Horizon Breaker Class Exploratory Mining Vessel
FI-EMV Stoneburner
Hyperbolic Planetary Escape Trajectory
105,000 KM over Amateru, Epsilon Tauri
January 2219

“Did it do anything as we flew by?” Owen growled into the microphone inside his suit as he and Murphy cannonballed at breakneck speeds up the spine of the ship towards the MIC.

“Nothing,” Alice said responded softly from the other end of the radio. “They haven’t done anything, they’re just sitting there.” Her voice was still breathless sounding, awestruck. It was an understandable feeling. Floating outside the Stoneburner, a man could rightly feel humbled next to the enormity of it as a piece of human engineering, with sharply defined metal walls stretching off towards an implied horizon. And yet, compared to the colossal piece of alien machinery that had materialized in space beside them, the Stoneburner was a speck of dust on a mountainside.

The corridor shuddered violently and without warning, sending both Owen and Murphy tumbling as the ship groaned and rumbled all around them.

“That was a big one.” Alice said into the radio, “You still there dad?”

“I’m still here,” Owen said as he grabbed a handhold and forcefully arrested his momentum, something his shoulder would remind him of later he was sure.

“That thing’s arrival created a hollow around itself, and we’re about to hit the far edge of it,” Murphy said into the comm as she launched herself past Owen, hurrying down the spinal corridor.

“We’re getting mighty full of holes as it is.” Kaito’s voice responded out of the earpiece.

As if the reinforce his point, the ship shuddered again as another rock tore through some distant part of the hull.

“Have there been any casualties?” Owen asked as he launched himself after Murphy.

“Two confirmed, fifteen unaccounted for, thirty-eight injured,” Alice answered him with clinical detachment.

Owen took a deep breath. Space was hard. Death was a very real possibility, and there was always the chance that the void would see fit to claim one more victim. Even knowing that on an almost instinctive level, it was still an uncomfortably high body count. He sighed and finally answered, “Damn.”

“We’ll mourn the dead later. We need to focus on making sure the living stay that way.” Kaito’s voice returned over the suit speakers.

Owen followed Murphy through the hatch into the Mining Information Center, swinging the door shut behind himself.

The room was cast in the dim red glow of emergency lighting. Smoke was venting from a console, filling the compartment with a swirling haze. Murphy left ribbons of smoke flowing in her wake as she coasted smoothly across the room, eyes going between all the screens. She shoved Antonine Kleops, the junior navigator, out of the MIC’s pilot cradle and immediately began adjusting course again.

Owen lifted up his facemask and was immediately assaulted by the harsh metallic smell of the void. Under typical operating conditions, the whole ship would smell like the algae used in the air processors, so the sudden scent of burning iron struck Owen particularly hard.

The decks vibrated and rang around them as yet another stone tumbled through their hull at tens of relative kilometers per hour.

“There are a lot of rocks out there ahead of us.” Murphy said worriedly from the navigation cradle.

“We can’t take this sort of sort of beating for long. We need cover, a big rock, something we can hide behind.” Kaito said as he floated towards Murphy, gripping the edge of her chair to arrest his momentum.

“Maybe we should ask the aliens for help.” Alice said quietly from her seat. She didn’t key up, speaking only to those within earshot.

“No!” Both Kaito and Owen replied instinctively.

“Well okay then,” Alice said with a roll of her eyes.

“Its way too dangerous, we have no idea of their intentions, what they would do if they noticed us,” Kaito said, keeping his voice level.

“Their intentions are pretty clearly to strip mine this planet, and we flew right fucking by them, they might have already noticed us.” She retorted.

“I’m with Kaito on this, they could decide to blow us up on the spot,” Owen said firmly.

A series of new alarms began to blare red across the consoles.

“Murphy!” Kaito said, whirling back to the navigation cradle.

“I’m getting us into cover!” Murphy replied indignantly. The navigation computers all began throwing up imminent impact alarms. A huge fragment of moon wreckage was looming larger and larger on the screens.

“We’re coming in a little fast don’t you think?” Kaito asked frustratedly.

“Not really,” Murphy answered then keyed up on the shipwide loudspeakers. “Everyone grab onto something we’re coming in hard.”

Thrust gravity returned suddenly, but sideways, as Murphy fired the maneuvering thrusters at their maximum rating in an attempt to match velocities with the enormous chunk of rock. Mountains and valleys hewn out of the inside of the collision of some larger boulders began to spread out in a strangely nearby horizon on the video feeds. Owen magnetized his boots and gripped a support column as his body was pulled towards one wall.

Kaito started to say something, but his words were choked off as canyon walls loomed up on either side of the ship.

And then they struck the surface. Despite Murphy’s piloting, they didn’t come in perfectly. The nose of the ship impacted first, crumpling in the ore intake bays and crushing the cranes and gantry equipment before beginning to bounce. The magnetic grips on Owen’s boots failed, and he was hurled towards one corner as the ship began to rebound.

The tail then struck, even as the nose bounced off. Then dense engine block and reactor core slammed into the rock face and rebounded cleanly off, tipping the nose back down and crumpling it further against the asteroid. The main body of the ship finally came to rest against the surface as Murphy finished positioning them with maneuvering thrusters.

“That’ll buff right out,” Murphy said finally, relaxing in her seat as their relative velocity to the asteroid fell to zero.

Owen groaned from where he’d found himself, tangled up with Kaito in one corner.

“I think we’ll be safe for the moment, the asteroid is rotating, and we should rotate away from the worst of the debris cloud as we pass through it. We’re also down in a crevasse, so there’s not many directions an impactor could come in from.” Murphy explained.

“How long can we ride this rock?” Kaito asked as he pushed himself off of Owen and floated back out towards the center of the room.

“It’s currently hyperbolic, but it might lose velocity passing through the gas plume,” Alice answered for her. “We should make it through though, at worst it’ll put us in a long period orbit.”

“Alright.” Kaito sighed. “That’s good to hear. Let’s batten down, ride out the worst of it, search for missing personnel, and care for the wounded. We’ll get started on repair once we’re through the worst of the debris.”

“What about the aliens?” Alice asked expectantly.

“We’re not talking to the aliens.” Kaito insisted.

“Once we’re a safe distance away, we should try!” Alice insisted.

“Look what they did to Amateru Alice, what even is a safe distance from that sort of power?” Kaito answered.

“They’re miners.” Alice pressed. “We’re miners too, I think we can find common ground.”

“No,” Kaito growled. “We are going to repair the ship, unpack and install the warp drive, and leave this star system. I’m not going to risk the ship trying to play explorer. We’ll return to Aldebaran and they can launch a proper expedition.”

“Alright people.” Owen said loudly to the collected population of the MIC, “Let’s start coordinating rescue teams, we still have people missing out there.”

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