Galaxy: Milky Way
System Cluster: _
Solar System: _
Continent / Ocean: _
Nation / Territory: _
State / Province: _
County / Prefecture: _
City / Town / Village: N/A
Structure: mountain slope
Time Frame: Past
TNH Verse Year: 2517
Local Date: 2517 November _* This thread picks up where Pilot Pushing left off.
As Auz watched her rise and ready herself, he was sure she could see the bottomless well of otherworldly love he held for her in his eyes, as well as feel it in the supernovic aura bursting and pulsing all around him. Though it would not change the temperature or brightness in the room, it was often felt as a pleasantly, respectfully overpowering presence by those who were born attuned. As the old books did say, you could feel
and never deny the presence of those children... "Picnic?"
Auz let his eyelids lower until closed, while lowering his head a millimeter or two in a single nod. It was the same way a small puppy had once greeted him, bowing amidst the angelic song of a thousand delicate wind pipes hanging and clanging, resonating in the cool and warm breeze."Should I bring anything?""Nay. Come.. as you are."
It was a whisper only she would here. He had no concerns about waking the others; he just felt like speaking that way in that moment."I'm ready."
A smirk opened one side of his lips... then... the other. He let his eyes cast downward toward the carpeted deck of her room in the neck of Persephone. 'We'll see about that,'
he so desperately wanted to say, letting only his expression escape and further heighten her anticipation of the great unknown about to come.
Finally making first use of one The New Horizon's quiet bullet-trains after walking and jogging her everywhere throughout it for her first month, Auz assumed a leisurely but clearly focused pace from their final train station through the p-ways that led them to an airlock hatch where he placed his opened hand flush against the panel mid-way up the bulkhead to its side. Once the panel communicated with his body and the carrier's A.I. core, confirming through his biometric, genetic, and print-pattern data his identity, the well-engineered seal almost silently flowed out of their way, moving laterally into the wall, opening from right to left.
Bowing very slightly at his waist, he motioned with his hand for Cyd to step through the hatch into the shadowy, low-ceilinged room on the other side. Only indirect red light fixtures barely glowed in the corners upon the ceiling. The whole room -a rectangular prism with a row of pods against the bulkhead on one side- was completely vacant, like an oddly cozy tomb.
It was the ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Troopers) launch bay
, and Cyd would know from her studies during the indoctrination weeks that it was where large warships like this one deployed their version of the Airborne Rangers. Auz assured her it wouldn't cause any fuss for them to take one of that unit's pods out for a non-inebriated 'joy ride', as it were. “I own the ship;"
he light-heartedly chuckled, "going down in one of these is not a big deal. Same thing as takin’ the family car out for a Sunday drive."
Auz stepped in first, standing and leaning back against the padded rear wall inside, wondering if she had caught the quick double entendre he had slipped in there. He knew that she was almost certainly going to be much more concerned about the fact that they would be riding a disposable metal coffin hundreds of miles straight down into an alien world.
Hopefully her likes of boating (through the ocean of Space), cold weather (the chilled breeze until the local sun came up), the beach (at the base of their LZ (Landing Zone) mountain), flying (or falling like a rock), and hiking (from the pod to their picnic site on the mountain’s slope), would outweigh her dislikes of the cramped interior of the one-trooper drop-pod, which was much like being stuffed and trapped in a corner... a corner designed for a one-way trip straight into Hell.
Intended for one person in space-worthy body armor, and a few man-portable machine guns and missile launchers, their drop-pod instead now enveloped two
, and a black duffel bag strapped down to the tiny area of deck plating between their feet. Inside it: a small picnic basket with a red-and-white checkered table cloth and a mink blanket big enough to wrap around both of them.
Auz hugged her as she leaned back into his embrace; the drop-pod's hatch having lowered into place to seal them within its foreboding confines. If she asked, as people often asked skydiving instructors, “How do we land?” Auz would enjoy replying with: “We’ll talk about that if the 'chute opens.”"Are you ready?"
he grinned with his lips beside her ear; "We're going to fall..."
-another double meaning.
