Location: 100 km above ground
Energy reserves: 20%
“Planetary orbit reached, prepare for descent.“
Badass opened his eyes, startled by the robotic voice. He was wearing his spacesuit, sitting in a tiny escape pod, strapped into the acceleration seat, facing a shuttered illuminator. “Planet?” he mumbled to himself, trying to remember where he was and how he got there. He had a splitting headache and his whole body was stiff. Memories flashed slowly through his mind. The disintegrating spaceship, the fire, the mad dash for the escape pod, ejection from the ship and breakneck acceleration toward a nearby planet.
He was safe! Badass reached for the illuminator. The view below the clouds didn’t bide well. Wide, endless fields of snow, continent after continent. The whole planet looked like a barren snowy desert. How could he survive down there? As the pod plunged into the planet’s atmosphere and a sea of fire erupted outside the window, Badass squeezed the armrests, knuckles whitening. His joy at having escaped from the destroyed spaceship became fear of the ruined planet. “I’m as good as dead”, Badass thought. He tried to recall everything he had learned about winter and the cold, but it wasn’t much. His specialty was genetics, not climatology. A moment later, the blast shield slid shut over the illuminator and the interior of the pod was plunged into darkness. Dozens of thoughts stormed through his mind and yet he couldn’t think of anything. He sat there paralysed, until a red warning light started blinking behind him and the familiar robotic voice announced, dispassionately:
“Attention, overload! The outer shell has lost hermetic seal. Prepare to abandon pod!“
The robot assistant couldn’t even finish before an explosion thundered and the pod broke into several pieces around him. The acceleration seat’s ejection charges triggered, yanking Badass away from the pod’s debris with such force that he lost consciousness.
When Badass came to, he was free falling towards the ground. The planet’s immense snow-white sphere spread below. Badass took a glance at the digital altimeter on his visor – he was forty kilometers from the surface and was hurtling downwards at 1,300 kilometres per hour. He had some time before he reached the ground. Below him, an endless plain of snow stretched from horizon to horizon. Or was it endless? A lone dark patch slightly to his right drew Badass’s attention. Indeed, a stretch of ground seemed relatively free of snow. He had to reach it. Badass shifted his position and stabilised his angle of approach toward the darker area. After less than a minute, he reached the lower levels of the atmosphere and his speed decreased rapidly. He could make out the ground much more clearly now. Badass had to make a quick choice for landing. To his right, he noticed a large lake, to his left were enormous wetlands and, ahead, hills rose up to the snow line. Badass decided in favour of the lake; if nothing else, it would provide fish and drinking water.
He opened the suit’s parachute a kilometre and a half from the ground. As the giant dome snapped open overhead, breaking his nauseatingly-fast fall, Badass sighed with relief. Now all he had to do was avoid landing in the lake.