When a cargo ship crashed on Dark Zone, how'd the Regan Force save the crew of the ship!!!
|The World of Regan
The Longship Drekar, a small space cargo ship that works over small distance, shuddered lengthwise as its only engine faltered for the tenth time. It coughed back to life, as always, but the comeback was not so promising. The red light on the dashboard was flashing in rhythm with the siren that blared throughout the ship.
Veva Terzo stared at her screen and then out the windscreen by her side. That little dot of a planet was zooming in pretty fast.
“I need stat, Don,” she cried over her shoulder. Brendon Montegue was bent over his console. His whole being was concentrated on the screen in front of him that had been scrolling numbers and figures for half an hour.
“What do you want?”
“Anything that you can give me,” Veva said. She was the pilot and the captain of the three crew ship. “Dave? You copy?”
Davor Rifkin was their chief engineer and at that moment was in the hold.
“I copy,” he replied. “Hold secured but the engine doesn’t look good.”
He peeped through the little porthole. “and that cute little orb isn’t cute anymore.”
“I know,” Veva said. “Back to bridge.”
“We are in Scorpius constellation remember,” Brendon adjusted his specs. “That cute little orb is Gliese 667Cc, recently named Regan. Right now we are just 20 thousand miles away from its surface. At current rate just a hundred miles more and we’ll get caught in its gravity.”
“What kind of a host is it?” Davor said fastening his seat belts.
“Warm,” Brendon replied without a glace at him. “It’s a super-earth with twice the gravity. Average temperature 39 deg F. Just fifty miles before we are in its g-field. If we can’t escape now we’ll…”
He was cut off mid sentence as the whole ship shook as if falling apart. Instinctively they reached for their nearest support. The Drekar was caught in Regan's gravitational pull.
“Veva,” Brendon called. “Put more thrust.”
“l’m over the red now,” she spoke through clenched teeth. Her fingers were wrapped around the steering.
Davor blinked through his tears at the screen. The altitude was falling sharply. He turned to his two companions and mumbled softly.
“It was a pleasure flying with you two.” And screwed his eyes.
Captain Greg Zermen swept a quick glance at his radar screen and peered into his field glass. The barren land looked as desolate as it was supposed to be. He wondered of all the planets in the universe why did Man choose to settle here.
First of all this place is 23 light-years away from Earth, tidily locked keeping one face facing the host star, which had just 1.4 percent of our Sun’s luminosity. The day side always looks like dusk on Earth with a huge red disk on the horizon.
Zermen took his eyes off the nightglass and looked at the sky. There’s no clouds in here just the big red ball which is the red dwarf they call Gliese 667C. Far away he could see the other two stars of the system appearing like two small dots. To Zermen they looked like eyes watching over them.
His radio crackled.
“Unit 53 reporting,” a voice said. “Sector 7D. OK.”
“Unit 32 reporting,” another voice said. “Sector 4A. OK.”
One by one his units reported. He listened mechanically. He didn’t expect anything else.
There is one most important thing on Regan: Law and Order. Without it there wouldn’t have been any settlement. There were probably more number of Force Men than there were citizens.
When Man started to settle in Regan, there were debates on the set up. Then it was decided that since human couldn’t tolerate the heavy atmospheric pressure or the climate of Regan, it would be necessary to create an artificial habitat which would resemble Earth as far as possible.
The planet was divided into three parts. The Light Zone, the Dark Zone and the Twilight Zone. The cities were built in the Twilight Zone all in two parallel lines with tubes connecting each of them. So quadruples, lovingly called Quads, of various sizes were built and each mimicked some geological features of Earth. The Quads are sealed in glass like domes. There are plains, mountains, forest and even seas. There are seasons like summer, winter, and others with their regular effect on the ecosystem. Even rainfall is modulated within the Quads. To give the day and night effect the Quads are kept in circular motion like on a turntable. One can see the red dwarf peeping in the east and disappearing in the west but it doesn’t travel over head but parallel to the horizon.
“Unit 3 reporting,” another voice cracked. “Sector 6C. OK.”
Zermen shook his head and shifted in his seat. He was in his Gunboat, a small craft that hovered over land and water. It looked small, a single-sitter, but was fully equipped with latest weaponry and widgets. But the rider remains practically sealed in there. One just doesn’t open the door and takes a stroll unless he was inside the domes. Though he was in his suit yet he couldn’t risk it. Unless lives are at stake.
“Unit 12 reporting,” another voice croaked. “Sector 15A. Oh… What the hell!”
Rumor has it that there were beasts in the Dark Zone that fed on human flesh. Its ridiculous but there had been reports of crafts gone missing when explores ventured into the depths of the Dark Zone. The men were never found though their crafts were sometimes discovered crashed and broken. Most of them had claw marks or evidences of being forced open.
No beast or another lifeform was found but the Dark Zone was made strictly forbidden for anyone.
But Man doesn’t change. The forbidden fruit is always sweeter for him.
So when Unit 12 exclaimed in horror Zermen was sure that it was another of those renegades. He reluctantly picked up the mouth piece and spoke.
“Zermen here,” he said conveying his boredom. “What is it Tike?”
