This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.
When I jumped, the world fell from under me. A plunging sensation dropped through my stomach. The clouds and sky mixed together in a whir of black and blue. Smoke and bits of airship whizzed past.
Well trained, I had no room for fear. All I could think was: mission accomplished, mission accomplished. . .
I threw out my arms and legs to stabilize myself and flipped over to face the jungle below. Chaos churned around me: other troopers, shrapnel, exploding war machines. Air boomed in my ears, cutting me off from all of it. Though surrounded, though on a mission, though falling from an exploding airship, I couldn’t help but feel a different sensation wriggling through me. A delicious sort of freedom.
Flying. Just flying.
Reluctantly, I pulled my rip cord.
The rope came out in my hand. The chute refused to deploy.
My freedom gave way to panic. The ground was coming up fast.
I’d trained for this. I swallowed my fear and repeated my instructions. My fingers ripped the second cord – jammed.
Cold and hot.
Loud and silent.
My mind couldn’t process what was happening.
I am going to die.
In all the rush, I almost didn’t notice my serpentine coming to life. It unlocked from my wrist and battled against the wind, slithering down my arm toward my pack.
One second. Two.
The serpentine stopped moving. My vision was black now. I tried for a breath but found nothing but empty, rushing wind.
This can’t be it. I am Cabbot. I am . . .
Instantly and painfully, my harnesses yanked me upwards. My shoulders popped and my gear broke away. My head snapped back and blood filled my ears. I didn’t even have time to be grateful before I blacked out.