Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 2

< Chapter 1                                                                                          Chapter 3 >

Struck by an asteroid after exiting a wormhole, our hero's ship is out of control.
            The ship spun and tumbled dizzily toward the planet below as the air in the cabin shrieked, leaking out into space.  Strapped in tightly to the pilot seat, there was nothing I could do.  Nor would I survive more than a few seconds of being tossed about the cabin if I were free to move.
            "Abandon ship protocol initiated," the computer said inside my head, broadcasting directly to my implant to overcome the screams of my dying ship.
            The pilot's seat dropped through deck and into the escape pod, plugging itself into the control interface.  The interface showed green and the escape pod launched itself from the ship and plunged toward the unknown planet.  Initial sensor readings were cut off as the pod hit the atmosphere, but what I'd read looked promising.
            I kept the pod's flight steady until it completed entry into the atmosphere, absently noting the fuel leak alert, then issued the command to deploy the wings and stabilizer.  The grinding sound from the pod's machinery told me there was a problem before the lights started flashing.  I guessed the asteroid impact managed to damage than just the fuel tank.  Fortunately, the designers had taken both fuel leaks and wing damage into account.  The escape pod was a lifting body and could glide without the wings.  More or less.
            I worked the controls, slowly changing the angle of descent until the pod began to generate some lift.  At two hundred meters, with the pod finally leveling out, I saw it.  A primitive airship floated right in the middle of my glide path!  Instinctively, I dove beneath it -- and the escape pod lost all lift.  The ground rushed up, ready to crush me.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 1

                                                                                                             Chapter 2 >

“Wormhole ejection in one minute,” warned the nav computer.
“Acknowledged,” I said.  "Computer, verify message drone is receiving sensor data feed and ready to launch."
"Verified," the computer responded.
For the remaining few seconds, the computer was silent, leaving me to concentrate on preparing for as many of the possible wormhole endpoint hazards as possible.  Unfortunately, there are some hazards you simply can’t prepare for; exiting into the middle of an asteroid field is one of those.
The collision alert began wailing at the same time.
“Computer, launch drone!” I said, firing thrusters to avoid an asteroid larger than my ship.
“Drone launched,” responded the computer in its oh-so-annoyingly calm voice.
“Tell me when the drone enters the wormhole," I said.
“Unable to comply,” said the computer as I spun the ship starboard as fast as possible, barely sliding between two large asteroids.
"Unable to comply?" I asked.  "Why?"
"Ship's sensors are blocked by the asteroid field," the computer told me.
"Acknowledged," I said for the hundredth time since we first entered the wormhole.  Then I tuned out the computer and worked on staying alive.  I almost made it out of the field without taking major damage, too.  With the edge of the field only a short distance away, my scout ship shuddered from an impact.  It was a small asteroid, just a few meters across, but it was more than enough to breach the hull and damage internal systems.  With air rushing out of the breach, my ship tumbled out of the asteroid field and plunged toward the planet below.