Time: Daytime, afternoon
Location: Giant spruce, top
Suit functionality: None
Energy reserves: Somatic interface offline
I still cannot believe it worked!
I cannot believe I glided all the way to the tree!
I gasp for air and push my scratched cheek against the bark – it smells of fresh resin.
The winds have tenderised my skin and I feel my heartbeat in my palms, raw from grappling the branches as I landed.
Slowly, I ease myself to sit atop the nearest growth circle. With my arms wrapped tightly around the languid shoots, I finally dare to examine my retreat.
The gargantuan conifer pierces the thin lower clouds that spray cool mist as they pass. My landing spot is at the highest peak of the central trunk – down below I can spot circles upon circles of secondary top-formations.
The branches up here are as thick as my arms and covered in bright green needles. At the end of each branch the needle-coat swells into an oversized growth-bundle.
I crush some of those and breathe in their scent.
It’s only then that I realise – this must be a spruce! I have actually remembered something of my training and I didn’t even have to sleep to activate the knowledge!
Of course, this tree here is several magnitudes greater than those spruces on Earth that our lessons showed. In fact, it is more like a mountain of spruces, built of rising circles. But the overall shape, the needles, the scent – those fit.
The lower levels of the spruce-colossus fade into the blue air, so that I can only imagine what happens by the bottom, or even in the middle. Far in the mist I glimpse other dark cones rising above regular forest.
I can almost spot the nearest-
My sight blurs.
A gust of wind rattles the tree and my arms almost lose their grip.
I must secure myself to the tree while I still can!
I brace myself and, with a pinch of regret, notice some smart-fabric flapping above, just out of my reach. Those pieces tore off my glide-suit when the branches broke my fall.
But regrets won’t help me here!
I still have plenty of fabric left to work out a solution.
I start pulling at the excess flaps at my calves, then by my neck. Little by little, I stretch the extra fabric into a makeshift hammock. With my suit bound to the branches, I dangle in the air like a cocooned worm. The rest of the fabric reshapes itself to match the modified blueprint and snugly wraps around my body. The leftovers might not be enough for another gliding suit, but even so I have more than enough to build and experiment with.
Now that I have saved myself from freezing and from falling, my next big concern is hunger.
I grasp for the younger branches and carefully pick all buds and growths from them. As I gnaw on them, the taste activates even more of the ancient shared knowledge – indeed, this is as spruce as they come.
Among the other, normal, growths I spot some odd rust-coloured bulbs, shaped like toes, and squishy to the touch. Without thinking too much, I pick one and pop it into my mouth.
The strange fruit squeaks against my teeth and then breaks, oozing sharp fungal flavours down my throat. Beneath the sharpness I sense some more spruceness, but also strange, ancient echoes.
Those unknown flavours tempt me and I eat another and then a third.
Suddenly my field of vision narrows, my body relaxes into mellow stupor and I am falling, falling, falling deep into the thought folds.