Story — Warp Drift

The Starseeker lurched as it halted its warp. The view from the pilot’s chair shifted from streaming lines of stars to a huge red landscape–a new planet. Undocumented and, likely, uninhabited. Just like all the rest.

There was no time for rest, however. The malfunctioning warp drive brought the Starseeker into the planet’s atmosphere, and already it was plummeting. It’s momentum and aerodynamic hull made its descent little more comforting than a nose dive.

With a curse, the pilot thrust back the throttle, trying to slow its descent, but it was no use: the thrusters were already off. “This ship can’t take another hit like last time,” he thought. Where was the damn parachute button?

He found it, breathing a sigh of relief, and the last emergency chutes the ship were deployed. Immediately the Starseeker leveled out, and though the jagged slopes and fissures of the planet’s surface were still magnifying at an alarming rate, at least its descent was more tangential. A rough landing was better than a fatal one.

No time for anything else. He cursed his lack of knowledge of the controls. A true pilot could properly land this ship. But then, a true pilot would never be in this situation in the first place. He squeezed his eyes shut and braced for impact.

The Starseeker landed with a horrible crunch, followed by a screeching slide as the ground ate at the ship’s plating. She was durable, but every dent and scratch was one he couldn’t repair without the right materials. In fact, with his benightedness, that might not even matter. Every piece of the ship was an asset he couldn’t afford to waste.

This was the third uncharted planet he had warped to. With a damaged warp drive, the Starseeker would warp continuously without any input or any way to deactivate it. The particular malfunction was referred to as “warp drift”, if he recalled correctly. A common problem with this model. Often a fatal one for any pilot, eventually. Even experienced ones.

The ship was the only constant these days. He could leave it behind, of course. Grab his gear and set up a camp outside, trying to tame the wilds of whatever unknown world he was on now. But before long, the ship would go, whether he was on it or not. The broken and battered vestige of civilization was the only thing he had left. He would almost certainly die without it.

But he was short on time. He had to find food. Fire. Collect resources. Repair the ship, if he could. And in the off chance he found any free time, familiarizing himself with the ship’s controls would never be a bad option. Luckily the last planet he had been on had lots of fresh water. He was well stocked in that regard, but every other resource was woefully lacking.

But, fate willing, he could survive. Perhaps if he found how to tame the wilds and the ship he could find a way to fix the warp drive. If he did that, he could return home. That was wishful thinking, of course.

But it wasn’t impossible.

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