Cardinal's Cross Part 4A Chapter by Zachary Cothren
It is revealed that sarge is more than he appears.
After an hour of reentry they were skimming over the eastern continent. They stripped through the mesosphere and angled their descent farther downwards so that they were approaching the cloud line quickly. The atmosphere of the planet caused the clouds to be able to exist at extremely high altitude, and from the information specs it seemed the weather was only going to get more intense. From the climate information the weather went from rainy to more of the same, skipping out dry all together. Average rainfall carried a minimum of six feet, and a maximum of forty five in some locations.
Now the displays were showing nothing but white fluff as the fins spread until the descent slowed. Marrone began to check systems as their altitude dropped even farther. On the display they suddenly broke the cloud line. Marrone panned the view of the cameras to look back up at the cloud roof, they were the first to make it through. Icarus pods suddenly burst through the fluff, trailing streams of white behind them. A voice rang out through the intercom systems.
“At five thousand feet, disengage roof clamps for pods, fall point Longi--” said the voice, and while it started it’s next sentence Marrone cut it off and switched the coms to address his squad.
“I don’t want anyone having any embarrassing deaths. We will be landing two hundred yards east of the fall point, and Jessley... don’t try and aiming at me for fun. If we piss them off here we might have to go celibate.” He flicked the switched as they passed below the five thousand mark. Over the intercom came a laugh from Jessley, but somehow she forced a Yes, sir through it. The roof of the Icarus pod began to peel away to reveal a view of the outside, despite being below the cloud line there were still many wispy plumes to create a slip steam around the pod’s rudders. The clamps keeping the wheels firmly stuck to the floor released, and Marrone stepped on the gas.
They shot out over the landscape at three thousand feet, behind him on the display he could see Jessley’s buggy and Big Tony’s mech. He activated the buggy’s fall procedures and each wheel began to inflate until they reached twenty feet across of inflated semi-organic gum fiber. Each metal plating open to allow several rods to shoot out, between each rod was a sheet of similar fiber. In the distance the other drop pods had also opened, and many black dots had already released and were making their way away from the pod shell. Later the church would send a drop ship to pick up the pods for use later, but for now there were going to sit in the forest as over glorified scrap metal.
The ground was falling towards them at an alarming rate, but the kites were doing wonders for cushioning their fall. As they passed below one thousand feet Marrone relaxed so all his muscles. The recruits were probably tightening up for the impact. It was the natural reaction, but the wrong one. At five hundred feet he let out one final breath so he couldn’t get the wind knocked from him. At two hundred he closed his eyes and muttered a traditional military prayer that common across all of Interstellar Congress Space.
“Dear god, please save my a*s,” he muttered, as they dipped below one hundred. Then the tires hit the ground. Ash billowed out around them as they struck. This area had been chosen because it was home to Fire Storm Hosen, and wouldn’t have any plant matter in it for near a year. The cloud cover had been relatively thin, and the high CO2 density within the typhoon meant most of the natives couldn’t live here. They rebounded a full hundred feet into the air, and bounced a few more times until they came to rest in one of the deeper piles of ash. The sludge that formed from the rapid decomposition covered the tires and painted them a sickly green gray.
The tires deflated until they were ten feet across, behind him Jessley’s buggy had done the same. Big Tony’s mech was jumping over, trying not to hit any of the larger piles of ash. The wheels fiber bent and contorted into treads to allow traction across the slippery ash soup. The rods holding the parachutes slowly retracted, and each sheet shook itself clean of muck. The buggies of the other squads were moving into a simple convoy formation, instructions came up over the monitor. Their squad was on rear guard duty. Great, if someone was going to die. It was going to be them first.
They pulled behind the cars as they began to move out across the ash fields. The filtered air inside of the buggy was already starting to grow foul with the sickly sweet smell of rotting plant matter. Marrone flicked the switch to allow the buggy’s roof to retract. The stench filled the cabin with its horrid pungency. Besides that though it tasted like the air on any other class three inhabited planet. He glanced over to Jessley’s buggy. Her roof was also down and he could see her breath deeply, and behind her Kishry was beginning to wretch. Big Tony’s cockpit was also open. He seemed to be enjoying the smell, and rightfully so. Compared to the to the kind of odors you get around Earth town this probably smelled like roses.
“Hey Sarge!” yelled Tony as he came up beside Marrone’s buggy. He snickered at the other recruits as they plugged their noses. “I know the other’s won’t ask, but is it true what they say about you. All the old T.V. shows and posters and stuff. They say you’re the hero of a hundred world, that you’ve killed more space pirates than any of the chapters combined. I did my research, and I’ll keep calling you that fake name.” Marrone was shocked by what he had found out. He had been assured by the church and navy that his transfer would have been kept secret. Maybe Tony was going to make a good intelligence officer some day. His ingenuity deserved an answer.
“Yeah, it’s all true, but not in the way you think it is. I was going to tell the squad anyway, so you’ll have to wait until we reach the mission for a full story.”
© 2010 Zachary Cothren
Of Fire And Prayers
About'Hey, I am a student who, in the past, really enjoyed thinking of stories, but that was all. For a long time I only thought of them - none made the arduous journey from my brain onto paper. I am final.. more..
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