Pendulum Ch. 15: Free Fall

Rodachan dropped like a rock, way too fast, even if he considered the higher gravity of this world. Maybe it was just in his head. The planet reached out for him, grabbed him and pulled him down to the surface, and his feet felt heavier than the rest of his body. He activated his system’s self-diag tool. All parameters seemed fine, all things considered. Heart rate and pulse were supposed to be heightened, and his metabolism had almost shut down, while his heavyset frame raced toward whatever lurked below. There it was, the signal. He activated the parachute with a thought impulse, but his speed didn’t—there it was. The jerk robbed him of his breath, and the straps cut deep into his chest and bottom. Indeed, his fall was slower now, but was this right? Was the parachute meant for a fir bolg dropping from a craft high in the atmosphere over a world with fifty percent higher gravity? Not that any of this had any meaning now; his fate was determined, no way back into the airlock.
“Are you okay, doctor?”
The voice of the xenobiologist was strained. Right, Adams, that was the name of the human, had jumped right after the druid and was already several hundred metres ahead, a tiny point somewhere below his feet.
The words didn’t want to come out at first, but Rodachan gnashed his teeth and forced himself to answer.
“I’ll manage.”
No confirmation, thankfully. This wasn’t the time for small talk. But he kept his channel open.
“Last one out,” said Murray. The lieutenant’s raspy voice grated on his ears. Probably subconscious antipathy.
“Good luck down there. I’ll be back to pick you up as soon as possible.” The faerie pilot’s voice was pleasant enough. Maybe this was not a problem with Murray, after all—Rodachan had spent little time with humans so far, and most of them were irritating in one way or another.
“You got my list?” Adams asked.
“Aye. No promises, though. Seems like the crew has other problems right now, but I’ll do my best to get your gear sorted.”
An infinitesimal pause, then a thin “Thanks” from the leader of their expedition.
Rodachan dropped the comm channel. If there was anything more to say, it wasn’t meant for him, anyway. Might as well enjoy the ride. At three hundred mph. If nothing changed, he’d smash into the surface of the planet and create a small crater. A small, red crater. A powerful gust of wind grabbed him and threw him around like a toy, lifted him up a little, then sucked him down the gravity well again. But his speed had slowed ever so slightly. Enough that he could feel the difference. Two hundred and six mph, according to his system, which was still too fast.
The sound of fabric rubbing on fabric, loud enough to be audible through the boom of the wind, made his heart skip a beat, then another jerk drove the straps into his flesh. He looked up, and another layer had unfolded above. Maybe whoever had designed this had actually taken his mass and the target planet’s gravity into account. Hopeful thinking, but what else did he have?
A human figure drifted through the sky a few hundred metres in the distance, at approximately the same altitude as Rodachan, and he fell at a slower speed. Soon he disappeared from his field of view, somewhere above. His falling speed was now at thirty mph, still too much for a human. He was not as fragile, but even a fir bolg’s body had its limits, and the ground now filled his peripheral vision, reds and browns in various shades, and now he could make out the trees. They stood in tightly packed groups, always five or six together. Four, five, six. Three more groups, all of them had the same number of… but these were not trees, the shapes weren’t quite right. Thick trunks, with large cones pointing at the sky. These were not trees, they were—.
Rodachan Maon crashed into the ground. Pain raced up his legs, his hips, his spine, then overwhelmed his nervous system, and the lights went out.

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