“Adjust 9 degrees. Increase charge by 12%. Fire in 7 seconds. 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Fire.”
The ground lurched and quaked as the giant gun fired its capsule into orbit around a distant chunk of earth. Number 46 was prone to a wild elliptic due to the slingshot created when Number 16 and Number 23 came alongside its east and west hemispheres at almost exactly the same time before falling away again in opposite directions. Pinpoint accuracy was necessary in any case when it came to launching among any of the 48 regions, but Number 46 was a special case.
As the capsule entered the low orbit of Number 46, triangular wings emerged from either side of the craft. Sprays of air escaped sporadically from the shuttle as it rolled, flipped, and aligned itself flat against the atmosphere of Number 46. It sailed slowly down, cutting through the sky and clouds of the speeding planetoid.
The shuttle rattled and smoked as small explosions shredded the thin metal hull. Boxes of supplies and tools began pouring out through the gaps, freefalling to the earth below. The shuttle started to swing around due to air resistance tearing across the widening holes. Faster and faster it spun, staying level. It came down on a lake like a giant skipping stone, skidding across the water’s surface before losing momentum and flipping. A tidal wave rippled away from the wreckage as it began to sink.
The water boiled as air bubbled up from the sinking shuttle. Slowly, the water became calm.
Suddenly, a head popped out of the water. The man gasped, pushing shaggy black hair out of his eyes.
The exile emerged from the lake coughing. He stood and stared out across the path of supplies spread far and wide over the land. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a compass.
“Well, better get started.”
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