The pod ejected in silence out from the vast underbelly
of the spacecraft carrier and left the inertial dampener field generated by their parent ship. As they fell, billions of stars, nebulae, and galaxies were spattered like multi-hued fireflies all across the pitch black ocean of Space, visible through their narrow window panels
. Weather patterns
were visible on the planet many dozens of miles below them.
They could feel the planet’s gravity grab hold of them and accelerate the pod down into its stratosphere until the black sky faded into growing, amoebic patches of pale blues; many of the cosmic night-lights fading out of view above
them. The fall through the jet-stream was met with major turbulence shaking the pod, but it was unable to rattle anything in its rugged, layered, cushioned design -other than, perhaps, their constitutions. The curve of the horizon slowly straightened itself out as their HUD-altimeter’s needle spun in a blur, indicating a descent reaching terminal velocity.
Auz had seen and felt this many times before, so his focus was on how Cyd
felt leaning back against him, and how her hair and skin smelled. He made no effort to hide the fact that his breathing was very calm and deep, and that his head was resting slightly against her own, keeping his nose close. Her scents kept closing his eyes as he gave himself over fully into them. His forearms shifted, sliding another inch or so tighter around her torso; his hands resettling a bit more firmly around the sides of her ribs. Dropping in one of these pods with a loved one was unheard-of, and he was cherishing every second of it.
Then all the turbulence stopped and they were weightless as they fell through two more layers of sparse clouds; the stratocumulus and nimbostratus
. A light started flashing to indicate 'chute deployment. The 'chute cable extended up from the top of their pod, with a resounding, metallic, rapid 'clacking'. Instantly, they felt as if their weight had increased three-fold, but the cushioned, standing-bucket-seat, and the gradual blossoming of the 'chute's drag-panels, prevented any pain. The 'chute had opened. Auz then began to explain to her how to use the pod's joystick and other dashboard console controls to guide it and land. With his arms now resting around her waist, his hands took the controls as a literal 'backseat driver', and he steered it as if he were sailing on calm seas.
When the pod neared the ground, retro-rockets fired to life outside around the base of the capsule, and the drag-panels reached full expansion to slow them as much as possible before impact. Meeting the ground with a minor jolt, the pod was immediately wedged securely in place. The floor-to-ceiling hatch in front of them burst open with a loud 'PAH' as its charges detonated all at once, and flew out in front of them, landing with a soil-muffled thud in the grass-patched dirt, skidding forward another foot to its halt. “This is normally the time you’d activate the thermites and melt the pod down into a crater so no one can recover and reverse-engineer it, but we’ll be reloading it in the N-H’s drop-bay later.”
They had made planet-fall in their pod within a pre-planned site on the slope of an Alpine-esque mountain facing the sun-bearing horizon while it was still cool, slightly breezy, and dark. Auz slung the black duffel over his shoulder, offering his arm bent at the elbow for Cyd to take if she so chose, and walked over to the middle of the grassy clearing they had landed in. Quickly setting up a campfire, he cooked up an organic, Paleo-diet meal for her and watched the sky glow into rich, vibrant violet.
As the meal neared its preparatory completion, he produced the red-and-white checkered table cloth, shook it fully open in a single movement, and let it slowly float down on the light breeze to settle evenly on the grassy slope facing the distant horizon stretching out in all directions from their perch. Auz then set the duffel and picnic basket at either corner to keep the blanket pinned down nicely, fetched the piping hot, gourmet food freshly cooked up, and served it on one plate of blue-dyed, gold-rimmed China accompanied by two long-stemmed, crystal champagne glasses and a set of golden chopsticks.
Findings his seat beside Cyd on the large, checkered picnic cloth, he took the rolled mink blanket, shook it open, and rotated his arms to spin it like a cape laterally around his side, behind both of them, letting it settle on their backs. Their body-heat would now be reflected back onto them and merged under the single throw, leaving the chilled breeze of fresh mountain air to only cool their face, necks, and hands. Auz opened his hands for Cyd to rest hers in them, then took them both between his own, combining all four of them into a single prayer formation. "Mächtige Welt Seele, Danke für diesen Tag, diese Luft, diese Mahlzeit, dieser Himmel, und diese Wind. Vielen Dank für diese schöne junge Dame, die hier neben meiner sitzt. Lassen Sie uns, hier in diesem Moment, werden ein."
