*note: This work is copyright L. Brown and H.G.W. Original improv version published February 5, 18th, 2015 Used with permission
Roll credits and theme song:
Yo ho ho and a Pirate’s Kiss, we might have a bit of a hit or miss, but to continue, without a crew, seems like Winter and Grace, are in a bit of a stew! So of we go, yet again, into the blackened void, and among pirate friends…
The interior of the Fred is filled with smoke and steam. Winter is under the console swearing in a mishmash of galactic languages, and Grace is wrestling with the pilot’s controls as the ship bucks wildly in a steep descent.
The ship’s computer, an artificial intelligence named Fred for his flamboyant manner, drones a series of reports and updates almost faster than the human ear can process. “The Navicomp is offline, hydraulic systems failure in sections three, six, and twelve, main sublight engine overheating, external hull pressure rising, carbon clay skin stress at …”
Winter snarls, bangs her head on the console and interrupts the litany of disasters. “Basically, we are crashing again. We get it. Shut up!” She turns to her crewmate, and longtime friend Grace, and says, “Did you reach command Alpha on Taverna? Do they know we are coming in more than just a bit hot?”
Grace’s pallid face reflects stress of the last few hours. Her violet colored eyes squint at the view screen in front of her and tiny lines around them show the depth of her fatigue. “They’re aware. The Fred isn’t going to make tractoring us into a reasonable landing easy. We over shot the station due the hiccup in navigator controls. We’ve got too much damage and I need your help with the controls” The Fred twists and attempts to somersault as the levelers short out. Winter curses again and bangs around a second more, attempting to stop the cascade failure in the Fred’s systems. She resumes her seat at the navigation console and straps in. She spares the empty Captain’s chair a brief glance and bares her teeth.
She stabs at the controls but they appear to be dead. She stands and levels a kick to the upper portion and the lights flicker on and stay on. “Well, here’s a bit of good news. There’s no hiss of escaping atmosphere.” She said over her shoulder.
“Yet.” Grace muttered.
Fred patches through the voice of the AI Harbour Master at Taverna ELL Five. The voice is dry and flat with no trace of a planetary accent. “Unregistered flight, we are able to tractor to surface only. You are in violation of Taverna traffic controls and are asked to cap your radiation leakage to twenty thousand units. Is this the Fred?” The voice suddenly becomes a great deal more animated. “Dude, you own me money!”
Winter quirks an eyebrow at the bulkhead cameras. “I played poker with him last time. He cheats.” Fred mumbled, sounding distinctly embarrassed.
Winter shook her head. “You fly with pirates but you haven’t learned not to play poker with one? Fred, I’m disappointed. I really am.”
Fred mumbles something unintelligible and then intones, “Estimated one minute forty-six seconds until impact.” The console atmospheric alarms begin to sound. Winter slaps her hand over the cutoff and the caterwauling stops immediately.
Grace loops her arm through her safety harness and braces her feet against her console. “We’re heading into the atmosphere! Could you stop worrying about his poker face and help me keep us steady?”
Winter waves her hand in acknowledgement. To Fred she murmurs, “Retract all vanes and deploy the emergency balloon heat shield and pillons.” She pulls on the straps of her safety harness and double checks the linkage to the bulkhead chair. She slides across to grab the lateral control joystick as it tries to jump out of her hand. “Fred, deflector’s to full capacity double front and full repulsor control aft and bottom. If we skip like a stone, I don’t want the hull all scratched up?”
“Please tell me you aren’t worried about the paint job, for Jubliee’s sake?” Grace muttered under her breath.
Winter’s ears twitch as she ignores Grace’s remark. Instead she says, “Well, things are heating up nicely. Think we’ll be in time for happy hour?”
Grace rolled her eyes and tried not to snarl. “We are burning up in the atmosphere, possibly crashing to an explosive death, and you’re worried about discounted drinks?”
Winter shook her head. “We’re not possibly crashing. We are crashing. I thought that was readily apparent?”
Fred chimed, “One minute, nine seconds to impact.”
“Unregistered flight, your radiation levels…” The station AI sounded vaguely concerned, almost alarmed.
Grace decides to take her ire out on the AI. “Yes!” she snapped. “We are the Fred. Now are you going to tractor us or we going to go down in a literal blaze of glory and take out half that blasted village of scum and vile reprobates whose innards should have been fed to maggots half a tinabrum ago?”
“Gracie love, I’ve missed you. You know how I love it when you talk dirty to me. Commencing tractor. Stabilize your descent.” The AI bubbled. Grace grimaced. Winter pursed her lips and tried not to laugh.
“Not funny, Winter!”
Winter shrugged and replied, “Gallows humor.” The stick in her hand stopped vibrating wildly as the tractor beam locked onto the ship. “I just wonder how much this is going to cost us.”
The Fred is enveloped by something akin to St. Elmo’s fire. Ghostly blue light flickers over the hull as the ELL five station master manipulated the station’s tractor device to capture the falling ship. Warning lights still flash aboard the Fred. The front stabilizers short out and without the tractor, the ship would have tumbled end over end in an uncontrolled fall. The beam acts as a cushion as the ship falls through the upper atmosphere. A rush of viridian and cyan rush past the interior projection screens as the ship hurtles across the landscape. Aqua gives way to more greens and browns as the ship grazes the ground once and tries to flip end over end. Grace and Winter strain to keep the ship as level as possible as the ship bounces three more times and finally carves a long muddy stretch through the lush tall grasses.
Periwilderbeasts run in terror as the blunt nose of the ship comes through the grass. The Fred finally comes to a steaming stop at the edge of a farm pond. The intense heat of the crash vaporizes the water instantly and steam, spilled fuel, and oil mix a muddy ooze that threatens to consume the ship.
Winter blinks and licks the salty stream pouring from her forehead. She looks at Grace, who is holding her nose as violet blood drips down her torn flight suit sleeve. “Well. That was fun. Mai Tai?”
Grace coughs out a mixture of hot air and smoke and croaks, “I could use a drink.” She swivels around and releases the harness. “I like being right side up this time. My hair kept getting in my mouth the last time we crashed.” She glances at the bulkhead wall where the Fred’s nerve center is located. “Fred?”
Fred does not reply.
Winter and Grace both frown. “Fred?”