Prince’s eyes locked onto the warning lights that suddenly began to flash and he cursed. “JESTER! Port APU just died; we’re losing pressuring on the number three Tylium tank as well—and RCS clusters 2, 6, 7, 10, and 11 just went off-line! I’ve got a warning light on the landing skids—they have failed to retract.”
“It’s not instrumentation,” Jester replied as he stood wiped the fog from the hatch window and looked outside. “Prince, we’ve got great big holes all across the port wing, directly over the APU housing,” he reported.
“Prince, Racetrack,” the wireless said. “You are streaming fuel.”
“Cutting tank three from the loop—sealing lines and dumping fuel,” the pilot said, and then he sighed with relief. “Fuel pressure stabilized. Anubis
, Prince, declaring an emergency, maneuverability compromised, request landing instructions.”
“FRACK!” yelled Racetrack. “Prince, one of those . . . things
. . . is clinging to the under-carriage and trying to dig inside! He’s pulling apart the hull plate like it is wet paper!”
“We’re in hard vacuum! What the frack?” asked Prince in a stunned tone.
Bishop nodded back in the troop bay. “Reports state that they can survive in vacuum for at least a few minutes—they are a fascinating species.”
“Hold your course steady, Prince,” said Racetrack as she slid her Raptor in behind and below his . . . and Prince closed his eyes and muttered a short prayer.
“Please tell me you aren’t going to . . .,” he began and then Racetrack’s gun-pod began to flash and the Raptor suddenly shook hard.
“GOT ‘EM!” said Racetrack, and then she paused. “Eh, Prince. I kinda blew away your port skid—sorry. Oh crap, his blood just sprayed all up inside the hull!”
More warning lights began to flash and alarms sounded, and Jester spoke up. “Main Bus C undervolt warning—shut down all nonessential electronics,” he commanded. “Main Bus B in the yellow.”
“Shutting down DRADIS and all non-essential electronics,” Prince replied. “Starboard skids are retracted and bays closed. Fuel pressure steady,” that the Gods for small favors, Prince thought as the interior lights flickered and dimmed.
Actual,” the wireless broadcast. “You are clear for immediate landing in Bay Four—emergency teams standing by.”
; we have casualties on board. Be advised, we may have uninvited guests clinging to the hull.”
“The surgery is ready, Prince—Marines will be at hand once repressurization is complete.”
“All non-essential systems off-line,” reported Jester. “Frack, the battery charge is still failing—Main Bus B is now critical undervolt, I’ve got master cautions on Main Bus A. We’re shorting out power somewhere.”
“Affirmative, Jester,” said Racetrack. “There is a hole in the battery well directly beneath the troop bay where that creature was trying to get inside. I guess the splatter from his blood is doing a number on the cells.”
Jester exhaled deeply. Raptors had a large number of very powerful batteries stored beneath the deck allowing for constant operation on long-duration flights even when the engines were shut-down. Recharged by the two Auxiliary Power Units when the main engines were off-line, all power was channeled through the heavy—and toxic—banks of batteries from the main generator before being distributed among the systems. And sometimes, battle damage would result in the acid from those batteries entering the troop bay—hence the presence of the acid-nullification powders in the survival kit. “Copy, Racetrack,” Jester said. “Prince, I’m shutting the batteries out of the power loop completely—starboard APU is on-line for direct feed . . . NOW,” and he sighed as the warning and caution lights died away and the interior lights increased in illumination.
“That did it, Jester. Port and ventral RCS clusters are still non-responsive—landing the bird is going to be a bit sticky, so get the passengers to assume crash positions.”
Bishop nodded and he translated. One of the passengers—one of the Marines—began to rock and say words in a soft voice that sounded to Jester pretty much like someone whining, and then another snapped at him and the first quit talking. But he kept on rocking back and forth from his seat on the floor.
“Set fire suppression to automatic—and let’s trigger the manual on landing as well,” Prince said, “just to be on the safe side.”
“It’s the only way to be sure, with the damage this bird has taken,” Jester agreed, as he adjusted his controls and tightened his straps. He lifted a plastic cover over four manual switches and put his gloved fingers atop of them. “We will lose power the instant I trigger manual fire-suppression, so tell me when we’re down, Prince.”
“Copy that, Jester,” the pilot said as he approached the bay. Unlike the larger ships in the Colonial Fleet, Anubis
didn’t have an actual flight deck—she had small hanger bays along her flanks. So landing a damaged bird was tricky—come in too hot and the Raptor would crash into the far bulkhead. Too slow, and the difference in orbital speeds might slam them into the aft bulkhead. Added to the danger was that unlike a proper flight deck, Anubis
had full internal artificial gravity in her landing bays. The Virgon Prince blinked away sweat as he rolled the Raptor so that his undamaged starboard RCS could be used to brake and adjust course.
He glided into the bay and squirted the RCS clusters rapidly . . . and they responded. The Raptor slowed, and as the small vessel crossed the gravity plane, it fell towards the deck, slamming down hard, the single working ventral cluster firing constantly to slow the impact.
“NOW!” Prince said, and Jester triggered all four manual fire suppression systems. Both APUs and the twin engines were flooded with foam, along with fuel tanks and lines. And the interior and exterior lights died as power failed with the batteries off-line. Slowly the bay doors closed and Jester watched as the outside pressure gauge began to climb—when it reached the green, he yanked the hatch open and he smiled at the sight of emergency crews rushing into the bay—and armed Marines.
“Nice landing, Prince,” he said. “Frack me if I wouldn’t rather be fighting the Guardians instead of those critters down there.”
“You have got that bloody well right,” Prince replied.