Read Chapter 1: Metal Shell here

Everything hurts, everything. My eyes took some time to adjust to the light, all I could see were purple shapes swaying around me. Am I dead? Wouldn’t be surprised considering the force our escape pod hit the planet at. Wait a minute, Vickrum, and the others. Finally adjusting to the light, I get up and look around. No idea how long I’d been out so the air can’t be too toxic, it’s not a perfect match for Earth’s original, breathable atmosphere but it won’t kill us. Suddenly I take it all in, I’m in a forest of what look like purple plants, with long wide… leaves? That are swaying in a cool breeze. All the fauna around me is the height of these plants or smaller, around four feet tall. Looking around this dense forest of plants stretches for miles in all directions. In the distance behind me mountains burst out of the ground with sharp inclines and what looks like glittering rocks. Probably some kind of mineral embedded in the rock. Left of me is an endless sea of purple forest and right of me stretch out until a forest of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen. They have to be the size of the empire state building before New York was drowned by the sea. Maybe it’s an illusion because of the distance, or maybe I’m concussed and I’m seeing things. Maybe I’m dead.

In front of where I landed I could see a sea, deep blue in colour, at least something felt familiar. Just before the forest of purple plants ended and the sea began there was a small beach of black sand, and there was the escape pod. Smouldering in what was left of a crash site. Trying not to throw up, or fall over, I limped towards the wreckage, each step sent a wave of pain throughout my body and made me heave with the nausea. After a few yards I find Shani laying on the ground, both her legs are broken and she’s unconscious. I check for a pulse, she’s alive, thank god. There isn’t that much bleeding from her broken legs, only her lower left leg has sustained a compound fracture and that seems to have stopped bleeding. I take off my jacket and top, tear the top into a strip and tie it around her left thigh, just in case. Putting what’s left of my top back on and throwing my jacket over her, I carry on towards the wreckage. I get up too fast, turn around and before I can even drop to my knees I vomit.

Now kneeling in my own vomit, I notice something I hadn’t before. Insects, of all shapes and sizes swarm towards the contents that were previously inside my stomach. Well, they looked like this planets equivalent of insects, but I’d never seen anything like them. Mesmerised, I couldn’t take my eyes of the alien critters. One of them caught my eye. It looked like a bright yellow spider, expect it had ten legs and what looked like eyes but I then realised were just openings on all sides of what I guessed was its circular abdomen. Considering its vibrant colour, which didn’t exactly camouflage well with the deep purple ecosystem, it was either a top predator or extremely poisonous to those that would dare to eat it. Thinking it’s probably the later, I quickly get up before it can get any closer to me. Most of the other insects were purple in colour and camouflaged well into the surroundings. Barely back on my feet, I started toward the wreckage once more.

I finally make it to the wreckage and surprisingly the escape pod is pretty solid despite how much wreckage there was strewn across the beach. The shrapnel much have been from the outside of the pod, some of it may have even been from the SSDARWIN. The SSDARWIN, it’s probably come down somewhere on this planet too, with the alien. Suddenly remembering the alien sends me into a state of panic. The alien was from this planet we’d just landed on. What if there were more? It only took one to nearly wipe us out and take down our entire ship. Collecting myself, I climbed into the wreckage to find the rest of the crew. Vickrum looks terrible, the blistered burns on his arm ooze and bleed soaking his clothes in a yellow/red mixture of blood and infection. Shane and Viola are still in their seats too, covered in burns and bruises but ultimately ok, like me. I check all their vitals as best I can then get to work on tending to Vickrum. His breaths are shallow, he’s paler than a ghost and sweat is dripping off of his skin, adding to the moist mixture seeping into his clothes. Using the rest of my shirt I bandage up his arm, then set out to see if any medical kits are around in the wreckage. None in the pod, so I venture out onto the beach to see if any are with the shrapnel scattering the sand.

A medical pack, thank god. Rushing it back to Vickrum I use a morphine autoinjector and begin applying antiseptic to the wound. Once I’ve done all I can, I reapply the bandage. The entire bottle of Isopropyl alcohol is empty, pierced in the crash, great.

Walking back out onto the beach I slump between a dislodged safety seat, maybe mine, and the escape pod. We’re out on an alien planet, one of us is dead, two of us are severely injured with one in critical condition, and the remaining two I don’t get along with. Not to be crude, but we’re royally fucked. Hearing banging from inside the pod I notice Kane pop his head out of the wreckage.

“What the hell happened” he said, obviously in a lot of pain.

“We crashed, Shani has two broken legs, Vickrum is on his last legs and we have no rubbing alcohol.” I mutter.

