Everything froze for a moment as the full realization struck Commander Akal: the altimeter had been sabotaged. She didn’t have five hundred metres of room to play with; she had perhaps one hundred and twenty, and that number — like the landing craft — was plunging.
“Shnat!” she hissed, smacking the actuator to fire the braking thrusters. The craft lurched upward, slamming her body into her seat. Searing pain ripped up her spine, and she knew immediately one of her tails had fractured. Better that than the rest of her.
The green copper-oxide surface of Mardath rushed to fill her screen, and she punched the emergency thrusters. Two of the them fired; the third sputtered, flared and burst in a shower of metal splinters.
The craft yawed left, and the horizon twisted sickeningly.
“I’m about to be the first Tragg on Mardath,” Akal had a split second to think, and then the craft’s hull crushed and folded into her in less time than it took to blink, flattened. It skidded, tumbled, skipped and skidded again, carving a staccato groove in the Mardathian surface.
The dust took hours to settle in Mardath’s thin gravity. But when it did, all was silent and still.
This one’s for Red Sweater Software and the excellent MarsEdit.