Ups and Downs

Nu stood in the warm tidepools and took in one last look at the blazing blue sun. It had no name, just like this planet. But with a little luck, they would both be in the catalogs in a couple hours. The planet was rich in drinkable water, breathable air, and stable landmasses, but luck was harder to quantify. Perhaps she’d found some. Perhaps not.

She climbed aboard her capsule and prepared for launch.

Due to the distances, time, and expense involved, most licensed prospectors only made one good claim in their entire career. This would be a phenomenal claim. But in order to register it with the Star Authority she was required to actually set foot on the territory before comming it in. She’d done the first part. That’s where the trouble started.

The bouldered landscape made for a difficult landing. Nu’s capsule was in pieces on touchdown. The propellant tanks were blown and her comms array was completely crushed. She was stranded and unable to communicate with her orbiting starship, the Alicanto. The only thing she had going for her was that the planet was even more habitable than she’d imagined. She couldn’t repair the comms, but she did manage to patch the tanks. Over the next few days she did some light exploring on foot while the capsule split water into fuel. Now, finally, she could get back to the Alicanto, stake her claim, and take a shower to boot.

The capsule rumbled to life and was airborne. The quaking intensified and she gritted her teeth. The tumult surrounded her until she was no longer able to differentiate whether the crashing sounds had leveled out or were continuing to crescendo. There was a sudden lateral force, and she felt the capsule tumble. She didn’t remember landing; she just sort of came to with smoke beyond the portholes and constant gravity beneath her. Dazed, she climbed back out from the small cockpit.

The patch had failed. She was lucky the damn thing didn’t explode, but unlucky in every other manner she could conceive. Nu removed her helmet and stood again in another tidepool, staring down the blue sun across the water, and cursing luck in all its forms.

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Vinh Pham, used with permission.

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