Chapter 11, What the Hell?
Chapter 11: What the Hell?
Several failed Jumps Later;
Thomas was disoriented, the transition had gone smooth enough but once again they placed him further out than he had expected to be. This time however he could feel the bottom and stand up. He was submerged in cold water up to his chest, and land was nowhere to be seen, the sky was a dark gray and full of clouds.
”Where the heck did you place me this time?” He muttered under his breath. Back at the lab, a dozen technicians scrambled for the charts, made calculations, and reported the coordinates to Dr. Roth, who in turn adjusted his headpiece and spoke to Thomas.
”Seems the boys ran into another Gluon storm, they placed you fifteen miles South-South East of Manhattan; About a mile off the Jersey coast. Wanna scrub this test?” Thomas shook his head, even though they could not see him.
“No,” He replied, “Lets see what happens”
On the wall the clock ticked off the minutes till impact, it showed nineteen minutes remaining. This would have been plenty of time if he had been properly placed, but he was off considerably. He would have to wade shoulder deep up the coast. The early morning fog bank hid the coastline from view. Four jumps in already, and he still had not seen the New York skyline. This was getting frustrating.
”Give me my bearings” He requested. The receiver planted in his ear could catch the sound of papers rustling back at the command center. Dr Roth’s voice broke in:
”Continue up the Coast, try to head in closer to the shoreline on your left. After about five minutes you should be able to see a plane coming in from the South, heading in towards La Guardia airport. Remember procedure; listen first, get visual confirmation second, and walk straight in the direction that you see it heading, when we give you the OK.” Yeah, yeah yeah, Thomas thought.
”Roger that” He replied. After following the instructions he stood absolutely still, listening for the engine. Icy waters slapped his chest, a wave splashed up to his lips, he tasted the salty brine on his tongue. In the far distance, he could make out the slight hum of a distant aircraft engine.
”I think I hear it” He spoke. His microphone was miniaturized and now was implanted above his right chest; just below the skin at the base of his collarbone. He had gotten use to it, and almost forgot at times that it was there. Only when he lathered up in the shower would he sometimes brush against the scar tissue, and feel its slight wafer thin housing, beneath the skin.
He wanted to carry out the mission without any snags, but was told to expect the unexpected. The sound neither grew louder nor softer, Thomas impatiently scanned a three hundred and sixty degree turn, seeking out the source of the engine.
The pilot of the single engine craft broke the clouds, and cursed loudly as the enormous form of a head and shoulders appeared before him, rising up from the ocean towering above his horizon line. The improbable shape loomed eight hundred feet before him. He grabbed the throttle tightly let out a shout as he banked a sharp turn to the left to avoid hitting Thomas.
”What the hell is That?” The pilot screamed involuntarily through his mouthpiece. The control tower picked up his garbled message.
”Identify yourself” Came the voice, back from the New Jersey Air Traffic Control. The pilot gave his coordinates.
“It’s bigger then a mountain, How did it get out here?” The pilot stammered.
Thomas caught a sight of the small craft just as it broke through the clouds. It was heading straight toward him! The Pilot performed a quick steep left bank, and the plane just missed him.
”Dr Roth, did you mean a small plane or a jet?
”A jet!” Came the prompt response,
”Why, what have you got?”
”A small single engine plane, It looks like a Cessna I think, It almost hit me!” Thomas replied. Again the technicians scrambled for the data, this time the log record of calls placed from the Newark terminal. Thomas could hear in the background someone say,
”Oh Jeez! They got the unidentified object report at 7:56 AM. They thought the pilot was drunk. Are we seven minutes off?”
Dr Roth glanced at his watch, looked at the charts and shook his head,
”Sorry Thomas, we are going to bring you back, you’ll never make New York Harbor in time. Prepare to return.”
”Great, Another Failure” Thomas grumbled, “And this time I got so close!” He wondered if he would ever get to see the city.
It was a strange feeling as the cold of the ocean evaporated, leaving him slightly dazed and shaking, standing naked as the ocean and the mist dissipated. Slowly as programmed, the infra red lights came on first, re illuminating the chamber, then the warm blower kicked in to bring the room temperature back up to normal. The Air made a loud sucking sound as the hydraulic door slid open.
Both going and coming was hard on the body, but Thomas was getting better at it. The motion sickness pills worked. He was still disoriented but not sick, that helped.
Dr Xavier met him at the door with a warm robe. He read the disappointment on Thomas’s face, and said the now familiar litany,
”That’s why we do these tests first.” Then he added, “None the less, everyone here shares your frustration.” Twenty minutes later, after he showered and dressed, He would join the Doctors for the briefing and Jump review in the “War room”.