Author : Bob Newbell
Consciousness returned slowly to Inderak and Wynep. Memory took a little longer but in short order the events that lead up to the present flashed back into recall: The malfunction with the hyperdrive. The failed attempt to enter orbit around the moon of the third planet in the alien star system. The violent turbulence as the ship entered the third planet’s atmosphere. And then…now.
“Are you alright?” Inderak asked.
“I’m not sure,” replied Wynep weakly. “What’s on top of me?”
“Nothing? I can’t stand up. I thought I was pinned underneath debris.” Wynep was lying face down on the deck of the bridge.
“Before we crashed, sensors indicated this planet has three times the gravity of homeworld.” Inderak was on his back. He pushed back against the deck with all four of his arms. He barely moved off the deck plate.
“Computer, status?” said Wynep. “Computer, respond!” The ship’s computer remained silent.
Inderak saw a straw-colored liquid dripping from various points in the overhead of the compartment. “There’s neural fluid leaking from the processor chamber,” he said. “The computer’s injured, possibly dead.”
“Then we’re probably not broadcasting a hyperwave beacon. No one knows where we are.”
Wynep managed to push herself up about a centimeter for a few seconds, long enough to turn her head so she faced Inderak. She saw that her wings were plastered to the deck, not that they’d be of any use in this gravity. “It feels like we’re moving.”
“We are. The ship is floating in an ocean of dihydrogen monoxide. Most of the planet’s surface is covered by it.”
“Well, of course it is,” said Wynep bitterly. “The Divinities wouldn’t settle for landing us on a world with three times normal gravity. We have to land in a sea of poison, too. I assume the atmosphere has no chlorine?”
“The air is mostly nitrogen and oxygen.”
Wynep uttered a series of curses that left no Divinity unblasphemed.
“The planet’s inhabited,” said Inderak. “Scanners showed numerous cities and there were at least several hundred artificial satellites in orbit.”
“The moon we were hoping to orbit was barren,” countered Wynep. “There was no sign of civilization on it. If the locals haven’t even colonized their own moon then they must be pretty primitive. I doubt they’d be of much help, even assuming they’re non-hostile.”
“You’re probably right,” conceded Inderak.
They were silent for a while. Breathing was difficult in the oppressive pull of gravity and talking made it worse.
“Maybe Navigation Command was still tracking us before we dropped out of hyperspace?” Wynep speculated.
“We’re probably done for even if they know exactly where we are,” Inderak responded matter-of-factly. “NavCom couldn’t send people down here. They’d be as incapacitated as we are. They’d have to send robots. And then what? Blast off the surface? Can you imagine the escape velocity for this planet? The acceleration would almost certainly kill us. They might rig up a space elevator, but that’s never been done on a planet with this much gravity. It would take Divinity knows how long to overcome the engineering problems, assuming they could be overcome at all. There’s only one thing Navigation Command could do to help us.”
“Blast us from orbit. Put us out of our misery. If there’s a NavCom ship on the way here, it’s mission isn’t rescue. It’s euthanasia.”