Jasper: Descent

You are reading: The Final Bounty

Written by Jsimmons17 on 04 Jul 2017 00:29.

Debris, both metal and stone, lay scattered on the sand as far as the eye could see. Among the darker shapes, a silver glint made its way across the ground, winding its way through the wreckage of the ship that had once been the Husk, but now had been reduced to piles of scrap metal, shredded and torn, and already half buried in the dunes.

The planet glowed gold like a gemstone in the crown of space, its surface swirling gold and yellow with darker brown clouds scudding across it. It was a desert planet, unnamed in Jasper’s charts, and glittering with the promise of treasure, enough to set Jasper up for life.
“Any life signs down there?” Jasper asked.
“It’s hard to tell with all the sand in the atmosphere.” RIAD responded.
“I'll begin the descent.” Jasper flipped a few switches and the ship drifted towards the surface.

RIAD poked his head into another piece of the Husk. It had once been Jasper’s bunk, where they both slept on peaceful nights. Blankets, and small trinkets had been scattered outside, and the wind was blowing some of the lighter items away. The cat pounced playfully on a few of them, catching a scrap of blue ribbon, a pair of red dice, weighted towards an easy 7, and a scrap of paper that said “Freight License.”

From the moment they entered the atmosphere, things started to go wrong. It was like a thousand mile high sandstorm, clouding the windows.
From the back of the ship came a strange thunk, and the entire hull vibrated.
“What was that?” Jasper asked.
“Landing gear came loose.” RIAD had replied calmly, his tail already in a control panel. “Probably the sand. We'll have to land carefully.”
“At least it's a soft landing.”

Another section of the bulkhead rose up in front of the silver cat, imprinted with the original serial number of the Husk. It had been part of the cargo bay, and RIAD knew he was getting close.

“Engines down. Auxiliary down. We just lost our starboard wing.” RIAD called out each system as the planet’s atmosphere tore them apart. Outside the ship, an orange glow was forming around the windows, and Jasper knew it wasn't the sunrise.
“RIAD, slow us down or we’re going to burn up before we have a chance to crash.”
There was a spark, and RIAD had to pull his tail from the control panel with a mrow of shock. “Controls are dyown.” He screeched, sounding more like a cat than a computer.
Jasper flipped several more switches, but the fireball only increased in intensity and brightness. Flames licked at the windows and lit up the tiny cockpit as they hurtled towards the surface.
“At this rate of decyent we will be flattened and the ship will be torn apart.” RIAD screeched, clawing Jasper’s shoulders as he scrabbled for the release of his seatbelt.

There, lying almost buried in the sand was a large cargo crate about a meter and a half cubed. The hinges were already crusted in sand, and the compressed atmosphere hosing had been torn.

The bunker was a reenforced steel crate bolted to the back of the cargo bay. The Husk didn’t have any escape pods, so this was the only way for a humanoid to hope to survive a crash. Built to hold one, it had enough supplies and compressed atmosphere to last several days, it was shielded from scanners and Jasper usually used it to hide particularly illegal or dangerous cargo. He’d never had to use it to hold himself before, and as he squeezed into the small space, he realized exactly how small it was. As a spacer his entire life, Jasper had never felt claustrophobic, but as the ship lurched again and the door slammed shut, Jasper felt the first chill of fear. The box was barely 5 feet across on the outside. The inside may have been four. There wasn’t enough space for Jasper to stretch out, and he braced himself against the walls as best he could as it rattledThe cat clung to the outside of the bunker sinking his claws into the ports that sealed it and released it from the bulkhead, as panels pealed off of the outside of the ship. The Husk lost its protective shell and split apart as it hurtled towards the planet, tossing the crate with Jasper and RIAD towards the surface.

RIAD sank his claws into the ports and there was a hiss as the pressure equalized inside of the bunker. Inside, curled into a ball with one arm around his knees and the other over his head, was RIAD’s human. The cat meowed loudly, and sank a claw into Jasper’s arm.
Jasper came to with a lurch, one leg shooting out of the box, kicking RIAD away as the young man struggled to unfold himself. Finally, he managed to get to his feet and looked toward the setting sun.
“This, is going to be harder than I planned," he said.

Next Chapter: Grasp All, Lose All by Antagony

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