Saturday, February 4, 2017

Star Trader Update - Academy Brats .020.6

There was fire and smoke on the bridge. The kids were screaming into their com-links. My AI crew were uncharacteristically silent as we plummeted toward Penal Planet #PRA43-6.

“Shields UP! Maximum strength!” I hoped someone on my crew was listening because the ground was fast approaching and it looked hard and unforgiving.

The landscape speeding toward us was mostly barren with rocky outcrops jutting up like thick razors out of the ground. The folks that chose these planets did not necessarily care about how harsh the environment was – they were sending condemned criminals here for life. Criminals my young passengers would be exposed to unless I, and them, didn’t live through the crash.


“Hold on everyone! We’re going to hit hard!” I was gripping the arms of my chair until my knuckles turned white. I passed out on impact.

When I woke up I was still upright in my chair, but the ship was dark. I hit the button on my harness and flicked on the headlamp of my helmet. The viewport in front of me was buried in the dirt – that was the reason it was so dark.

I checked the monitor. Basic life support was still online. Just to be sure, I wanted to physically confirm there was no breach in the hull before I took my helmet off.

“Ma-rye-a? Sam? Anyone…Respond!”

Nothing. The ship and crew were DOA. Well, at least it appeared as though someone heard by order for the shields before they shut down. The viewport was still in one piece. I jumped out of my chair and headed down the hall to check on my passengers.

Drake was out of his chair checking on Mims. Tiff and Callen were still unconscious and strapped in.

“Drake?” I asked, as I entered and headed toward Tiff, who was the closest to the door.

“I’m good and Mims is coming around,” he reported.

Tiff’s eyes blinked the minute I touched her arm. “Tiff? How’s my little fashionista doing?”

Her eyes fluttered open and she tried to bring me into focus. She automatically reached for her helmet to take it off.

“Nope,” I said, as I grabbed her hands. “Let’s all leave the helmets on until we check the ship and outside air for compatibility.” I looked over my shoulder to make sure the other three were listening to my instructions. Drake and Mims nodded their heads. Callen was still lying immobile in his chair.

“You okay?” I asked Tiff.

She nodded and hit the release button on her harness.

“Take it easy,” I cautioned when she looked like she might jump up. “I’m going to go check on Callen.”

My efforts to bring Callen around were ineffectual. I couldn’t assess his condition without my onboard ship’s medical program, which was down along with Horus, and I couldn’t take his helmet off until I confirmed the ship was sealed, or the air outside was breathable for humans and therefore not a threat to us. Just because this was a designated penal planet didn’t mean it was compatible for the terran physiology.

“Tiff, will you stay with Callen? Call me on the com if you need me.” I turned to Drake and Mims. “Ma-rye-a and the crew are off-line. I need you two to help me access the damage to the ship and make sure there are no haul breaches. Then once we are sure of containment, we can get out of these helmets. I am going back to the bridge to get my flat so I can hook into the environmental eval system from the pod bay and see what we have outside for atmosphere. Drake I want you to take the right side of the hall and check each room for damage and any breach. Make sure to check the gunner ball turret.” I turned to Mims. “Mims take the left side and do the same. I will met you at the pod bay where I’ll be checking the doors and outside atmosphere.”

“What happened?” Drake asked.

“Where are we?” Mims chimed in.

“I’ll explain as soon as we do this check. Right now, we need to prioritize…Check for breaches, determine damage, and atmosphere, then we can get Callen’s helmet off and assess why he is not awake yet.” I gave them all a commanding look. “Move!”

The two scurried out the door like chittermills from a max cat.

I turned to Tiff. She looked scared behind the faceplate of her helmet. I couldn’t tell her everything would be alright. My ship and crew were dead, for all I knew, and we had crash landed on a penal planet. I said the next best thing I could think of. “Call me if you need me.”



I sprinted back to the bridge and was pleased to see my flat still safely tucked away in it holder with a full charge. I thanked whoever was good enough to leave me at least the essentials to work with.

I passed Drake as I headed back down the hall toward the pod bay.

“All clear so far,” he reported, as I powered by him.

“Don’t forget the turret.” It was on the bottom of the ship and though its glass was space proof, the impact had been hard and there were a lot of rocks.

I could see Mims in the boy’s room checking the bulkhead. It was bowed inward, but I couldn’t see any cracks.

When I got to the pod bay I tried one more time to rouse Sam. “Sam? Report!”

Nothing.

The pod bay doors were securely shut. I manually locked them in place, then went to the EE Station and taped my pad to it to log on. The outside environment was compatible for us – a little rich in oxygen, but that wouldn’t do us any harm. I was thankful for the results. Now if it had only been a regular planet we crashed on, I could hold out some hope. As it was, I was racking me brain for emergency measures I could take when the hostile inhabitants of this planet converged on our site. And, I knew it was only a matter of time before they did.

Art by Sherry D. Ramsey for The Star Traveler Series

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