The price of having just a little bit of fun could be shockingly high if you weren’t prepared. Drifting 3.5 kilometers above the surface, Vallysa replayed the past five minutes in her head.
Drifting 3.5 kilometers above the surface...in her SRV.
Tracing back to her days as a drift racer on her home planet before volunteering for Imperial slavery, Vallysa loved to drive her SRV—the galaxy’s most robust drifter ever built—through various geological features when she had the chance. Here, deep out in the void, she had never had such access to perfectly pristine events, untouched by any life, anywhere. She couldn’t help herself.
There were two categories of geysers: hot and cold. The hot ones were a bit underwhelming: they were only good for a short jump through just to see how fast your shields melted and notch up your heart-rate. The cold ones however could shoot you a few hundred meters, allowing you to get a fun controlled descent back to the ground in a low-grav environment.
Apparently, as she had just learned, there was a third
category: steam. After driving through a couple lackluster water geysers vomiting from the surface of PHYLUWYG VI-R B6-0, a lonely, icy planet in the middle of nowhere, a couple of large steam geysers a little further up the side of the hill caught her eye. Maybe they’d get her a few hundred meters off the ground and let her really stretch her SRV’s thrusters. However, the reality of the power of the steam geyser caught her completely off guard.
As soon as her right front wheel caught the edge of the geyser, she was immediately hurtled spinning into the air, the off-balance force creating an angular velocity dwarfing the most dramatic spins of any SLF. Her deepest instincts and training kicked in automatically, calmly reading her instruments to determine the direction of her spin while the horizon moved too quickly for her brain to decipher.
Altimeter rising. VSI pegged up. Turn indicator pegged right. Spinning right. Recovering left. Full rudder left. Nose ¼ up. Yaw clockwise.
The spinning slowed, then stopped, the sudden quiet ringing in her ears louder than the combined volume of the stress alarms and strained engines which blared 5 seconds prior. Her thrust capacitors were almost completely drained but slowly recharging, and her altimeter was slowing its positive climb. Up here, the view of the icy canyons was eerie, quiet, and had a beauty to match the most magnificent neutron cone jets.
The gravity of the planet, however slight, started to clutch her with its inevitable grasp. Vallysa watched her altimeter level out, then decline, faster and faster while her capacitors slowly refilled, racing against the surface which ominously grew in her field of vision. She would have to time the burst just right, slow the SRV’s descent enough right before impact, if she wanted to survive this. Fire too soon and she would exhaust her limited power while giving gravity its chance to reestablish its grip. Fire too late, and she wouldn’t slow enough to prevent her rover from crashing into the surface with enough speed to incinerate her body, despite the sub-zero terrain around her.
With only seconds before impact, she fired her thrusters, draining every last reserve of energy before smashing into the ground at bone-wrenching speed.
Sweating, gasping, shaking, her brain slowly came to, pain spreading throughout her body has her nerves started to re-register. Seconds or minutes later, she took inventory of her surroundings. She was, miraculously, in one piece. A testament to the engineering of the pilots’s chair inertial systems in the vehicle. The vehicle itself was cracked, major struts almost snapped, microfractures throughout the canopy. But it worked. It could move. She could limp back to the safety of her ship, parked 2 kilometers away...until she realized it was over a mountain range far too impassible for her broken rover.
Weakened, on reserve oxygen, her main computer broken, she pulled out a pencil and paper and slowly worked the topography around her, determining a surface just suitable enough for the AI to fly her ship to and land. As the LLV Ferdinand
fired its retro thrusters and sedately set down on a spot a few hundred yards away, blissfully ignorant to the events that just transpired, she nursed her crippled SRV back to the capture pen and boarded the ship. Never in her life had she felt so grateful for its metallic embrace.