The first thing Kiera became aware of was the incessant warning siren. It was loud, obnoxious, and designed to draw attention. It reminded her of the fire station sirens from her youth.
Her mind was still foggy from the deep sleep serum in her system. As soon as the alarms had started, she had been injected with the antidote. That antidote still took a moment to take full effect. The shuddering of the ship woke her as nothing else could have.
Blindly hitting the button at her side, her drawer opened swiftly and she immediately rolled off the platform. Crouching, she did a quick inventory to get her bearings. The other four crew members had yet to awaken. As the commander it was her job to make sure they all arrived at their destination safely. It was Kiera’s job to determine if the emergency warranted waking the others. The wailing siren, flashing lights and automated voice over the intercom told her something had gone very wrong. Something she wouldn’t be able to fix on her own.
Another shudder shook the ship.
Her mind instantly went into commander mode. On her way to the cockpit, she hit the emergency release switch that would automatically wake the others. Jumping into the commanders chair she began reading the instrument panel.
It showed they were only about three fourths of the way to their destination. They should have slept for another four months.
Over the last century, Earth had become severely overpopulated and almost all of its resources had been used up. After much deliberation, it had been decided that Earth was far beyond anything that could be fixed. The only solution was to begin looking off planet for people’s survival.
There were small colonies on Mars but as the atmosphere wasn’t viable, only the extremely wealthy could afford to go there. That didn’t fix any of the problems Earth was facing.
The International Collective Space Alternative, or ICSA, was established. All space programs from every country had combined to try and find an alternative planet to colonize. For once, there had been no fighting and grand standing. No ‘Our country is better than yours’. The United States, China, Russia, and several other countries were determined to save mankind from itself. Once they had all come together, unbelievable advancements had been achieved.
They had sent out over three hundred drones in the past twenty years, searching for a planet with an atmosphere similar to Earths. Surprisingly, several had come back with unknown planets that could be what they were looking for. When they found one, an exploratory team was sent out to get more details about the planet.
Kiera’s team had been headed to just such a planet that they had labeled Terra495. Her team was to do everything from atmospheric readings to exploring the planet for any hostile lifeforms. Their main objective was to find out if it could sustain human life and if so, how many and how dangerous it would be to live there. But they had to get there first.
As she was making adjustments to get the sirens turned off, the other team members staggered in. They were all dressed as she was. White drawstring pants, white tank tops and socks.
Greg made it to his seat and began taking stock of the information that was in front of him.
“Greg, check hull damage. I need to know how bad it is. We went through an asteroid field. The autopilot didn’t find it in time to avoid it. Mikhail, check engines. We’re dragging and not getting full power. Bao, life support. Fabrizio, check for surrounding planets. We may need to find somewhere to land.” She didn’t want to say it but the chances of there being anything nearby was slim.
Shudders were raking the ship continually now. Power was flickering and the annoying automated voice got deeper as the computer dragged. The ship was designed to shoot anything in their path with a laser. It would either deflect it or destroy it. The asteroid field had been so large that it had been impossible to do either for every single one.
“The hull is damaged in section four, three and six. Significant damage. Some of the sections can be repaired but the one in section three went all the way to the engine room,” Greg reported. He was making his own adjustments, trying to divert power to only the sections needed to keep them alive.
“Life support is dropping,” Bao chimed in. “If we are going to do something it needs to be soon.” She was cutting off life support in all sections except what they absolutely needed to survive.
“Mikhail?” Kiera shot out.
“The main engine is down. We are running on back up and it’s barely enough to keep us alive.” He went to a different screen. “There is no fixing the engine. Life support would go out before we could even fix half of the damage.”
“I second that, Commander,” Bao spoke up. “Even with blocking off half the ship, we only have life support for maybe two hours. And that is only if we confine it to here and the launch pad where the escape pod is located.”
“Fabrizio, give me some good news or we are going to be living in an escape pod for the unforeseeable future.” Kiera switched off power to more sections. The ship was large. It would take all of them working together to make this work. Now, the only sections left with any power were the two sections Bao had advised they be left.
“There is a planet that is kind of close. It’s one we have never seen before. The asteroid field must have blocked any of our scans from finding it. Now that we are on the other side it is visible. It’s a little bigger than Earth. Atmosphere is similar as well.” He sent the information to her screen. The excitement in his voice couldn’t be contained. Fab’s thirst for new discoveries was legendary.
He moved the image to the front screen so they could all see the planet he had found. Were Earth had once been a blue planet with large land masses of green, it was now mostly brown with grey clouds where the storms had begun to take over the planet. This planet was purple with land masses of red. “Can we make it in the escape pod?”
“We can,” he replied. “From what I can grasp of the terrain, landing is going to be difficult. There aren’t many flat areas. There is a lot of steep mountain terrain and large masses of water. Not much between that.”
“At this point it’s our only hope. It’s that or living in the escape pod. Okay, people. Everyone to the escape pod. Most of what we need is already there but quickly grab whatever isn’t. I’ve sent a message to headquarters but who knows if they will actually get it. Even if they do it will be at least six months before they receive it, much less send help. That planet is our new home.” Locking everything down, she followed the others out to the launch pad.
Their space suits were located just outside of the escape pod. They quickly put them on, tested the communications inside the helmets and buckled themselves into the escape pod. Taking the controls, Kiera loaded the coordinates into the guidance system and fired up the engines. The bay doors of the ship opened with command from Mikhail’s station. Kiera carefully eased them out of the ship that was now tilting into a slow spiral. The complete blackness of space surrounded them. In the distance, a small asteroid belt could be seen. Looking back at the ship through the thick paneled view screen, Kiera knew there was no saving it. There was a whole the size of a small car in the side of it. She sighed regretfully. They had been lucky. If that asteroid had hit closer to their sleeping quarters they would have died, never even knowing that they had been in danger.
Turning the pod to follow the coordinates, they could see the purple planet. Kiera did some quick math in her head. Comparing the distance to the planet to the amount of fuel in the pod, she breathed a sigh of relief. “We have just enough fuel to get us there.”
“There is a landing spot here, Commander,” Fabrizio sent her the area he had found. “It’s small but we should be able to land there. It’s right on the edge of the ocean.”
“Then that is where we are headed. Time to intercept?” Kiera asked.
“Twenty-five minutes,” Fabrizio responded.
For the next twenty minutes, her crew did as much research on the planet as their limited signal would allow. It wasn’t much but it was enough for them to be reassured that they could survive. With their skills, Kiera had absolute faith that her team would more than survive. They would thrive.
Kiera flipped a switch and adjusted their course as an alarm sounded. “Hold on, we are coming in hot. Something about the atmosphere is different.”
“There is an element in the atmosphere that I’ve never seen before,” Fabrizio shouted above the roaring of the engine.
The others grabbed for their seat restraints to tighten them just as a hard jolt hit them as they entered the atmosphere. Kiera’s system went haywire. “It’s interfering with my system. I have steering but no other controls other than that. I can’t open the flaps to slow us down or lower the landing equipment.”
“Aim for the edge of the water just offshore. We’ll swim,” Mikhail advised.
Taking his advice, she aimed the ship just offshore. There were two sets of flaps that she could open manually but at the speed they were going it would do them no good, so she didn’t bother. “Brace yourselves!” Just as the purple ocean loomed large in the view screen, Kiera released the controls and braced herself with her arms crossed in front of her and grabbed her seat restraints.
Two seconds later they slammed into the water. The jolt was so hard Kiera was sure she would have bruises from the restraints. It also jarred the pod enough that water was leaking through from a loose panel.