The acrid smell of fried electronics fills the air. Damn government contractors! Greedy bastards cut every corner, just to save a credit.
My ears drop as I survey the damage. The bracket holding the emergency control panel snapped. It slammed into the main power conduit which, of course, wasn't properly shielded. A 10-credit bracket. Damn them! This is bad. Really bad.
I float back to the pilot's chair, then strap myself down. I flip through the controls. Few systems respond, and most of them flash warnings.
After several hours of desperate checking, I’m forced to admit the emergency backup system is completely fried. Surprisingly little damage was done to the primary systems. But, they are far more power hungry. And the fusion generator is little more than an expensive mass of fried boards and molten wires. All that’s left is battery backup. Batteries. They only provide enough power to keep me alive until help arrives. I’m in the middle of nowhere, I’ll lose life-support before help arrives.
Long range communications and primary thrusters are out. So is my jump drive. While they technically work, all three require obscene amounts of power. Battery backups can’t bring them online.
I try to recapture my earlier excitement.
The job seemed perfect. Searching for emerging intelligent life. Checking to see if they are ready for first contact. I love being a part of it. After ten years of service, at last, I found a world with a new sentient species. It’s time to observe; test a couple of the locals. Then wipe their memories and leave without a trace.
I don’t want to wipe memories but understand the necessity. Contacting an emerging race, without senate approval, is unthinkable. Entire civilizations have been lost through bungled first contacts. We no longer take chances. It’s the only crime with a mandatory death sentence. No excuses. No second chances.
My heart sinks. I found intelligent life just in time for it to be a crippling disadvantage. I can’t be discovered. I growl in frustration. At least cloaking works. It should last until the thrusters drain the remaining power. I can’t stay cloaked after that!
At least I have time. In fact, I have far too much of it. I may as well learn what I can. After scanning and translating the primitive communications networks, I decide to spend the rest of the trip studying local languages. The planet grows in my viewport with glacial slowness. What feels unbearably slow now will be suicidally fast when I arrive.
I only have one chance. Aim for somewhere remote. Wait until the last second, then maximum burn. Cloaking will hide me until the thruster fires. The question is how hard I’ll hit. Once I’m safely on the ground I’ll be okay. Sooner or later someone will show up, and I’ll flag them down. With the help of my augmentations, I’ll be able to survive.
Nearly everything about the body and mind can be improved with bio augments. Soldiers use them to increase strength, reaction time, accuracy, and other miscellaneous things. I’m not a soldier. The only augmentation package I have is survival. Thanks to it, I can metabolize the local wildlife. Even if it tastes nasty.
When the time arrives, I deploy my protective crash webbing. The computer will take care of landing. I close my eyes and try to calm my nerves. The ship screams as it tears through the air. Any second now, the thrusters will fire. Pounding heart in my throat, I wait. The scent of my fear thick in the air. The rumbling of the thrusters vibrates through my body, and I’m pressed against the webbing. It’s like someone is standing on my chest. Doing jumping jacks. With a friend. It’s hard to breathe against the pressure, and my vision fades.
I wake. My whole body feels bruised. I groan and then extract myself from the protective webbing. Everything is quiet. I check the sensors. The ship is at the bottom of a pond, completely covered by water. Hmm, That’s a good thing. It’s deep enough to hide the ship, but not so deep that I can’t swim out. This makes a perfect hidden base. I’ll wait until tonight then look around!
I prepare to leave the ship for an extended trip. My backpack and utility belt are well stocked, and my gun is in its holster by the time darkness falls. I cycle the airlock. Warn water rushes in, and I pull my rebreather into place. I swim up and out, using the moonlight as a guide. Once I reach the surface, I strike out for shore. New and exciting scents are thick in the air, fighting for attention. Under the assault, my nose is practically worthless. My ears swivel alertly, catching every new sound. I can’t wait to explore this exciting place. Before long the water is shallow enough to walk.
As I walk through the waist deep water, a dark mass floating in the water next to me suddenly twists around and chomps down on my waist. Bones crunch, and white agony fills my mind. The monster, an ambush predator, shakes me violently. It drags me underwater, swimming rapidly through the weeds. The plants scrape against my face and body, and the rebreather is ripped from my head. Only my augments keep me conscious as I’m brutally spun.
Lungs burning, my lower half worse than useless, I desperately force a hand between the monster’s jaws. My gun is trapped between its jaws and my leg. I desperately twist the holster out and away as my fingers slide into place. I pull the trigger. Light flashes in the darkness. Literally firing from inside the monster’s mouth insures a clean hit. It thrashes in pain before spitting me out. Leaving the dying creature behind me, I desperately swim towards air. I can’t feel my legs. They flop uselessly behind me, a dead weight in the water. Only my faith in my survival augmentation keeps me going. Every movement drives a spike of pain through me. I can’t stop. What if there is another? I drag myself through the shallow water, strength rapidly draining. My mind slows. My body refuses to move, and I collapse. The smell of decay and rot surround me as my consciousness fades.