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Prologue

“Dammit.”

Rex slammed his palms into the control panel trying to get some kind of response. With a final flicker the rest of the lights in the cockpit died and slowly the red emergency lighting came on. He looked around and every panel in the cockpit was dead save for the battery operated emergency lighting. He felt himself weightless as the artificial gravity system lost power as well.

“Dammit!” Rex swore again.

Rex unstrapped himself from the chair and with a gentle push glided over and looked out cockpit window. From the asteroid belt around the planet he had been headed towards, before he hit a stealth mine, several lights flickered to life that could only be engines engaging their thrusters. He punched the hull cursing himself for falling into a trap. He knew going out here alone to the fringeworlds was asking for trouble but he thought he’d at least go down with a fair fight. With only a few minutes until they got here he jumped into action hoping the extra chits he paid for the upgraded lifepod was worth it.

He pushed off the window and floated towards the back of the cockpit to the hatchway. Stopping at his cabin he grabbed his trusty laser pistol, customized to resemble the old gunfighter pistols from back in the 19th century, still in it’s leather holster. He pushed off and strapped the holster to his belt as he floated his way down the corridor. He entered the lifepod situated next to the engine compartment. Rex went around the chair and slipped his arms into the shoulder straps before pressing the button to close the hatch and listened as the pod pressurized.

“Lifepod pressurized,” a computerized voice spoke through a tinny speaker in the wall. The light on the panel turned from red to green as the pod finished pressurizing and Rex thrust his palm out hard against the eject button breaking the plastic seal preventing accidental release. He was pushed back against the seat as the thrusters engaged carrying him away from his ship, The Soolako. Within a few seconds he felt the weightlessness of space again as the lifepod cleared the ship and cut the engines.

He watched as the computer scanned the topography of the planet for a suitable landing site. It locked onto a flat piece of land near an ocean and he heard the directional thrusters engage maneuvering them into position. Through a porthole window, The Soolako, came into sight. The ships were closing faster than he expected and he saw several flickering lights as they launched a salvo of missiles at his ship. He cringed as the missiles slammed into his ship he spent a lifetime customizing. A few of the missiles missed their mark and were headed his way.

“Dammit to hell!” Rex exclaimed as he watched it get perilously close before it’s proximity sensor picked up the lifepod and it detonated. He heard shrapnel pinging against the hull and the pod began to vibrate.

“Damage to lifepod navigational system,” the computer announced. “Damage to lifepod communication system. Please see your ArasTech representative for a checkup.” He watched helplessly as the pod plummeted towards the planet. He felt the weightlessness of space begin to dissipate and the whole pod began shaking as it breached the upper atmosphere. “Entering upper atmosphere. Brace for turbulence.”

“Tell me something I don’t know!” Rex shouted at the computer. He hoped the lifepod was still functional enough to get him safely on the surface. He saw flames begin flickering through the porthole that soon turned into a raging fireball rushing past.

“Heat shield at 90%,” the computer chimed in again. “75%…. 50%…” Rex watched the porthole as the flames began to subside and he saw blue sky instead of the blackness of space. “Temperature nominal. Heat shield sits at 43% remaining. Navigation still non-functional. Manual selection suggested. You have 10 seconds before emergency thrusters engage.” He quickly scanned the map on the screen and pushed what looked like a green area near some settlements.

“Hope they are friendly,” he said aloud to himself as the lifepod engaged it’s maneuvering thrusters to target his selection. He was pushed back against the seat as the thrusters engaged dropping him slowly to the planet surface. He saw a canopy of leaves appear as they broke through the tree line and with a gentle bump the engines silenced themselves.

“Please wait while the firefoam activates,” the computer chimes in. He heard the distinctive “pop” of the launchers and withing a few seconds the computer comes back. “Fires are extinguished. Please beware of residual smoke.”

He disengaged the lock on the board he was laying on and it slowly descended to the bottom of the ship. Slipping his arms out of the straps and standing up he released the emergency panel on the side of the pod. With a barely audible pop it fell to the ground outside and acrid smoke slowly filled the pod. Looking outside he could see shattered trees in a 10 meter radius surrounding the ship covered in firefoam. He felt a sting on his cheek and slapped at it unconsciously. Pulling his hand back he saw the body of a mosquito. As the smoke cleared he could see why the area was so green. He landed himself in the middle of a rainforest.

“Dammit.”