My ship was going down.
My ship was going down, and I didn’t know why.
Usually, getting too close to a planet would just pull you into orbit if you weren’t careful, especially if was a large planet or you were a large ship.
This was a small planet, and I was a small ship.
My engines seized up right out of the jump, which left me drifting helplessly until I could get them back online. It was my fault I’d screwed up the jump calculations, and now I was paying for it.
Except then I passed way too close to this small planet, and now I was on a collision course and without engines to stop it.
The computer was flashing warning lights and helpfully displaying an altimeter that was rapidly approaching zero.
I wasn’t too worried about burning up in the atmosphere, as my ship was supposedly surface-ready, although it had probably never been on a planet before.
But as they say, it’s not the fall that kills you. It’s the sudden stop at the end.
I tried the controls again, but they were useless.
The ship’s outside temperature started rising as I entered the atmosphere. I was at an unfortunate angle of approach, and the ride was starting to get very bumpy. I checked my harness.
I passed over the sun line into the dark side of the planet.
There was a dull roaring sound from outside the ship. The computer told me that the atmosphere was a breathable mix, and the temperature near the ground was balmy. It was a small comfort that if I survived the impact, I wouldn’t die from oxygen deprivation.
The planet was dark, so much that I could only rely on the altimeter to tell me how far from the ground I was.
Panicked, I did whatever I could to slow the decent. I’d never landed a ship on a planet before. I pulled the flaps on the wings, engaged the landing gear, but it didn’t make a difference.
There was a loud crack as I hit something. The ship started to spin. I didn’t even have time to be nauseous before hitting the ground.
I woke up, very unwillingly, to tapping on the cockpit. My harness and helmet saved me from death, but there was blood on my visor and it felt like my collarbone was broken. The tapping continued and I looked up to the cockpit windows, but it was too dark to see anything.
I removed my helmet, and wiped the blood off my face. The computer was rebooting from the crash, so I wasn’t able to send a distress signal or get any further information about the planet besides “habitable”.
The banging got louder. It wasn’t the wind.
I undid my harness and grabbed my helmet to use against whatever was out there. I very carefully got into a crouch on the seat and moved my injured hand to the canopy release. The opening would push back whatever was on top of it, and I could get in a good swing with my helmet.
I pulled the release, and the canopy popped open. I swung wildly at the opening.
I hit nothing. Plant matter drifted into the cockpit.
I looked around for the cause of the banging.
I could make out a vague shape on the wing. It turned its head and the moonlight reflected off of its gigantic eyes.
I kept my helmet at ready. I didn’t know whether it was dangerous or curious.
It looked at me for a moment, before making a terrible high-pitched laughing sound. What sounded like laughter could be the creature calling its pack.
I slowly stepped out of the cockpit onto the wing opposite the creature. I watched carefully to make sure I didn’t trigger it to attack. It had stopped its terrible laughing and was staring again.
I took another step away.
The whole ship shifted with my weight and I lost my balance. I dropped my helmet to grab hold of the lip of the cockpit. The creature’s claws scraped against the wing as it tried to stay on.
It was coming for me.
It wasn’t moving threateningly, more curiously. It was possible it knew I was injured and was biding its time.
I backed away further, but this time it was ready for the shift and didn’t break stride. The ship groaned distressingly.
It stopped at the edge of the cockpit and tilted its head to the side. “Hi!” It sounded like it said.
If I jumped down, I could get a rock or something and chase it away. Maybe grab one of the fallen branches.
And then what? I thought. I couldn’t even begin to find a place to hide. The ship wouldn’t be safe, not from a hungry pack. And they would certainly outrun me.
I was going to die like in one of those scary stories they tell children to prevent this exact thing from happening.
My pounding heart was making my head pound. I glanced off the side of the wing. I knew it wasn’t a far drop, but it looked endless in the darkness.
“Hi!” The creature said again. It stretched its neck over the gap to look at me closer. Blood was oozing into my eye but I couldn’t wipe it away.
“Helloooo?” I heard from the ground and quickly looked around for the sound.
The pink one had called its pack. I was rapidly running out of options. Run or fight.
“Up here!” The creature on the wing said.
It was speaking Common.
How was it speaking Common? There were animals that could mimic speech. Maybe I talked in my sleep and it heard me. Maybe I was hearing things.
“What is this? What’s going on?” The other one said. Or maybe a third. I couldn’t tell anymore.
I had to get away.
I dropped off the wing and landed very badly. My ankle gave way when I tried to stand up. I heard the creature drop from the ship and it gave me all the incentive to get up and run.
I was surrounded by trees that I could barely see. But I ran on, tripping over them and getting caught in the branches.
I could hear the creatures gaining on me.
Something grabbed my leg and I screamed. I yanked my foot hard to get free and fell into a tree, knocking myself out.