< 13 Months Ago. Stardate: Unknown. Location: Unknown>
The boom of SOMETHING sent reverberations through the canyon that, for months now, had been home to a handful of fighters, trying valiantly to reclaim their planet from airborne invaders, so far, with limited success. Poking his head out of a seam in the red cliff face to see what the commotion was about, the young Garsolan named Bah-Ki's eyes went wide as he saw a trail of smoke and fire draw a black scar across the pink, pre-dawn sky. “What in Heaven is that?” he asked out loud. A moment later, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Is it another wave of invaders?” the question came from Dadjinn, who was already, and as usual, assuming the worst.
“I don't think so.” The observer admitted. “I think its on fire, but…don't ask me what it is.”
As the rectangular, glowing object continued to fall through the desert world's atmosphere, Bah-Ki took a moment to slip his spyglass from his belt pouch and extended it to get a better look. “There are markings on it…and…I think it's made of metal. Other than that, I have NO idea what it is, but it's not anything alive.”
Dadjinn's jaw set firmly. Whatever it is,“ she hissed, “it doesn't belong here.”
Bah-Ki continued to track the object, wincing as he watched it crash into the empty expanse of desert that covered most of the planet. There was another, softer `Boom' as the whatever-it-was tore a gash across the ground. “Well,” he commented with a sigh, “Whatever it was, it's pulverized now.”
“Hrph” Dadjinn said with contempt. “Do you REALLY think we'd be that lucky?” She turned, walking back into the dark safety of the cave.
“We'll check it out at sundown.”
The persistent drip…drip…drip…of something on his forehead roused John Carter to consciousness, and instantly, he knew that was a bad idea. As his eyes flitted open, John winced as the throbbing of blood through his veins sent a pulsing pain through his head.
“Ah!” he cursed, turning his head to the side, rubbing his left temple and feeling the drops of what he prayed was insulating liquid roll down his forehead. With his other hand, he dabbed at the wetness he felt. `Please don't be red, please don't be red, please don't be red…' he whispered out loud. Unfortunately, in the near total darkness of…wherever he was… he couldn't make out any color other than `black'.
John blinked again, then forced himself to keep his eyes open, almost willing his eye to adjust to the light. He spat a silent curse at himself for `insisting' that Leon disable all enhanced vision functions that were available to the implant that had replaced his left eye. No doubt the low-light function would be remarkably handy in this instance. Mercifully, John reflected, the implant's internal power source seemed unaffected by whatever had knocked him and apparently the shuttle for a loop, and for now, the implant was functioning well enough. As he waited for his surroundings to make themselves visible, he tried to piece together what had happened to him.
The last thing he remembered was approaching the end of the earth's near orbit navigation envelope; the point at which he would confirm his shuttle's arrival into Luna's airspace, and then controllers and monitoring stations on the Moon would have taken over. That call was never made, and as John continued to search his memories, he realized that he had no idea how he'd come to be in his present state. On reflex, John tapped the badge at his chest.
There was no chirp in response.
He hit the badge a second time and ALMOST hit it a third time, before stopping himself. “Sprock!” he cursed, then looked at the woefully out-dated communicator strapped to his wrist. “Ungh!” he grunted. “I had to be `historically accurate'”. He jabbed at the small controls on his wrist-comm. “Carter to…Hell, whoever.” There was no response.
He repeated the request.
Still, no response.
Before long, his training took over. He had to know what condition the shuttle was in, and where he was. Then, he had to contact Starfleet. Despite the fact that the shuttlecraft he'd been in was over one hundred years old, it had been retrofitted with current communications gear to be certified space-worthy. With luck, sub-space communications would be online, and he could get the word out.
John scrambled to his feet and cursed again as he noticed that the emergency lighting was not engaged. There was, however, a dim glow from a handful of active displays in front of the pilot's couch. Carter leaned over the dim yellow displays, taking stock in the shuttle's condition.
The news wasn't good. The master system display board was out, as were the navigation, communications, and flight control sub-system displays. What illumination there WAS came from the engineering and propulsion display. Carter scanned the display and frowned. The hybrid impulse-anti-grav drive had shut down, probably for safety reasons. The shuttle was running on battery power, and those batteries were three-quarters spent.
“Hmph” he grumbled to himself. “Life support's not up, so…how come I haven't suffocated or frozen by now?” Morbid though it was, the thought was valid.
The last John knew, his craft was in space, and all environmental seals were secured. After this…incident, with life-support off-line, John would have used up the oxygen in the cabin in only a few hours. This meant one of two things. Either he hadn't been out THAT long, or the shuttle was no longer airtight, which meant it was no longer space-worthy, and probably no longer in space. He looked at the engineering display again, hoping for something he could use.
Amidst the sea of yellow and red indicators, John saw a small green light on the environmental sensor display. “Positive pressure outside the hull.” He mused. “I'm grounded.”
(To Be Continued)