The Martin Aggett Story is an experiment in participatory serialized fiction. The story is being created at http://www.MartinAggett.com where it will develop over the course of a year as part of an alternate reality game.
April 11, 2004
Martin Aggett sat with his legs dangling and his fingers clutching the doorway of the modified MH-60K Blackhawk helicopter as it labored to climb above the rain. Even though there were four people with him wearing identical black flight suits, as always in these situations, he felt out of place. The pilot and co-pilot calmly made adjustments as gusts of wind tossed the aircraft back and forth without warning, and the jumpmaster squatted in the back; shifted his weight with the roll of the floor, keeping one hand on his safety strap for balance.
The helicopter lurched and dropped at least ten feet. After nearly getting tossed into the pitch-black night that enveloped them, Martin shifted his weight as far back as he could and, maintaining his death grip on the edge of the floor, glanced over his right shoulder to see the passenger in the opposite door. The other figure was reclining on the parachute strapped to his back and had his hands folded calmly on top of the reserve chute attached to his chest. He certainly wasn’t fighting off a panic attack and questioning the decisions that led to this moment of insanity.
“GET READY!” the jumpmaster yelled. No sooner than the words escaped his lips did the driving rain and the sound of the rotors beating the wind blow them away. Without warning, the helicopter made another hard bank to the right then leveled out abruptly; Martin swore the pilots did that on purpose just to scare the piss out of him – almost worked that time.
“CHECK EQUIPMENT!” shouted the jumpmaster about an inch from Martin’s left ear. Martin went through the motions of checking his reserve and the harness for his main parachute and gave the thumbs up signal like he learned in training.
Now, about this time, Martin started to reconsider the choices he had made over the past ten months. There’s no reason for a photography geek from Sea…. “GO! GO! G….” Before Martin could react to the jumpmaster’s final command he felt a boot pressed firmly in his lower back and was suddenly tumbling toward the earth.
Faster and faster he twisted and fell through the blackness. Then gradually his body started to do all the right things independent of the screaming in his mind. He arched his back, lifted his hands above his head, and strained his neck to look upward. After an eternity, he stabilized his body and started flying level with the ground.
Ground. Not flying, falling at terminal velocity. Martin tried to read the altimeter on his wrist but every time he made an attempt to wipe the rain he started to tumble out of control again. This was it! He was going to be driven into the ground like a tent stake in a matter of seconds. He hastily reached back with his right hand and fumbled around to find the ripcord handle.
He jerked at it as hard as he could and waited for yet another eternity until he heard the wonderful sound of parachute silk filling with air. Pop! The square chute opened with a sharp snap and Martin’s decent was slowed from 180 miles per hour to zero in the space of a few seconds.
So peaceful. As Martin floated under his canopy, the sounds of rushing wind and rotor blades were replaced with the soft rustle of his parachute as its edges cut the wind and rain. He took a moment to thank the fates for not cutting his thread this evening and the pounding in his chest eased slightly. He reached up and found the toggles used to steer his chute and pulled them each in turn to ensure they worked, and then looked down to try and spot the ground. Nothing. Without any visual references he had no idea if he was a hundred or just ten feet from hitting the ground.
Then the rain started hitting his face faster and he felt the sensation of falling more rapidly than before. Something was wrong. He looked up and realized that the rain was collecting on top of his parachute and it was collapsing in the middle. Crap! Martin pulled one toggle as hard as he could and purposely collapsed the left side of his parachute. This abrupt action caused two things to happen. The good: water that had gathered quickly fell off the parachute. The bad: Martin was now in a hard spin, descending rapidly and dangerously close to the ground…