BTS Part 1: Crash Landing
It took a few late nights, but Part 1 is complete. If you want to remind yourself of the artwork that inspired this, you can view it in my previous post.
Owain Harris’ eyes blinked open. Light filled the cockpit. Not cold, artificial light but warm sunlight. Making sure he still had the right number of limbs and digits, Owain sat up. He couldn’t remember what had happened, but the force of whatever it was had knocked him from his control chair.
Looking around the cockpit, he couldn’t see any major damage. Most of the screens had turned off, and many of the panels had gone dark. This was not unusual, especially when the ship’s engine was off. Pausing to listen he couldn’t hear the familiar deep thrum of the interstellar drive or the atmospheric thrusters.
The only working panel was the ship’s emergency beacon. The ubiquitous red dome glowed like a fiery eye in the corner of the cockpit, occasionally emitting a buzzing noise to remind any nearby that it was active. Owain couldn’t remember if he had activated the beacon himself, or if he had somehow knocked it before passing out.
Owain scrambled over to the beacon, reached out and arm and gave it a gentle tap, disabling the buzzing. He knew it was transmitting; he didn’t need the constant reminder. As the buzzing stopped, other sounds began to fill the cockpit. The sound of lapping water, and in the distance, bird song. Owain moved towards the front of the cockpit to get a better view of his landing site. Water, not too deep – he could see the bottom with ease, so he had either landed in a lake or near a beach. As he reached the front of the cockpit, the shore came into view. There was a narrow strip of sand, beyond which stood trees, palms mostly. The shoreline stretched around the sides of the ship and Owain guessed he had landed in a lake.
Before he could consider his predicament any further a memory came flooding back. He was carrying cargo. A special cargo. A dangerous cargo. Returning to the control chair, he activated the panel displaying the ship’s manifest. There it was: One standard container, unmarked except for the symbol of the Galactic Defence Forces.
The GDF had hired Owain to transport the container to holding facility deep in military space. Why they hadn’t simply used one of their own ships, Owain didn’t know, and wasn’t about to ask. The credits offered were more than enough to wipe his gambling debts, with enough left over for some long-needed upgrades to his ship. Now that he’d crashed, he hoped it was enough to cover the repairs.
Activating a second screen, Owain checked the status of the container in his hold. “Damn,” he said, slamming his fist on the chair. The hold was showing major signs of damage. There was a large hole in the ship’s hull. Everything in the hold was gone, including the container.
Owain started to panic – if he lost the container he wouldn’t get paid. Worse, if the cargo was valuable enough he could end up in a GDF cell. Worse still, they could skip the cell and send him straight to one of the penal colonies. He did not relish the opportunity to live out his remaining days mining rare minerals on an asteroid belt around a slowly dying star.
Owain tried activating a third screen, attempting to see if he could track where the container had landed, but the screen remained dark. He tried again, more forcefully this time but with the same result. The external sensor array had likely also been damaged in the crash, leaving him with no way of easily tracking the container, let alone being able to find out which planet he had landed on.
Realising the only way forward was on foot, he headed out the cockpit’s back door and into what remained of the ship’s hold. Luckily, his locked had remained where it was, firmly bolted to the ship’s inner hull. He opened it up and retrieved the items he felt would best suit him in his impromptu retrieval mission. He wasn’t equipped for a possible trek through jungle, but he decided his combat knife and sidearm would be able to get him through most perils. He also grabbed a second ammo pack and some dried food packs and stashed the lot into a satchel.
Content that he had everything he needed, Owain walked over to the hole in the hull. Peering through, he saw his ship had landed in the middle of a shallow lake, surrounded by trees. Looking towards the back of the ship, he saw what had likely caused the damage to his ship. A natural rock arch towered over the far end of the lake, easily 50 metres tall. At least it was. The arch was now a pair of rock pillars that curved towards each other, topped with jagged edges. The rock debris scattered between the arch and the ship let him to surmise that his ship had collided with the rock, causing the damage and likely altering his trajectory enough to send it into the water instead of the trees.
