Pendulum Ch. 13: Hangar

The ship had three lifeboats and two transporters. One for material, one for personnel. Deirdre had arrived at the hangar just a moment ago and wasn’t sure she could trust her eyes. Two of the three small transporter vessels were smouldering heaps of trash. The two big box-like transporters had crashed, too, and one of them was barely more than scrap metal now. The other looked out of shape. Dents and scratches were everywhere, but looks were deceiving, and perhaps it was still somewhat usable.
“Holy…”
A sigh escaped her lips.
“Not looking good at all,” said a male voice.
Deirdre turned around and saw Adams standing beside her, hands on his hips, frowning at the chaos in front of them.
“I hope at least one of them is still usable. It would be a shame if we had come here for naught.”
Now that would really suck. Not only were they trapped in this system until the Tuatha De Danann was in good enough shape to jump back to Earth. If they couldn’t even land on the planet, to see if it was usable, they had gained nothing at all. The entire enterprise would be a giant failure, and she hadn’t come here to go home without a result. She had come to help humanity escape from an Earth suffering from a runaway greenhouse effect. She certainly wouldn’t mind some fame along the way. A smile tucket on her lips, but the condition of the spacecraft before her wiped it away.
They walked over to a technician who was busy working on the transport ship that didn’t look quite as damaged. He was a tall, built fir bolg with dark hair, wearing the uniform of the engineering crew.
When he saw them coming, he straightened his posture and showed them a salute.
“Hello…” Deirdre looked up at his nameplate. “Warrant Officer Doylei. What do you think, is this bird usable?”
The engineer grimaced.
“She will fly, all right. She’s in awful shape, but functioning. Probably can’t carry all of your stuff, though. The target planet has a gravity much higher than that of Earth, and the damage to the internal structure will probably not allow it to land. You will have to jump out of the airlock.”
Adams’ grumble was clearly audible. She shared his sentiment.
“Jump?”
The engineer nodded. “Yeah. With a parachute. You’re lucky that we can drop a vehicle for you. There’s emergency equipment for that. The bags, though? Nope. Keep in mind, there will be eight of you, and the scientific gear has priority.”
Deirdre cursed silently. This was bad news, and if not even so much for her personally. She looked at Adams, who had come closer without her noticing and stood right next to her now.
“Will you be alright?” She asked.
“I might carry some of my things myself, but sorting this out will be a pain. I can’t go without equipment to analyse the biosphere. The planet’s chemical composition seems good enough, but it might be full of life forms that are incompatible with human bodies, or could kill us in ways we can’t even imagine yet. If I can’t make sure I have the equipment to find threats reliably, why even bother? And then there is no reason for you, either.”
He was right. They had to first know if they could give green light for colonisation before they could attempt to make it accessible to humankind.
A group of six people of various sizes entered the hall through the same gate they had used just a few moments before. Five of them were marines, one a member of the medical staff. The doctor was the tallest of them all, large even for a fir bolg. He’d need two seats by himself.
“So, who’s our pilot?” She asked.
The engineer gestured at the cockpit of the small transport vessel. He was already busy working on the boat again. She looked toward the cockpit and nodded.
The doctor and one marine came over to them, while the four soldiers stopped a few metres away. The fir bolg nodded, but didn’t introduce himself. Maybe he figured the name sign attached to his uniform was enough. It displayed ‘Dr Maon’ in letters just big enough for Deirdre to read them without squinting.
“I’m Lieutenant Murray, and these are my men. It is my understanding that you are the leader of this expedition, Mr Adams,” the officer said. He saluted.
“Do your men fit? I wouldn’t want to leave important equipment here.”
The marine seemed to think, then nodded. “I can see that being a problem, sir. I would reduce the escort by two men, which is the minimum strength escort under normal circumstances, but we know nothing about life on the planet, and—.”
“Do it, please. If I can’t transport my equipment, we might as well just abandon this mission.”
Murray’s jaw muscles worked for a moment, but he nodded. “Understood, sir.”
He returned to his men and spoke in a low voice. The doctor had wandered off during this brief encounter and was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he had entered the transporter already.
Deirdre and Adams walked over when the cockpit door opened and a faerie came down the ramp. He wasn’t even using his wings to fly. What a peculiar fellow. Another oddity was the colour of his features. The colours of an Aes Sidhe’s wings, eyes and hair directly depended on their allegiance. Faeries of the Summer Court radiated heat, Winter Court faeries cold, but this one had no such aura. His wings were green, as was his eye colour. When he almost reached the bottom of the ramp, he took off and flew over to them. He stopped in mid-air in front of them, saluted, and opened his mouth to speak.
“I am Sergeant Carmag. I will bring you to the surface. However, the technical crew told me we cannot land, so—”
“Yeah, we’ve been told so already.”
Adams’ voice sounded irritated as he interrupted the pilot.
“I’ve never used a parachute. Is it safe?” Deirdre asked.
The faerie stared at her for a second.
“I’ve never used one either. I guess you will find out,” he said.
He grinned, as if he was patting himself on the back for the joke. Not the proper way for a sergeant to address an officer, but these were not normal circumstances, and he was a faerie, and a strange one at that.
“Maybe get into the boat and bring only gear you will need for sure. This girl here has taken quite a beating, but I will see what I can do to bring you down. The flight will take a while, though, over sixteen hours. I’ll tell the others to hurry.”
Adams didn’t look happy, but it couldn’t be helped now. She would try to help carry as much of his equipment as she could. With the transporter being unable to land, things were even more complicated than she had expected.
The station had pumped the atmosphere out of the hangar before the outer doors opened. No sounds were audible from outside now. Only their breaths, and tiny pieces of metal, coming off the damaged transporter, hitting the craft.
Her two bags and the bunch of luggage from Adams were scattered all over the ground. The bigger pieces had parachutes attached. They were not meant to be carried, especially not on a planet with higher than normal gravity. The doctor only had one bag, and the soldiers carried their gear in rucksacks sitting on their laps.
They would drop the heavy equipment, then look for it later and hope it survived contact with the ground. There was no other way. Their own parachutes had to carry their body weight already, and the load they could add to that was limited. The doctor stood out, and he took up most of the space.
“Doctor Maon. I’m your physician.”
Why had he waited so long with his self-introduction?
“Sergeant Ailbhe, marine corps,” a female voice said. The ghillie dhu was Deirdre’s size, but looked like a dwarf next to the fir bolg. Her eyes glowed in an intense white, and her bark looked like that of a birch. Ghillie dhu were rare creatures, few could be found outside Tech Duinn.
The human marine had sat at the other wall when they had entered and got up just as quickly. His eyes flickered back and forth between the Aes Sidhe on the other side and Deirdre. He seemed to sweat.
“Corporal Hill, communications specialist.”
Adams gestured for them to sit down, and Deirdre looked for a spot herself.

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