A Tale of the Old Solar System Part Two
His skin itched and his head was light at the sudden drop in air pressure, but months in pressure chambers and on the surface of Mars had prepared his lungs for the vigors of a tenuous atmosphere. After a moment he was reoriented.
His first impression of the world where he was to survive for the next few weeks was the frigidity. At four hundred fourteen million kilometers from the sun and without a gas giant to warm it, he had expected cold, and was in fact already wearing a thermosuit. It would keep him comfortable through Pallas’s eight hour day, although the nights...
His second impression was the smell of it. It was a well known fact among spacers, but not the general public, that every habitable planet had its own unique odor. Mars had a dry, acrid scent, Venus stank of rot and hot rain, and Earth- he was told, although being an Earther himself he had never noticed - smelled of people. Pallas, he thought, smelled faintly of dust and burnt gunpowder.
Brushing aside the tall grass, he took stock of his surroundings. The Pod had deposited him in the deepest part of a sparse valley surrounded on all sides by mountains, possibly an ancient impact basin or enormous volcanic crater. Or perhaps not as big as all that. A nearer horizon means it’s easy to overestimate distances and sizes.
A sudden whirring gust from behind him made him jump, and he spun to watch the space-pod begin its ascent into the purple Pallasian sky. Slowly, slowly it rose, kicking up dust, then faster, until Raker was left listening to the fading buzz of the craft's engine on the thin air. The silence that followed seemed seemed infinitely deep. He was really alone now.
He wasted no time. An experienced spacer might bound across a low-gravity landscape in great leaps, but Raker was unwilling to take such risks. He went hastily through the exercises and mental rituals his instructors had taught him to quickly adjust to an unearthly gravitational pull. Then he opened his survival pack and laid out all the supplies that had been allowed him: A knife, a length of rope, a pot, three days of food and water rations, a collapsible shovel, a flashlight, and a magnesium fire-starter. No decent weapons. If there’s anything violent lurking out there, hopefully we don’t run into each other. No doubt at least some of the local life was edible, or the Patrol would have given him more food. He’d need to find water, and something to boil it with. The heat would be welcome too, especially when the sun set.
He gathered his equipment back into his pack and started off into the valley, following the blinking dot on his positioner, feeling more at ease about his ability to brave the wilds of Pallas.