Friday, November 10, 2006

Shooting Star...Ruben's crash

Ruben set the angle to enter the atmosphere and searched for his water bottle. It wasn’t in its usual place and he recalled that he had forgotten to fill it before he left Oasis. He’d had other things on his mind. He’d have to go aft to find some but the prickling on the back of his neck kept him in place. With yoke in hand wondered why he had not been hailed from below.
“Anything on the com?” he asked.
“I’d be sure to let you know,” Eli replied.
She was definitely pouting.
Surely they had some sort of security set up on the planet. He opened his hailing frequencies.
“See if you can raise someone,” he instructed.
“I have,” Eli replied.
“Do it again.”
Next thing you know she…it…was going to expect presents.
“Standard hailing frequencies,” Ruben added. At least he was doing his part. There was no way he could be coming in unannounced.
“Warning,” Eli said. “Unknown craft approaching from below.” A shrill jangle from the com let him know that she…it…wasn’t making it up.
“This is Shooting Star calling the planet Lavign,” Ruben yelled into the com as he punched off the warning beacon. “Repeat Shooting Star calling Lavign. Request landing coordinates.”
Nothing. Ruben did a quick visual of the deepening sky. He was coming in at a glorious sunset. He could just see the curve of the sun dipping over the edge of the planet and the orange-pink brilliance of the sky above it.
It reminded him of Oasis. Clean and pure.
“Are you sure there’s something out there?” he asked.
“Yes. But if you don’t believe me you can check for yourself.”
His com showed a blip. There was another craft out there, somewhere. It should be close enough for a visual but a crafty pilot could hide in the glare from the sun and use it’s reflection as a cloak.
He’d done it himself, many a time….
“Repeat Shooting Star calling planet Lavign. I am unarmed and seeking coordinates for landing.”
No response. The sun, now gone, gave way to a clear black sky.
“Show me the geopoll.” Ruben barked out.
It was a handy tool to have when smuggling, especially when he was trying to avoid interaction with the Senate outposts. Infrared under the three dimensional image showed sparse population of human and animal. The terrain was rolling with mountains showing in the distance. No industry showed of any kind. There were no lights sparkling from below to show the location of a city and no power blip to show an energy source.
The night skies, brightly lit with millions of stars, gave the appearance that he could reach through the plexi and gather a handful to keep. The absence of light below gave the illusion that they were close and tempting, a treasure to be collected.
Maybe he should have done some more research before he took off on his quest to find his brother. It made more sense than just going on his gut…
Another alarm went off with a whoop. “We’ve been locked,” Eli said calmly.
Someone was targeting him. Where was it? What was after him?
Ruben didn’t have time to think about it as the single blip on his screen suddenly split in two. He’d been fired upon. He pulled the Shooting Star into a quick roll to the port side and the ship responded gracefully.
From the corner of his eye Ruben caught a quick flash as the missile passed on by and exploded in the atmosphere. The light from the blast bounced off something solid.
There was another ship out there. His screen showed the blip was somewhere above him.
“My sensors indicate that the other ship is now above us,” Eli said.
“Yeah, I already figured that out sweetheart.”
What he wouldn’t give to have Shaun sitting up in the turret gun right now. The empty co-pilot seat beside him reminded him more of his solitude than he cared to admit. Maybe he should fix it, once this ride was over with.
He flipped on the screen that gave him a visual link with the turret and pushed the yoke forward so the screen was aimed towards the atmosphere above.
He saw it on the screen. The absence of light. The craft that was after him was as black as the night sky. Deliberately. Whoever was flying it did not want it to be seen. . It was a clever idea and would be handy on a cloudy night but tonight when the stars were dazzling in their brilliance the craft blocked them from view.
So what was the problem? If it was planetary defense then why the need for camouflage? They were within their rights to protect their skies from invaders although some might have issue with it.
Kind of hard to argue the point if you were dead however.
The back of his neck told him that it was not planetary defense. Something was going on here. And just maybe it was related to what he…felt…about his brother. He came here looking for answers and obviously someone did not want the questions asked.
“Look for a place to land,” he said.
He needed to get away from his attackers. And he better do it quick before whoever it was figured out that he was about to fly up…
Too late. Ruben caught the impression of a dive but it was hard to track the ship visually once it started its counter measures.
“Warning. Warning. Attack imminent,” Eli said.
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
He should have taken it out when he had the chance. But it wasn’t as if the Shooting Star was a Falcon and fully loaded with armament.
