Chapter 8:

The Way Down

Keio (9-K-O-512)

Time: Daytime, afternoon
Location: Giant spruce, middle
Health: Weak but rested
Additional effects - enhanced nature-vision
Energy reserves: Somatic interface offline

We move swiftly towards the ground, thanks to Little-Friend's thread. We keep away from the trunks and the inhabitants in the branches, descending along the outer coat of the giant fir.

Sometimes, we must cross chasms between the inner ring and the next circle of treetops. I take Little-Friend into my lap, throw it like a ball toward the bright green treetops and climb after it when the thread is attached.

The thickening clouds and the trunk beyond them have shrunk away into the unknowable distance, but the whispers of the ground and the forest canopy, pulsating in thousands of colours, draw ever nearer. As I glance down, the forest's weave is broken here and there by bright iridescent spots. After descending further for several more scaffold levels of the mighty spruces, I finally realise – they're parachutes! Our parachutes!

So, other ship-dwellers have landed nearby. Which means I must look for survivors: it's my duty as a ship-dweller. And you never know, maybe one of the survivors will help charge my nanobanks. I snap Little-Friend to me, swing it wide over a dark abyss of branches and climb after it with renewed vigour.

As I descended, I tried to note where the smart-fabric of parachutes shone the most, but reaching the ground, I lose all sense of direction. The local star no longer helps me set the course, as the sky is covered in thick, dirt-coloured walls of cloud.

The surroundings of the giant fir are covered in a forest of intertwined fir trees of different ages. Further away, in the middle of the growth, I can feel the pulsing pillar of the mother-tree, the closest trunks melding into it one by one. But even here, far from the giant's heart, the dark thicket stretches, almost impassable.

The trunks, growing closely together, at least offer good support, so I don't have to worry about moving along the ground – it's more climbing than walking. But the ever-present tormenting thirst makes itself felt again.

Guided by the forest's pulse, we finally find our way out of the woods surrounding the base of the giant fir, into an airy and lush mixed forest, with soft moss under my feet. Tree trunks rise around me in different shapes and tones; the bustle of tiny creatures can be heard from under and in between their bulks. Here too the gloom still rules, but air moves freely and daylight peeks from above through the leaves, matching the pace of the wind.

Little-Friend immediately scurries off in search of bugs. Time will tell what delicacies it will fetch me from the forest. I find a stout length of branch to support me while I walk and limp slowly towards a wide hardwood. If I could climb up, I could once again move from branch to branch, canopy to canopy. I wouldn't have to bother stumbling painstakingly - and the parachutes stuck in the branches would probably be easier to find.

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