Chapter 2:

Black Out

Crash Landing on The Planet of Magic


"Damage report."

Captain Rose rushes into the bridge, her expression severe.

The rest follow a few steps behind her.

[Light damage to the hull sustained. No breach detected.]

[Moderate damage to the engines sustained. Flight capacity reduced to 73%.]

[Light damage to the main energy core sustained. Continued energy production is possible, however an unusual energy reaction was detected in the main energy core upon impact. The main energy core has been shut down as a precaution and the backup energy core has been activated.]

[Critical damage to escape pod C sustained. Further use not recommended.]

[Critical damage to living quarters A sustained. Further use not recommended.]

That's the captain's quarters.

Marcus furrows his brows.

"That's a lot of damage for having no breaches. What hit us? What about the energy shields?"

"It was like a bolt of lightning. I don't know how but it must've bypassed the shields."

[No damage to energy shields or energy shield generators detected.]

"Marcus, ready the turret."

Captain Rose takes the main pilot's seat and inserts a small key on the panel in front of her. With a twist of her wrist, an analog steering wheel pops up in front of her.

"Rose you're not seriously thinking of fighting that thing are you?"

"Of course not. I have a plan. I need everyone else to go on stand-by in the common room. I have a plan."

Marcus squints his eyes at rose before turning around and marching off.

"Kel, you too. Wait in the common room."

"What? Why?"

"There's no time to explain Kel."

Her gaze point at the storm cloud.

[Hostile approaching.]

Rose turns the ship around flies it a full speed.

[Energy build-up detected.]

With a barrel roll the Audacious manages to evade the blast of purple lightning.

"Everyone go!"

Cerus, Anna, and Elise start rushing out of the bridge. I'm about to get up from my seat as well when-

"Marcus?"

"What are you doing Marcus? I thought I told you to man the turret."

Marcus is the ship's combat specialized. A former soldier. He's been through dozens of operations and is still alive.

Before any of us realized he's already right behind the captain's seat.

He grabbed Rose's chin with one handed and stuck a jet injector to her neck with the other.

[Energy build-up detected.]

I sit back down.

Focus.

Dive.

Lightning streaks through above us and the ship rocks briefly.

[Light damage to the hull sustained. No breach detected.]

"Drop it Marcus."

I keep my eyes forward but I can tell Cerus has his pistol pulled on Marcus. His voice is calm, but the hostility is there.

"I said drop it. And no sudden movements."

Marcus drops the jet injector obediently and it clatters on the floor.

Rose tries to stand up from her seat, but she slumps back down. She's trying to say something but her jaw goes slack and her one visible eye shuts close.

"It's a small ship."

Marcus doesn't turn around. He just starts talking.

"Equipped with three small escape pods. Each one can fit two people at most. Three is impossible."

Something wells deep within me and I start to claw on the seat's arm rest.

Traitor.

After all these years.

"She and I stay as a distraction while the rest of you bail."

But before any words could escape my mouth.

"I'm sorry Kel. I owe her too much to let her die here."

Marcus finally turns to the others.

"Anna, take your aunt to escape pod A. Don't worry, all I did was put her to sleep. You two take pod B. Kel and I will-"

"I'll pilot the ship. Kel can take the pod."

"Cerus, piloting this ship is the one thing I'm better at than you."

I calm my nerves.

"Captain Rose was right. Our highest chance of survival was to leave flying the ship to her. But thanks to Marcus here, I'm the best one left. So unless your smelling salts can wake up the captain from a tranquilizer, I suggest preserving yourself for later when your skills will be most needed by the others."

Cerus has talent in just about anything. Had he started focusing his efforts in flying spacecraft the same time I did, he'd be leagues better than me by now.

But he chose to be a doctor and he's good at it.

He's also a very caring friend.

And a rational person by nature.

"Kel I-"

"This is the best plan for all of us, Cerus."

[Energy build-up detected.]

"We don't have time to discuss this. Go."

Another blast of energy barely misses our right flank.

I hear footsteps approach the captain's seat.

"Elise, help me carry Rose to pod A. Anna, gather any additional essentials you can fit into the pods."

The two girls sound shaken but they respond cooperatively and start to move.

I glance at Marcus.

"Man the turret."

He gives me an amused snort.

"Are you thinking of fighting that thing?"

"No but I have a plan."

I look him straight in the eye.

"Please don't tranquilize me too."

He gives me playful smirk.

"Sure thing captain."


---


[Energy build-up detected.]

Lightning crackles past the underside of the ship.

"I think I'm getting the hang of this."

The comms monitor lights up and on it I see Marcus in the gunner's cockpit.

"Hey kid, again I'm uh real sorry... for dragging you here with me."

"Probably would've done the same if I realized what was happening. Putting her to sleep was a good call though."

"Yeah she would've kicked our asses and tied us up if it meant getting her way... So what's this plan of yours?"

"Vii, you said that thing's made of pure magnium."

[That is correct.]

"But you said the purple sphere that it came from was magnium-based. Does that mean they're not one and the same?"

