The brilliant white flash of light from the viewscreen was sudden, catching everyone on the bridge of the USS Defender completely off guard. The light spread out from the viewer, illuminating every part of the bridge, temporarily blinding all its occupants. The flash was swiftly followed by a sharp jolt, which each of the crew knew instinctively meant that the ship’s warp field had collapsed, returning it to normal space with a sudden deceleration that the inertial dampeners hadn’t been quick enough to compensate for.
Captain Jonozia Lex blinked repeatedly in an attempt to clear the spots that remained in his vision. As his sight returned he saw that the bridge was now bathed in the eerie blue of the low level emergency lights, while the viewscreen displayed nothing but static. All around warning alarms blared from almost every console, filling the room with sound.
“Report,” shouted Lex over the cacophony of the claxons.
Around the bridge each of the officers secured their consoles and the noise quickly subsided.
Arkin was the first to report. “Something collapsed our warp field,” she reported from the helm. “Helm controls are offline and I’m detecting a large gravity well in close proximity.”
“Warp drive is offline,” reported Hanulk from the engineering station. “It looks like the core has been dumped.”
Well that would explain the flash and sudden collapse of the warp field, thought Lex, but where the hell has the gravity well come from?
“Impulse is currently offline too,” the saurian engineer continued, “but I believe I can restore navigational thrusters.”
“Do it,” replied Lex.
“Aye, Captain,” he replied as he got to work, his claws clacking against the console as he attempted to restore the ships systems.
“James, see if you can get me a visual too,” continued Lex.
“Yes, Sir,” he replied and after a moment the snow that obscured the view outside the Defender began to clear. Lex, along with most of the bridge crew, drew a sharp intake of breath that caused Hanulk to look up. He was about to ask what was wrong, when he too saw the display and immediately got back to work at double the pace he had been. The image that was presented was still plagued by static and ghosts but it was clear enough to see the surface of the planet that was quickly rushing towards them. Lex now realised he could hear a high pitched whine building and began to see a faint red glow infusing the image on the screen as the ship plunged into the planet’s atmosphere. Each second that ticked by felt like an eternity.
“Thrusters are back online,” cried Hanulk.
“Arkin, try to level our decent,” ordered Lex immediately even though he knew that the young pilot had already begun to do so before Hanulk had even finished speaking.
That the ship would crash on this unknown world was now a certainty and Lex hadn’t wasted any time suggesting that Arkin try to prevent it. The important thing now was to ensure the landing was as controlled as possible so as few people were injured or killed as possible when it did finally make contact with the ground.
On the viewscreen the surface was now rushing past at a faster and faster rate, but Lex could see that the ship was also starting to level off. The blue of water replaced the green of land and Lex found he was wishing that the ship would pitch in the ocean, but he quickly realised that such a landing would properly doom all of them. Light gave way to dark as the ship crossed the terminator and day turned into night. Lex thought he glimpsed the lights of a settlement and briefly wondered what the inhabitants would make of the falling starship.
“Ten Seconds to impact,” reported Lisley.
“All hands, brace for impact!” called out Lex, gripping the arms of his chair and hoping that everyone had heard him. His final thoughts turned to Sara as the Defender finally touched down, throwing everything forwards. Lex landed hard on the deck, willing his body to go limp before he collided with the back of Arkin’s seat and everything went black.
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