The blip on his screen told him his pursuer was still there, and he’d better do something quick.
Where are you?
Ruben didn’t bother with a visual check as he armed his missiles. All these years and he’d never used them. He never had a reason. Shaun and the turret gun had gotten them out of more scrapes than anything. He couldn’t even say for sure the last time he’d bothered to check the proton chambers.
It was time to make his move. The blip was behind him now and coming fast.
Too fast…Ruben’s curse exploded from his lips at the exact same time that he took the yoke and kicked in a quick burst of hyperion. Another second’s delay and he’d be a meteor shower, falling to the planet below.
The Shooting Star had taken a hit.
He was losing pressure in the cargo bay.
“Pressure leak. Cargo bay.”
Ruben slapped a button on the com. That would shut her up. He didn’t need any help communicating with the Shooting Star. He knew exactly what she was capable of.
“Come on baby,” he urged the ship as he fought for control. He knew the Air was purging behind the sealed doors and also knew that if he’d been in the stratosphere that he would be nothing more than an imploded mass of metal right now.
He was going to have to ditch.
But not without a fight.
The hyperion burst had taken him out of range but not for long. He knew the mysterious dark ship would be closing in on him for the kill.
“I hope you’ve got something left sweetheart.”
Ruben punched the dials on his com. He blew his spare tank, knowing that the gases would form a harmless cerulean cloud in the pristine oxygen of the planet. It would also make his attacker think he was on his last legs, which he was…
So why should I let them…they…it…
Who are these guys?
He couldn’t have more than a few seconds left. Ruben jerked back on the yoke and the Shooting Star pushed her curved nose into the Air.
She’s heavy…
Ruben watched the blip on his screen as he silently urged his craft upwards. He knew he only had one chance before she gave out on him.
Ruben threw the lever above his head as his pursuer flew into the cloud, right beneath and behind his position. He felt the shudder as the cargo hold separated from the module that held the cockpit, his personal quarters and the mechanical operations of the Shooting Star.
Like a bomb the hold fell, straight out of the sky, its trajectory right on target.
“Yes!” Ruben whooped as he felt the explosion beneath. It was more than he could hope for.
The answering shudder from the Shooting Star was not part of the celebration. Alarms sounded, more noise to distract him.
“Shut up!” Ruben barked.
It had to be shrapnel. The noise was enough to kill him. If he survived this…
After I survive this…
He was going to do some serious work on his systems. Maybe he should go ahead and take the next step in his voice data. Let Eli talk sexy to him. Maybe even give her a feminine name so she…it…could whisper sweet things to him while he was in cryo.
“You’d be waking up in a state too,” he said out loud as if to assure himself that he was still alive. For the moment. “And there’d be no one available to warm your sheets.”
Yeah, that gave him something to live for…
He didn’t have time to admire the ball of flame that shot up from the ground below as his enemy exploded upon contact.
“Sorry,” Ruben muttered as an apology to the inhabitants below. It was all he could offer at the moment. He had his own crash too avoid.
As if he could. He summoned the geopoll again with the flip of a switch. There was a clearing ahead. Unfortunately it was in the same vicinity as the crash. So now he’d have it to avoid, along with the dense forest and the mountains that took a sudden rise.
“I hope there’s no one out for an evening stroll,” he said.
If there was, they were in for a show. Ruben said a silent prayer as he lowered his emergency landing gear. What was left of the Shooting Star was designed for a quick getaway and a bay landing. Ruben was certain of his skills and knew his craft like he knew his body, but a drop like a stone out of the sky landing was something that he’d never tried before.
He only had one chance to get it right….
“Come on baby,” he urged as he saw the treetops getting closer. If only he could make it to the clearing he had a chance of not ripping her belly out.
He felt the popping of the tree tops as he skirted along and then dropped lower, willing the craft on just by sheer will power.
And then just as suddenly he was there and realized he’d run out of room faster than he thought. He was headed straight for the ball of fire that was all that was left of his enemy.
He jerked her nose up and the engines stalled. The Shooting Star fell to the earth, landing on her tail with a thud before she toppled over.
Ruben catapulted from his chair and slammed against the co-pilots seat before being thrown on the com. Pain exploded in his side and in his ankle as his eyes tried to focus through the plexi on something dark and strange looking huddled on the ground as he felt himself falling towards the earth with his ship. The entire clearing was aglow with the light from the fire but for him, the light was fading fast. The impact of the ship hitting the earth threw him to the deck and the world went dark.

1 comment:

  1. This was actually posted at 8.45 am on Saturday morning, Eastern Time.

    Best wishes,
    Rowen a