“Look at the sky Cap,” he said.
Zermen look up but found nothing.
“There’s nothing there,” he said squeezing his eyes.
“Quadrant 71,” Tike's voice carried some urgency. “There’s something shining like a star.”
Zermen turned to quadrant 71. Most of it was behind the horizon from where he stood. All he saw was a small spot like a star in some faraway galaxy.
He threw open his scanner and extended its radius to maximum. The screen remained blank.
“Can you trace it, Tike?”
“No. But I’ve visual. Its at an altitude of 15 thousand miles and closing.”
“Keep me posted.”
Zermen switched his transmitter to broadcast and spoke into the mouthpiece.
“Attention all units,” he said. “Standby for immediate response. Ariel scanners to quadrant 71.” He paused and then added. “Keep your tractor beams handy and thermal lasers at ready.”
He changed his frequency. “Medics on standby. EMS on standby. Code Z129.”
Seconds passed like days and his eyes traveled from the scanner to the spot in the sky, waiting for the unknown. He hated it when he didn't know something.
“14 thousand miles,” Tike announced. “I think it’s a ship.”
“From my initial scan, it’s a Longship.”
“Try and establish contact.”
“Tried. No luck. In fact…” Tike stopped for a while. “Heavens, its engine’s out.”
Zermen straightened in his seat.
“10 thousand,” Tike replied. “With every mile its gonna gain on its speed.”
“All units,” Zermen almost stood up. “Code X99. Congregate at sector 15A. “
He threw his Gunboat into full throttle and took a one eighty turn. Dirt cloud blew away as the little craft zoomed into the barren land.
“Tike,” Zermen barked into the mouthpiece. “Update.”
“Its at nine thousand miles,” he said. “I can see it with my bare eyes. Good gracious, its in a tailspin.”
Zermen ground his teeth. If that thing crashes the crew would be dead, if they already weren’t.
One after the other his units reported. They were at the rendezvous point. They formed a arc with each arriving Gunboat a new point on the circumference. The Longship was only a few hundred miles away from meeting the solid ground. Zermen could see its nose ablaze as the ship cut through the heavy atmosphere.
“Activate tractor beams,” Zermen cried.
Concentrated beams converged on the Longship barely arresting its fall.
“Full power,” Zermen harked. He was still a good mile from the rendezvous. “Put full power. We must stop it.”
Longship Drekar slowed down but didn’t stop. It continued to fall helplessly through the dense air.
“We need more power,” Tike yelled through the radio. Drekar was only a thousand feet away when Zermen reached the semicircle.
He slid to a stop at the center and made to activate the beam when he heard it. The wind carried the howling clearly from distance.
They were ten miles into the Dark Zone and well within the rumored beast’s territory. Zermen ignored it and pressed the button activating the tractor beam. It joined its companions and hit the ship with full force. Draker noticeably slowed down.
“Alright men,” Zermen said over the radio. “Let’s settle it as lightly as we can.”
Draker’s speed of descent slowed and it touched the solid ground with a thud. It didn’t land on its wheels but on its belly. Even in a hovercraft, about two feet above the ground, Zermen could feel the ground shake.
The medics arrived and glided straight where the ship was lying.
The Gunboats closed in. At a safe distance the Force Men came out. Zermen could feel the temperature and pressure difference through the suit. There was darkness all about them. It’s the land of perpetual night. His companions joined him. They looked like a band of machines in those suits and helmets and torches where the ears were supposed to be.
Zermen spoke first.
“Scan for any kind of heat signature.”
Tike nodded and activated his device.
“Three possible life forms,” he reported after a while.
“Let's get them out.”
It was a question Zermen was looking for an answer to. So far he had none. They just couldn’t cut through it.
It was then that the ground shook under their feet. Guns came out in an instant. For seconds they only heard the bellowing and felt
the shaking ground accompanied by the thump.
“There it is,” someone cried.
Reflexively, all the guns turned towards the beast that had appeared behind them.
Zermen never believed the rumors and he was facing it. It was about twenty feet tall and equally muscular. It had the appearance of a man except it had long hairs for his exoskeleton.
“Hold your fire,” Zermen mumbled into his radio. Even if he couldn’t save Drake's crew, he wouldn’t sacrifice his men to this beast, if it can be avoided.
The beast stopped and looked about them like a man looking at ants. Then with slow steps he walked over to the ship, careful not to trample anyone. The Force Men’s weapons followed him all along, fingers ready on the trigger. The beast looked at the ship for a while then bent over and grabbed the nose with both hands. It ripped the flight deck apart before gently putting it back on then ground. As slowly as he had come, he withdrew. The medics rushed forward but the beast ignored them. It retraced its path and went away with the same relaxed steps.
"Skipper," Tike was calling. "Medics are ready. We are good to go."
Zermen was still staring at the slowly retreating beast wondering exactly how wrongly its been judged. As he turned and scooted towards his Gunboat, he could feel the shaking of the ground fading as the so-called dangerous beast retired into its layer.
Written for: "The Science Fiction Short Story Contest"
Prompt: Science Fiction has often explored what humanity would do with its planets if it only could. What's your vision?