He opened his eyes, taking in a deep, slow breath of the crisp, Alpine-esque air rushing up the slope, carrying the scents of their fresh, hot meal, and the countless flowers far below, directly up from the China dish to their tongues and noses. "Let's eat."
A final, warm squeeze of her prayer-claspt hands within his own, and he freed them, using his to retrieve and hold the plate for her to take first bite.
It was then that the epic dome of pre-dawn sky went baby-blue, and, after several minutes of breakfast and wind savoring, finally erupted with the peeking sun. The rising star’s rays began to send untold numbers of photons pushing against the atmosphere; solar rays stirring and accelerating aerial rivers, making it windier and more chilled for about half an hour as their camp fire flickered and popped, sending wavy snakes of embers and smoky ash spiraling up around one another like a shadow elemental’s braided ponytail rising free from gravity; ether into aether, the fire’s dying exhales slowly assuming invisibility.
Auz wrapped an arm around her under their covering, using his other one to secure the mink blanket's sides neatly closed in front of them, and tilted his face up to embrace and give thanks for the light rain that passed upon them like a mist of fairies that wasn't fully tangible; its microscopic droplets hanging in the air at times and sparkling in the new sun. As the mist kissed and wetted his face, he lets his eyes close, smiling widely, and continued a few more prayers in his mind. "These slope-top meals and retreats are sacred, Lady Bishop. I am glad you are here."
A flock of parrot-colored tarantulas landed all around them, chirping and hissing in a friendly chorus. Auz let one creep toward him until it was curiously poking at his offered hand with its two front legs, and within a few seconds of studying him, it carefully stepped up onto his hand and walked its way up his arm to settle down on his shoulder, where it fully extended and then tucked its bright, rainbow-patterned wings back. “Like the tarantulas of Earth-That-Was, these extra-solar relatives are comfortable with humanoids. Spiders are respectful creatures. If you are calm, they are calm. If you enjoy their company, they enjoy yours."
He paused for a moment, enjoying a hiccup of nostalgia. "I used to have a pet tarantula,”
he smiled, letting the lucid and vivid memory pet his spirit. “I miss that little guy.”
He didn't really 'miss' him, per say; it was just an expression that meant he loved still having his company in spirit.
The APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) that came down to recover them was the same Firefly they had just left, auto-piloted and homing-in on him. Nyria, Sasha, Brahan, and Augustine greeted them at the lowering, front-facing ramp beneath the neck to the cockpit. Auzdein turned to Cyd with very upright, dignified, and generously peacocking posture, "The helm is yours, if the lady would care to honor us with some more of her piloting skills.”
Scooping up a handful of dirt and sprinkling it over the fire, he casually stomped its lingering remains down with one foot, and then poured half a bottle of water onto it.
Nyria rested a graceful hand upon the drop-pod hatch wedged into the drag-scarred soil, and began to hum softly as if to herself. The hatch then rose as if being repelled from the ground itself, and she walked it over to Persephone and up its ramp to ease it back down inside the Firefly’s hangar. Her hand had only rested atop the thick metal hatch the whole time. When she went back out, Brahan was still there covering her, and she repeated this process with the whole drop-pod; the beauty of ancient harmonics: 'singing to the stones'.
Brahan knew btr than to ask how she did that trick, but he always joked with her about it. As the ramp raised back up and sealed them inside the Firefly’s belly, he just smirked and shook his head. “I still can’t figure out how the hell you do that. I’m starting to think the singing is just misdirection.”
Nyria winked at him, “Maybe you can **** it out of me,”
and ascended the catwalk steps, disappearing into a hatch above. Passing by Augustine, she leaned over and pecked him on the cheek, which got him helplessly smiling. “Miss Serra,”
he offered in return, sharing his gentleman's southern drawl, continuing on his way.
Auz boarded last with Brahan holding security just inside the rising, closing ramp-hatch, and they all found their seats throughout the ship; Auz's being in the co-pilot seat aside from their new pilot-Barbie. "Alright, Number One,"
he joked in a Sean Connery accent without so much as cracking a smile, "Take us up."
'Number One' was a reference to an old sci-fi television show, but in Auz's mind it was also a reference to the slang term for 'urinating'; his special blend of affection.