NEW STAR HORIZON

HARD LANDING

Hidden behind clouds the peak was bombarded the winds blowing strongly with blizzard like conditions over the plateaus. The severe high winds had carried much of the snow from the mountain’s peak becoming avalanche traps all the down to the Valleys below.

            Matt had enjoyed the view a minute too long. An incredible sight the clouds came rushing back. He used his laser equipped finger drilling an indentation into the side of the rock big enough for his gloved hand to fit in to hold on.

Finally making his way to the top he figured to find the group collapsed from exhaustion. Even with their suits, enhanced with bionics at full power the journey they had made was formable for even a trained climber. To his surprise, he found the assembled team standing and staring at something in the distance.

Matt Stewart looked over his assembled team who made up the search party. The team included Senior Tech Sargent Bob “OD” O’Donovan and his younger brother junior tech Mike, Pilot Alison Mundy, and Navigator Tatiana Duran. There was also Civilian Dr. Joseph Deforest the mission Science Officer who had space time hours under his belt and astrophysicist Sadia Mirza only a few years out of the Academy.

“Can I get a hand here guys?”

 “Greeting’s from the top of the world.” Sgt. Bob O’Donovan said. “Now the fun starts.”

 “Matt, you’ve got to see this.” Sadia said calling over to him her voice booming over the helmet intercoms.

“No need to yell.” He joked as he made it to his feet. His attention suddenly turned to the sight that had them mesmerized.

“Look at that?” Sadia caught herself from using high volume.

There in the distance stood a Ziggurat shaped transponder towering into the twilight sky. The base of the beacon system used stayed in one place, but could rotate on its foundation to change the direction of the large antenna.

“This is totally amazing!” Dr. Deforest added.

“The best place to put a beacon to signal Earth was right up here at the very top.” Sadia asserted herself. “Looks like I was right after all.

“But how did they get up here?” Deforest shouted.

O’D was eager to join the conversation. “Doctor Deforest was concerned about high altitude creating a Dead zone.”

“What makes you say that Doctor?” Sadia said getting mad.

 “No one could survive this high up into the dead zone.”

“What if they had spacesuits like we do?” Sadia added.

“I never considered that.” Deforest admitted.

“This would be the best place to put a beacon to send a message to earth. It’s above the ion level. She concluded.

“Well somebody sent a signal.” Matt said.

“And that’s where it originated?” Sgt. O’Donovan lamented.

 “Is that okay with you Dr. Deforest?” Sadia retorted.

 “Is that a frown Dr. Deforest?” Matt asked. “It’s obvious, with great difficulty and shit.”

 

NEW STAR–HORIZON

HARD LANDING

Lorne was tall and thin but quite fit and the small but sturdy Rebels followed his lead. Despair’s Ridge got its name from the older Rebels. This was the place where the defiance first started 30 years ago, and Lorne feared this was where it would end.

He couldn’t help but notice that Maggie her reddish hair and her muscular body didn’t look like it belonged to a woman at least fifty-year-old. He wanted to tell Maggie how he really felt about her, but she taught him never to be selfish. He knew this was not the time. Even if he had to take it to his grave, he would not disappoint her.

Maggie and the group had dragged their tired bodies to a clearing on the ridge just below the summit tower of Heaven’s Peak. To have a chance they would have to climb the eighty meters almost straight up to the top.

Lorne and the two lads were young and had a chance. The rest were older and loyal to a fault. Loyalty that would cost them their lives. “We’ll never make it up that climb we have to find another way off the ridge,” Maggie confided to Lorne.

“There is no other way out.”

“There has to be, I can’t let it end like this.”

“Well than, we’re not giving up without a fight.”

The onslaught had been worse than any Maggie had experienced before. They had not come to capture, but to kill. She was most upset for Lorne. He had believed in her, following her like a loyal soldier never questioning her. Had she led him to his death?

“We only have sixteen rounds left.” Lorne reported.

“Only shoot when absolutely necessary.” Maggie almost laughed at how feeble that sounded. Maggie gathered her things and grabbed her flight jacket which was given to her by Captain Aurora her first time at the rebel camp hideaway,

MAGGIE?The Captain gestured. “You’re freezing here take my jacket.” He put his jacket around her. “You keep this.” She sobbed unrestrained and let herself fall forward where the Captain cradled her in his arms.

How many times had she dreamed of Captain Aurora holding her but not like this? Not for this reason. Maggie took a deep breath to get her bearings and she put the jacket on. “We have to keep moving away from the rebel base.”

 

 

NEW STAR HORIZON

HARD LANDING

The ship barreled toward the ledge in Sadia’s direction. The landing gear slammed into the frozen ground deep enough to leave jagged gashes and Then slid toward her and Deforest tackled her out of the way.

