Jack Braisser watched from inside the Red Canary as it drifted over the treetops, peeking down to the untouched ground below. The vegetation was relentless so that even the small size of the ship could not fit into most of the rare spaces. It took all the scanners searching fiercely to find a thin patch in the greenery which had an acceptable landing space below.
The moss covered floor eased down with the weight of the ship, more in some places than in others. It meant the stabilising legs were required to prop up the left side to re-establish equilibrium. Gases were sucked in and exchanged, trying to accommodate to the foreign environment.
Jack Braisser stepped off the ship and looked around. Only a few pictures had been sent back before the last ship disappeared. From these, and from circling the planet before landing, it appeared the entire world was composed of the dense moss jungle. Jack opened his navigator and checked his coordinates against that of the previous ship. He wanted to start there, to see if he could determine why all comms went dead just two months into the mission. Only 1.5 kilometres SE, Jack let out a sigh. It would take a day, maybe two, the get through the greenery. He scratched the back of his neck as he looked in the direction he needed to go. His mission would not be an easy one.
Jack was interrupted from his planning by a rotund man in a new suit. The new commander had no experience in foreign countries, let alone worlds, and Jack had tired of him quickly on the way over.
‘So Jack, when can we expect to make contact?’
‘The last group took seven weeks to make a sighting. Depending on how that went, it may take longer this time.’
‘Oh, I was hoping to take off by Friday,’ the squat man mumbled.
‘Luckily, you weren’t in charge of ordering food supplies,’ Jack replied, before striding away to check his gear.
He had watched the men on the way over and selected two he would take with him on the recovery venture. Essentially, the two who caused the least amount of trouble.
‘Richards, Pattson, over here,’ he called out, and was not surprised to see an immediate response from them. The two muscled men stood before Jack, each with pockets already bulging with supplies.
‘I have been charged with discovering what happened to White Thunder, the last ship to land here. All comm lines were out after 62 days and we need to know why so it doesn’t happen again. I’ll need your assistance in this mission. Will you accept?’
‘Yes, sir,’ replied both men.
‘Good. Then we will need supplies for a week. Make sure there is plenty of ammo, machetes and include basic hunting gear in case we’re out longer. We’ll move out at first light so ensure the packs are ready.’
The two men began gathering the required gear and Jack set up his laptop to assess the surrounding geography. The major feature was the differing density of the top cover of ground. At times, the moss and leaf debris contacted the earth and at others, it bridged deep crevices. Jack programed alarms for when the top layer was less than 20cm thick; an amount he guessed would support a man and pack.
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