Pendulum Ch. 24: Stuck

The Wisp was a large vehicle, over twenty metres long, designed to support a crew of four on a protracted mission. Their team of six was two too many, but they didn’t plan to stay on Gliese 667Cc indefinitely. They’d be good for a couple of weeks. Adams looked around. The giant capsule had a med unit comprising the long tube of the diagnostic module in a compartment with a transparent wall in the back. Deactivated surgery bots hung retracted over the bed. Hopefully, they wouldn’t need them.

The Wisp had four beds, of which only one was currently unfolded, and on it, Deirdre lay stretched out. Already fast asleep, from the looks of it. She had passed out almost immediately after they had entered. Her suit had lain crumpled on the floor until one of the marines had picked it up and put into the disinfection box. No surprise. Their trip had been exhausting, and the heightened gravity took its toll. Now, inside the Wisp, no exoskeleton helped with the added burden. They’d get used to it in time.

All of them looked weary to various degrees, not only the druid. Only the marines and the doctor seemed unbothered, but it was only a matter of time until they, too, would have to rest. Adams only now registered how tired he was, but a nap was out of the question. He’d be the next in line for the diagnosis module, and he had to plan their schedules and write his first report since their landing. He ran his fingers through his hair. Focus.

They could produce most necessities using the Wisp’s own synthesis unit working somewhere below their feet, including meds and food. Thanks to the corporal, the systems were starting up again one after another, and the stock of resources needed to create the goods looked sufficient. Too bad that the printers were not capable of replicating Adams’ research gear—that they’d have to pick up.

Adams put his suit away, forced his protesting body to stand up and stepped next to the marine, who was still busy working on the control consoles. 

“What’s our status?”

“The Wisp’s in good shape, sir. Minor damage, but the nanobots are already at work.”


He stared through the window, which was really a wide front display, currently set to show the landscape outside. The cool air from the filters was fresh, a welcome change from the humidity outside, and nothing inside the capsule showed any signs of damage. The Wisp had landed comparatively gently, thanks to its limited flying capability, but sunken deep and unevenly into the soft ground, half submerged in the water of a river. As a result, the floor was slanted, but not badly enough to make moving around difficult.

“Can we steer her out of the ground? I’d like to get going. Lots of equipment scattered all over the place.”

“I believe we should stay put until we can establish a connection with the Tuatha De Danann.”

Lieutenant Murray’s annoyingly loud voice came from inside the diagnostic unit. Adams turned around and raised an eyebrow. Only the feet of the marine stuck out of the tube. At least he had had enough presence of mind to take off his boots first.

“Sorry, but that won’t be possible. My equipment has the highest priority.”

“Sir, the radio unit is down, and I’m not so sure the transport boat has the equipment necessary to locate us down here. What if it returns and can’t find us?”

Adams wasted no thought on the objection. Without his equipment, the mission was utterly pointless, and the small transporter had just dropped them here. Weeks would pass before they saw it again.

“Thanks for your suggestion, lieutenant, but we’ll move as soon as possible. Can we get on our way, corporal?”

The marine tech shuffled in his seat, grimaced and straightened his posture.

“Yes, sir. But I have to move the Wisp away from the river first. The flood plains can’t support its weight. We’re still sinking.”

“Can’t we just take off?”

The corporal shook his head. “Not right now. Maybe after we got her out of the muck, but no guarantees. The engines aren’t designed for long flight in a high-g environment, and the capsule has some structural damage that needs to be fixed first. Like I said, repairs are underway, but they’ll take a few days.”

Bad news. Collecting his gear would be a minor problem; they’d passed it by on their way here. But what if the coordinates for the gate the druid needed to open was on the other side of the planet? How fast could the Wisp move, anyway? He shook his head. First things first.

“How long until nightfall, corporal…?”

“Hill, sir. About six hours.”

“Can you get us on dry ground before it gets dark?”

The marine’s grin made him look years younger. Almost still a child. “I’ll try my best.”

Adams nodded. He would let the marine do his job. There was no shortage of other issues he had to worry about, anyway.

“Doctor Maon?”

The fir bolg looked up from the display he had stared at intently during his examination.

“No problems I could detect so far, but I’d like to keep an eye on everyone. Our immune systems might not react to… whatever it was that rained down on us before we entered.”

Spores, most likely, from the tall fruit bodies nearby that reminded him of grossly oversized mycena inclinata. But just a momentary glance hadn’t told him what he needed to know about the sprouts, and they had been busy worrying about their air supply. The fungi had showered them just when the wind had turned. Surely that had been a coincidence. 

Adams rubbed his eyes. If he succumbed to paranoia on day one, he wouldn’t make it far, and he carried a heavy burden of responsibility for both the team and their mission. Another reason to get his equipment.

“You’re right. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here yet. Better to play it safe.”

The wisp shivered, followed by a jerk, as it moved forward and stopped again. The low hum of the engine was barely audible. He stared out the ‘window’ again. The golden sky had taken on a deeper orange tint, but maybe that was just his imagination. How long had he been awake now? His sense of time was completely messed up. He rocked his head and stood up. No way he’d doze off like this. Not yet.


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