Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
Ed and Dave stared into the crate. Inside was a small, 4-person, independent craft. After reading the serial number, Ed and Dave deduced that it was a Federation made item. That meant quality. Something like it would cost almost 30,000 credits on a civilized planet, more on outer ones. It would certainly come in handy no matter what their future careers turned out to be. The only problem would be fueling it. As the two stared at it, the engines sputtered and then died, dropping the craft to the floor with a crash. "Well." said Dave, clicking his tongue, "That may be an issue."
They decided to strap the rover down next to the starboard wall of the Condor, in the hopes that it wouldn't rattle around in the hold and break something important. The two then turned their attention to the problem of getting to Hellhole. In one piece, that is. The ship was on course to land on Hellhole, but surviving the inevitable deadly plummet would be very difficult.The computer had concluded that planet fall would occur in four to six hours, so they set themselves to preparing as fast as they possibly could. They sealed the important things, food, water, and guns (especially the guns), inside the larger crates in the hold, packing them in as tightly as possible so they wouldn't jump about and become damaged in the fall.
That done, Ed took a moment to glance at the timer he and Dave had set up, banking on it only taking four hours rather than six. The display read out one hour. It had taken them less time than expected. As he turned to leave, he took the notion to check on the engines. He slid down the ladder and set to work. It hadn't been five minutes before he noticed the fuel and power gauges dipping dangerously low. A whispered "Shit!" and he darted back up the ladder. "Yo, Dave!"
"Right over here!" came the call from the cockpit.
"We have an issue." Dave swiveled around in his pilot's chair, much like a child on his father's office chair, and faced Ed.
"And just what might that be?" he asked, his face and tone completely unworried.
"Fuel and power are almost empty." Dave held his chin and nodded, knowingly.
"I see, I see. And now just what in the ever-loving hell do we do about that?" he asked, as if he were a principal breaking up a fight.
"The way I see it, we have one option. Kill the ship. Save power for the ground thrusters. Turn everything off except the engine and rig the ship to raise the alarm when we hit Hellhole's field." he said with weary resignation, almost betraying that he thought they would die the minute they hit the ground.
He moved to start turning everything off while Dave prepared the sleeping cylinders for them to reside in for the last leg of their journey. Turning everything off would also turn off the heat and they wanted to conserve such things for as long as possible.
Dave flashed Ed a thumbs-up and Ed started to turn the fuel valves all the way to minimum, leaving just enough to propel them slightly faster to Hellhole. Then he told Dave to get ready. Dave hopped into his cylinder and Ed turned off the power. The whole ship went dark. He raced up the ladder and into the living quarters. He climbed into the cylinder and shut the door. And waited. He could here the intermittent firing of the port engine as it brought them closer to Hellhole. He wasn't sure which would be better, he thought as he drifted off, dying up here, or dying down there.
The rain pounded against the hull of the ship, burning off her markings, dissolving the land around her and sinking her into a steaming, bubbling puddle. The ship sank lower and lower into the sludge, threatening to dip the cockpit in the mess. Acid rain rose around her trying to rip her apart, like an octopus with an especially large mussel. The crew scurried about, trying to pull her from the slop, but she wouldn't budge. She was determined to make this spot her grave. The ground melted beneath her under the unrelenting burn of the acid. She lurched lower into the slop, the mess lapping up her windscreen and into her engines. The sludge of the earth deepened. It rumbled beneath the ship. The acid flowed through the cracks, widening them even further. The process continued, burning away at the rock bit by bit, until it became too weak to hold the craft up anymore. She broke through the ground falling a thirty feet until she finally came to a stop in the middle of a wheat field.
Ed had similar feelings to crash landing in an acid pool as he did being shot in the head. He didn't particularly care for it. However, just as he had cared even less for exposing his unhelmeted head to be shot again, he cared even less for crashing THROUGH an acid pool and opening his ship's hatch to find himself face to muzzle with a double-barreled spread laser rifle and its owner.
"Yoo stahp whare yoo ar' ya' ...ooh whatcha call em'...ya Fed." said the being, moving the gun to keep it in line with the bridge of Ed's nose. "I don' won' any o' yer kind heer. Bringin' yer spahces an' yer foreign, shiyt guns. Yer a blaht on th' siystim." he motioned with his gun. "Ah'll give ya' teen ta' git off mah land." Ed stared up at the being, trying to figure out exactly who he was dealing with. He had a humanoid shape and large, purple eyes were centered in the middle of his face above two slits for nostrils and a mouth filled with pointed teeth. He had a bald, rubbery head underneath a straw hat. He wore a set of mechanic's overalls similar to Ed's when he was an engineer on Decken. He was half in and half out of the light, causing one half of his body to be dark gray, while the shaded half was colored a bright, almost glowing, green.
The peculiar skin was what decided the matter in Ed's mind. He was dealing with a Koth, fiercely protective people who didn't appreciate interlopers like him and Dave. He looked up at the Koth, his mind frantically trying to work his way out of his situation. Naturally, Dave chose that moment to make things worse. He popped his head up through the hatch next to Ed. Seeing the gun leveled at the two of them, his signature grin faded and he turned to Ed, lowering his head slightly. "Ed," he paused for a moment, as though he were carefully contemplating his words. "You are aware that we are on the brink of a severe disaster here, yes?"
Ed stared at him, questioning why this was the man he had decided to turn outlaw with. "Yes, believe it or not I can see that."
"Well, I just figured it was something you should know."
"Anything else stupidly obvious you would like to report?"
"In fact there is!" said Dave, poking Ed in the chest. "We're stuck. The ship's not moving because of that pit and the longer she sits under that hole getting rained on, the deeper stuck she'll get. Even if she wasn't stuck, she's outta gas. Best we can hope is that we don't get out heads blown off and somehow manage to turn this mess into an advantageous situation." Ed started rubbing his temples. He'd been in some tough scrapes before, being a veteran, but he had usually had backup, or a buddy who was armed...or a competent buddy.
"Alright." he said, "Is there any way we can.." he was cut off by the Koth pushing the gun closer, two inches from his head.
"Ya'll shut oop now. Ah wont yoo off mah fahrm. That means pooting a blast through yer haid, thean so be it." Ed threw up his hands in surrender.
"Sir, listen! We're not Feds!" shrieked Ed.
"Wahll, thean yer Rovers ahn tha's just as bahd." he raised the gun again and pulled the trigger.