Tuesday, 9 May 2017


So after much cajoling and begging Gorad finally agreed to let me try on a Para-suit and take it for a spin. After I had climbed into the suit, had been briefed on how to use it and the helmet had been attached and sealed I was escorted through the airlock onto the Martian surface. I stood there and looked around for places to fly to and spotted a tall mountain in the distance. I decided that I wanted to do the Superman thing and leap that tall mountain in a single bound so I launched myself off the ground. Unfortunately, I totally missed the tall mountain and continued upwards into the Martian skies, rapidly heading towards Outer Space and beyond.
“Hey Gorad, I seem to have missed the tall mountain I was aiming for and it now appears that I will be landing on Phobos, or crashing into it, shortly! So, my question to you is this;
To my great embarrassment and chagrin I could hear the laughter in his voice and in the background when he answered,
“Hello there, Drew, it’s really quite simple. Look down, find a part of the landscape to land on and stare at it while thinking how much you would really like to be standing on it right now.”
I followed his instructions, stared down at a flat piece of ground to my left and the Para-suit turned quickly and flew me towards it.
Back in my fighter pilot days there was a time when the backroom boffins were working to develop sight-guided missiles which the pilot could guide in to strike simply by staring at the target. I don’t know whether they ever produced any, I certainly was never trained to use them and never carried any but I could see potential problems with their use. The primary problem to my mind was simply this:
Once the missile had been launched and was tracking towards the target, guided by the pilot’s sight, I wondered what would happen if the pilot suddenly developed an itch that he just had to scratch in his groin or thereabouts and without thinking looked down to scratch it,.....OUCH!
The Para-suit started acting in a similar fashion. Something caught my eye far to the right of my selected L.Z. and the Para-suit veered and flew me towards that when I glanced at it. Something else caught my eye off in a different direction and the Para-suit veered once more. To an observer on the ground, (and unfortunately there were quite a few), I must have looked like a crazed human shaped Pinball ricocheting and rebounding in all directions around the Martian skies until I was finally able to lock on to a target and keep all my concentration centred on making it my LZ, which just happened to be the plain near the city where all the observers were observing me with great amusement. So it was with some satisfaction that I watched them scattering in all directions like startled cattle as I swooped down from the skies towards them.
Just before I touched down I realized that I was still travelling with considerable forward momentum and started pumping my legs as fast as I could so I literally hit the ground running. The second that I was on the ground I pushed one of the buttons on the left wristband of the suit to turn it off so it couldn’t launch me into the skies once more. This panic-inspired decision was quickly proved to be ill-advised as my forward motion was too fast for my legs to keep up with, and although the suit was no longer propelling me forward it was also no longer supporting me in an upright position which caused me to pitch forward off my rapidly, (but unfortunately not rapidly enough), pumping feet. I landed on my left shoulder and rolled, which then became an ‘arse-over-tit’ tumble across the sandy Martian landscape before I finally came to rest upside down and semi-embedded in a large pile of Martian dust and sand.
I lay there for a while trying to collect my thoughts until I realized that I didn’t have any as they had all been rattled out of my head during my arse-over-titting across the Martian landscape. So instead I started pondering why these sorts of things so often seemed to happen to me,(and only me!), until I was interrupted by the appearance of an upside-down Nick in my visor, bending over me with his hands on his knees, probably to support himself while he laughed his helmet off.
“So did you enjoy your little escapade, didja?” He asked breathlessly between bouts of chuckling,
“Sometimes I get a nasty feeling that I’m all of the three stooges crammed together into one!” I answered,
“You’re definitely an Act!” Nick chuckled as he reached down with his right hand to help me up, “You’ve no Class, but you are definitely an Act!”
He then made an exaggerated pantomime of brushing dust and sand off me when I was standing upright. I looked down at the perfect imprint of me in the pile of Martian dust and kicked it, thus erasing the imprint as the dust collapsed into it.

I was not in the least unnerved, startled or scared by my little escapade, yet it was to be a very long time before I climbed into a Para-suit again.