|Into the Aether
||[Nov. 5th, 2004|12:03 am]
|||||Enough Dead Heroes||]|
5:30 am – Belarus Airspace
Jacob sat hunched over with his elbows on his knees in the freezing cold cabin. He played around with the settings for his camo suit, watching amusedly as he changed the pattern from woodland to tiger stripe, and then to black, and then turned it off, letting the suit assume an olive drab color. His .45 was strapped to his leg, and the parachute to his back. An altimeter was strapped to his wrist, and the mask lay beside him. A single crewman, clad in a jumpsuit and Air Force helmet connected the plane’s oxygen supply, occupied the cabin with him.
“Approaching drop zone,” said the pilot. “Visibility is perfect. Moderate cloud cover over drop zone. External temperature is minus twenty degrees Celsius. Commencing countdown in five.”
The dull roar of the engines penetrated the cabin, mostly drowning out the rattles and vibrations Jacob could feel through the bench.
“Ten minutes to drop zone, commencing internal depressurization.”
Jacob felt his ears pop and the air grow thin as the cabin’s air escaped through opened vents. This was a necessary measure, lest he get sucked out when the doors opened.
The air continued to thin out, and Jacob felt his head starting to lighten with the lack of oxygen. The crewman walked up to him. “Eight minutes to drop zone, put on your mask.”
Jacob didn’t hear him. He was utterly focused on his objectives, trying not to let anything disturb him, even impending doom.
“Put on your mask, sir” said the crewman. Again Jacob ignored him. The crewman sighed and shook his head. “Do you have a death wish or something?”
“Are you deaf, Ravask?” said Edmund over the codec. “Put on your mask and get ready to jump.”
Jacob shot the crewman a nasty look, and then put his oxygen mask on. The mask was a single piece, consisting of an air supply, goggles, and a helmet that fit snugly over Jacob’s head. A hose connected the mask to the oxygen / nitrogen bottle strapped to his waist. The mirrored lenses obscured his eyes, giving him a rather imposing visage. Jacob was met with a fresh blast of cold, dry air and the lightness in his head vanished as the ready light turned from red to yellow.
“Five minutes to drop zone, opening rear door.”
The bipartite door split in the middle and began to swing away. Sunlight flooded into the darkened cabin, causing Jacob to squint. When the blinding glare faded, Jacob found himself looking at the world from five miles up.
Wispy clouds curled in the sky above, stretching to the horizon. The blindingly bright sun was coming up over the edge of the world, illuminating the ground and topping the lower clouds in brilliant snowy white.
“Sunrise” said Edmund.
Though the cabin had already been depressurized, their airspeed was creating a powerful wind inside the cabin. The crewman clung to a railing and turned to Jacob.
“Two minutes to drop zone. Please stand up.”
Jacob stood up, staggering his stance for balance against the wind. The straps on his gear and loose folds in his suit fluttered violently in the gale. The status light turned green.
“Move to the back of the plane.”
Jacob carefully began walking back to the edge of the platform, ensuring that every step was solid. One misstep could mean a premature launch, to say the least.
“Listen, Jacob.” Said Edmund. “You’ll be falling at 130 miles an hour. Your suit will keep your body warm, but try not to let your extremities get frostbite from the wind chill. As usual, you’re working alone. Try to stay out of sight as much as possible. You know what to expect should you fail.”
“I won’t.” Finally, Jacob found himself staring straight down at the clouds far below.
“Spread your wings and fly. Godspeed.”
Jacob leaned forward over the platform and let gravity take over. He spread his arms out slightly, cast off the plane and entrusted his body to the wind.
He started to tumble, his feet going up and his head going down. As he fell away from the plane, the turbulence gave him an extra push, causing him to tumble faster. He straightened legs out and allowed himself to flip end over end through the air several times before tucking his knees to his chest, causing him to spin even faster. He finally straightened his body out, his head pointing at the ground and his feet to the sky, and streaked headfirst towards the ground in the cold morning light.