The Astrid sped towards an unknown star system, Cassia and Nigel at the helm. Warning alarms signalled their ship's low charge and malfunctioning power core. If the battery ran out, they wouldn't have enough power to generate breathable air or land on the alien planet ahead -their last hope in the crippled ship. Every use of the engine had to count.
A series of bleeps alerted them of something entering sensor range. Cassia sat straight up in seat, and her face fell as she monitored the pilotting console. "Nigel -we've got a problem."
"What's up?" Nigel leaned forwards, clicking on his own station. The long range scanner data popped on screen. The display showed the approaching star system -several planets, including their destination, and a single moon in orbit around it. A chaotic mass of blips buzzed around the moon: Mangeroma vessels -too many to count.
"There's so many of them." Nigel blurted out.
"I was worried about this. It's an outpost."
"They're set up on the moon of that planet." Nigel stared wide-eyed at the armada, his heart pounding. "We're headed straight for them!"
"We don't have much of a choice -landing on that planet is our last chance."
"But there's no way we'll get by! They'll blow us away!"
"Not if they don't see us. Listen, as long as we don't use our thrusters their sensors won't pick us up -we can do this."
"I don't know." Nigel dropped his fingers down onto the console, calculating their approach trajectory. "No. Our approach isn't going to work. If we don't decelerate -a lot- we're gonna explode on impact with the atmosphere. But as soon as we slow down it'll give us away -they'll be on us in no time."
"What if we came around from the other side? That'd give us enough time to slow down and stay out of their reach, right?"
Nigel entered a quick calculation. "Yea, if we could swing all the way around. But that doesn't help us -we don't have enough charge left for that."
"You're right." Cassia clutched her forehead. "Well, we've gotta figure something out. We're approaching fast."
"Alright, alright. I think I have an idea. Take a look." He motioned to his console's display, which showed the diverse constellation of planets in the approaching system. "We don't have enough power to turn back and come around. But we can change course a little bit and head this way." Nigel pointed to a massive planet passing close to their line of approach, a gas giant orbitting far outside the approaching star. "We can swing part way around using its gravity."
"Okay. But that doesn't get us anywhere near the target."
"No -we head here next." Nigel pointed to another of the planet.
Cassia scrunched her eyebrows. "We can't swing around from that angle -we'll crash right into it."
"Not with a little shield impulse -we'd bounce right off."
"Hmm." Cassia paused in thought. "So we adjust course, head for the gas giant here, swing around this way. Reposition ourselves to get angle just right-"
"-then we pop the starboard shields when we hit the atmosphere."
"Okay. And bounce off this way. Giving us enough room to decelerate for a safe landing."
"Yea." Nigel nodded. "And we can use the extra space to decelerate outside of their sensor range."
"You think this'll really work?"
"It's just math, right?"
"Well everything is math -I want to know if you can pull it off."
"Yea, I think so."
"Good enough, I guess. It looks like our best shot. Let's do it."
Nigel and Cassia went to work, hands flurrying over their consoles as they input the command sequence and calculated their new, multi-point trajectory.
Nigel's heart was racing. He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. "Alright, setting that gas giant as our zero."
"Sure, got it."
"Bumping four percent." They heard a loud hum as the ship's engine thrusters adjusted their approach, pulling them towards the massive, gaseous planet ahead.
"Our approach is a little off."
"That should've been perfect."
"The damage must've affected the thruster profile. I'll compensate for the discrepancy." Cassia tapped in the commands, adjusting the thruster output patterns. "Okay -let's get us on course."
"Bumping one percent." The ship hummed again, throwing off super charged particles as they veered again.
"Got it! Good job."