CHAPTER NAVIGATION BAR
TALES OF BUFFALO COMMONS
" FINESSE "
Celeste had woken suddenly from her summer-side slumber with a wicked thrist. She rose and turned towards the aft end of the boat, gingerly climbing down into the seat well before turning and entering the sunken interior of the craft. Here she removed a cold can of DeePee from her Kitchen-Mat and, as she turned back for the exit, popped the nozzle and began to drink. She use to favour plain water but someone once told her the DeePee drink was loaded with minerals and electrolytes that replenished her faster than ordinary water could.* * *
She came back up, 'topside' as the salesman she bought this craft from persisted in calling it, and returned back to her silken towel. She sat, then laid back, propping herself up on one elbow, its reverse knee bent, enjoying the endless vista of gently rolling sea while the cool, bubbly liquid teased her throat and quenched her thirst. This was indeed 'the life'.
Finn came to a rest some two thousand metres up feeling sick to his stomach. He'd have to remember to dial down the Panic Button on his Grav-Vest controls from their current 6-G setting to something more reasonable and less unsettling. He looked down at the boat below and switched the zoom function to search for her.
Had she seen him? She wasn't visible. Maybe she'd gone below? Maybe she'd seen him, or heard the whoosh that probably went with acceleration? She was probably down below calling her Security Force, a group of Rent-A-Cops most likely based out of the nearby Azores area – security for the Ultra-Rich™ wouldn't mean much if they weren't nearby.
He didn't know how he felt about that. Keeping his distance would eliminate him as a threat, unless they assumed he was paparazzi, an unfortunate likelihood. But Finn didn't have the juice in his cells to grav all the way to shore so somehow he needed someone to give him a lift, and very soon.
Sooner still it seemed as he realized he was starting to drift downward. He looked at the indicators for the Grav systems. They were losing power. Had he drained that much on the burst upward? That shouldn't be the case. Finn did the math quickly and realized he didn't even have the reserve to guide down smoothly.
Suddenly the idea of interrupting some starlet's vacation seemed rather trivial. Finn was picking up speed toward the unforgiving surface of a very large ocean.
* * *
Colonel Nickle entered the Hereford Ops Center without looking away from the Primary Status board. The read-outs were confirming what the visuals. Senior Leftenant Finnegan was losing altitude and rapidly. His power cells were quickly approaching zero load and it was a long way down.
Everyone here knew too well what would happen when he hit the water. Being a fluid body the liquid wouldn't have time to absorb the impact and therefore wouldn't. Finnegan would have a better chance surviving a landing on the tarmac of the Hereford parade ground than he would a terminal-velocity strike against the ocean's surface.
The Hornet that had dumped him in this predicament was too far off his position to assist, which meant everyone here was merely witness to these events. Unless...
* * *
Finn began to flail. The glide web wasn't responding to the command for reactivation, something that would've at least given him a fighting chance, and even though he knew he was doing nothing to slow his descent this way he just couldn't bring himself to accept the seemingly inevitable. It just wasn't his way.
But he wasn't flailing so much as clawing. The Marwayne 500 rifle was strapped tightly to his chest and the straps weren't responding to the clumsy actions of his gloved hands. Realizing his altimeter was now acting as a countdown to his death Finn jerked the seal open on his left glove and discarded it, then immediately regretted that as the icy wind bit through his skin.
He flexed the fist a few times to fight the bite and then tugged blindly at the straps on the Rifle until he'd created enough slack to feel his way around the stock.
* * *
Nickle turned to Sandoval, "What's he doing?"
"Maybe he's going to send a flare?"
Nickle shook off that suggestion. Not only was it far from likely, it was a dumb idea and Finnegan showed no signs of being an idiot. He looked at Sandoval again wondering if maybe it was time his Key Metrics people participated in their own exercises. He'd like to see what Sandoval did when they dropped him over the ocean.
* * *
Eventually getting the rear cap open on the stock of the Rifle, Finn felt around for the twin plug. It was hard to do, he could neither look at the set up to see what the sequence was, nor were his fingers as tactilely sensitive as they would be were the wind chill not so extreme. He dug the nail into the first groove he could find and pulled. With a yelp he jerked his hand away when the shock ran up his arm causing the muscles to spasm.
Finn looked at the altimeter again, less than a thousand metres to go. This was going to be tight even if it worked. He took hold of the twin plug and pulled, it took a moment to give, but he was eventually able to release the end from the housing. Hopefully the connection lead was long enough or this was going to be a most futile exercise.
* * *
Sandoval held his hand over the button, looking intently at Nickle who held up his own hand, telling him to wait. He didn't know how much longer they could wait though. After all this training and expense it would be a shame to lose Finnegan.
"Give him another minute," Nickle repeated.
Sandoval didn't think Finnegan had that much time.
* * *