Monday, 17 January 2011

On second thoughts 4

Doctor Lipkiss crouched in the rear of the plane while his Special Forces attendants meticulously checked his equipment. They examined every part of his parachute harness and his spare chute. They recalibrated the orientation meters and controls on his wristband tracking device. They ran checks on his helmet and harness cameras, his personal communication system from earpieces to throat mike.

In about ten minutes Doctor Lipkiss, flanked by the attendants, was going to jump out of the airframe and freefall his way into the forbidden wastes below, pulling up around four hundred meters from the ground to open his chute. . He would land, hopefully intact, and march quick time across to prefixed coordinates, where he would take a number of rock, earth and water samples, for his colleagues back home to analyse.

A keen sportsman, Lipkiss had volunteered for this operation after a number of samples gathered by military personnel had been found to be contaminated at source and therefore useless. “I could do better, myself,” he had exclaimed in the lab. And three months later the authorities had held him to it.

It had seemed like a great adventure at that stage. Not even his wife’s stricken anxiety (he couldn’t keep it secret from her) could dissuade him. Pride, both national and personal, had carried him through.

Until now. He out peered into the night, and envisaged his legs shattering on the uprushing rock, his spinal column puncturing the roof of his skull. He envisaged himself dragged crippled and defenceless into sound-proofed torture chambers where even the truth would not save him.

“I’m not sure this is a good idea, guys,” he tried to sound laconic on his throat mike.

They kicked him out into the freezing airstream. After all, every geek they took out said that.

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