The Life-Craft

eas_reentryAs the two craft hurtled ever nearer to the blue planet YFnyrdh could make out the thin pale rim along its horizon that indicated an atmosphere. The surface was almost entirely covered in a liquid and there were clouds of vapour that built up over what she took to be landmasses. The navigation computers on both craft calculated the correct safe entry angle and velocity and the first life–craft made precise adjustments to its attitude. Her companions’ small vessel was some ten minutes ahead. It entered the outer layers of the planet’s atmosphere, glowed briefly and exploded. YFnyrdh urgently flicked her life-craft systems to manual. The computer resisted. YFnyrdh insisted. Everyone in the crew had undergone extensive simulated disaster training, she had narrowly failed hers and been scheduled for reassessment. Never the less she made tiny adjustments to her craft’s trajectory, too much and she would bounce off the atmosphere into the chill darkness, offered a fervent prayer to her Pod Deity despite having ignored it since childhood, recalculated and made a few more adjustments, and then gave up; she was only guessing anyway.

The life-pod slowed and juddered dramatically as it entered the atmosphere and her safety harness dug painfully into her shoulders. Fire streaked past the observation ports and the temperature within her cramped cockpit began to rise. YFnyrdh could do nothing more, she was a hapless observer at her own extinction. The deceleration and violent shuddering continued for an eternity. She smelled the acrid scent of burned wiring, the interior lighting had died, but the fire outside was gone. She was ripping her way through a thick blanked of cloud. Eventually, with its passenger curled into a whimpering ball of pure terror, the life-craft did not so much land as crash. It bounced once and skidded, scoring a linear, dirty brown scar across a plain of tall, broad-leaved grassland. It pitched over a low, bare hillock and came to rest amidst the roots and trunks of a crowded cluster of flowering trees. YFnyrdh tried to breath again, panicked, recovered and pulled the release catch on the outer hatch. There was a hiss, but it did not move. Two desperate kicks and the hatch cover flew away. YFnyrdh leapt down and was standing on the surface of an alien world.

She walked some distance along the track gouged out by her careering life-craft. The sky seemed friendlier from down here. Patches of blue sky peeped through the clouds, a light breeze rustled the nodding trees, there was calm and peace. So she was more than a little shocked when something unseen cuffed her off her feet and into the long grass. As she lay, dazed, vicious ivory sabre teeth pierced the collar of her environment suit and crushed the survival pack on her back. She was lifted, dangling into the air and the monstrous creature that held her in its mouth set off at a dash.   YFnyrdh passed out.

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