The Farhelian Mountains, Ka’Tula Prime
As the side of a mountain rapidly filled the forward view, thick smoke and crimson flames spewed into the Dark Star’s decrepit cockpit. Alan Christopher held onto the helm for dear life as Erin Keller hastily worked underneath the operations station next door. And just as he closed his eyes to prepare for the end, Keller emerged the underside of the station.
“You’ve got thrusters, little buddy!” she shouted. “Use them!”
Without saying anything, Christopher placed his hands on the barely lit helm—thanking himself for taking the time to memorize the controls—and then set a course away from a horrid death in the side of a mountain.
For her part, Erin simply clutched the arms of her chair and watched as the mountain’s face slowly crept out of sight. For a very—very—brief moment, Erin thought they had averted disaster… but the ship was still moving incredibly fast, and without anything but maneuvering thrusters, it was still heading for the ground—and a very large pine tree. Erin’s eyes briefly crept over to Alan, who was concentrated solely on the helm. “Alan,” she said quietly. “You might want to watch out for that—”
But her warning was too late.
Rocks and pine needles danced over the windshield, and the forward section of the hull made an unpleasant creak as it was forced out of shape by the tree. Christopher quickly shoved himself away from the helm as it burst into flames—and by that time, the helm didn’t really matter. The Dark Star had already gone out of control, and was skittering rampantly across one of the rocky terraces about halfway up the mountain—nothing could be done to save it.
The manic Dark Star skittered over a large rock, throwing the vessel onto its side and into the air amidst a massive cloud of roiling dust. As one of the warp nacelles broke away from the hull and crashed to the ground, the other belched out a considerable amount of pasty blue drive plasma before bursting into flames.
After cutting through some thick underbrush and a few more rocks and trees, the smoldering hulk that was once the Dark Star finally came to rest in its rocky grave.
“We have to get out of here!” Christopher shouted as the ship finally came to a stop.
That task was easier said than done, however. The ship was resting at nearly a forty-five degree angle, and flames were pouring out of every conceivable access point. In the background, the faint sound of the dying warp core could be heard, a sound that concerned Christopher greatly.
Without hesitation, Erin ripped the phaser from her belt and increased its setting to maximum—a setting that would completely vaporize anything everything that came in contact with the beam. She pointed it at the ceiling and fired. The bright orange beam pulsed rapidly as it encompassed its target in a radiant red-orange hue. Moments later, as Keller ceased firing, the ceiling simply withered away, revealing the great outdoors once more.
Rapidly, Christopher stepped through the new doorway, followed closely by Erin. Without bothering to look back, both Christopher and Keller raced for cover behind a considerable rock as the agitated warp core started to fracture, an event so powerful that it shook the ground.
“Get down!” Alan told Erin as they crouched down behind their rock. He just hoped it would be sufficient.
Seconds later, an immensely powerful explosion rocked the entire mountain, spewing a mushroom cloud of flames and debris out in every conceivable direction. For a brief moment, Alan saw the rush of flames creep around the edge of their rocky alcove—only to be extinguished by the lack of oxygen at their altitude—if anything, that was their saving grace.
As the debris settled down and the flames died out, a feeling of doom flooded over both Christopher and Keller—they had just witnessed the death of the Dark Star…
As the Dark Star’s smoldering hulk elicited its final gasps of thick gray smoke, Erin slowly placed her back up against the large gray rock that served as their shelter, and slid to the ground. “Now what?” she asked after expelling a hopeless sigh.
“I’m not sure,” said Alan as he joined her on the ground. “We’re all by our lonesome in the mountains in a region where sensors can’t find us, and any ship that tries will be destroyed. It sounds less than optimistic, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” Erin concurred. “I could use something to eat.”
Alan pulled a small, leafy plant from the ground and held it up before Erin. “Balifexis,” he told her before throwing it over the edge of the cliff. “Not a very tasty plant, but high in nutrients—and toxins. If I were you, I’d stick to emergency rations.”
Erin pulled up a similar plant and threw it over the edge. “To bad there aren’t any,” she said, motioning with her head toward the Dark Star’s remains. “If I starve to death, promise you’ll eat me. I’d hate to rot on this damn mountain.”
“There’s not enough oxygen up here to start a fire—I hate raw meat,” said Alan. “But if you’d like, I can throw you over the edge of this precipice.”
Erin tossed yet another plant over the edge. “Just make sure I’m dead first.” As she moved to grab another balifexis from the ground, her hand stumbled upon a sharp object in the vegetation. She quickly thumbed the object and brought it to Alan’s attention.
It was a small diamond-shaped crystal with alien writing inscribed upon the golden sphere in its center. “It looks like ancient Ka’Tulan writing,” Alan decided. “I can’t read it, though.”
Erin hastily surveyed the surrounding terrain for other similar crystals. Though she didn’t see any, she did see something else. “Footprints,” she whispered. “And they look fairly recent.”
“I’m fairly certain this spot isn’t a very popular tourist attraction,” said Alan. “Those footprints could be Drayan’s.”
Erin frowned. “Is your sister related to Bigfoot?”
“Some sort of almost-human beast that lives deep in the forest on Earth,” explained Erin.
“Oh,” said Alan. “Well in that case, there’s a good chance they’re related,” he quipped before realizing his joke probably wasn’t as funny as it sounded.
Though Erin smiled, she didn’t laugh. Instead, she rose to her feet and brushed aside the excess dirt clinging her filthy uniform. “Let’s go,” she decided.
And without any additional banter, Alan abandoned his spot beside the rock and made haste to catch up with Erin, already several meters ahead of him.
Little did they know, they were being watched…