Friday, December 16, 2016

CHASE DANNER 1: Planet of Leafy Green Peril




No, this isn't a story from Analog. The story is mine. The picture is meant only to set the mood. Let me know if you want it removed.

It is a dark time for the galaxy.
A wealthy, former pirate calling himself Monarch has established himself as tyrannical ruler of the galaxy, uniting star systems into what he calls “the Allegiant” by fostering a hatred of the poor, the disabled, and the “Arts”…android beings once created for hazardous duties but now despised for being artificial.
Unable to bear any more oppression, a young starfighter pilot named CHASE DANNER turns on the Allegiant and goes rogue. With an Art known only as PLEX at his side, Chase flees for parts unknown in his spaceship, “the Stormfalcon.”
But after being ambushed by Allegiant forces, the Stormfalcon is badly damaged and plummeting towards the mysterious planet Brata 326, a world from which no one has ever returned...   



Spiraling towards the surface of the green planet, Chase Danner fought the controls of his beloved spaceship.  He could smell the electrical fire beneath the front console as everything on the bridge just seemed to smolder. If he could just bring them into a sort of controlled fall…

“Sadly, the second engine is out, one left,” Plex said. “We’re heading into a spin.”

His polite phrasing and his precise pronunciation of every vowel would have been calming…in almost any other circumstance. He looked over at Chase and got no response. Chase’s square-jawed face and blue eyes remained locked on the planet growing ever nearer outside the bubble glass.

“That ambush was unfortunate,” Plex continued. “We were most unprepared for those Ravenfighters.”

“It was five to one,” Chase grumbled at last. “I got four of them.”

Chase ran a number of calculations through his head. No time to check them on the computer. The Stormfalcon’s saucer-shape might cause them to bounce back out into space if the wrong angle could not be achieved. That would mean a limping drift on one engine. Easy pickings for another contingent of Allegiant forces sure to arrive. The foggy obscurity and uncertainty of Brata 326 offered more protection…provided they survived the landing.

Sweat rolled down Chase’s forehead. His stomach tightened. The controls felt stiff in his hands and responsive only to the strongest tugs and pushes of his muscular arms. He steered and veered, hoping for the best. A green carpet became visible beneath them as a haze hung in the sky. A world unknown…

“On the left, sir,” Plex said without alarm.

As soon as Plex finished saying that, the Stormfalcon hit something. The collision knocked Chase and Plex toward the right and the whole ship careened into a series of barrel rolls.

“What the…?” Chase uttered.

“We strayed into a rocky outcropping,” Plex said. “I endeavored to warn you.”

Only seconds to work this out now. After that scrape, there was no telling how the Stormfalcon might hit the ground.

“Hold on…” Chase said through gritted teeth as his knuckles went white from clutching the yoke.

BANG!

The saucer impacted and went into a skid. Plex flew out of his seat and hit the deck. The cockpit bubble became eclipsed by an impenetrable cloud of shredded leaves and branches, the spaceship acting as a buzzsaw through whatever the foliage of the unknown world was. At last inertia gave out, as it typically does, and the Stormfalcon came to a stop. Chase heaved an exhalation. Once he could stand, he went to lift Plex from the deck.

“I’m quite all right sir,” Plex reported.

Without a doubt he was. Not a one of his short-cropped brown hairs looked out of place and his expression remained one of bemused attention on his pale skin.

“Let’s go see what we’re dealing with,” Chase said.

They opened the hatch.
Humidity hit them first. Chase remained in the blue flight pants and red tunic of the space force he no longer served. Plex still wore his worker’s jumpsuit, but he of course would not be feeling any of the newfound tropical heat.

And tropical it was. A field of green vegetation stretched out before the duo. Odd-shaped blossoms poked their way through this green, bobbing on the branches in the breeze that was thick and soupy with humidity. On closer inspection, the bark of the trees carried a sheen, a high polish on their smooth, black surface.Beneath the green and black there was red. Was that grass? A "lawn" composed of blades of fleshy red grass? Chase didn't know.
Birds, or that’s the closest Chase’s mind could classify them as, swooped in lazy arcs high on the near horizon, flapping their membranous, leathery wings. Chase pointed at them.

“My grandfather told me once of flying creatures like that on Tantive II,” he said.

Something moved and the foliage just off in the distance rustled. Tree branches swayed. The largest animal Chase had ever seen rose full up out of the jungle and strolled forth. Tremors sounded with each step of its trunk-like legs. It craned its long, snake-like neck but showed no obvious interest in the pair just crashed from the stars. The thing’s neck dropped, its thin mouth opened, and it bit into the leaves around it.

“Yeah, let’s hope that thing doesn’t like the taste of meat,” Chase said.

“Well even if it does, I will be all right,” Plex pointed out.

Chase grunted and turned to survey the damage on the Stormfalcon.

“My poor baby is a bucket of bolts now,” Chase said. “And I doubt we’ll easily find the means to repair her around here.”

“Might I point out that we did at least survive the crash,” Plex said.

Running a hand over the crumpled hull of the ship, Chase cursed under his breath.

“You don’t understand. I love this ship,” he said.

“I am merely saying it could be worse,” Plex replied.

 The jungle foliage around them split apart. A lizard creature the size of the Stormfalcon charged through the gaping hole, its ugly mouth wide open and brandishing four rows of razor-sharp teeth.  

TO BE CONTINUED...


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