• Published 16th Apr 2014
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Horizon - Nagmeister



Five kerbals go on an interstellar mission and run into a planet of colorful ponies.

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Second Descent

Alsted jumped in shock as the voice continued to come out of the console. “Horizon? Horizon, come in.”

The voice sounded somewhat feminine, but definitely not Kerbal. In fact, it sounded more insectoid. “Erm, who's calling?” said Alsted.

The console's incoming feed light blinked on. Alsted opened the feed and saw Jeb standing there. “Hey, Alsted. It's me, Jeb!”

“You sound different.”

“Must be something I ate down here.”

Alsted sighed before saying, “Well, whaddya need?”

“I just need you to bring the spaceplane down near the city on that mountain.” Jeb rotated the camera towards a large-looking mountain with a gleaming marble city on the side.

“Hmmm. I'll tell Hanald,” Alsted said before shutting off the feed. He felt some sort of suspicion, but ignored it.

Alsted drifted through the ship's corridors until he found Hanald's bunk. He peeked inside and saw Hanald trying to fix some sort of toaster. “Hanald, get the plane ready,” Alsted said before leaving the room. Hanald shrugged and went to the plane's docking port.

The plane was located directly across from the lander, near the midsection of the ship. It was a relatively small one, with slightly more fuel than was needed for seven landings and ascents on Kerbin. Alsted had run the calculations beforehand; on this planet, it could only do one. As Hanald went towards the midsection, he noticed that something was wrong. It felt like someone was trying to get into the ship. Thinking nothing of it, he went through the port and into the plane.

“Fuel levels?” asked Alsted, in proper mission control fashion.

“Full.” Hanald replied.

“ECLSS?”

“Online.”

“Landing autopilot?”

“Ready.”

“Comms equipment?”

“Active.”

“RCS systems?”

“Nominal.”

“Control surfaces?”

“Ready.”

“Heatshield?”

“Perfect.”

“Instruments?”

“Nominal.”

“Abort system?”

“Primed.”

“Go for launch in T-10... 9...”

Hanald breathed heavily as Alsted counted down the seconds. He knew that, even if all the systems were functioning nominally now, they could break down at any moment. He could also miss the landing and pancake into a wall, run out of fuel during ascent and burn up on reentry, accidentally go in too shallow or too steep and burn up or get crushed in his seat, and any number of other problems. However, the plane gracefully glided off the ship's structure and oriented itself for reentry.

“3... 2... 1... Ignition!”

“Damn, this thing packs a punch,” he said after the retrorockets had fired. The plane was now on course for landing. “Midcourse correction in thirty seconds. Wait, I'm getting a datapacket...”

The plane's autopilot system suddenly became unresponsive and the plane oriented itself northward. It expended all the remaining deorbit fuel inclining the orbit, moving the landing site from the mountaintops more than a thousand kilometers north to the frozen wastes. Hanald tried to fight the system but was unable to revert back to manual control, and the plane continued on its new trajectory.

Almost immediately after the plane entered the upper atmosphere, control was handed back to Hanald. However, there was not enough jet fuel to fly to the original zone, or to almost anywhere for that matter, so he resigned himself to simply trying to land.

The reentry heat quickly subsided as the plane glided down towards the snow. Small bits of ice began to form on the wings as it went lower, going under three kilometers. The ping of the radar altimiter started to get louder and faster as the plane approached the surface, becoming a solid beep when the plane touched down.

It slid for a few hundred meters before coming to a complete stop in the snow. Popping the cockpit's hatch, Hanald got out and looked around. The first thing he noticed was that it was cold; extremely cold. His suit was noisily using up its energy supply to run the heater. The next thing he noticed was that it was quite bleak. The only noticeable object besides snowy plains and slight hills was a tall tower off in the distance that looked like it could be made of crystal. Hanald contemplated trying to walk to it to explore it, but decided he would probably run out of energy before he made it back to the plane and freeze to death. So, he went into the plane, deployed the solar array, and started the distress beacon.

Alsted was watching the map, trying to find out where Hanald had landed. Suddenly, a flashing red dot appeared on a northern section, right where the ship's computer had computed the plane would land with the revised course. Alsted immediately went to the radio room and called Jeb.

“What?”

“Yep. The AI just completely ditched the plan and decided to go north.”

“You know we don't have the fuel yet to get him.”

“Thankfully all his systems are intact, but he might run out of life support supplies soon.”

“We'll need some form of transport, you know.”

“We can find a way to make that work.”

“Did you tell Mission Control?”

“Not yet.”

“Don't.”

Author's Note:

Mysterious forces be at work. I wonder what happened to the autopilot system? Eh, probably just misprogrammed coordinates.