It’s not the vista he’d imagined, though the unending blanket of white is perhaps what he expected this far north of the equator. The fir branches are reaching skywards, rather than sloping into the smooth white carpet, and for several minutes the view only aids his confusion, long after he’s recovered from the painful jolt of descent, his brain shaken like an underset jelly in the process. He must have been out cold for some time; the light is coming up and threatens to leave him more exposed, save for the clump of trees where he landed, if you can call it that. Baffled though he is, Jensen Parkes recognises he has technically yet to land on firm ground. Hanging unceremoniously from a Norwegian pine like a bauble on a Christmas tree does not count as being on terra firma. And upside down, too. None of this happened in training.
He tugs at the straps of his parachute, rammed in tight against his body by the weight of his hanging torso and heavy backpack. Under thick gloves, his already frozen fingers can barely push in under the straps, let alone feel enough to release the catch.
‘Shit!’ he berates himself, too late to stop his voice from echoing off the trees, though it falls dead on the soundproofing snow. He writhes furiously, a madman in a strait jacket, hoping to dislodge himself, bracing his body and head for the final thud more than six feet below. But the straps only pull tighter, the tree creaking its distaste and shedding a branch’s worth of snow on top of him. Ice cold. As if he wasn’t already freezing enough.
Realising his efforts are futile, Jens stops and listens. Thinks. It’s what they were taught: to work it through, systematically. His options are few, and not altogether welcoming. He could wait for death by exposure, or for discovery by a friendly search party, though that might take days. Alternatively, he could be found by a German patrol and face the inevitable punishment; here, there’s often no arrest, tribunal or imprisonment in the raw, frozen wastes, as per the Geneva Convention. Interrogation, judge and jury happens out on the snowy hills within minutes, German Lugers primed and ready for any stray dissidents and the blood staining easily swept over by a fresh blanket of snow. He’s painfully aware of the consequences of capture. And a shuddering, shivering tree is a giveaway for any passer-by, friend or foe…