“Sweet Mother of all Tucans!” yelled Furieux, gasping for air as he jolted awake and instantly smacked his pounding head in the darkness. He attempted to raise his hand to rub the pain away but discovered his space was restricted. He felt as if he was in a coffin. Closing his eyes, he tried to recover his wits and some memory of recent events, but the dream he had just experienced gripped his psyche, refusing to unhook its vivid claws from his mind. His throat was dry. He wanted a drink. Any drink. Even water would do. He licked his lips and concentrated. He listened. A soft hiss interspersed with rhythmic ticking and the odd digital bleep reached his ears. He recognised the sound of an an escape capsule. Why was he here though? He concentrated. The Orca. Amir Raj and his small army of thugs. Thank the Mother for reactive armour. More memories came flooding back. The mission on Eshana had been a success, but Raj had intercepted the Delicate Heart on his return to Popov Hub. He chided himself for not being more alert and he remembered little after facing down the business end of a pulse rifle. Clearly the armoured vest he wore under his flight suit had protected him from instant death but he ached all over, especially his upper body. He needed to get out of this capsule. He twisted his head within the confines of the unit and observed the data on the life support panel. The atmosphere outside was breathable. Where was he?
“Release. Authorisation code ‘ANA89754.'” he croaked.
*Affirmative. Opening life support capsule in T-minus 2 minutes. Engaging atmospheric normalization procedures. Please stand by* responded the capsule computer.
“Yeah, like I have anything else to do” muttered Furieux. His entire body was stiff, Mother knows how long he had been in this can. This was worse than any hangover he had ever woke up to. He began to wonder how he even managed to get into the capsule. He remembered the shot, the fall, but nothing more. Had one of Raj’s men put him here? Had they taken the Orca and dumped him into it, chucking it out into space? That didn’t make sense though. The readings showed that outside there was an atmosphere. A planet? A ship?
*Opening hatch* reported the computer.
Vents hissed and creaked as the canopy above him begun to slide apart. Light blazed in and Furieux closed his eyes tightly, shielding them from what was clearly planet diffused daylight. He heard the panels come to a stop and slowly, gradually lifted his lids to view a blue sky framed by the tops of massive trees. The air was wet, humid and warm, but not uncomfortably so and carried with it the scent of rain. He forced himself to sit up within the pod and take in his surroundings.
“Oh. Well isnt this just great?”
The pod was located in a clearing, the immediate vicinity burnt away by the landing. Beyond that, nothing but old, yet healthy vegetation. Trees loomed over him from every side, the ground mossy, and thick with greenery. More notably, the sounds of avian calls and insectoid chirps were crystal clear. This planet had life in abundance.
Furieux stepped up and out onto the soft terrain and stretched, wincing at the pain that immediately jolted through his every muscle. He reached into his suit and retracted his dataslate. Dead.
“Wonderful.” he mused, realising he had no way to contact the 8th or anyone else for that matter. He took a breath, picked a direction and began limping towards a route that seemed less overgrown with nature’s finest. It wasn’t all bad. As he began to move out, a thought struck him. Where there is life, there are normally humans, and where there were humans, there was usually booze. It was going to to be a long walk. Time enough to ponder what that dream was all about.