The pod does not eject. With the pod melting and welding itself to the hull plating, the extraction system is not functioning correctly. Screaming in frustration, Larian starts hammering the ejection button, overriding the standard protocols and engaging the thrusters inside the launch tube. With a tremendous blast, the escape pod smashes its way through the side of the stricken Miranda, only to immediately start turning to the side as a huge piece of molten and slagged hull plating comes with it. Trying to correct for the increased unequal drag, Larian steers the escape pod towards the outside edge of the star. It takes every ounce of thrust the ship can produce to make any headway against the star’s gravity. Making a series of rapid and highly complicated calculations in her head, Larian deftly steers the pod into a partial slingshot manoeuvre to try to pick up some additional speed.
Radiation penetrates the thinner hull of the escape pod, even as the hull plating glows white from heat. The internal temperature starts rising, quickly reaching forty-five degrees centigrade and leaving the pod’s occupants struggling for a breath while they remain fixed in their seats, braced by locked chest supports. Smoke starts billowing from some of the side compartments. Alarms ring out from the cockpit while Larian works frantically to keep the small craft from torqueing into the star centre of gravity. An explosion rocks the ship, throwing it sideways as the main port thruster blows apart. The stench of burning insulation fills everyone’s nostrils. A lone crewmember is heard crying out, “I don’t want to die!” Meanwhile, skin continues to blister as the heavy radiation blankets the fleeing crew.
The port side steerage array melts away, and internal temperature reaches a scorching seventy degrees, and respiration systems begin to cook from the unrelenting heat. Breathing itself becomes agony. Jahus however exposed to his pathogen, is suffering relatively few effects from the heat, given his suit’s breathing system is self-contained. Through the windows of the pod, Jahus can see the molten piece of hull plating the escape pod fused to start bending backwards against the dense flow of matter the pod is pushing through. A moment later, the pod clears the Star and picks up momentum as the immense gravity eases. Larian has a startled moment, as she realizes that by rights, the gravity of the star should have crushed the Miranda to the size of a baseball in seconds, yet somehow both it and the escape pod managed to remain intact long enough to escape. It defies all her knowledge, but she focuses her attention on steering the crippled pod.
Assessing the situation, Larian notes almost complete loss of steering capability, no ability to halt the pod as thrusters are gone, and sensors melted off a long time ago. Just as she tries to come up with a solution, low sound starts coming from the view screen. The pod is flying right into an asteroid field, and is being pelted by micrometeorites.
The sound of rain grows louder, as larger and larger debris starts pelting the craft as it quickly loses momentum. Just then, a horrific bang resonates throughout the pod as it instantly spins sideways and keeps rotating, having just slammed into a large asteroid. Several individuals inside the escape at once begin to vomit, and at least one urinates in his pants – the free spin of the pod throwing and smearing vomit everywhere.
Another tremendous blow hits the pod and the side wall punches in, the result of a side-on impact with an asteroid. A chuck of the wall smashes inwards, crushing its way through the back of one of the fixed seats, breaking a crewman’s spine and herniating his heart between his ribs. He’s dead almost instantly as blood sprays from his throat and mists the cabin.
BANG! A chunk of the pods heatshield and hull plate rips away, and shards of ice start ripping through the unprotected side wall. Two crewmen at the back are shredded with flying ice, and several others take flesh wounds. Larian calls out, “I’m reading an external atmosphere, we are entering planetary gravity!” Most are in too much misery to care.
A loud crash is heard, as a sharp asteroid smashes through the front cockpit, narrowly missing Larian before sailing straight through the back cabin. Ragnaar turns his head to avoid the flying missile, avoiding the mother of all bloody noses. Having passed through the cabin without injury, the asteroid hits the back wall, which ultimately proves too much for the strained structural welds and the entire back wall rips off into blackness. The atmosphere is sucked out almost instantly, leaving the pod’s occupants with empty lungs. The life support system howls to barely keep a trace amount of air in the cabin and avoid a vacuum effect.
Lightening begins to strike the escape pod as it descends through the planetary atmosphere. Several surges pass through the unprotected cabin interior, but luckily no one’s heart stops despite the massive shocks. Electrical systems do not fare quite so well however…
The remaining chunk of Miranda’s hull plating that remains stubbornly fixed to the side of the escape pod begins to act as a wind vane, pitching the escape pod into an entry angle that has it coming in on a side window instead of on the heat shield. Slowly the increasing atmospheric friction begins to heat the side of the craft, and oxidative flames being licking the escape pods wounds. Through the broken view screen in the front of the craft, a tail of flame extends past Larian’s head and reaches through the back cabin. Beads of molten glass from the windows begin to break off and hit several unlucky souls, cauterizing injuries caused.
Around the completely open back of the escape pod, flame from outside the craft begins to curl inside, taking mere moments to render a screaming crewman to char and licking towards several other crewmembers. Jahus has to start patting out his suit as small flames sprout from its outer layers.
All at once, one last blow exacts a price from the consciousness of those who survived atmospheric entry, and all goes black. Larian is the first to recover, to find everything black but for a few flickering consoles. A few moments later she gasps in pain and looks down to see a large shard of console glass thrust through her right lung and she begins to cough blood. Grasping for a light, Larian unbuckles herself from her seat and attempts to stand, only to find her leg unable to support her weight. Feeling her numb flank, she grimaces as she notes the deep muscle cut in her left leg and what is likely a bleeding artery. With all of her will, she crawls into the back cabin and hits the button releasing the cabin seat restraints before collapsing into darkness.
For a time, all is silent but for electrical crackles, sounds of sizzling water, and creaking metal. Radda, the fresh-from-the-academy ensign is the first to wake.