Owain didn’t have much time to ponder his karmic fortune. He jumped into the water, but before he could wade even half way to the shore the wind picked up, making the trees sway and the water wash back into his ship. He looked up and, with eyes shielded with his hand, could see a craft, smaller than his own, descend in front of him. It didn’t bear any markings he recognised, its dull green armour plating suggesting it probably wasn’t friendly.
Taking his chances, Owain continued to wade towards the shore, his going made slightly harder by the exhaust coming from the new ship’s VTOL engines. He made it out of the waves as the ship touched down in front of him. Before he could gesture towards whoever was piloting the ship, a panel on its side swung open and the six men dressed in full jungle camo ran on to the beach. They were all armed with rifles, Owain didn’t recognise the make, which they pointed at him as soon as they left the ship.
Playing safe, Owain raised his hands, showing they were empty. His weapon-filled satchel, hanging behind him, was gone from his mind. After a few seconds, he tried talking to the armed men. “Are you here to help?”
“Silence!” The command came from one of the men, but Owain couldn’t tell which through their full face helmets.
Owain didn’t say anything more, but as he stood there he realised he was still a little too close to the water. The sand under his feet was soft and he was beginning to sink and lean. Taking a chance, he readjusted his footing just enough to stay upright.
In response, half a dozen guns clicked, almost simultaneously, as safeties deactivated.
Owain froze, not daring to even move. The slightest twitch from any one of the men could cause his demise.
After standing there for what felt like an age, but was really only a few seconds, a voice called out from inside the ship. “Stand down!” The guns all clicked again as the safeties switched back on. A seventh person emerged from the ship, this one taller and more slender than the others and dressed in a trench coat and military cap, both in a darker shade of green than the rest of the men and the ship. The man strode confidently towards him, his angular face locked on Owain. There was a hint of a smile on his lips, but it was the smile of a predator.
The man stopped on a few paces from Owain, his eyes examining him from head to foot. “You may lower your hands.” Owain did so, relieved that he at least spoke Standard English. “What is your name and who sent you here?” The man stood still, waiting for Owain to respond.
“Owain Harris. And I wasn’t sent here, I crashed while transporting cargo for the GDF.”
The man’s face twitched slightly at mention of the Galactic Defence Forces. “I see. Perhaps then, you should come with us,” he turned and gestured towards his ship. “Our mechanics can repair your ship and have you on your way within a few days.”
“I appreciate the offer of help,” Owain replied, “but my ship was damaged in the crash and I think my cargo has fallen into the jungle. I need to retrieve it as soon as possible.”
“GDF cargo, lost in the jungle? It must be important if you are so eager to retrieve it.” Owain thought he could detect a hint of curiosity in the man’s voice. “Unfortunately, the jungle that way is particularly dangerous. Travelling that way alone would mean certain death. If you were to come with us we could organise an adequately equipped search party. Please, I insist.” The man’s voice was becoming more forceful, making it clear that his only way off the beach was in their ship.
“If it is as dangerous as you say, then I certainly would appreciate any help you can offer.” The man nodded, and Owain began to walk forward. It was then that he realised his right foot had become stuck in the sand. Stepping forward with his left leg, he pulled on his right. Suddenly, the sand released its hold and his foot sprung upwards causing him to topple forwards, flinging his weapon-filled satchel off his arm and on to the ground in front of him. As it hit the sand its contents fell out, much to his dismay. This was not going to look good.
The armed men reacted in unison, once more preparing their guns to fire. In an instant, the smile on the trench coated man’s face changed to cold menace. “As I suspected, a spy. Here to infiltrate our city and assassinate one of our leaders, no doubt.” Before Owain could explain, the man had drawn a slender barrelled pistol from within his trench coat and pointed it at his chest. “You’ll soon find out what we do to spies here on Morrigan Prime.”
He pulled the trigger on the pistol and Owain felt a sharp pain in his chest. Looking down, he saw a small dart sticking into his shirt, probably some form of tranquiliser. That was all he could think before passing out.