“Raia! Report status!”
Raia executed the last commands, feeling the change in the engine’s thrum as the Voidspear shifted course. She cued her coms. “All right, I’ve got good news and bad news.”
From far across the void, where the Sunrise Maiden currently hid on the far side of the moon, Navasi said, “Why don’t I like the sound of that?”
“The good news is that I’ve successfully rerouted the Voidspear into a decaying orbit. It should hit atmosphere in three minutes and break up over the planet’s surface.”
“And the bad news?”
Something huge boomed against the door to the bridge, accompanied by angry shouts.
“I’ll let you know in three minutes.”
“Just be quiet and let me think, please.”
Navasi’s silence radiated disapproval, but at least it was silence. Raia looked around the empty bridge, taking in her options.
The original extraction plan was scrap. There were easily twenty drow soldiers between her and the escape pods—far too many to fight past. And while her security seal was holding for the moment, it was only safety in the most shortsighted sense. She was bottled up on a ship that would shortly begin tearing itself apart.
Of course, she could always undo the course change. Set the ship back in a stable orbit, wait for the drow to breach the blast doors, and throw herself on their mercy.
“Yeah, right,” she whispered to herself. “No thanks.”
She opened the captain’s internal hailing frequency, hearing the tone echo throughout the ship.
“Crew of the Voidspear,” she began, cool as a Triaxian glacier. “This ship will enter atmosphere and begin self-destruction in two minutes—you can see the truth of this on your nav readouts, or out the viewports with your own eyes. As your unauthorized pilot, I advise you to abandon ship immediately.”
That earned her more shouts from the hallway outside.
They wouldn’t evacuate, of course. Not most of them—drow were notorious for their zealotry, and their matriarchs would probably have any survivors executed anyway for losing a crucial warship like the Voidspear. But at least she’d given them the option. She’d avoided unnecessary loss of life as best she could.
Now for her own. Beyond the viewport window, the planet loomed large, the curve of its horizon rapidly flattening with proximity. Above it, the darkness of space beckoned, safety and danger in equal parts.
All right, then—if she couldn’t reach the escape pods, she’d just have to make her own.
First up: propulsion. There was no point exiting the ship just to follow it down the gravity well. Letting her eyes defocus, she summoned her magic and visualized what she needed.
This was the part that always looked like—well, magic to the uninitiated. And it was, but not in the way they thought of it. Technomancy wasn’t about just making wishes or reciting incantations. You had to understand the mechanics behind what you were doing, as clearly as if you were building something with your own hands. Control circuitry, discharge chamber, ion accelerator grid, hollow cathode neutralizer—every component mattered. Miss one relay or power processer, and all you had was a fancy sculpture. Assuming you didn’t blow yourself up.
Green lines glowed in the air before her, a three-dimensional wireframe technical drawing that expanded, gaining substance and heft, until the glow disappeared and the completed jetpack dropped into her waiting arms. She slapped a spare battery into it and watched the readouts light up. Fully functional.
Excellent. She slipped on the harness.
The next spell was easier—one of the first any sensible spacer learned. Putting one hand to her head, she formed a bubble of breathable atmosphere, extending the field down around her body. Not a great way to travel the stars for any length of time, but at least she wouldn’t immediately freeze, boil, or asphyxiate.
Alarms began to blare throughout the ship. Beneath her feet, the deck shuddered as structures intended solely for vacuum encountered their first fatal traces of atmosphere.
Time to go. Raia stared out the window, fixing a point in mind. Then she took a deep breath and cast the final spell.
Darkness. Weightlessness. Agoraphobia slammed into her as her brain suddenly recognized the lack of a ship’s comforting constraints around her. She fought down the urge to panic, willing herself to continue breathing deeply. Slowly, deliberately, she triggered the jetpack’s roll thrusters, spinning a hundred and eighty degrees.
Below, the Voidspear fell away from her, making its final dive into the blue and white of the planet. Already, delicate struts were breaking away, the hull glowing red with heat. As she watched, a single escape pod shot free—deserters choosing to take their chances with the matriarchs.
Good for them. Opening up her own engines to maximum, Raia accelerated hard, climbing toward a stable orbit. As she did, she reopened her coms. “Raia here. Mission complete.”
“Raia!” Navasi’s voice was gratifyingly relieved. “Are you all right? Where are you?”
Raia looked around, taking in the void stretching endlessly all around her.
“Well,” she said, “I’ve got good news and bad news...”
About the Author
James L. Sutter is a former Starfinder Creative Director and Executive Editor of the Pathfinder Tales novels. In addition to foundational work on both Pathfinder and Starfinder, he’s also written award-winning novels, comics, video games, and short stories. You can find him at jameslsutter.com or on Twitter at @jameslsutter. His Pathfinder Tales novels, Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine, are available now.
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.
Iconic Encounter: Good News and Bad News
Thursday, September 19, 2019