Morgan woke with a groan. His head was pounding and he was completely disoriented. As he opened his eyes he understood why: he was upside down. The safety straps were doing their job and holding him in place. Looking down he could see that the T-7 landing craft was suspended at least thirty meters above the ground. According to the chronometer on his wrist he had been out for about ten minutes.
Only half an hour ago Morgan had been making a fairly routine landing. A few minutes after entering atmosphere something went wrong. The survey said the planet’s electromagnetic field could fluctuate and that atmospheric disturbances would be common. For that reason his equipment was suppose to be shield it. It seemed that the shielding on his ship had not been quite up to par though. The controls started to malfunction and he lost his guidance system. He tried to find a place to land, but ended up going down in the forest doing his damnedest not to fly straight into one of the gigantic trees.
He was suppose to land at the survey station and start preparation for the colony vestle. As a terra scout he was charged with preparing the initial site for colonization. A survey ship had already approved the planet, but they only assessed habitability and resources. They left a small scan station that would have some resources for him.
With a careful amount of contorting he was able to free and right himself. Grabbing hold of the safety straps, he blew open the canopy and swung out onto one of the stout branches that was supporting the landing craft. He surveyed the scene and was not pleased. He was high above a forest floor in the strange, giant trees that populated the area. Blue vines with reddish spots hung all about. He could hear the indigenous wildlife, though saw little of it.The crash had startled most of it away apparently. The air was warm and wet, his skin quickly being plastered with a thin sheen of sweat. Scents both sweet and pungent filled his nostrils. What most preoccupied his attention, aside from the far away ground, was his ship.
The ship seemed mostly intact though not operable, but the cargo space had been torn open. He had lost almost all of the gear that he had brought with him. He could see some bits and pieces scattered about, utterly wrecked. The only things left to him were what was upfront in the cockpit with him and anything he could scavenge.
After a couple minutes he had gathered what little had made it with him. His main survival pack had been lost unfortunately. His GPS had survived and was able to relay with the satellites he had dropped before making his landing. His survival knife was strapped to his belt fortunately. There was a single bottle of water and a couple of ration bars that had been upfront with him as well. He also had his personal data pad up front along with a small first aid kit. The only thing left in the cargo space was a fully loaded GR-77 pistol with one spare magazine.
Slowly, but surely, Morgan climbed down the tree. The blue vines made good handholds as he worked his way lower. The giant trees cast a thick shade as he went lower. However, the vines that he used to make his way down had luminescent quality and started to give off a faint blue glow. The forest floor seemed to be set in state of perpetual twilight with only a little sunlight filtering down below. It was a relief to be back on solid ground.
After a few hours Morgan had salvaged as much as he could. It looked like a some of his stuff had not scattered until the impact with the tree that caught his ship. What could be scrounged included: a hand lantern, a multitool, an ET tool, his personal data pad, a solar charger, twenty meters of high tensile cord plus a coil of wire he pulled out of some machinery, one good tarp and a second with a rip in it, a large piece of foil, some carabiners, and a duffle bag. He also grabbed up some miscellaneous parts that he thought might be useful in trying to build with.
He stretched out some as he marked the landing pod’s location with the GPS. He might be able to repair it with tools from the survey station, provided he could make it that far. With his gear secured and the GPS setting his course, Morgan set out. He reset his chronometer to planetary time. It looked like he still had hours before true nightfall to cover the distance. As he walked he took in the sights. It was hard not to be awed by the alien flora and its strange colors and shapes. He had been to a few worlds, and none had trees as tall as these.
He tried to recall all that he knew about the world as he walked. Taurus II was a level 2 habitable planet. Not quite Earth, but no terraforming required. Right atmosphere and gravity. Abundant water. The magnetic field was obviously a problem, but was not suppose to be damaging to humans. His data pad had a good deal of information on it as well, though not as much as he wished now.
All around him the forest was rife with noise and life. He could hear the trilling and screech of a dozen animals. Insect-like creatures scuttled up the bark of the trees and made little chittering sounds. Occasionally would see colorful creatures flit through the air. They had six wings and serpentine bodies that seemed to undulate through the air. They produced a mournful, but melodic song.
