Author: J.D. Rice
Fingers scraped against hard ground, seeking a handhold against the sulfuric winds that battered against the environmental suit. The sky rumbled with cold lightning, and hail battered the suit’s graphene plating, begging for entry as if it needed to escape the storm itself. Moments passed through the excruciating chaos. Hand over hand, the figure within the suit pulled themselves along, instincts completely driving their actions as they crawled about looking for shelter. They would find none. Against this barren, toxic wasteland, there could be no victory.
She kept moving away.
Some faint part of her thought she might stumble upon a crash site. Her own, maybe, or that of some other crew pulled into the gravity well of this wretched planet.
This monster, a strange and inhospitable amalgam of terrestrial planet and gas giant, had devoured its latest prey. Her ship was gone, she knew, ripped to shreds in the upper atmosphere. Her escape pod had barely managed to reach the surface, crashing violently and tossing her haphazardly down a crumbling hillside. She would be dead, had not the howling updrafts somehow blunted her fall.
Now, she was alone.
Her body ached, and her communicator was silent. No other escape pods had launched, the rest of the crew trying desperately to keep the ship together as it plunged towards the surface. Her cowardice had saved her life.
“But for what?” she thought, hands gripping the rock face more tightly.
Darkness enveloped her, broken only by periodic, violent flashes of lightning.
“On,” her body urged her, adrenaline still churning within her. “On. Survive.”
Her arms and legs continued moving of their own accord, half-climbing, half-crawling ever forward. The sediment, if you could call it that, was rapidly building around her – little chunks of rock, ice, and crystal blown about by an endless storm, collecting in huge drifts against the jagged, icy mountains that towered over her.
“On, on,” her body fought back against the analysis in her mind. “Don’t think, just move.”
But what was the point?
She wasn’t a geologist, just another space jockey hoping to make a quick buck on the interstellar market. She’d been the one to suggest this route, everyone mistaking her greed for some uncanny confidence or bravado. They all know the reputation of this planet. They knew it devoured ships with an almost ravenous hunger. They all went along with her anyway.
“Stupid fools,” she thought, slumping down in a prone position, hands over her head to buffer herself against the wind and crystalline hail.
She hadn’t been brave, hadn’t been clever. She was just another foolhardy idiot risking lives for a little gravity boost.
Now they were all dead, and she was stuck here, waiting for the planet to take her too.
The storm would strip the environmental suit away, bit by bit, it’s graphene slowly becoming one with the debris thrown about by the storm, spreading over the surface of this harsh world. Her body would be next. Her flesh would be stripped from her bones, and before long, the bones themselves would be battered, crushed, and churned into powder. Her presence scrubbed clean from a planet that had never welcomed her in the first place.
“Fight,” her body said weakly, but all she could do was pull into a tighter ball on the ground.
She knew her fate. Either her oxygen would run out, or she would lose containment. There were no other choices.
In the end, she would be just another victim, swallowed by the monster planet.