blared. The instrument panel of the stricken bird bled crimson light
all over the Falcon’s pilot. “General S.O.S. This is the IMS
Falcon designation 419. We are going down on planet UE 85. Repeat,
His copilot slapped
him in the shoulder. “Just fly, damn it! Nobody’s going to hear
us out here, anyway.”
The pilot glared at
him, but said nothing. He looked over his shoulder. “Better
buckle in, Jacob!”
“Just fly the
damn ship, Henson.” The grizzled old man chewed on his cigar,
latching his harness in place. The ship started shuddering violently.
“Can we breathe down there, Coop?”
The copilot looked
over the readouts before him. “Air’s a little thick. We’ll
manage.” The ship shook violently, tilting to one side. “Shit!
We’re in the atmosphere.”
crept over the nose of the Falcon. The ship shuddered violently,
rumbling loudly in protest. The temperature quickly increased.
Jacob screamed to be
heard. “Are we gonna fuckin’ die or what!”
“Now’s not a
really good time, Jacob!” Henson shot back. “You’ll know in
The plasma attacking
the front of the ship faded away, leaving the windscreen covered in
black soot. Cooper flipped a switch and held down a button. A white
electric field crackled briefly across the glass.
The soot broke free of
the windscreen, showing blue sky and far too much green and brown
land screaming by. “Pull up! Pull
shit…” Henson pulled back hard on his controls. The control
panel rapidly beeped as the ship shuddered, beginning to wobble.
“This is it!“
The Falcon tagged a hilltop with its aft end, tipping it forward. It over-corrected, digging the aft into the next rise and tearing it apart. The front of the ship slammed hard into the turf.
It slid and jumped for
half a mile, jagged rocks tearing at the ship’s underbelly. It
crested a steep hill and ground to a stop on the sharp rocks. It
rocked dangerously for a moment, balanced on a pin. the nose settled
on the ground with a thunk.
Henson silenced the
blaring alarms with a few key presses. Smoke began to find its way
out of the air vents. “I’m okay! Jacob, Cooper, report!”
Cooper groaned. “I’ll
“No, I ain’t
okay! My ship’s in pieces and I lost my damn stogie!” Henson
flipped his harness open. “Let’s get the fuck out of here. Grab
The three men coughed
as the smoke in the cramped cabin grew thicker. Jacob pushed on the
hatch release. It buzzed back at him. “Hatch is seized!”
Henson pushed him out
of the way. He entered a series of numbers on the keypad by the
hatch. “Stand clear!”
The men pushed back
against the far side of the cabin as the keypad beeped rhythmically.
It let out one long beep. Charges on each side of the hatch ignited,
blowing the hatch out. It slid clattering several feet across the
They poured out of the
exit, running clear of the ship. What was left of the aft end was
burning. Black smoke billowed into the atmosphere.
Henson walked to the
front of the ship, staring out at the surrounding land from the top
of the hill. “Nothing.” He turned and faced the ship. “I
don’t suppose you can fix that, Coop?”
thinking no.” He pushed up his wire-rimmed glasses. Best we can
hope for is getting it broadcasting a beacon and…” The ground
underneath them shifted without warning.
yelled. It was too late. The ground underneath them disappeared,
replaced with darkness. They tumbled down a rocky embankment into a
pitch black abyss.
The three men laid
crumpled in the shadows, groaning. Henson touched his forehead and
winced. His hand came away bloody. He spit. “Everyone alive?”
“I’m in one
piece.” Cooper pushed himself to a sitting position.
Jacob rolled over,
coughing. “I’m still here… unfortunately.” The ground
above them began to rumble again. “Oh, come on!”
All three men scrambled back from the rubble-strewn slope.
The Falcon dropped
slightly and tilted downward. It slipped forward, steel screaming in
protest against the rocks. It wedged fast in the hole that had opened
before it, plunging the men into darkness.
Henson stared up
towards the now-hidden ship. “What a day… What a glorious
He screamed at the remains of the ship.
Jacob slapped at his wrist in the dark. “Mine’s gone.”
Henson replied in the
dark. “Nothing here. Damn it.”