“This isn’t the time for a drink, we need to get our bearings and find some shelter before we bump into one of those things again, it came from down here didn’t it?” he said sternly.

Oh my god. This guy is more of a survival knucklehead than I thought. I mean I could do with a drink right about now but I’m not an idiot. I’ll give him credit thought, he’s thinking strategically about surviving despite his lack of medical knowledge.

“Rubbing alcohol, it’s used as to kill off bacteria, clean surfaces. The medical pack was damaged in the crash, but I salvaged what I could, used half of it on Vickrum already.” I muttered, staring out into the sea.

“Oh, ok, I’m going to check on Viola, then we need to move.” he said sternly, not a drop of emotion in his voice. I was amazed at how well he’d taken in the situation, I mean we’d just crash landed on an alien planet, from which an alien tried to kill us all. To be fair he isn’t a scientist, he can breathe, so he’ll do his job. Be the muscle and keep us all from dying too fast.

Getting back onto my feet I help him carry Viola and Vickrum out of the pod, he winces as we lug Vickrum’s body out trying not to get the mess of puss and blood on him. Then we go back to get Shani, still unconscious, and carry her back to the beach. We passed my pool of vomit, and what we saw was unlike anything I’d seen before. There were hundreds of those critters feeding off of it. My stomach contents had provided a feeding frenzy for the local ecosystem. It was like watching the body of a dead whale be stripped to bone at the bottom of the ocean, or a shoal of small fish decimated by swordfish and dolphins. The one detail I did notice was that there were more of those yellow spider-like creatures, some twice the size of my hand. I think Shane noticed those too, so we carried Shani out of there as fast as we could. Shani, she’s the ecologist, she’ll be so upset she missed seeing an entirely new ecosystem of alien life. She’ll probably be more upset about her legs though.

Back on the beach, we have the three of the unconscious team laid out, and for the first time I noticed the sky. It was a beautiful light blue, just like home, but you could see an overlay of the stars too. I stared until Shane broke my bliss.

“Luke, Luke… LUKE!” he yelled at me, snapping me out of my trance.

“Yeah? Oh sorry.” I spluttered.

“We need to head for shelter and make a base camp.” he ordered. I was still amazed by his lack of shock. Looking around, there was definitely no shelter here, our best bet would probably be the giant trees, but we had no idea what would be lurking in that forest. First, we needed more supplies. The best thing to do would to collect everything we can from the pod.

“Ok, but first let’s round up our supplies.” I stated.

“Done.” he barked.

“What?” I questioned.

“When I came too I collected everything of use into the only backpack not shredded to pieces in the crash, there’s not much at all, some food rations for maybe a month between us all, no more medical supplies and a few heat blankets. Oh, and this thing.” He said whilst handing me a device. It was a special type of satellite phone, used to connect to the SSDARWIN in the event of an escape pod being used.

“This is great! This is a sat phone!” I exclaimed in excitement.

“What the hell good will that do us?” I heard Viola say, she’d just come round.

“Are you ok? Have you broken anything? Can you get up and move?” Shane said, he was all over her, the first time I’ve ever seen him let his guard down.

“I’m fine get off me!” she barked at Shane, “So tell me, what good is that going to do? We can’t exactly call home from a tiny sat phone considering we’re not even in the same solar system as E.A.R.T.H.”

“Well, we can use this to check if the SSDARWIN has crashed or not” I said triumphantly.

“And if it’s down here we’re in more trouble than if it’s up there?” Viola remarked. Her sarcasm wasn’t helpful.

“No, if it’s down here, so are all of our supplied and a wreckage we can turn into base camp as Shane so nicely put it. On the supplies we have now, providing the weather or alien life on this planet doesn’t kill us first, we have a few weeks before we starve or die from disease.” I announced. I suddenly realised that there are probably a lot of new diseases on this planet, whether we can be infected, how bad they are and if they’ll kill us would need to be tested. I can test all of that, if the ship came down with all my equipment relatively intact. I used the sat phone and halleluiah there is no signal from the SSDARWIN.

“Ok, fine. But what if the comms were destroyed and it’s still up there, and if it’s come down, how do we find the damn ship?” Viola questioned, her face hardened. I hadn’t thought about the comms being down on the ship. If they are, we’re in more trouble than I thought.

“Uh, guys…” Shane retorted.

“What?” Viola and I said in harmony.

Shane just pointed in the direction of the forest of giant trees. Remarkably, from the treeline there was a thin trail of smoke rising, dissipating into the atmosphere. It was so subtle I wouldn’t have noticed it if Shane hadn’t mentioned it.

“Well I guess we’re headed that way.” Viola said.

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