Crash Down

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, and Self Sacrifice. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

 

They had half a day to study and consider the situation before they got busy with the details of the landing.

Jamison was intent on making a rough plan. The computer could predict what point in the atmosphere they began their descent. It could give them a range of possibilities for how they guided the pod in. Since the topography of the planet was well documented they could pick the best landing areas.

His first priority was he wanted to be close to the ruins. He hoped to find a treasure trove of tools and supplies they could use to survive. He was thrilled to see the type of camps that had been used to set up the colonies there. They were durable and had a good chance of being undamaged even with the passing of time and lack of maintenance.

Second he wanted to study the area. If there was natural water he wanted to know where, whether or not it was safe to drink. He also studied the plant and animal life. If natural foods were going to be available he wanted to know. If any natural threats were there, he wanted to know that in advance too. Included in this he studied the seasons and was pleased to see they were arriving at the start of the growing season.

So he studied the wildlife, the flora and fauna. In his mind he considered three dangers to be the biggest issues. He considered egopods the biggest threat. They were the top predator on the planet and had been in the forests surrounding the ruins. They had coverings kind of like a rhino on earth. The skin was formed into plates allowing it to move quickly. In shape it was a bit like a bear. It preferred to run on all fours, but was capable of raising up on two feet to fight.

The second biggest threat he saw was a beetle called a bitter bug. They were about three inches round which made them relatively easy to spot. They were not aggressive but would give a warning bite which included an enzyme designed to give the larger animals pain. Unfortunately for humans the enzyme was poisonous resulting in slow developing paralysis. It could be treated with antibiotics easily enough, but they had very limited supplies of these.

The third biggest threat was a flower. It was called complasencia. It was small but highly fragrant. The fragrance contained a hallucinogenic compound. If they stumbled into it they would be too busy fighting things that were not really there to defend themselves from what was.

In addition to these threats, he was able to identify a number of edible plants including berries, roots and fruits. He also noticed the region should have an ample supply of grazing animals which could be used as a good supply of protein.

He programmed a life scanner for each of them to wear on landing. It would allow them to always know where the other was, but it would also give them a warning if they approached any threats including complasencia. If they were looking for food it would also identify some of the best sources of food nearby.

So Jamison and Chambers worked out their survival strategies and priorities.  But first they had to survive the landing. Since they knew the spot they wanted, it could be programmed into the computer and it would work out the glide path.  Only the fine details of the landing would have to be done by hand.

Second order of business would be shelter. They hoped they could use the shelters left by the colonization efforts. But if they were not in good enough of shape, they would be able to use the pod. It was equipped in a way similar to the camp he had as a sniper. It would be a suitable shelter if no other was available.

Third order of business was food. They would want to gather some of the grazing animals in the very least. But in addition to this they had seeds they could use to plant a garden and hopefully they could find some local sources for the natural foods.

It seemed like a great adventure. All they had to do was land safely. Jamison was a certified pilot and he expected to be the one to take the controls when the time came. Turns out Chambers was also a pilot and was more qualified for this type of craft than he was. With some reluctance he allowed her to take the pilots position. He took the second chair and together they waited and watched as they made their entry into the atmosphere.

Everything seemed to be going well, but at one point they could see a storm ahead. The glide slope they planned would take them through the center of the storm. Chambers made the decision to take it off auto-pilot early in order to avoid risking the weather. They swept around the back of the storm and recomputed their trajectory.

Now they discovered they were coming in through a mountain, so another reroute was necessary. The computer plotted course after course and rejected each one as too dangerous. Finally as the mountain loomed up in front of them Chambers reached over and turned off the distraction. It was up to her to bring them in safely.

She could go around the left, right or over the top. With minimal controls going over would require too much vertical control. To the left appeared to have some steep cliffs which add to turbulence. So she chose to go right. She stayed as high as she could approaching the saddle between this peak and its neighbors, but as soon as they cleared it they dropped from a wind-shear caused by the terrain. Since they were gliding, powering out of it was not an option.

They watched with despair as their path changed aiming them down into the slope of a small intermediate ridge. Then just as they were certain they would crash into the rock face, the currents blowing up the slope lifted them just over the top.  Below them they now saw the slope of the mountain falling away into the valley they had targeted. But now the winds that had lifted them were dropping with the altitude so their lift again disappeared and their glide slope showed they would not make it into the valley.

Chambers scanned the slope for a clearing in the trees hoping to land the pod without further damaging it, but none were in sight. Just when they thought they would begin to feel the treetops on the bottom of the craft they saw a small clearing ahead. It even appeared to be flat. The clearing was so small they couldn’t see into it, but it was a better option than dive bombing through trees.

She pulled the nose up on the craft, causing it to quickly lose speed, then it settled down into the clearing expertly. They both were startled to hear a loud splash. Checking the window they confirmed that in reality they had settled into a mountain lake. Since the pod was full of air, sinking was not a concern. But they were several miles from the settlement they had been aiming for. The winds blew them to the side of the lake. They anchored in, and prepared to explore their new home.

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