A Difficult Landing
"Fire forward lower thrusters and aft upper thrusters. Try and bring our nose up!" Ordered Commander Aeron, still a model of calm whilst doom in the form of a planet hurtled towards him. By now the Resolve was tearing nose first towards the world of Melvor. She had yet to hit the planet's atmosphere but the speed of her descent combined with the damage caused by the colossal explosion mere moments ago meant the ship was already starting to lose structural integrity. Every now and again a sheet of metal would peel away from the hull of the vessel and cartwheel away into space, occasionally bouncing along the surface of the Resolve as it did so. For now the majority of the ship's bulkheads were holding, as were the various pillars and beams which formed the skeleton of the vessel. But this might not last for long.
"Five minutes until we enter the planet's
atmosphere!" Cried a worried voice from bellow, over the rumble of a
failing ship and the wail of stressed metal. "Ordering crew to life
"Cancel that order!" Stated the Commander, worry still not present in his voice. Though a keen observer might notice his hands were now much more tightly clenched behind his back.
"But sir…." Replied the voice of the same young man, in a disbelieving tone.
"Carry out my orders. Time is of the essence." Until now the Commander had been staring out into space, but confronted with this potential insubordination he had been forced to turn around and directly address the wavering crewman in stern and authoritative tones.
He did not blame the lad for his nerves or the desire to get off this wreck. Abandoning ship seemed like a sensible choice but several life pods would have been knocked out in the battle and even more lost in the explosion along with great chunks of the ship. Add to this the fact that no Imperial vessel would come to pick them up for quite some time whilst the first of the smaller Republic vessels would be on the scene in a matter of hours and evacuation was not the best option. Their best chance was to try and land this thing. But the Commander did not have time to explain all of this and had to rely on the unquestioning obedience of his men.
Aeron looked at the wavering young lad, staring him down but
not in a way that was supposed to intimidate the boy into obedience but rather
with eyes that asked his crewman to trust him. A moment of silence hung in the air
before the crewman replied.
"Yes sir, cancelling the order." The Commander gave a little nod of approval at this before resuming his previous position, staring out of the window at the planet speeding towards them.
The firing of what manoeuvring thrusters they still had did little to help the situation. The nose came up but only by a small margin and nowhere near enough. If they hit the ground nose first the ship would crumple like a concertina, ridged metal would fold like paper. This situation called for a little bit of creative thinking. After a few moments of silent thought the Commander hit upon a daring plan, it probably would not work and they only had one shot but it was all that came to mind.
"Reassign all available crew to repairing shield systems aside from those already working on the engines or in medical. I want to be able to precisely control shield strength across the ship." The crew men in the pit bellow him started carrying out the order, muttering through various internal communicators to the relevant crew. One such message was received by Talon, still bracing himself from the explosion in the corridor by the torpedo room.
"Lieutenant Rake and all crew under your command. You
are to repair shield control systems in the forward most sections of the
"Message received and understood." Came his reply. It was at this moment that the repair crew, sent to fix the torpedo loading mechanisms whilst the battle was still raging, thundered down the corridor. Talon could not help but crack a smile at their convenient timing even if they were all plunging towards their deaths. "Excellent timing men, we have to repair their shield systems in this area. The hub is in the ceiling of the torpedo room. Wait one moment." Turning to a small control panel next to the door he resealed the torpedo hatches and pumped oxygen back into the chamber. The whole process took about twenty vital and agonisingly long seconds. When he at last unsealed the door and flung it open, allowing the repair crew rushed in, barging their way through the narrow door and dashing to the relevant systems.
Instantly the men set about their work, tearing away access panels to reveal reams of burnt out cabling and fried junction boxes. Some of the cable was salvageable and most of the core components were still intact. The shield systems themselves had not been greatly damaged by the fight and the shield generator was still in one piece, though without power. It was just that the amount of fire they had sustained had outstripped their shields capacity to keep up. The explosion however, or rather the ensuing heat, had caused severe damage to vulnerable cables and improperly insulated systems. Such cables and systems would need to be replaced or bypassed.
The efforts of the repair crew were being hindered by the
debris lying around. The room had been badly enough damaged in the fight and
the depressurising of the room had thrown around any objects that were not
properly secured. Waving what was still left of his torpedo room crew back into
the room Talon ordered.
"Get in their chaps. Clear the room for the repair crew." Then pointing at one of his men, a particularly spindly chap who seemed to be all skin and bones Talon added. "Yulish. Strip the cables from the normal lighting system and give it to the repair men. I don't think they have enough to replace all the burnt out wires."
