Chapter 14: Crash LandingFlames spewed out of X-Bomber's main engines as it hurtled to the ground. The crew inside were fighting with the controls while PPA's drones tried to put out the fire that was raging in the rear of the ship. The console bound PPA was trying his utmost to restore systems that had gone off-line or become corrupted during the bombardment they had received from the ancient weapon platforms which left Professor Hagen, Lee and Hercules having to try and land X-Bomber the old fashioned way.'Hercules, fire the retros!' called out the Professor behind his console. 'Short bursts, 2 seconds apart. Lee! bring our nose up 20 degrees! PPA, how are the engines?''We have contained the fire, Professor, but the engines are badly damaged and are currently off-line!' squeaked the emotional android.'Off-line?!' growled Hercules 'What are we meant to do, glide her in?''Yes Hercules, exactly!' Professor Hagen tapped a few keys on his keyboard and called up an ancient automated flight program. 'PPA, access archive file 020034 and execute.''Bur sir this is madness these computations derive from The Ancient Archive. The code is over a 1000 years-old, surly we can't entrust our lives to such primitive commands.' squealed PPA, who for a perfectly programmed android was starting to, as Barry Hercules would say: flip his lid.'Execute the file PPA! We have no time to waste!' retorted a slightly annoyed Professor.'Yeah, do as you're told, bucket head!' shouted Hercules who had little time for niceties at the present moment or indeed at any other moment where PPA was concerned.All through this chaos, John Lee had remained silent as he fought to keep the X-Bomber from nose-diving into the alien rock below, but he felt the time had come to express himself. ‘W-W-Whatever we’re gonna do we better do it now! Impact in 30 seconds!’ The program was executed and the main screen which was home to PPA’s virtual self flickered and rebooted. PPA’s image returned, but his new appearance took on board the aesthetics of what Earth historians had come to term as '8-bit graphics'. In fact the entire ship was now being flown on auto-pilot with a fraction of the most basic computing power. No one in their right mind would ever think of gliding a space vehicle the size of X-Bomber to a landing in the 31st century, but thanks to a primitive program from The Ancient Archive which Professor Hagen had made sure was stored in X-Bomber’s memory banks they were now doing what their intrepid ancestors had done in the past.‘Hey Guys, It’s working! The new program has bypassed the corrupted systems, but it’s still going to be a bumpy landing!’‘Everybody strap yourselves in and brace for impact!’ Instructed Professor Hagen as the X-Bomber neared its designated makeshift landing strip. The downgraded PPA had found a relatively flat area for them to land, but the terrain was still very rocky and there was the added danger that if they didn't stop in time they would fall into the deep chasm at the end of the landing zone.'20 seconds and counting!' called out Lee after peering at his monitor. They were nearing the 'runway' now, but their approach was still dangerously fast.'Lee, keep the nose up!' ordered the Professor. 'Hercules, open the landing tracks!''Yes sir! Landing tracks opening!' replied Hercules.Compartments opened in the two rear pylons as well as the central one located underneath X-Bomber, revealing large tank-tracked landing gears. Professor Hagen had decided to install these after studying the flight logs of the X-Bomber, where he found that the vessel had a history of crash landings on rocky surfaces. It seemed to be a wise move as once again X-Bomber was in that very same predicament.'10 seconds!' said Lee in a tense voice. The hydraulic landing tracks were close to touching down on the rocky surface of the moon, but they were still coming in far to fast!‘Touchdown!’ shouted Lee in a modulated tone as the X-Bomber shook violently on greeting Gelma 2’s hard surface. They had landed successfully, but were now battling to slow the fast moving vehicle down before they ran out of runway.‘Hercules, full retros!’ instructed the Professor, still able to keep his cool while being buffeted around. Hercules complied, which slowed the ship down, but they now were dangerously close to the end of the airstrip.‘This is gonna be close!’ grimaced Hercules as the crew of X-Bomber closed their eyes and hoped for a miracle.The ship ground to a halt with the nose of the craft overlooking the great chasm below. Hercules was the first to open his eyes as he witnessed the hellish scene out of X-Bomber's window panels and exclaimed. ’Have we died and gone to hell!’‘Hercules, taxi us back to a... er, safer position.’ commanded a startled Professor Hagen who, while relieved to be alive, was quite staggered at the hellishly bleak environment they now found themselves in. They had all been too busy checking their consoles to notice the inhospitable nature of this planet as they had tried to land the X-Bomber. It now started to dawn on them that their crash landing was the easy part. Survival, in this desperate god-forsaken place looked to be a much harder task.A bolt of lightening hit the ground in the near distance and produced a clap of thunder that almost knocked John Lee off of his seat. ‘Woah! W-W-What was that?!’PPA was happy to explain to the young Lieutenant that it was a bolt of energy released from the dark clouds above. He then went into great detail on the regularity of such an occurrence on this planet.At that moment, and much to the relief of John Lee, who had grown bored of PPA's long speech, Shiro’s garbled voice blurted over X-Bombers com-link. ‘Hey guys, everyone in one piece?’ Shiro, Emma and the remnants of the X-Fighter wing had finished destroying the weapon platforms in their arrival sector and were now closing on X-Bombers position.‘Shiro! Thank the gods! Yes we are all fine here although X-Bomber needs some repairs.’ replied Professor, relieved that his son had survived the onslaught of the ancient weapon platforms.Braincom and the 11 surviving X-Fighters landed around X-Bomber’s position. Their small fleet had already taken heavy losses, without even a glimpse of their still unknown adversary. They all wondered what would happen next as they put on their environmental suits and made their way to the damaged X-Bomber for an emergency briefing.
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