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Forward Recon

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By JLNagel
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As the darkness of space gave way to the swelling planet in the center of the cockpit, Ryli took it all in. 5 years flying recon missions, and the space-scapes had never stopped taking her breath away. The planet looked like a gem of turquoise and pearl, set in the center of a diamond studded velvet cloth. A belt of brown asteroids whirled around the planet, perfectly encircling it as she approached the pole.

Grinning, Ryli opened up the throttle all the  way, causing the planet to expand, filling the cockpit rapidly. The black of space receded from the cockpit viewscreen, and soon the white of the polar cap was all that was left to be seen. She pulled back hard on the yoke, laughing at the g-forces the artificial gravity systems couldn't quite eliminate.

"FR-37, this is Control. Cut back on the theatrics and focus on the job," a stern male voice cut through her joy. She grimaced.

"Copy, control. Beginning scans," she replied with a sigh. Pulling back on the throttle, she tapped out commands on her screen, and began scanning the planet. Her ship started gathering data on the elemental composition of the planet and sending it back to her home ship, further out in the system.

She angled the little recon ship toward the equator, skimming along the atmosphere. Her course took her on a path that would thread between the planet and the asteroid belt, avoiding the interference the rocks caused on longer range scans. Suddenly, her scanners started pinging in alarm.

"Shit!" yelled Ryli, "I've got an engine signature on the planet! It's moving on an intercept and… by space, it's fast! If it's this fast in Atmo…"

"Roger, FR-37, I see it! Pull out, plot a least time course back to Home, and full burn. We have fighters on an intercept," came the voice of control, now tight with anxiety. He saw it too. There was no way she would outrun that thing. It would catch her a good 2 minutes before the fighters would make intercept, and she did not want to get into a two minute dogfight with an unknown bogie.

"Negative Control! I'll never make it. Plot the fighters to intercept here," she tapped out some coordinates on her communications board. "I'm going to try a rock slide."

"Ryli, no!" the controller shouted back, forgetting proper decorum and using her real name rather than her designation. "That's insane!"

"It's my only chance, John, I have to try." She swooped her ship down on a course that put her directly between the incoming bogie and the asteroid belt, then drove full throttle forward. As she closed on the belt, she checked her sensors. The bogie backed off his throttle, rightfully fearful of the asteroid belt, but only for a moment. He was right on her tail.

Relatively speaking, the asteroid belt wasn't very wide. At full sublight throttle, she could travel that distance in a minute and thirty seconds, if she could go straight. Having to back off the throttle and dodge her way through the belt, it would take her roughly two minutes to cross the same distance. An extra 30 seconds didn't sound like much, but this would be the most perilous two minutes of her flying career to date.

Very slightly pulling back on her throttle, she dove into the asteroid belt, still moving far faster than anyone would call sane. She dove, twisted, rolled and banked in ways no atmospheric vessel could, her gravity engines warping the gravitic fields around her to yank her in the directions she wanted to go. Every proximity alarm in the ship was howling, overwhelming her hearing with a horrifying cacophony, but she didn't have time to hit the override. Motion blurred rocks filled her viewscreen as she constantly whirled to find the nearest patch of open space.

The ship chasing her was fast, but not fast enough to catch her before the fighters arrived if it tried to go around the belt. If he wanted to stop her, he would have to follow through the belt. When Ryli found a breadth of space long enough to check her sensors, she saw him preparing to dive in behind her. She was about half way through the belt herself, and she used the last of the breathing room she'd given herself to tap a command into her console.

A mining charge detached from her ship as she resumed weaving through the belt, aiming for the nearest exit point. Recon ships had minimal weaponry, but they all carried mining charges to clear the way for their scans if necessary. As she hit her exit point, the mining charge detonated behind her, sending the asteroids into a chaos of motion far beyond typical.

Ryli punched the throttle for the rendezvous with her fighter escort, and checked her scanners. The unidentified ship  had been just entering the belt when the explosion went off. He was able to react quickly and exit the belt, but he would never catch her. He angled off away from the incoming fighters and the home ship, and flew off at full throttle. She had hoped he would be disabled, so she could find out who he was and what he was flying, but at least she had survived.

"FR-37, this is Commander Doran of first squadron, that was some beautiful flying you just did. If you'll slave your ship's controls to mine, we'll escort you back to Home, and you can relax, I don't think he's coming back," came a respect filled female voice over her comm. For a moment, she was tempted to decline and fly back under her own power, but she quickly realized just how exhausted she was.

"Thanks, Commander, that sounds wonderful."
A little sci-fi vignette I wrote.
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© 2012 - 2020 JLNagel
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