Star Trek Hunter
Episode: 16: Slavers
Scene 1: Flying By the Seat of their Pants
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16.1
Flying By the Seat of their Pants
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Probably the most sophisticated and elegant of all Maquis inventions was the atmosphere specific flight suit. It had been invented to provide the Maquis rebels a nearly untraceable method for inserting a large strike force onto a planet from space. The garment's outer layer was a temporary EVA suit, which could provide up to ten hours protection in open space, but was designed to gradually ablate on entry into a planetary atmosphere. The heat of ablation provided power to a micro inertial dampener, designed to slow the descent of the wearer without registering on a sensor as anything more energetic than an average meteor.

By the time the wearer entered the middle atmosphere, the outer suit was designed to fall away and ablate entirely, while the micro-dampener, before being destroyed with the suit, was designed to slow the wearer sufficiently for deployment of a triangular fixed wing, controlled by hands and feet, allowing a very long glide capability so that the wearer – now a pilot – could glide for hundreds of kilometers to seek their preferred landing zone. A set of levers allowed the pilot to gradually open a number of billows built into the fabric of this wing, providing controlled drag to enable a horizontal landing on skids that were deployed beneath the pilot. The entire wing structure was designed to be disassembled on landing for reuse either in its original capacity or for other purposes.

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While these suits had been designed and a few hundred had been manufactured for a space-to-ground assault, the Maquis never used them for this purpose and the prototypes were eventually sold as escape modules. Pomm Irons had long ago purchased three of these and stored them on the B.R. Prophet Motive in hopes they would never be needed.

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Neither Pivin nor Oarama Irons had ever donned these suits before and there was no training program. Just a tag with alarmingly optimistic pictograms. These flight suits, crafted by Maquis rebels in hastily prepared workshops on outlawed colonies, had a distinctly homemade appearance to them. The two women struggled into them, having to experiment with the inner and outer portions to get them to fit correctly while the runabout's pilot, a massively obese bajoran male, made one wild turn after another, trying to evade phaser fire from a small cloud of orion interceptors and at the same time avoid the massive walls and columns of energized plasma that characterized the Badlands.

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In desperation, Pomm Irons launched first the elderly romulan woman, then his (primarily) cardassian wife into space from the Prophet Motive's torpedo launcher, before angling the large runabout to avoid another plasma burst. Phaser fire from pursuing orion interceptors sparked off the yellow runabout's shields and intersected with the surrounding plasma storm, adding bright laces of energy to the energetic fields of ignited stellar gasses that made the Badlands so dangerous for navigation – and a favorite hiding place not only for the Maquis rebels, but for outlaws and refugees of every description. And, now that the Maquis rebel forces had been devastated in the War with the Dominion, no one was left to protect the tens of thousands of refugees who sheltered behind the plasma storms. The Badlands had become a rich hunting ground for green-skinned orion slavers.

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As their ship and only home swerved away from them in a futile attempt to escape a dozen orion interceptors, Pivin and Oarama, with only their flimsy, homemade EVA suits between them and the cold of space, had to adjust their flight pattern to pass through eddies in the plasma bursts that were far too small for a ship, but easily large enough for an EVA suit to pass through.

One of the orion interceptors that had been hot on Pomm's tail diverted course to follow the two women. The hole in the plasma burst was just large enough to thread an interceptor through. But the pilot failed to take magnetic interference into account and the plasma interacted with the interceptor's shielding, trapping the small vessel and pulling it up into the plasma storm, where it exploded, feeding its energy into the plasma cloud.

Pivin and Oarama could only adjust their flight through open space with small bursts of gas from the sides of their flight suits. All around them on every side the plasma storm raged in vibrant reds, yellows and greens – energized and electrified by the orion interceptor it had swallowed and was digesting in brilliant cascades of intense blue lightning. For a moment it was easy for them to forget this was a desperate escape and simply admire the raw, energetic beauty of the Badlands.

But a rogue planet was hidden in the middle of all this blazing stellar material – so enveloped in the raging plasma storm that it was nearly impossible to approach by ship. Even a runabout would have great difficulty navigating the storm raging around Vengeons-Roux (as the Maquis had named the planet).

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Rogue planets were almost invariably frozen, dead planets, but not Vengeons-Roux. The planet's strong magnetosphere protected the atmosphere from the blazing waves of stellar material. The biosphere had survived by adapting to the energy of the raging plasma storm around the planet and small animals hunted by the ever shifting light that at one moment might be close to daylight and in the next moment twilight. Pomm and Oarama had scouted this planet years ago as a possible emergency hideout and had left a stash of supplies and food. They had also sewn a number of hardy and very useful plants to grow wild near these supplies.

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Following Pomm's scant and hurried instructions, Pivin and Oarama kept at least 500 meters between them as they entered the atmosphere of Vengeons-Roux. They turned their bellies to the atmosphere and watched – their face-masks instantly turning dark to protect their eyes and faces from the intense heat and radiation of their suits ablating into the planet's atmosphere. They could feel the drag of micro inertial dampeners embedded in their flight suits, slowing their descent and cooling them as the remnants of the outer suits broke free and fell below them in trails of flaming debris.

As they deployed their fixed wings above them, the skids that were all that was left of the front of their EVA suits also deployed, providing a counter-balance to their triangular fixed wings, helping to keep them oriented for face-down horizontal flight and a horizontal landing. The inertial dampeners gave them a final lift, then dropped away to be smashed to dust on the ground far below. The flapping of the fabric wings grew louder and gradually provided increased lift as they glided into increasingly dense atmosphere.

After a few hours of synchronized flight, Oarama changed her wing angle and sped ahead of Pivin, then swooped around, slowing again. Pivin followed and the two gradually circled their target landing zone for nearly ten minutes, gradually losing speed and altitude until first Oarama, then Pivin landed on their skids, skidding across nearly 300 meters before grinding to a halt in the large meadow Pomm and Oarama had long ago selected. Oarama was grateful that it still was a meadow.

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A number of large quadrupeds crept out from the tree line toward the two women as they hurriedly freed themselves from their flight harnesses. The creatures had large heads with large mouths. They walked and stalked somewhat like wolves, spreading out to encircle the two women. The moment Pivin and Oarama stepped free of their flight gear and stood up straight, the animals quickly turned and ran back into the trees.

"They fear bipeds," Pivin observed.

"We're not alone," Oarama concluded.

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16.1