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JUL/AUG "Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat"

Nathan Baker

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(( Sector 2459 - Tarador 5 ))

oO What a fine mess you've gotten yourself into this time, eh Ben? Oo

:: The small Venture-class scout ship was in over it's head this time around thanks to it's pilot and owner, Ben Wells. The scruffy-looking Terran was always taking contracts that seemed impossible to complete given his resources, but it hadn't ever been a problem before. Until now perhaps... ::

:: Ben's ship, which he'd aptly named "Fortune", was in orbit around the massive yellow-hued Class-S ultra giant in the Tarador System. All 6 of the planets were gaseous planets of some sort and not of much worth to anyone... unless you knew where to look. ::

:: The bald, blue-eyed man stroked his unkempt beard as he looked at the planet through the view port. He considered the task before him and tried to crunch the numbers... and they weren't looking so favorable.::

:: "Fortune" had been quite a reliable ship for the past 2 years; especially given the fact that he'd only paid 50 bars of latinum to take it out of an independent Zakdorn supply depot. After a few repairs, upgrades and modifications, the former Starfleet scout vessel had performed the various salvage and retrieval contracts with only minor issues. ::

:: This little endeavor, on the other hand, wasn't going to be as easy. Ben mused about that prospect while taking a swig of Saurian Brandy... his last bottle. ::

oO It never seems to go as far as I'd like. Oo

:: Putting the bottle back down and wiping his mouth with his sleeve, Ben brought up his ship's hull tolerance specifications. After a quick glance, he leaned back in his seat and looked up towards the ceiling in disgust. ::

Wells: Why, oh why did I ever think I could do this one? Someone want to explain it to me?

:: The contract specifically required a 25 kilogram sample of the asteroid that was now inconveniently lodged in a hydrogen pocket 1000 kilometers into the planet's gasseous atmosphere. The asteroid's geologic make-up was causing problems with getting any sort of transporter lock on the rock face. Therefore, Ben would have to take his ship into the atmosphere and get into point-blank range to initiate any sort of transport. At those depths, the pressure would crush the "Fortune" like a can of dehydrated Andorian beets. ::

oO No wonder I was the only one to sign up for this one. Oo

:: Ben cracked his neck to try and ease the stress and looked back at the massive planet lying before him. ::

Well: Read the fine print next time before you sign anything, will ya Benny-boy? You get me into more trouble that way than anything else.

:: What made all of this worse was the time limit the contract had stipulated. The unnamed clients wanted their sample in 2 weeks... and it had taken Ben 6 days to ge`t to the planet at maximum warp. So, in essence, he had ONE DAY to get the sample and head back to the trading station on Relga 9 as the crow flies. There was no time to waste. ::

:: The reward for this puny sample? 500 bars of latinum AND coverage of expenditures. Ben had salivated at such a juicy contract, until he was on his ship and read the details after signing up. But, he'd never reneged on a deal before... and he wasn't going to start now. ::

Wells: Computer, transfer auxiliary power to structural integrity. Disengage all non-essential systems and transfer to the shield grid.

Computer: Power transfer complete. Structural integrity field at 120 percent.

:: Ben, satisfied with everything he'd done to batten down the hatches, set an intercept course for the asteroid. He then took the last swig of brandy and tossed the bottle behind him. A deep breath followed as he stared down the mighty gas giant like a gunslinger eying his opponent in a duel at high noon. ::

Wells: Alright then... fortune favors the bold... and papa needs a new bottle of brandy.

:: A few commands on the console in front of him and the small craft's impulse drive hummed into life. The view out of the front window changed from the horizon of the planet to a murky mixture of pale yellow with various tufts of orange and red. "Fortune" was heading right into the belly of this beast... and Ben hoped she could handle the ride. ::

:: The turbulence started off as a mild shake, but slowly grew to be a more moderate vibration. All Ben had to work off of now was his sensor data showing him how close he was to the target. After a minute, he was only a third of the way there. ::

:: That's when things got complicated... and scary. The computer spouted off warnings of cross-variable currents and swirling hydrogen eddys. Ben, being a decent enough pilot, evaded the worst of it. But that wasn't before his shields began to buckle under the strain. ::

:: "Fortune" was rocking and creaking as she passed the 500 kilometer mark. Ben's knuckles were white and his complexion pale due to the stress. His breathing was getting faster and faster and the sound of his heartbeat echoed in his ears. But still, he pressed on. ::

Wells: We're almost there... just a little bit more sweety. You can do it.

Computer: Warning, shields are offline. Structural integrity at 80 percent. Hull pressure exceeding specified limits.

oO Thanks for stating the obvious... Oo

:: at 750 kilometers, klaxons sounded throughout the small cabin of the ship. The creaking and snapping noised became intolerable. Ben was terrified, but amazed that his ship kept going... until the inevitable happened when he got to 950 kilometers. ::

Computer: Warning. Microfractures forming on outer hull. Breach imminent. Catastrophic decompression in 90 seconds.

Wells: Transfer emergency power to structural integrity!

:: The computer beeped an acknowledgement. Finally, the large mass of gray rock appeared through the window. Ben had no time to enjoy the view. He beamed the piece of rock into the cabin and quickly reversed course. ::

Computer: Cross current detected on present course, recommend course correction.

Ben: Sorry sweetheart, no time...

:: He took a second to wipe the sweat from his brow and continued on course. The ship was hit by a massive current of rotating hydrogen and helium which threw Ben out of his seat. He scrambled to get back and correct for the issue, but the only thing that greeted him was the computer's less-than-cheerful news. ::

Computer: Hull integrity critical. Breach in 29 seconds.

:: The instruments showed "Fortune" was only 150 kilometers from clearing the atmosphere, but the last jolt had done a number on the impulse engines. It would take 32 seconds to get clear at his current speed. Ben closed his eyes and hoped for the best. ::

oO Please be wrong... please be wrong. Oo

:: The computer counted down the seconds to a hull breach and Ben just sat there silently repeating the mantra. For a split second, he wondered if all this had been worth it. Was this hunk of rock he carried really worth 500 bars of latinum... or his life? ::

:: Before he could find out if his doubt would come to fruition, the shaking finally ceased. Ben almost thought his death had been so painless that he didn't even notice the hull breach and decompression. But, when he finally opened his eyes, all he saw was the view out of the front window. It was full of stars. ::

:: With a large sigh of relief, Ben slumped back in his chair and put his hands on his face. He rubbed his eyes and began to chuckle at the lucky break this ship had given him. All the math and logic were against him this time, but the vagabond pilot of this second-hand scout ship had defied the odds once again. The Terran turned in his chair and took a his first close look at his 25 kilogram prize. ::

Wells: Looks like I picked the right name for this ship... now I just want some brandy.

:: The sweat-soaked Terran turned back to the controls and mercifully set a course to the trading station. The computer informed him it would take 7 days to reach his destination... and he only had 6 to get the rock back to his client. ::

oO Please be wrong... please be wrong... Oo

:: Ben closed his eyes and tapped the control to engage the warp drive. ::

~ The End ~

Edited by Nathan Baker
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