"Yes sir!" Came the man's reply. He set about plucking cables away like someone playing the violin pizzicato. Yulish moved strangely and Talon could have sworn the lad had some Kaminoan blood in him, or Talon would have done had he thought it possible that humans and Kaminoans could breed.
But enough of this idle conjecture, Talon had a ship to save. Darting over to the torpedo loading tubes he started to tear away more access panels and began gutting them carelessly for useful wires. It looked like they would be okay, there was just enough cable to do the job. The question was could the repair crew replace the damaged wires fast enough. They certainly seemed to be doing their best. Their limbs almost seemed a blur as they frantically connected the wires and re-forged vital joints and connections. Sparks from welding torches danced around and lit up the room creating ominous flickering shadows on the scorched walls. Putting some men here in mind of the sparks that had set the room alight mere minutes ago.
"How long do you think it will take boys?"
Inquired Talon, shouting over the noise of the work.
"Three minutes!" Came the reply. Talon gave a little nod. He had no idea if this was quickly enough. He had no idea how close they were to the atmosphere but he decided to appraise the Commander of the situation.
"Torpedo room to bridge, torpedo room to bridge. Repairs will be completed in approximately three minutes. Do you have further orders? Over."
"Positive torpedo room." Came a crackling reply over the internal communications. "Be advised all forward compartments will be sustaining severe damage. Remove all substances liable to explode. Bridge out." Talon understood his orders, the shields could not be relied upon to hold through all of re-entry and landing and if they failed this room in particular would be badly damaged, he knew what he had to do.
"All right, everybody aside from the repair crew start ferrying the torpedoes to the middle of the ship and put them in the armoury. Two men to a torpedo. Double quick!" His voice was calm, but seized with urgency, as if the rumbling and rattling of a ship collapsing around them was not enough to spur his men on to quick action.
Most of the lethal devices were still strewn around the floor, rolling about with the shakes and judders of the ship. But now, with nothing else to distract them, the crew were starting to get a grip on the things. Soon they started industriously ferrying them out and back towards the central munitions store. Talon was helping in the efforts, grasping one of the torpedoes by the rear whilst Yulish took the other end. Every time they passed any crew men who looked as though they were not doing anything useful Talon would order them back to the torpedo room to help in hurrying out the weapons.
But even running and with the fear of death to spur them on it was still a long way to the munitions room and running torpedoes down narrow corridors was difficult. The fact that the floor kept moving beneath them made it almost impossible. There was certainly no time to make a second trip and it was doubtful that they would even get all of the first shipment to the armoury in time. Talon was relying on the efforts of the various men he had order back to the torpedo room as he passed them by. If they failed him, well it scarcely bared thinking about.
Back on the bridge time was growing painfully short.
"Thirty seconds until we enter the atmosphere!" Cried one crewman.
"All hands brace for impact!" Announced Aeron as he turned and calmly made his way to the back of the bridge. He had hoped for the shields to be online by now, they were to be their saving grace but alas…..
"Shield systems online!" Cried another voice from the pit. Not wasting time giving orders the Commander departed from his normal habit of calmly walking, hands behind back, and instead sprinted hell for leather towards one of the pits where the shield control systems were. Diving bodily into it he knocked a crewman aside and tore power from all systems other than the engines, life support and artificial gravity and poured it into the shield grid. There was no way the grid could cope with that kind of power for long but it did not have to. Perhaps even more confusingly he put almost all of that power to the forward shields and left the rear shields at twenty percent, barely enough to stop the vessel from catching fire as she tore through the sky.
"Fire manoeuvring thrusters again!" He bellowed across the bridge. "Make ready to…" It was at this moment that the ship hit the atmosphere. It was as if the vessel had been struck by some form of colossal hammer. The effect was made worse by what the Commander had done. By radically altering the proportional strengths of the shields he made the nose far more resistant than the rear. This meant that the nose wanted to fall more slowly and as a result of this the prow of the craft shot up and the Resolve was now plummeting down at a far less lethal angle. However the dramatic forces acting on the ship tossed almost everyone inside around like rag dolls. The Commander was sent sprawling to the floor and back in the bowls of the ship Yulish fell over backwards, the heavy torpedo falling down after him and smashing into his spider like legs. The man gave a yell that was more akin to a wailing dog than anything human. There was no way his legs were going to survive that, Talon even heard them snap as the Torpedo crashed down. Talon fell as well but he had the good fortune to fall forwards and sprawl on top of the torpedo, only adding to the weight on poor Yulish.
Above them a pipe ruptured and steam drenched the corridor, the lights smashed and all was chaos for a few dreadful moments. Even the metal around them screamed and wailed, louder now than ever as the tremendous forces acting on the ship threatened to tear her in half. In the shadows Talon could just about make out one of the bulkheads starting to warp and twist above him. Staggering to his feet he cried.
