Jericho VII (Inner Colony Planet A17)
In atmosphere above Continent III
Monday, July 11, 2525. 9:13 AM (Earth Standard Time, or EST)
14 years after Schism
“mayday mayday mayday, Talon3-4 is going down, I repeat we are going down!” Pilot Michael Forrestor yelled in his mike, a vain attempt towards being heard amid the static and panicked voices that washed all over the BattleNet. A six year veteran of piloting dropships in and out of combat zones, it took all his mental strength not to panic as the ship tumbled uncontrollably through the air towards an impact that would surely kill them all. “Tell me what we got left!” he yelled at his copilot, a rookie named Carl who was fresh out of flight school.
“uhhmwe’ve lost all our engines and gasoline major hull fractures and breach at several points fires in bays 1 to 3 controls have been compromised by 56 percent flight integrity is at 45 percent and dropping at, at, 3 percent a second!” Carl gasped the sentence out as he frantically tapped controls and attempted to stem his rising fear. “Sir! We got only 1300 feet of altitude left before hitting dirt!”
“Alright, let’s see what this baby’s still got” Michael muttered. His mind took all the fear and doubt and placed it in a dark corner of his mind; the time to go over them would be later, and if there was no later than it didn’t really matter anyways. His hands flew over the controls as he switched piloting to jet thrusters and air fins; while the thrusters were designed and used for maneuvering in orbit, it was the only thing he had left to aid in what would essentially be, if his plan miraculously worked, a rough glide towards an even rougher landing. His first priority was to stabilize their flight integrity, to stop the dangerously accelerating spin that threatened to rip the crippled dropship apart. Although saving the remnants of the platoon in the troop bay while they were still airborne was a possible, if unlikely, scenario, Michael grimly knew that with no engines he had no way to slow their descent to anywhere near a safe crash landing. “On my mark I want you to shoot 80% of our thruster capability at a 90 degree angle from our rotation! Adjust as necessary, just get us stable!”
“Flight integrity at 27%!” was Carl’s terse affirmative. Michael ignored the fear of his copilot and instead focused on calculating the right time to shoot the thrusters; if he was off he would waste the now-valuable supply of compressed gas that the thrusters used, and possibly put too much strain on an already ruined hull. He again cursed whoever designed this version of dropship, the Talon Series, for not including at least a low-grade Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist with any in-flight calculations; instead he had to rely on the onboard computers and his own stressed logic.
“Mark!” Michael yelled hoarsely. Fuck calculations. If the flight integrity dropped any lower they would be dead, good math or not. Carl punched the button and released highly pressurized jets of compressed gas in the opposite direction of the ship’s uncontrolled spiral; the remains of the hull shuddered and groaned, what few warning lights that had remained unlit began blinking earnestly, but the ship began to noticeably lose its tumble and the flight integrity meter slowed, stalled, then began a tentative climb.
“Thrusters holding, but only enough gas to sustain blast for 6 more seconds!”
“Hold blast for as long as possible, then plot our trajectory, find out where we’re gonna end up crashing this bitch!” Michael gritted his teeth and grabbed the flight controls; proposing to try to pilot a ship this bulky with only air fins and the 20 percent thruster capabilities he had left himself would have brought him raucous laughter and incredulous stares from the other veteran pilots in his combat wing, but he simply had no other choice. The air roared around the cockpit from the hull breach and the horizon line that he could glimpse through the thick cockpit windows jerked crazily up and down, but with an expert touch born of experience, skill, and desperation he slowly brought the crippled craft under some type of control. “fuck ya!” a small part of his brain yelled triumphantly at the incredible feat, but the momentary elation at doing what had seemed impossible disappeared as he glimpsed the ground.
“Sir we have 200 feet until impact!”
“What’s our landing zone look like?!”
“mostly fields, some rolling hills but sir, we’re gonna be landing right into the middle of somethin’, the dropships that survived are scattered as hell, groundtroops are taking a beatin-”
“At 2 seconds to impact I want you to give all your remaining thruster capability to the foreword units!” Michael yelled. He didn’t know how much it would contribute towards decreasing their impact force, but it was all he could do besides….
Michael’s eyes briefly grew wide as he realized what had to be done to possibly give the remaining marines in his ship a chance at surviving. He looked at the countdown that Carl had set up towards impact; 17 seconds. Just enough time. His hands literally flew over the controls, an agility born of desperation and a new sense of purpose, one that was final. He programmed the controls to angle the ship in order to impact nose first at a medium angle; what thruster capability he had left would fire a split second after impact on the top rear thruster cannons, to slow the turn at which the ship would be forced into by slamming into the ground at such an angle. He spent a precious 4 seconds on a rough check of his mental calculations on the computer; the results made his face break out into a grim, tight smile. Most of the force of impact would be absorbed in the bottom front section of the ship, and the ship would then, hopefully, pivot over the nose and crash topside into the soil. It was the Marines’ only chance. The downside? The cockpit was in the bottom front of the craft.
Michael Forrestor glanced at the countdown clock. 5 seconds. He smiled, grabbed the small wallet in his flight suit that held a picture of his wife and son, and closed his eyes.