When the hatch opened, everyone in front of and behind Maltis raised their hands in a resounding cheer. He felt himself pushed toward the ramp with such a force that he wondered at the fact that no one was trampled.
"Just look at this!"
"Nothing like the pictures!"
Maltis ignored the people around him that could do no more than stand and gawk at what they saw around them. He took a few steps out of the crowd and looked around for himself.
The lush-lush?-purple caps on the giant fungi all around the landing area opened in near perfect circles around the stalks that were nearly as thick as he, and in some places, the caps attached to one another to make an impenetrable ceiling above.
He thought he saw something high atop one of the caps, but on second look it was gone.
"Maltis, get over here and help! There'll be plenty of time for looking around later," one of the other men called.
Disappointed, Maltis turned to obey. He walked back to the shiny metal husk that would be cannibalized for parts in the near future and wondered at the marvels of his ancestors.
As he made it back to the cargo bays and lifted one end of a long, metal crate, he heard the crowd gasp and turned to stand on his toes for a better look.
"Would you pay attention," the girl on the opposite side of the heavy crate growled as it landed on her foot.
"Oh, sorry," Maltis bent to pick up the crate once more.
The gasp turned into screams of horror and the people began to panic and run in all directions.
He and the girl dropped the crate once more and looked in the direction from which came the cause of the terror and pandemonium.
There, through the stalks, came bounding countless insectoidal creatures. The smallest was easily half the size of Maltis, and all had nasty mandibles and sharp, barbed legs.
They were swarming the landing site and impaling people on their forelimbs. When the flying things came over the mushroomtops, Maltis grabbed the girl and ran.
"What are they," she shrieked.
"What do they look like? Run!"
Maltis and the girl tried to make it back to the habitat of the landing pod, but the doors were already ripped off and piled with broken bodies.
"Go," Maltis cried as he shoved the girl in the opposite direction.
"What are we going to do, we're trapped," the girl screamed in his face when they stopped at the line of giant fungi.
Before Maltis could formulate a response, he felt himself lifted by the skin on his back high into the air. Surely he would be dead presently and wouldn't need to worry about it, but that thought somehow failed to comfort him.
He screamed, high pitched like the girl next to him, and to his surprise, he found himself sitting on the cap of the fungus he just stood below.
He turned to look down at the carnage, the girl still next to him, and saw one of the flying things swoop down and use its giant stinger to run someone through and carry her off into the distance.
The waist-high insects were fighting over body parts, wounding and killing each other for what must be the choice cuts.