In all fairness, this was not the first time he had found himself hurtling through the Earth’s atmosphere in a damaged transport- plane, mobile suit, what have you. It was the first time he didn’t have control over the hurtling, however. So right now, physics pretty much sucked, and Duo made the choice to revert to his older, trustier friend: Luck.
Though truth be told, luck had the nasty habit of, not so much running out for him, but just avoiding him altogether. In fact, the only time luck ever did a damn thing for Duo Maxwell was when he was absolutely, positively, “not-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell” about to die.
So he figured, under present circumstances, luck was his best bet, present circumstances being thus: The small shuttle he was piloting, alone, had only one thing wrong with the engines: They would not shut off. Usually a problem easily tackled, there was an issue in that the only thing wrong with the directional thrusters was that they would not turn off either, nor would they change position. This meant that not only was the shuttle going a good several hundred miles an hour faster than it was safely designed to go, but it was going straight down, and showed no signs of slowing, stopping, or veering in some direction other than the Earth’s surface. In addition to this problem of velocity and direction, there was the matter of the highly volatile, untested, dangerous weapon in the crate strapped to the wall behind him.
When WuFei had described it to him, he had used the word “quantum” a few times, as well as “generator”, “energy index”, “unstable”, “molecular”, “wormhole”, “gate”. It hadn’t made a ton of sense. But that was the point of retrieving the thing- to find out what it was and what it did. It wasn’t that WuFei knew, either, it was that he had a whole list of things that they knew they didn’t know if it was or not. Duo had little interest. He sort of wished the list had been more coherent, now. At any rate, the only word Duo could come up with to describe it upon stealing the thing was “yo-yo”, although “lawn ornament” had come to him as well, only later.
There were a lot of noises coming from the instrument panel, none of which were good. The worst by far was the ceaseless static from the radio. Things were popping and breaking behind him, sounds of steam and metal rent from heat and pressure, falling away from the shuttle. If the deathtrap held together long enough to crash, Duo would be impressed.
As the smoldering, screaming shuttle passed the second layer of clouds, he had a moment of blind panic. The ocean. It always freaked him out on first sight, but when you were nose-diving into it from a few thousand feet, the effect was more alarming. Still, he thought, better than solid ground, maybe I guess. A particularly harsh jostle of the shuttle’s frame shook him to the core, as it did, apparently, the crate with the quantum-gate-energy-generator thingy in it. There was a low, distinct whirring from the crate, and the hairs on the back of Duo’s neck stood up. Also, all of the electricals suddenly came to life. The radio was suddenly coherent. Or at least, wasn’t static. It was Sally’s voice, he recognized the doctor’s hard, desperate concern. Sad, that the tone was so familiar.
“-abort,” she was all but yelling. “Abort abort abort! Maxwell, abort the hardgoods! Abort abo-” WuFei’s voice, harder and, somewhat frighteningly, more desperate, replaced Sally’s own.
“Eject from the shuttle! Pop your canopy and eject! Maxwell, the device is charging!” Duo glanced over his shoulder. The crate seemed more ominous. It was still whirring.
WuFei was still talking, but Duo was busy undoing all but one of his safety straps. He tightened the strap that belted around his ribs and shoulders- his travel case and thermal propeller combined. WuFei kept saying eject, abort, eject, critical mass, eject eject eject. Duo eyed the ocean, yelled, “I got you, I got you!” as loud as he could into his helmet radio as he pulled it onto his head. He really hoped his braid was tucked in there well.
“See you on the beach,” he hollered, and kicked the canopy release with his heavily booted right foot. The pressure and pull was immediate, and vicious. His whole body pulled away from the seat, and he fought for a moment, to position his hands over the last clasp. There was, audible even over the deafening rush of the wind and the now not-so-distant rumble of the sea, a rapid clicking noise. It was coming from behind him. It was also steadily increasing its speed.
A little luck, he thought, taking a breath. I’m just asking for a little. He pulled the clasp and fell away from the shuttle with surprising speed. He was falling rapidly still, and twisted his body into proper freefall position. The shuttle was rocketing downwards, and the distance between it and him was good. In fact, he probably wouldn’t even get singed much when it blew up upon impact with the ocean’s surface.
Then it blew up without hitting the ocean. The surging orange fireball worried him, and he punched his thermal scythe into action, the propeller barely slowing his descent. He was too high up.
Then there was a spark of blue in the orange, and a disc of cold white-blue light- or energy, he supposed, could have been pure energy- exploded outward. It was what movie fx looked like when planets exploded. Only on a smaller scale. And right below him. The disc of light had expanded, not outwards, but in three dimensions, a globe of silent, pearlescent, icy light. It rose up to meet Duo as he plummeted down, and as his body passed through its perimeter, it blinded him.
Shit, he thought, surprised. Then he blacked out.
Duo woke up. From a very technical standpoint, he had been unconscious for about four seconds. The fact that a few months shy of a year had passed in those four seconds didn't do much for his reflexes, but he did notice, in the way an orphan raised on poverty stricken streets under the heel of an uncaring, militant government notices things that affect his survival, that he was a very very very long way away from the ground. The explosion of the quantum generator thingy was still burgeoning upward, which was bad. What was worse was when he fell through it.
He squeezed his eyes shut. The light was blinding. It was also sort of...warm and made him feel...fuzzy. It occurred to Duo that falling through the giant quantum field was probably not the best way he could have arrived back on Earth (and then thought Oh, God, am I back? and not in a happy inernal voice, either) and then there was a clap, a sound of something moving quickly and improbably and with power, and then he was through the light and moving faster and was much closer to the ground.
Prague? he thought, confused, only it was far too large to be Prague but the architecture wasn't London and he had been falling towards South America, anyway. Shit, he thought, then paused enough in his very bewildered thought process to edit that to Oh, boy.
His thermal scythe kicked on and started spinning the way it was supposed to, thank god, and his descent started to slow. Not hugely, but enough, and gradually. He noticed, brightly, that he seemed to be heading directly for a river. At least he'd be landing in water, then.
It should have rung a bell, somewhere, that when he did hit the water, he bounced.
"Awe sonovabitch-" he yelped, helmet and backpack banging hard against things that should have been floating but weren't. Once he'd skidded to a halt, he began to sink a little. It was a terrifying enough thought, being submerged in...whatever this was...to get him scrambling for the nearest bank, regardless of how loudly and persistantly his muscles were screaming at him in protest. Once he was out of the...water was a bit much...the 'river', he caught his breath, looked around, tucked the now sputtered-out thermal scythe between his backpack and his shoulders, then turned and started crawling up for street-level. Somewhere deep in the back of his mind there was grieving that was begging to be done, but almost twenty years of very hard living was lying over that panic like a layer of silt, if silt were composed of steel, and it said later. That could come later. Now, he needed to know where he was and possibly when and if he had any enemies.