today.” The helm officer said without humor.
“Speed?” Bren asked.
“One-twenty meters per second and slowing.”
“Nician, safe landing speed?”
“Maximum of twelve meters per second, we are one order of magnitude over that.”
“Well, that is just about to ruin my whole day. Set the reactive thrusters and engage, keep them going until they burn out and we crash or land.” Bren said.
“Already below the triple digits in descent. Ninety meters-per-second.” The navigator said
“Captain? Time to impact?”
“Well, with the rate of deceleration it is not a straight…”
“Time to impact?” Bren interrupted.
“Three point five minutes.” Captain Soofy answered. “Subject to change.”
“Time to safe landing speed?”
“Three point two minutes.” The helm answered.
“Pfft, we are all over this.”
“Selected land looks like a shallow grade to a body of water three-thousand kilometers across, sensors show a high salinity and depth exceeding one-hundred meters near the shoreline.”
“Aye, sire.” Ensign Wills said. “We are in a trajectory to set down about one kilometer from the water, plus or minus six-hundred meters.”
“Why such a wide field?”
“Deceleration is not a constant.”
“Fifty meters-second and decreasing.”
“Altitude?” Bren asked from his command chair.
“One-thousand meters and falling. Sir, the braking has dropped off.”
“We have burned out ten-percent of our thrusters. The deceleration is not a constant.”
“Damn.” Bren was no longer smug in his assessment of being “All over this.” He was worried. “Can we compensate.”
“Negative, there is no more to give.” Soofy tapped on his command panel.
“Sirs, we have sensor data,” Orion said from the helm. “The ground we are approaching has a high water content. It’s a delta marsh.”
“Change vector, find some solid land.” The Captain ordered.
“Bren, divert power from life support to ship integrity field. Take all power you can find and brace up the ship for impact.” The Captain turned to the helm. “Eta to ground.”
Pressing a button on his headset for ship-wide communication, it failed to connect to the central computer that was still down, causing Nician Soofy to cover his face with the palm of his hand while he growled, then the Captain jumped to his command seat and press the button on the speaker built into the command panel.
“All stations all stations, prepare for a hard landing, impact fifteen seconds.”
“Bren to engineering, ETA on power?”
“Longer than we have, Sire.” The chief engineer answered. “At least ninety seconds, I can get you power for hull and frame integrity. Diverting power now. I have increased power to dampers with what we have.”
“Impact five seconds.” Helm called.
“Anything you can get us, engineering.” The Captain interjected then asked. “Helm, speed?”
“Eighteen meters-per-second. Four seconds.”
“Bren, anything else you can do, burn them out.”
“This is going to be hard. All stations, all stations, brace for impact.” The Captain’s voice echoed into every corner of the Peacemaker.
The impact of the struggling ship overwhelmed the systems, in a tail-low approach, the right-rear landing gear touched first, sinking into the soft marsh of the delta, compressing the wet, springy soil underneath. The nose gear touched second on firmer soil. The roll of the ship, worsened with the rebound, throwing the right side of the ship high while the left of the ship sank into the soil.
The Peacemaker was rolling over with no life-support or artificial gravity. Screams of the unrestrained echoed in the bridge as they tumbled around inside the ship.
The only ones wearing a seat belt of any sort was Captain Soofy, the Helm officer Yoa and Ensign Wills. Lieutenant. Sifa Yoa had already been injured once and was not taking another hit if she could help it.
Prince Bren not so restrained, thrown out of his seat, hit and tried to hold onto a strut, cursing the high quality of the ship’s finish, he had no corners to hang on and then thrown as the Peacemaker continued to roll. Thrown to his back and lights sparkled behind his eyes when he hit his head on a control panel that tore free and his consciousness faded.
Darkness came as the Peacemaker continued its roll, ending back on the landing gear with one last, violent, impact.
Blessed oblivion held the prince in the arms of darkness.
Nician was less fortunate, he stayed awake during the terror of the ground coming up and hitting the football-field long warship.
Thrusters were pushing two-hundred percent of maximum, Nician reduced thrust on the starboard thrusters to level the ship— but it was not enough.
The shock of the sight of his cousin and prince sailing across the bridge as they inverted during the roll. Bren hit and bounced off the ceiling with a yell and hit a panel as the big ship continued to turn over, the prince’s ceramic armor clattering has he tumbled around the ship.
The Peacemaker gave one slow-motion pause as they tilted three-quarters through a full rotation, Bren’s only purchase with his fingertips was not made to hold against any weight, broke loose and dropped Bren on the floor. A heavy section of the broken panel that landed on top of the prince with a sound of a loud thud under the sapphire-glass display.
For the longest second in his life, Nician hung at an awkward angle out of his command chair— this was worse than if they were at any of the ninety degrees, even upside down would have been…
“HOLD ON!” Orion shouted. “She’s not finished moving!”
Peacemaker gathered speed as it continued her roll, landing violently right side up.
Alarms blared as bodies struggled to stand. Displays flickered for a moment, listed damage to different systems and sensors, then went dark.
The alarms went silent the same time as all lights went out and once again, emergency lighting illuminated the interior of the warship with a ghostly light.
“Report.” Nician moaned, wrenching his back at the last impact.
“All systems are dead. Starting reboot sequence.”
“Thank you Lieutenant.”
Looking around, Bren lay ominously quiet under the heavy, detached display with a growing pool of blood leaking out from his head.
Then he groaned out a profanity while Nician lifted the panel off his cousin.
“Remind me to talk to dad about that time-delay.” Bren whispered. Profuse blood coming from his earlobe.
“Bren, you have an injury.” His cousing pulled up a bandage from the first aid kit.
“That reminds me, mag-boots on your bridge from now on. I’d rather be stuck than bounce around inside your ship.”
“You are so not hurt. Let’s get you to sick-bay to confirm that.”
Another alarm sounded. On the panel an engineering display came up, the reactor core illuminated in red with the words “Containment Breach.” flashing.
“Oh no. Not now, what else…” Bren said, while reading the words.
“Shut it.” Nician said. “You’ll jinx us.”
The alarm went quiet.
“Engineering to bridge. We have a proper shutdown. Disregard the alarm.”
“Bridge to engineering, you have some folks turning blue up here. We all stopped breathing for a minute.”
“Apologies, Captain. We have some cleanup to do and shutdown procedures to perform. Engineering out.”
“Sickbay for the injured.” Bren adjusted his own bandage.
“We need to inspect my ship for damage from that rollover.”
“The rest of us, too.” Bren nodded. “At least the ships back is not broken.”
“There’s a lot of other things that will keep us grounded. But yes. That is a positive note.”
“Well, let’s get her to rights and get our area surveyed. Whatever we hit that turned us over might also have other surprises.”
“First, you go to sickbay to check that head of yours. You should’ve been wearing a helmet.”
“Now you turn nanny. Where were you a little while ago?”
Nician laughed and slapped his cousin on the shoulder as the prince walked out.