I was returning to Addison after four years in the service. I had been a scout more because of where and how I grew up. I had a day before the shuttle dropped and was sitting in the merchant walk watching vids of the forest on the planet. Like always the station announced a shuttle lifting from the planet.
Since it was an imperial diplomatic shuttle I was not interested. Five minutes later the station alarms when off, "attention all personal proceed to evac stat..."
It shut down and I relaxed as I thought it was a drill. The speakers came on again, "this is the Low Station commander speaking. We have an emergency aboard the incoming shuttle. Emergency personal proceed to docking lounge ... shit! Track that now! Someone get me the system governor!"
I blinked as the station speaker shut down, "someone fell into the shit."
Thirty minutes later I turned and looked up as my name was called. I sighed as I stood and went to the lounge wall comm and hit the button, "this is Dar Givens."
"Mr Givens I was told you were a forester and in the fleet scouts?"
I frowned, "yes."
"Please come to the command deck."
It shut off and I shook my head, "great."
Five minutes and I was stepping into the busy nerve center of Low station. The commander turned and moved towards me, "we need your help. An imperial shuttle was hijacked and someone set off an explosive. It lost power and went down on continent four at the southern edge."
I shook my head, "they are dead."
He shook his head, "no. They did crash but we have been speaking with the few survivors. We need you to do a shuttle jump and..."
I growled, "are you crazy? You do not have suits or armor or jump pods. Jumping from a shuttle unprotected would kill a man."
He blushed, "there is no other way. Even the longbows on the planet can not reach them. We could do a plasma burn but we do not have a shuttle that could land and it would take days before..."
I moved to look at the scan and sat look down, "it is suicide. Even if I did survive there is no way to get them back..."
I zoomed in on the broken trail into the trees as he sighed, "please?"
The idea burst in my mind as I looked at a single broken tree. I finally turned, "you have two hours to prep a cargo shuttle. This is what I am going to need..."
One of the aids started making notes as I started giving them a list. Most of the things were easy and only the one door on the pod would take time. I really did not want to do this but there was a chance ... if they did things my way. Two hours later and I was closed in the pod as the shuttle moved away from the station.
I tried to breath slowly until someone banged on the side of the pod. There was only two meters of clearance because of all the crates under me. I checked the remote grav control board and switched on the two small hydro reactors. I turned on the power to the compensators and finally my comm came alive, "three ... two ... one..."
There was the jolt as the shuttle cargo ramp opened and a moment later the pod was ejected out the back. I brought the anti gravs alive and adjusted the ones on the side as the pod shook hard. I kept it from rolling and twisting to the side and brought all the ones on the back online.
The shuttle had been going twenty five hundred meters a second. The pod continued to drop and the gravs began to slow it. I was watching a scan screen with two tiny lights. One was the pod and the second was the downed shuttle beacon. The shuttle had ejected the pod at twenty thousand meters and five hundred kilometers from the shuttle.
It took awhile to slow and the pod had dropped to only five thousand meters. Finally I saw the break the shuttle had made. I maxed the anti gravs and then backed off and the pod stopped moving forward. The compensators shut down and the pod was still dropping but I increased the power and it slowed.
Finally I shifted and quickly stripped out of the oxy mask. I took the remote as I crawled to the front and the single grate door. The pod was four meters tall, five wide and fifteen long. I dialed up the anti grav harness I was wearing and opened the door. I hung onto the door and the remote control board and swung out. I looked down as I struggled to close the door.
We dropped through the break and I shifted the pod as I made it begin to move back towards the west. I slowed the pod when it was three hundred meters off the ground. I stopped it and turned it and moved to the north side and over two very thick branches. I stopped it again and lowered it and let it settle on the branches.
It took two minutes to pull out the single one meter wide ramp to a third branch. I grabbed the prepared pack full of charged anti grav harnesses. I secured a thick rope to the branch above and attached a winch. I slung my short rifle and adjusted the strap for the pack before I grabbed the cable from the winch and jumped out.
I had the harness dialed up so I dropped slowly while searching the area below me. I went from large branch to large branch as I went lower. Finally I stopped on the last set of branches above the ground. I clipped the cable to a small secondary branch and began to move towards where the shuttle should be.
I found it on the ground several hundred meters from the cable. I squatted as I looked it over. Besides a lot of small rips the body looked intact. The front was a different story and I moved around to look at the huge hole where the bridge had been. I used a group of tangled vines to climb down to the hole.
I held my rifle ready as I moved through the wreckage and into the shuttle. The hole led down and into the cargo area. The moment I stepped onto the solid deck I knew something big was already inside. I searched the semi dark towards the rear and moved towards a set of spiral stairs up to the passenger area.
I stopped moving when I saw the giant leopard crouching while eating something. I aimed carefully and as it began to turn its head I fired. The rifle roared and the huge animal dropped and thrashed as it died. I listened and heard someone yell from above. I turned and climbed the stairs and looked at the closed door at the top.
I unlocked it and struggled to push it open. When I finally stepped into the passenger area it was to see a lot of bodies. I moved towards the back and through a steward's station. On the other side I found eleven people, ten adults and a teenage girl. I smiled as I took off the pack, "we have a lot to do and a long way to go."
Of course a few wanted to know when the other rescuers were coming and did not like my answers. I made them put on the harnesses and then collect bottles of water while I went to skin the huge leopard. I was leading them out when I saw the herd of ground animals. I stopped to stare because they were huge and reptile.
They had long straight horns and spikes spread out and up along their spines. The end of the tail had a wicked ball at the end with lots of spikes. They were eating the torn up vegetation that littered the ground. I turned and began to help the others adjust the power on their harnesses before they started climbing the vines.
I followed and had to pull up the heavy pelt after I was on the branch. At least it was easy to lead them along the top of the huge branches and back to the cable. I checked around us constantly and finally unclipped the cable. I gestured as I pulled out straps that would go from one harness to another.
I hooked everyone together and pulled out a remote. The cable began retracting and pulling them up and I was last. Once I had them up to the pod I sent them in and followed. I closed the grate door and faced them and started to go over how we were going to get back. The plan was simple but with a lot of hard work.
The shuttle had managed to break a tree. Above the break the tree was almost thirty meters across. I was going to cut a large section out and carve out a type of boat. We would fit it with all the anti gravs on the pod and connect the two small hydro reactors for power. From there we would be able to lift above the trees and float back to the colony.
I had them drink water and eat a ration while I left and went to find beatle ants to clean the pelt. I found lots of fire and spice leaves and collected vine melons and apple berries. I also collected a large bag of tanning moss. I returned and let them rub the tanning moss on the pelt while I pulled out the commercial laser.
It took two hours to drop down with the larger anti gravs, laser and power cable. I set it beside the huge broken rainbow tree. I used the harness to climb back to the pod and rested before it got dark. I lowered the six dragon nests I had made and pulled out blankets for each. I left a single yellow chem light on as they paired up to sleep.
I set my rifle in the rack by the door and stripped. I looked at the girl on the other side of the closest nest bed and she whispered, "why did you take off your clothes?"
She was clutching the blanket as I climbed onto the nest and under the blanket and laid back, "you are going to be wearing the same clothes for many days. Your body needs to breath. In the morning we will need to find water vines."
I closed my eyes and relaxed as I listened to the forest. I heard the girl and felt her shifting around. A minute later she moved over and pressed against me. She was naked and that made my cock hard. I sighed, "great. Now my cock is not going down until we get out of here."
She giggled and I heard the women in the other nests chuckle. It was a few minutes before we heard one of the women moan and the girl shifted, "I am horny."
.... There is more of this story ...