"Out, out! Everyone get aft!" The men around him were only too happy to obey, scrambling up and running away as the emergency red lights flicked on. Only Yulish was unable to make good his escape. Talon had begun to leave as well when he seemed to hesitate and look towards the safety of the door and then back at his crewman. Talon suffered a moments anguish and indecision, there could only be mere seconds of integrity left in this corridor but he could not just leave one of his men behind. So with an angry sigh and a muttered curse word he dashed back to his trapped colleague and rolled the torpedo off of him, causing the injured man to give another sharp cry of pain. The lad was losing blood rapidly now that the pressure on the wound was gone and Talon had to get the boy to medical quickly. Heaving the light and spindly man up onto his shoulders Talon started running as best he could through the collapsing corridor as bolts pinged from their holes and metal screamed as if in agony. Talon escaped only in the nick of time as an arch way behind him gave way and the corridor collapsed in on itself.
Back on the bridge Aeron clambered out of the pit and back
onto the officers walkway, seeing to his uniform as he did so and smartening
up. Resuming his usual posture, hands behind his back he ordered.
"Re distribute shields to normal proportions, keep this nose angle. Fire all remaining thrusters down. Do we have any of our main engines left?" The world outside the view ports was on fire, it was one of those rare moments where you could actually see where the shields were as the flame danced mere inches above the hull. Soon it would clear and the cold and barren world beneath them would be laid bare.
"One engine port remaining." Called a voice from
bellow. "Generating twenty percent of her normal power."
"Fire it immediately." Ordered the Commander. "We need to be going forward as well as down if we want to survive." The one remaining rear engine sputtered piteously into life. Every now and again it would die away only to spark into activity again. It was a truly weak display but it did make them go forward somewhat. Now getting dangerously close to the ground the flame engulfing the ship died away to reveal the stark white and grey ground below that was fast approaching. Calmly pacing down the officers walk way to the back of the bridge where the Lieutenant Commander was already bracing for the impact the Commander took shelter next to his second in command. "All hands brace for impact with the ground." Announced the Commander on a ship wide announcement.
Talon, who was still running towards the medical facility with Yulish on his shoulders and at a speed to rival the greatest athletes, was forced to slow and gently place the man on the ground, propped up against a wall ready for the impact. Talon lay on top of him, still trying to stem the tide of blood and now using his own body to protect Yulish from the debris that would inevitably accompany an impact with the ground. There was then an agony of waiting where nothing seemed to happen aside from the shaking of the ship all around them. It only lasted for a few seconds but the moment lasted a life time as Talon clenched his eyes shut and thought of anything, anything other than the ground hurtling towards them.
The impact seemed to catch everyone by surprise, even the people who were ready for it. The colossal sound of the bang was the first thing anyone noticed as the rear of the ship smashed into the ground, the tattered remnants of her engine tearing away and cartwheeling into the frozen earth where it promptly exploded in a hypnotic blue cloud. Plates of metal and hull armour were tearing after it in a shower of tiny metal shards which may have been pretty to look at as the sun glinted off of them but you certainly would not want to be standing there when they landed. The nose of the ship then smashed down with great force, flinging everyone and everything in the ship forward. Anything not nailed down flew about in a most alarming fashion, causing injury into any poor man they happened to fly into.
Up on the bridge the Lieutenant Commander's support gave way and he was sent flying across the bridge at great speeds where he smashed into the great transparasteel view ports. The force of the impact did not even cause a tiny crack in the heavily reinforced windows but the second in command, he was less fortunate. You could hear his spine snap right across the room and he gave a final low cry before sliding down on the ground and lying still. Far, far too still.
The already heavily damaged forward section of the ship, containing the torpedo room, began to break away in increasingly large chunks. Huge sections of Resolve were being left in the massive trench the ship was digging into the surface of the planet as it tore along the ground. One such section was stripped away and flew back along the length of the Resolve, bouncing off of the main hull and ricocheting up towards the bridge. For the Commander, and all in the room, the world went into slow motion as the great hunk of metal tore towards them but they were powerless to get out of the way. The impact seemed to happen without sound as the left half of the bridge was sheered away as the great mas of spinning passed through the bridge like a knife through butter. For those lucky enough to be on the right side, such as Commander Aeron, they had to watch huge pieces of flying debris hurtle through the bridge. One of which tore straight towards the Commander, in an instant all the sound from the previous few seconds seemed to hit him in a single moment in a deafening high pitched scream before the world went black and still.