Light poured from
Cooper’s wrist. “Hallelujah, money!” He swept it over Jacob
and Henson. “Dang, boss. You got it good!”
Henson waved a hand.
“Get that damn thing out of my face.” He squinted his eyes,
waving a finger behind Cooper.
Cooper turned around
and held out his hand. They were in some sort of cave. His flashlight
was the only source of illumination. “Doesn’t look good. You
suppose we’re trapped?”
Jacob stepped forward.
A slight breeze blew across his face. “No. There’s a breeze.
Gotta be an opening somewhere down there.”
Henson pulled his
laser pistol from its holster on his thigh. “Arm up! We don’t
know what lives here. Step up, Coop.”
Jacob and Henson fell
in line behind a reluctant Cooper. He stepped deliberately, slowly
swinging his light back and forth as he went. Their steps were lost
in the cave, the walls absorbing the sound instead of reflecting it.
Cooper stopped. “Do
you hear that?”
Henson frowned in the
dark. “Hear what,
“It was like a
hiss.” He listened quietly for a moment. “There!” A
quiet hiss came from their right.
“Point your light
over…” Something black streaked at Henson before he could
finish the sentence. “Gahhh!” He fired his laser pistol
wildly, striking Jacob in the arm.
Cooper pointed his
light and his pistol at Henson. The flashlight illuminated an ebony
creature as jagged and sharp as the rocks that surrounded them. Its
eye flared red in the bluish light, its gray teeth glistening with
He pulled his trigger.
The red beam of light from the laser hit the alien in the chest.
Bright yellow blood streamed from the resulting hole. It shrieked,
lashing out at Cooper.
He screamed, grabbing
his arm where the light had been. They were in the darkness again.
“Henson got me in
the arm! I’m alright. I’ll be alright.” He spoke the last few
words to himself.
Cooper pulled out a
small plastic stick and snapped it. Dull yellow light emanated from
it, falling off only a couple feet from where he stood. “Where’s
Henson?” He swept the ground with the light stick.
He gasped as the
yellow light fell on Henson. His eyes stared blankly at the ceiling.
His throat was a torn, bloody mess. “Damn it!”
Jacob stared at
Henson, trembling. “No…” He shook him violently. “Come
on, man! No!”
He shoved at the lifeless body. Something quietly hissed in the
“We need to get
out of here.” Jacob didn’t move. Cooper grabbed his arm.
Jacob pulled his arm back. He shook his head after a moment and
stood. He activated his own light stick and pulled his laser pistol
Cooper nodded to him
and started forward again. Silence fell heavily around them, broken
only by their footsteps grinding in the dirt beneath them. More
hissing drifted to them from up ahead.
Jacob hooked Cooper’s
arm. He jumped and gave Jacob a dirty look. Jacob mouthed “Up
ahead” and pointed with his pistol. Cooper’s eyes flashed there
and back. He nodded.
Cooper held up a
finger and pointed his pistol in the direction of the hiss. Jacob
nodded. Cooper squeezed the trigger. The hiding alien screamed in the
red glow of the laser beam.
Another alien shrieked
to their right and bore down on Jacob. He screamed, firing his laser
pistol wildly. His screams turned to gurgles as the alien tore into
his throat and ended his life.
Cooper screamed out,
shooting the alien multiple times with his laser pistol. He turned
away and sprinted forward. More hisses came from up ahead. He fired
wildly at the sounds. An alien screamed somewhere in the darkness.
The gentle breeze grew
stronger. The slightest hint of light filtered into the cave ahead.
Cooper’s chest heaved as he fought to breathe the heavy air.
He rounded the corner
and was blinded by sudden daylight. He poured on one last burst of
speed as the aliens screamed at him from the shadows. He leaped into
the daylight, tumbling into the grass outside.
He knelt, hands on his
knees, fighting to breathe, but smiling. He wearily stood a few
moments later, turning to face the cave. “I beat you, you sons
of…” His wide eyes trailed up above the cave opening. “Oh,
A large reptile-like
alien leaped down on top of Cooper. Man and alien cried out in
unison. It’s long, steel-like fangs tore into his neck, cutting short