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Freefall

By Jay Durandal All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi

Freefall

A funny thing happens when you suddenly approach consciousness, 20 kilometers above Mars, with a jetpack strapped to your back and no memory of where you came from or how you got there. 

First response is visceral, instinctive. Everything comes into focus as epinephrine streamlines your central nervous system. Time grinds to stop motion. Events seem to stretch out, extending themselves just long enough to help you get a grip. 

I'm flailing my arms, trying to catch the upper atmosphere.

The Canyon stretches out below: a violent gash torn across the surface of the planet in some ancient war against tectonics. Opened wide, ready to devour its first meat meal since the Tharsis Rebellion. 

Memory fragments. Worlds at war. Me, a prisoner of war. Captives like live mice, blinded by visions. Forced into simulated worlds generated by an enemy known for tinkering with reality. Now I'm tumbling towards the rift at terminal velocity, in a spacesuit/wingsuit hybrid system comprised of a backpack equipped with wings spanning the length of my arms, powered by four tiny jet engines that won't power up fast enough. 

Sol breaks over the horizon. A distant, red globe painting the ragged surface every color of magenta that's perceptible to the naked eye. Too real to be real yet... there, in the omnipresent free space. It rises over my would-be tomb, illuminating the ancient grave as my breathing quickens with my heart rate. Inhale. 

Exhale. 

Condensation on the helmet's visor.  Little droplets turning incident rays into a light show across my face. Too real. Inhale.

Exhale as the jets whine to life. 

Feels like my entire GI tract is 20 feet behind me, with no chance of ever catching up. I'm soaring over foglogged chasmata, steep depressions that empty out in chaotic terrain. Acceleration peaks out over Candor chasma and I can feel the g-forces tugging at my jump boots. With one-third the earth's gravity, Candor chasma expands unhurriedly, giving me some hangtime. Some time to think.

"If you are captured," A gaunt, battle-weary face jogs my memory. The face is an afterimage, jutting out from the backdrop of a blacked-out cognitive map. A partial recall. "Do NOT let 'em probe your memories for the location of the Homeworld."

Homeworld. Terra. Memories are flooding back. Memories triggered by the traumatic scene unfolding around me. Engine thrust has sent me hurtling over a deep, dark part of the canyon system. I struggle to orient myself in the cold martian sky as if seeing the chasm for the first time. Everything's rattling: helmet, wings, teeth, skull, brain. Wind-buffeted raw. I approach the dense fog of the canyon in free fall, jet fuel depleted after 10 minutes of incoherent flight.

Still thinking about Terra. Wishing myself home. I'd tap my heels together if the airflow weren't doing it for me.

Something's in my head. I feel it as I plummet into the fog. Like flashbacks of Terra are being siphoned off, one engram at a time. Getting harder to retrieve the images; to remember the oceans, the continents, the cities, my home, my family, her face...

Gone. 

A day with our daughter. Laughing over the din of the crowd; the ocean waves. Sol hanging over the beach, sand glittering like little mirrors. The clear deep blue sky. Her playing with the autodog. Small footprints in the sand...

All melting into a thick still haze. Still and silent. 

The fog's impenetrable. It restricts my gaze on all sides to a few meters and I can't tell if I'm rising or falling. So maybe the wings have caught me, between Mars and the stars. Maybe I'm already dead and this is someone else's final moments. Falling below the horizon; beneath the reach of light.

Beneath the ground. 

Craning my neck to gaze skyward. The red surface hangs overhead.  "What the–?" my voice rebounds inside the flight helmet. From this angle the ground, an otherwise solid state of matter, seems to dissolve into innumerable specks of dust. Like a cloud, no more solid than the static fog. 

And I fall through non-space into the void, watching terrain maps of the Canyon recede towards a vanishing point. Then they vanish, together with my memory maps of home.

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DennisT: This is an excellent story by an author who writes very well. the only problem areas that I see relate to proofreading and editing. All of the stories by Vanessa are excellent, and I have read them all more than once. I had hoped that they would be better edited and proofread on this site, but it...

Nymeria: Really can't get enough of this story. It flows well, it captivates the reader from page 1, and throws you into such a well-written, well conceptualized world that you'll believe it's real. Everything in the book is meshed together really well. From character backgrounds to plot twists, you can t...

sambolie: Couldn't stop reading this!! Beautifully engaging story & I love the richness of the characters. I hope to see the next volume soon! I can't wait to see how the girls carry on to Invasion Day with all that happened.

kim: This is great! Maybe it could just be a little more specific. One of the keys to great writing is describing things in detail. I think you're off to a great start. I wish you much luck.

Jasmine Chow: As I read this story, I was reminded some what of Terry Pratchett, especially some descriptions of politics and economics. The sci-fic setting is quite intriguing. Writing style is quite lovely and grew on me slowly. I was also slightly reminded of Mark Twain, especially his book A Connecticut Ya...

Tony Lee: Great ideas. Some mistakes here and there, but not too much to break the immersion :) This was my second book here, and I'm pretty satisfied! Well I can't think of anything else to write so I'm just gonna fill the space up with random words. Magazine holder sidney sheldon first bible shack tom ha...

ElNachoWOTC: The grammar is tight and easy too read while packing a great vocabulary and you use a lot of vivid imagery with your words. One of the biggest things I noticed right away is the gritty realism you managed to cram into this book while going into a lot of exotic fantasy material. Including issue...

kathryncoard: I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast paced book, that kept me interested . Yes, it was political commentary, which I found to be relevant to many things happening in the world. The snippets from the journal show the " boiled frog " analogy that is clearly relevant . Interesting that peop...

Raymond Keith Moon: Great story arc. Nice command of the balance of overview and detail. Feels a bit like a multi-player computer game, but provides satisfying explanations for all the apparent magic. Please keep writing!

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