[That is correct. It had the same molecular structure as magnium but the behavior of the particles were... different.]

"Then what about the energy its been blasting at us?"

[Analysis complete: the energy projectiles are magnium-based.]

"And when the energy core got hit, there was an unusual energy reaction."

[That is correct. The magnium energy produced by the energy core reacted to the magnium-based energy bolt from the hostile. This resulted in a small explosive reaction that damaged the core.]

"This is just a guess but if-"

"If I shoot the lightning bolts with magnium energy blasts using the turrets, they could explode before it reaches the ship."

Magnium is powerful and versatile.

It can power spacecraft as well as entire cities.

Such an immense power source can easily be weaponized, and it has been for centuries.

The vast majority of existing human weaponry utilize magnium energy blasts. The ship's turret is no different.

"Kel you're asking me to shoot down lightning."

"It's not instantaneous. From this distance there's a half-second lag before it could make contact with the ship. I'm sure that's enough time for you. Plus we've got Vii."

"Yeah from this distance. But the point is to try and fly around it right? We're at the rim of the known universe. The closest hyperlane is through the big angry cloud. One hit and we're dead. If we get any closer-"

"We're not."

"What?"

"We're not flying around it. It's too big and because of the engine damage from earlier, we'll be too slow to outrun it after. We're barely keeping our distance as is."

"Then where are we going?"

Vii calls out another incoming shot and I have the ship dodge left.

We can't move past it and ejecting the escape pods now is still a huge gamble. There's just no guarantee it won't go after them too.

But if my guess is correct...

"Vii, scan past the magnium cloud again for a gravitational field."

[Scan complete. Multiple gravitational fields detected. Two relatively smaller fields around a bigger field. An even bigger on further away - most likely a star.]

"No way."

"A planet with two moons orbiting a star."

"Kel we don't even know if it's inhabitable."

"Do you have a better idea?"

"Hell no! Let's do this!"

[Energy build-up detected.]

I ready to maneuver the ship.

But an explosion visible on the rear camera monitor cuts me off.

"Wooooo! Take that ya fart cloud!"

Marcus likes shooting things, but he doesn't enjoy hurting innocents. That's why he quit the military and ended up with Rose.

He loves what he does and he's damn good at it.

[Energy build-up detected.]

"I see it."

With a cocky grin he's started predicting when and where the shots will be, firing a split-second before the energy bolt is even released.

The collision creates bright bluish-purple explosions in the darkness of space.

A wonderful display of fireworks if we weren't trying to escape the jaws of death.


---


[Entering the magnium cloud.]

Hues of purple start to surround the Audacious as we speed into the veil of the unknown.

Unlike the murky black storm cloud that looks like thick angry soot, the magnium cloud looks more like a shimmering mist up close. An aurora of space dust.

"Hey Kel."

"Yeah?"

"This cloud is made of magnium right?"

"That's what the data says."

"What happens when the thing shoots lightning into it?"

"....."

"You didn't think this through did you?"

"Shut up I'm thinking about it now."

"Guess this is it. It was nice knowing you Kel."

Wait no.

"Vii, when the energy core reacted to the blast magnium-based energy, was any damaged sustained to the core itself?"

Magnium was first discovered leaking out of the surface of pluto. A blue viscous shimmering liquid. After digging deeper, the same shimmering blue material was excavated in a crystalized form later called magnite.

Energy cores are basically magnite crystals inside machines designed to harness their stored energy. On the other hand, most weapons use liquid magnium. The reason being magnite crystals are naturally inert while liquid magnium is more volatile.

[Negative. The reaction occurred within the energy conversion chambers of the core.]

"Then we should be safe. Probably."

The magnium cloud seems to be mostly dust and gas.

The only problem is that magnium in a gaseous state is unheard of.

[Energy build-up detected.]

"Kel you better be right about this."

Marcus fires.

The magnium cloud... does not create a cataclysmic chain reaction.

The bolt of lightning is shot down by the turret and the both of us sigh in relief.

"Wait. Kel."

[Warning: hostile accelerating. Collision imminent.]

[Energy build-up detected.]

"Already?!"

Marcus hurries to fire off another shot.

[...?! Wait!]

Normally, magnium-based weaponry fire off a bright blue projectile. Similar to blasters in old sci-fi films.

Normally.

A thick beam shot off the turret.

Energy crackles all around it.

A straight ray of light pierces through the bright mist.

Through the lightning bolt.

Through the storm cloud.

And it dissipates after a second.

"I don't know what you did to the turret Kel but do it again!"

"I wish I could but that wasn't me."

[It is the magnium cloud. It transitions into a second layer comprised of the same magnium-based energy as the lightning projectiles. In addition, the second layer also seems to hinder the accuracy of scanners.]

As we exit the bright purple mist, we are greeted with a vibrant sphere of blue and green.

[The planet is far closer than predicted.]

"Oh thank the heavens."

"See Marcus? My plan was perfect."

An earth planet.

These type of planets are incredibly rare.

