written by Fyren
There was a time when I believed that I was an expert in space travel. This seemingly endless and maddeningly quiet journey has shown me how wrong I can be. McKenna Curtis has been an ideal travel companion, so far at least. Quiet and content. Still making good time, and still far ahead of schedule. As the light years pass, and the boredom takes hold, I eventually begin to relax. There is more to this journey than simply going from point A to point B. As I check course again, I think “We’ve got time for some sightseeing”. I start taking small detours to check out anything interesting that my scanners may pick up. A few hundred light years out of the way is a rather large nebula. “This should be good.” I tell McKenna. “According to my charts it’s not far out of our way, and it appears to be huge.”
Of course, McKenna being the plucky adventurer and all around good sport that she is, agrees. We alter course to head for the BLO AESCS AA-A H59 Nebula. Again I wonder “Who names these things?” Of course, I won’t soon find the answer to that question. The engines drone on and on. I check GALNET for the news to help pass the time. It is all talk of far off conflicts, political intrigue, and threats that have nothing to do with me out here in the middle of nowhere. There are several calls for help from stations in distress. I can no longer recall the last time I even passed a space station. There is nowhere to refuel, repair or resupply out here. I find myself thanking my lucky stars, quite literally, as my ship sucks in the excess hydrogen fuel from an expansive Class B corona.
After a few days, the nebula is in sight. It begins to loom ever larger through the cockpit window, until it fills my entire field of vision. An incredible sight to behold for sure, but not incredible enough. McKenna is with me as we stare into the red and yellow clouds, twisting through space. “We need to get closer” I say, and she nods in agreement. I pick out a suitable planet just on the edge of the nebula and resolve to land there.
This is where the problems begin. Now, most of my experience is in docking with stations. I’ve only done a handful of planetary landings. Confident enough though, I begin my descent. Everything is fine, lined up with the horizon and cruising along at just the right speed. I’m not used to flying in gravity. As I near the surface, I become painfully aware that I am going far to fast. BOOOM! I smack the ship right into the face of the planet. I can hear McKenna from her cabin start to freak out. “Shields offline” the computer tells me. “You think?” I reply to the computer, knowing it won’t respond. McKenna’s yelling is putting me on edge, so I throttle up to try to get some altitude. Again, gravity gets the best of me. BOOOM! I slam into the rocky hill right in front of me. “Hull damage detected” comes the monotone computer voice. “Shut up!” I yell at it. I hear more screaming and yelling from the passenger deck. Sparks are flying from the controls. Too much is happening all at once, and I don’t have time to think before the ship collides with the next hill. BOOOM! I shut everything down. I need a moment to collect my thoughts. Just then I hear a banging on the cockpit door. “Screw this. I had no idea you were so incompetent!” I can hear McKenna screaming at me. She goes on and on, eventually demanding that I drop her off at the nearest station. I don’t even know where that is.
“Sit tight, I’ll deal with you later.” I tell her. I came here to do some sightseeing and that was what I intended to do. I jump in my Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle, or SRV, and take off across the dusty red rock we landed on. The nebula looms up in front of me. Absolutely stunning. Driving for about 20 minutes I find the perfect spot to take a few pictures. I’m not sure this detour was worth it on the whole, because my one and only passenger is ready to kill me. I’m definitely not getting paid now. These pictures did offer some small consolation though. I turn the SRV around to head back to the ship. Only then do I realize something dreadful. I can’t remember where I parked. I become extremely anxious as my SRV zig zags back and forth across the surface, tiny scanners revealing nothing. Everything here looks the same. Hills and craters, all the same dusty reddish brown. The SRV jumps off one such hill. I’m not lined up for the landing. The tiny vehicle flips over. There I sit, upside down in a tiny rover, on a planet that I’m sure no one else knows exists, with no idea where I am, and an angry woman locked alone on my ship. I take the opportunity to contemplate the choices that led me here. The blood starts to rush to my head. I manage to rock the SRV back and forth until it flips right side up. I then start checking through the panels in the rover. “There must be something here to help me.” There is. A remote autopilot function to recall my ship to my current location.
The Forgerunner Prime slowly makes its way on autopilot over to my location. Resigned to what has happened, I board and take my place at the controls once again. McKenna is still losing her mind. She’s especially mad that I had left her locked in here while I went on my rover adventure. “If you don’t require my services anymore, that’s fine. This is your port.” I say in a cold but professional tone. I open the bay allowing her to exit. “You can’t be serious.” I hear her call through the locked cockpit door. “You’ve made it clear you don’t want to fly with me. Get off my ship or I will vent the entire compartment.”
I take off from the planet with no name, leaving a speck behind that used to be known as an explorer in some place far from here and whose name I have already forgotten. I now have no contract, no destination, no deadline. I check the charts to plot a new course. Only a few thousand light years out from Colonia. Perhaps I will make it there after all.
Continued in A Strange New Home