Matt knew he had to do something and fast. He whipped his free hand forward pulling himself up till he could throw his legs over into the doorway. The shuttle bucked again, tearing itself from the ledge. Matt had gotten his feet into the door just in time as the shuttle suddenly shifted again, this time it rose abruptly coming above the ledge.

The shuttle continued to rise, and Alison had even managed to get it to hover over the ledge again. Matt not willing to take any more chances hurtled out of the door landing with surprising ease on the ledge. O’D sprinted over to help Deforest and Sadia but before he could she had bounced to her feet and leaped into Matt’s arms.

“Is everyone alright?” Alison asked over the Com Link.

“What happened? How did you get the shuttle to work?”

“You can thank Tatiana for that.” Alison informed them.

“It’s an old Army trick…” Tatiana said joining the conversation. “I simply juiced the fuel with ions. That stabilized the mix.”

“I owe you two a drink when we get back.” Matt exclaimed.

“I’m hoping for more than that.” Alison added ruefully.

“What is that supposed to mean.” Sadia barked.

“He can’t help it.” Deforest said laughing. “He’s Captain Kirk.”

“Are you okay Mike.” O’D inquired worried.

“I’m A-Okay brother.”

“Take care of the girls.”

“You two are damn good pilots.” Matt added.

“See you guys at the bottom.”

The shuttle hurried over the side and out of sight.

“Now the fun part begins.” O’D said gathering his things.

That was when Matt noticed something on the side of the mountain wall “Well I’ll be damn.” On it were the initials HA.

 “H-A, who could that have been?” Sadia wondered aloud.

“Hanif Amen, the founder of the expedition. He himself went to the top.”

“Do you think he’s still alive?” O’D asked.

“Well there’s only one way to find out and shit.” Matt started his climb.

 

NEW STAR: HORIZON

HARD LANDING

The shuttle jumped again bouncing up a couple of feet before crashing back down. Somehow Alison managed to keep the landing gear on the ledge. The screech of metal filled the air. The team turned in horror to see what was happening. Sadia watched as Matt grabbed the doorframe to keep from tumbling out. Metal shrilled suddenly and the shuttle tilted steeply to the left. Matt was caught with one foot out the door unprepared for the sudden shift.

Off balance, he flailed instinctively, releasing his hold on the doorframe falling backwards. Mike went tumbling out of control in the cargo hold and slid away from the door. Sadia yelled a warning but she knew she was too late. Sliding away from the ledge the shuttle titled back the other way sending Matt tumbling head-over heel out the door. Moving incredibility fast, Matt grabbed the landing gear and held on. Bionics’ maintaining his one-handed grip; Matt pulled himself upright once more.

Mike made the door and looked out. The two men stared at each other, both relieved. Matt nodded to Mike that he was all right and reached up to grab his hand. Before he could reach it, an alarm blared out from inside the shuttle. Mike helped Matt back up to the door way. “What the hell was that?”

Unfortunately, Matt had figured out just what was wrong. “There’s not enough oxygen up here, and the air fuel mix is off.” Matt explained. “If the engine conks out at this altitude we drop like a rock.”

Alison fought the shuttle, increasing, and decreasing the throttle, trying to find a medium. Again, she tried to get the shuttle back over to the ledge. Matt saw them moving closer and stood in the doorway ready to jump. The shifting air current hammered them pushing Matt back away from the door.

Sadia moved forward quickly trying to reach out to Matt as he came closer. She could hear the shuttle alarm sounding again louder this time, so loud it reverberated against the mountain.

Alison shouted. “Holy shit, brace your selves.”

Sadia watched in horror as the shuttle suddenly dropped several feet. Matt almost fell from the door but managed to throw himself along the length of the landing gear legs dangling over the side as he held on. Matt then caught a handrail beside the cargo door and pulled himself up his legs still touching nothing at all as the shuttle shifted sideways.

New Star Horizon—Hard Landing

Matt waved for Sadia, helping her to the door. She moved with him, but the hard rushing wind pushed at her, making it hard to move forward even with Matt’s help. Sadia hesitated at the door.

Matt yelled at her. “Storm did you increase your bionic setting?” Sadia tapped her wrist controls again and her suit began to stiffen up. She took a deep breath, and then nodded at Matt. He helped her step out the ship and makes the jump several feet to the ledge making a perfect landing. “Everyone makes sure you’re on full power before you go,” Matt announced to the team.

When Sadia’s feet slammed into the frozen ground but she hardly felt it as the force was absorbed by the suit. Though the wind battered her Sadia could ease forward despite the blizzard coming from overhead as well. Matt marveled at this brave young woman. She had more pure guts than any woman he’d ever known. That’s probably why he was wild about her.

