The ship shudders again, this time with more violence. Metal clangs against metal as ship components experience their first major jostle since assembly Earth orbit. Its first encounter with real atmosphere too. The ship is untested which I guess is by design, but my brain still wants to panic. Luckily, there’s no time.
“We better buckle up,” Mr. Military says. I still don’t know his name. He shoves off a support and pushes himself to the floor. Space stations are designed without floors, but this ship wasn’t designed to be weightless forever, just about 400 years, and its weightless days are just about over. He yanks a collapsible chair out from the floor, metal legs and creaky joints snap into position. With another motion, he pulls out another one out next to it. What a gentleman. “Strap in, you’re going to need it.” He’s not wrong.
I float over as the ship shakes around me again, but I miss. Gravity is here. I slam into the floor, as the first bit of deceleration takes the ship. It’s not much, maybe a tenth of a gee, but it’s enough when you’re not expecting it. I push myself up and make a little leap for the chair. Mr. Military is already buckling into his. Only half gentleman, pulls out your chair but doesn’t see you safely into it. As I grab the wrung on the chair, the ship shakes again, only this time it doesn’t stop. Shouldn’t the computer be communicating? Telling us about the descent? Remember your training. Remember your training. Remember your training. The computer runs the landing, but it’s supposed to be providing friendly updates on the way down.
I manage to buckle in. Maybe it’s the power. Maybe we don’t have enough power. Will the landing thrusters fire without power? Is the planet livable? Where did the year in orbit go? Even if the thrusters do fire, are we still super fucked?
I tap at a console, nearly out of reach. The landing is supposed to be hands-off, but I need to know. “What are you doing?” Mr. Military barks, but his voice reaches me the same as a hum in the ventilation or a politician’s speech, something to be ignored.
I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know what I’m trying to do. Thrusters, thrusters, thrusters. Navigating government systems is difficult. They are built by thousands of programmers, with no thought for the end user and all by the lowest bidder. One menu looks nothing like the rest, things are accessed through nonsensical locations, and screen to screen the same rules never apply. If someone can use it, it’s good enough. Even if you have to be a half-crazed madman to understand it.
I pop down into a propulsion systems menu, and nothing makes much sense. Just a bunch of acronyms that I never learned and can’t puzzle out. Forgive me if my mind doesn’t have all its faculties at present. Hopefully it’s not brain damage. No, I feel fine. Would a person with brain damage feel fine? I can’t safely answer that question.