Marooned on Planet X – Part 8

Marooned on Planet XIn our last episode, the crew of the Galactic Space Destroyer, Pickett, just learned that they destroyed two Corpellian cruisers. Their celebration is short-lived, however, when they learn that the Corpellians know that they are stranded. The Corpellians are now headed for the crew of the Pickett, presumably for revenge. The Galactic Space Fleet hopes to rescue the crew, but will they be in time?

“Damn!” Captain Jake Evans muttered. “How are we going to fight stuck on this planet?”

“Perhaps, Captain,” Gunny Johanssen spoke after a long silence, “we can remove the guns from their housings and at least have some weapons.”

Jake turned to his Chief Engineer Officer Irene Smithson, “What do you think Smitty?”

She pondered the question for a few seconds. “It’s possible, Captain. The aiming would be problematic. Also, I know it’s against regulations, but we’ll need to fire up the reactor after all. A couple of shots from our guns will drain the batteries quick. We’ll be sitting ducks without our shields.”

Jake nodded. “OK Smitty, you handle the re-start. Gunny, see what you can do about setting up some sort of firing center. We’ll need to make sure we can knock down transports should they attack that way.”

Johanssen saluted, something he rarely did. “Aye, Captain. I’ll get Mr. Leonard and Mr. Putchin to help. I’ll have those guns in place by sunset.”

Jake turned to his Helmsman, JR Ferguson. “Son, I know we can’t drive this bucket anywhere right now. I need you to stay by this comm station. If anything comes up, I need to hear from you.”

JR locked white. “Aye, sir. Will do.”

Jake squeezed JR’s shoulder. “You’ll do fine JR. We’ll get out of this.”

Jake climbed out of the ship. Gunny’s crew was already undoing panels and working at removing the cannon housings. Science Officer Sheldon Leonard was setting up a firing station near the hull of the ship. He had wiring harnesses ready for the cannons.

“Aren’t you a little close to the ship, Mr. Leonard?” Jake asked.

“Commander Smithson insists the shields will protect his point, Captain. I’m a little apprehensive myself. We need to have visual contacts with any Corpellian vessels should they attempt to land,” Leonard answered.

“Do you have any idea how you’ll aim those things, Mr. Leonard?”

“Burroughs is removing servos from the thruster assemblies. We should be able to set something up. Not sure if we can get 360-degree coverage. If they start landing on us we might have to aim these things manually.”

Evans nodded. “Carry on, Mr. Leonard.”

“Aye, Captain,” was the reply.

Evans made his way to the shore. Four crewmembers were still sitting up lights. He called them to him.

“If you haven’t been told, we just found out the Corpellians are on their way. We probably shouldn’t mark our location with these lights just yet. Out fleet is also headed here, we’ll have to see if they can pick us up first.”

“The lights are ready to go, sir.” A young woman, “Decker” her nametag said. “All we have to do is flick a switch. Whenever you order it, sir.”

“What other duties do have at the moment, Ms. Decker?” Evans asked.”

“This was our assignment, sir. We are to report to Mr. Putchin when we are finished.”

“Mr. Putchin is in the middle of several things at the moment. I have a special assignment for your team, Ms. Decker.”

“Sir, what can we do?”

“As the Corpellians may arrive before we have full capabilities, I’ll need scouts to find shelter. A cave, a cliff, something we can hide under until the fleet arrives. I think it would be best to split into two teams. One team can explore the eastern side of the island, the other the western side. Any questions, Ms. Decker?”

“Sir, it will be dark in a couple of hours. D you want us to leave now or wait until morning?”

“I think you should go now. I have no idea how long we have before we are under attack. Take lighting and some provisions. Each team should have a portable comm device. You can check in with JR if there are any problems.”

“Aye, sir. I’ll get the provisions. It shouldn’t take too long to scour this place.”

“Thanks, Ms. Decker. I need something positive right now.”

“Don’t worry, sir. We’ll find a place in we have to dig it out ourselves.”

Evans watched as Decker and her crew went to get supplies for the trek. He walked back to the ship. He climbed in and went to the bridge.

“Any word, JR?” he asked.

“Not yet, sir, Hopefully, we’ll hear something soon. It’s been a couple of hours,” JR replied.

“Keep me posted,” Evans said. He headed down the corridor for engineering.

He saw Irene at a control panel. Her face was a picture of total concentration.

“Smitty, what’s the word?” he asked.

Her face showed displeasure at being interrupted. She knew everyone was stressed out and didn’t complain.

“I’ve fast-tracked the restart. We should be at one hundred percent in six hours. All systems are functionally well, Jake. I can get us full shields in three hours. We’ll have firepower in six.”

Evans nodded. “Have you heard anything from Gunny?”

Irene laughed. “Are you kidding? Every ten minutes they’re arguing about something. They have a test fire of one of the guns in about ten minutes. I’ve had to redirect some power their way.”

“I guess I’d better check that out,” Evans said. He started to leave and stopped. “Irene, well, I want you to know…”

“Jake, please just can it. We can deal with all that when we get out of here. I don’t need any drama right now.”

“I just want to make sure we’re good.”

“We’re good, Jake. Go play with the big guns,” Irene shooed him out of her way.

Evans climbed out of the ship. He saw Johanssen, Putchin, and Leonard huddled around a small monitor.

“I hear you are planning a test fire,” Evans said.

Leonard looked up from the monitor. “Yes, Captain. I’m locking in the target now.”

“The target? What ever could you be aiming at?”

“Buoy number two, Captain,” Putchin answered. “It’s in a geosynchronous orbit directly over our position. It would be easy for the Corpellians to use it to track our exact position. We destroy it; maybe we’ll buy some time.”

“Good thinking, Arnie. We’ll need all the time we can make.”

“Got it!” Leonard exclaimed.

Putchin looked at Johanssen, “Ready, Gunny?”

Johanssen nodded. “Any time you’re ready.”

Putchin looked to Leonard. “Fire, Mr. Leonard.”

Leonard hit the button. The gun barked a pulse beam. The three men felt the energy blast.

“Dammit!” Leonard exclaimed.

“Did you miss?” Evans asked.

Leonard sat back in his chain looking disgusted. “No sir, it was a direct hit. Our aiming controls are great.”

“The buoy isn’t destroyed?”

“No,” Leonard said. “It must have bloomed.”

“Bloomed?” Evans asked.

Putchin stepped forward. “I was worried about this, Captain. Blooming is an atmospheric effect of the pulse beam. It seems the atmosphere may actually absorb the energy from the beam.”

“So, gentlemen, what you are saying is that we are sitting ducks?”

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