 Not being used to walking on full power Sadia fell forward, catching herself on her hands. Once she was certain of her coordination she was upright again like a pro. She signaled A-Okay to the others and stood clear.

Matt signaled O’D forward. Just as O’D stood in the door, Mike pulled his brother toward him and they embraced in a hug. Then O’D stood at the door and started to inch his way forward.

Both Matt and Deforest held O’D as the shuttle suddenly bucked as it struggled to stay aloft in the thin air. O’D’s feet slipped and he very nearly fell. Matt pulled him upright and steadied him. “Let the suit do the work.”

Sadia seeing the struggle moved back towards the shuttle. She reached for O’D’s hand and he reached for her, leaning forward till he had no choice but to keep going. Together they both guided Deforest to the ground, Mike and Matt threw out supplies and equipment and the team gathered them and placed them where the wind would do the least harm.

 

 

NEW STAR HORIZON

Sadia Mirza could pinpoint the signal as coming from Heaven’s peak itself. Dr. Deforest figured that it was unlikely though since no one could survive a climb to the top.
“What if they had suits like we do?” Sadia added.
“I never considered that.” Deforest admitted.
“If I had suits the best place to put a beacon to reach Earth would be right at the very top.” Major Matt Stewart the mission commander concluded.
The shuttle pilot Alison Mundy chimed in. “We’re going to have to land you guys on the crest before the next snowdrift hits or we can forget it.”
“I’ve never seen a front this big.” Tatiana Duran added.
“If we are going to find that beacon we have to go now.” Matt said to the team. “Take us in Mundy.”
Matt looked at the crew that he had assembled in the cabin. “Mike, we need you to stay with the shuttle.”
“No way, I’m going with you guys.”
“Look, if we all go who is going to be left to rescue our asses if we get stuck up there?” Matt said. He didn’t want Mike to think he was being kept behind to lessen the risk of losing both brothers.
“Do it Mike.” His brother instructed him. “And since when did you decide to question a superior officer?”
“Yes sir.” Mike stood at attention.
“Forget all that.” Matt told him placing a hand on his shoulder. “But I do ask that you trust me on this one.”
“We’re going in, so get ready to depart!” Alison warned.
The best the shuttle could do was giving them real trouble stabilizing. It was easy to hurtle through space but creating lift while staying in one place at that altitude was another story. Alison sat tense in the cockpit seat, trying to keep a firm grip on the control stick. The shuttle rose and fell and rocked sideways in the air like a ship on the high seas.
Sadia stared at Matt who was leaning against the cargo bulkhead. He returned her look before she looked away. She had to admit to herself that she came along to keep an eye on Matt. She was worried about him, though the very thought seemed absurd at that moment.
Matt caught sight of the ledge that was the target on the navigation-screen. Although it looked much smaller from the shuttle door, then the screen it was the best place to sit down. Matt moved to the door and signaled the other to prepare for exit. Alison hesitated realizing she didn’t have room to put the shuttle down safely in the battering wind. If the wind caught the craft wrong, it could smash it against the wall on the other side of the ledge.
Fighting the crosscurrents, Alison managed to guide the shuttle toward the ledge. The shuttle shook when the right-side landing gear contacted the ledge. Matt hit the lever and the door opened sucking the cabin air from the cargo area. The force almost expelled the team with it. Matt hit his com link to the on position.
“Activate your bionics to full power.”
Below them the landing gear scraped across the ledge as the shuttle started to slide.
“Get moving.” Alison yelled. “I can’t hold it!”

 

NEW STAR HORIZON

Hard Landing

The shuttle seemed to glide through the air like a powerful bird during flight. Alison Mundy brought it around and took off like a bullet through the thick bellowing clouds. She made one complete circle around the perimeter then turned and headed straight down into the planet’s lower atmosphere.

The mountains dominated the landscape, forming a range traversing the center of the main continent region. Out as far as the eye could see Heaven’s Peak stood almost twice as high as Mount Everest back on Earth. The origin of the name Heaven’s Peak was a point of contention for the team.

The early probes recorded the mountain and referred to it as the ROOF OF THE WORLD and from then on it became the focal point of all explorations to the planet. One likely possibility that the mountain memorializes the explorer probes lost trying to reach Alniham during the early wormhole runs.

On the mountain plateaus the winds blew very strongly, and there were severe blizzards even during the summer months. Permanent snow covered the highest mountain peaks. Valleys became snow traps as the high winds carried much of the snow from mountain peaks and ridges.

Sadia Mirza could pinpoint the signal as coming from Heaven’s peak itself. Dr. Deforest figured that it was unlikely though since no one could survive a climb to the top. “Heaven’s peak is the place to start.”

“And that’s where we’re going?” Sgt. O’Donovan lamented.

“That would be correct.” Matt confirmed.