If one were to discover such a planet and send its coordinates to a star government or megacorporation, they'd be granted so much money that even their grandchildren's grandchildren would still be living in complete luxury.

I can already imagine us having another toast tonight.

But reality has always been cruel.

[Warning: hostile accelerating. Collision imminent.]

[Energy build-up detected.]

"Kel! The turret's busted!"

I spin the Audacious out of the way.

[Moderate damage to hull sustained. Breach detected. Activating emergency airlock. Breach contained.]

[Moderate damage to the engines sustained. Flight capacity reduced to 54%.]

"Damn it."

That thing is speeding up while we're slowing down.

Think.

What do we have.

What can we use.

"Vii, reactivate the main energy core and commence tandem sourcing."

Tandem sourcing - coined by space pilots, it refers to using multiple energy cores to greatly enhance the output of engines at the cost of completely crippling them afterwards.

At this point having no engines inconsequential.

[Main energy core reactivated. Tandem sourcing commenced. Flight capacity increased to 137%. Engines under critical stress.]

We speed into the planet, gaining a bit of the distance from the death cloud.

[Now entering the planet's atmosphere.]

"Kel watch out!"

[Energy build-up detected.]

With the tandem sourcing active I dodge out of the way with ease.

From the first one.

[Continuous energy build-up detected.]

A barrage of lightning bolts assault the Audacious from every direction.

I evade as much as I can but the ship rocks and shakes from every contact made.

[Warning: hostile accelerating. Collision imminent.]

"I hate this!!!"

I finally yell out in frustration.

A loud bellowing and crackling thunder echo through the ship's structure.

Within the atmosphere, the sounds of the beast can finally be heard.

"Vii, open comms to escape pods A and B."

Two monitors light up. One shows Cerus and Elise, the other shows Anna and an unconscious Rose. Both pairs crammed in a tight space.

"Get ready to eject."

"Ready."

Cerus places his hand on the lever switch on the wall of the pod.

Anna just nods reluctantly to the camera.

Then-

A deafening explosion.

[Critical damage to the turret sustained.]

[Heavy damage to the turret cockpit sustained. Scanning for vital signs. Vital signs detected.]
Marcus.

[Light damage to escape pod A sustained. Majority of damage sustained on the primary locking system. Escape pod released prematurely.]

I look to the screens.

The one where Cerus and Elise were is now a black screen with the words 'signal cut'.

[The escape pod itself seems to be intact and its propulsion system has activated.]

Thankfully we're far past escape pods having to worry about the dangers of atmospheric entry.

Escape pods have propulsion systems to help escape a possible explosion from the ship.

Combined with the planet's gravity, it should help increase the chances of escaping the storm.

"Anna."

I look to the sixteen year-old girl who looks like she wants to cry.

"Anna. You're stronger than you realize. And you have Grandma Rose with you."

I muster up a smile.

"You'll be fine. We'll come look for you and Rose will come look for all of us."

The ship rocks again.

[Heavy damage to the hull sustained.]

She exhales and the resolve in her eyes shine through.

"Don't die on me Kel."

She pulls down the lever and the screen goes dark.

I steer the ship to veer away from the escape pod's trajectory just in time.

[Engines overloaded. Flight capacity reduced to 0%.]

A free fall.

We've got nothing but gravity now.

And with the storm gaining on us-

[Hostile decelerating. Continuous energy-build up has ceased.]

I stare at the rear camera monitor.

The black mass of soot and smoke, thundering with intense energy, is retreating. Shrinking away back into space.

I gaze ahead and a vast forest of tall green trees is quickly coming into full view.

"Vii."

I smile at her lens still glowing a warm yellow.

"Good work back there. Thanks."


---


"Kel. Kel, wake up."

"...five more minutes mom."

"Kel I'm not your mom."

"Uncle. Take it or leave it."

"What? Kel snap out of it."

A hard slap across my face shocks me to consciousness.

"Sorry, didn't mean to do it that hard."

I see Marcus, blood dripping on his face.

"Oh... Marcus... Are you alright?"

"Yeah yeah, nothing serious. Agh-"

Marcus sharply inhales through his teeth.

"A few broken ribs though. Internal bleeding maybe?"

"Sounds bad."

"Feels bad."

The walls of the bridge have scratches and tears everywhere.

Most of the glass is either cracked or shattered.

The panels are in pieces.

"I'm starting to wish I took Cerus instead of you. Aghh."

I feel no serious pain or signs of major bleeding on my body.

"I'll fix you up. How hard can it be?"

"...at least tranquilize me first."

A yellow glow appears on the central control panel.

"Vii!"

[Good news. The air composition is 94.6% similar to that of Original Earth.]

Now that she mentions it, I smell an earthy scent.

Fresh air from plants rather than a machine.

"Hey Marcus-"

I hear a thud.

Marcus lies limp on the floor.

"Marcus?"

I start to feel dizzy.

I'm loosing balance.

I drop to one knee.

[Kel?]

My vision is blurring.

[Marcus?]

I feel the cold floor pressed against my cheek.

[Kel?]