What caught his attention the most, though, was the strange arboreal creatures that swung from branches and vines. They actually looked like a balled-up mass of tangled vines covered in moss to him. They had no eyes, mouth, ears, or other facial characteristics he could distinguish. When they wanted to reach for something a viney appendage would shoot out and grab ahold. They chirped back and forth at each other. A group of three seemed to have taken an interest in him and started following along. They seemed harmless enough, so it was nice to have the company. He figured that if nothing else one of them might provide him with a meal.
The air was warm and humid. Morgan could feel it sapping his strength with each step. Stopping for a rest every few minutes would make for slow travel though. He was beginning to wish that he had something better to wear than his flight suit. The top of the jump suit had been quickly unzipped and now hung from his waist. The light undershirt was soaked through with sweat. The boots were the worst part. While comfortable and broke in, they were not made for long treks over land. No blisters yet, but with his feet growing wet that was not likely to last long.
He had been hiking for two standard hours when it started to rain. He took out the tarp with the rip in the center and pulled it over him to form a poncho. He wrapped some wire around his waist as an impromptu belt to hold it snug against any wind. He drank down all of the water in his bottle then used a leaf as a funnel to start catching more.
The rain continued at a steady pace with no sign of letting up. He continued on with the determination to make it as far as he could. Each day would be harder than the last so he figured it was best to push as much while he was still good and fresh. The sun had sunk sunk below the horizon, but the bioluminescence of the plants provided enough light to navigate by. As his legs started to finally fell heavy and his energy waned, he began to look for a place to make a good camp for the night.
As he looked at the possibility of resting in the hollow of a tree for the night he noticed that the forest had grown quiet. Even his three chittering watchers had become silent. He glanced up to where he had last seen them and found that the space was now vacant. Listening carefully he started to take in his surroundings.
As he turned about he spotted a slim, serpentine creature with red fur half hidden in the underbrush. It was the size of a large dog with six clawed feet and a long maw of needle teeth. It was already crouched, but when Morgan turned the beast burst from the undergrowth, covering the distance in a matter of heartbeats.
Morgan wanted to draw his pistol, but was blocked by his makeshift poncho. The knife was not, however, and he drew it as he leapt to the side. The creature passed through air where he had been with a blood thirsty hiss. It whipped around in the blink of an eye and slashed at him with one of its claws. Morgan rolled away so that only his poncho was raked. He made a flailing slash with the knife that nicked the creature’s paw.
The beast withdrew from the wound enough for Morgan to scramble to his feet. He held the knife forward in one hand as the other fished about for the pistol. Before he could free it, he was forced to leap back as the creature clawed at him. He dodged and jumped as the creature swiped at him. Finally it curled back for a great pounce.
Morgan’s heart pounded like a hammer inside of his chest. His hand raced to free the pistol as the creature uncoiled its muscles to spring at him, a missile of fangs and claws. It shot through the air as he pulled his weapon free and pointed it forward. Just before the creature collided with him a crack echoed through the forest as he pulled the trigger.
Breathing hard, Morgan looked at the fanged maw above his head. It hissed as it thrashed about erratically on top of him. With great effort he heaved the creature off of his chest. Rising up to his knees he took the knife in both hands and jabbed down into the creature’s chest. The creature gave a final spasm of movement then was still.
A surrealness settled on Morgan as he looked down at the beast. Here he was, wet and muddy, effectively stranded on an alien world. It could just as easily have been him to die today instead of this predator. He laughed out loud as he thought about how that was twice now in one day he had just barely avoided death.
With a deep breath, he forced his mind back into the moment. He drug the animal over to the hollow where he planned to sleep out the night. After an hour of work he had a fire going and had cut some meat off of the carcass to make his dinner. It smelled fairly good. Getting as comfortable as he could, he watched as some grease dripped into the flames and popped.
He checked the GPS to confirm his position and to figure out his rout for the next day. He needed to hurry. Not just did he need to reach the landing zone to increase his survival odds, he still had a job to do. He looked out into the forest with a sigh. “I don’t have a damn clue how I’m going to get things ready now. If I spend a month just sitting around in the trees there will be hell to pay when the ship arrives. I’m probably the first castaway to ever not want his rescue to come sooner than later.”
He put that thought aside as he picked up a skewer of meat. There was no point thinking about how he was going to do site prep until he reached the survey station. He took a bite and found it to have a sweet flavor. All things considered, he was doing fairly well for the moment. Settling in for his meal and rest, he finished planning out the next day’s journey.