Terry couldn't hear himself screaming. In all the insane noise and the hammering on Mom's skin, he could feel himself screaming. There was no light at all and the air in the cabin boomed and popped as the sandflea flexed around them. His ears popped and popped again, then he could hear the boys screeching behind him.
The restraints vanished again and then slammed him against the chair just as he began to fall upwards, then came on variably, on off, half on. Terry tried to clamp his lips shut against the slosh of bile up against his teeth but couldn't manage it. Wet things flew around the cabin, and then something smashed and there was dangerous bits in the air as well.
The high pitched shrieking alarms from Mom, alerting to damage where like cats in a sack. The vehicle had snapped it's flexible tail up and around the windscreen to save it from damage and light began filtering around one edge where her teguement was too damaged to hold tight.
“Wind speed dropping to 286.46 kilometres per hour,” Mom said. “Unfurling.”
Terry could only cough and cough and spit, incapable of saying anything as the sandflea unfolded, the hundreds of skincell alarms shrilling as, cabin facing downwards, the tail extended whipping, fluttering wildly in the screaming winds, dirt and debris still scouring them, their fall... or rather their bouncing motion in the trailing skirts of the funnel cloud smoothed out slowly as Mom corkscrewed in the air.
“I...” Terry couldn't raise a hand and the boys had quit making any kind of noise at all that could be heard in the howling tumult. “Mom.”
“I am slowing our fall. Wind speed 183.43 kilometres per hour. Height 5,149.9 metres and dropping.”
“Are we... are we... going to crash?” His throat was raw and even in the supposedly pristine cabin there were bits of things everywhere. The loo door had popped and swung open till it grated to a stop on something.
“Negative.” It was making him dizzy to watch the ground below spin, but he could see that their drop rate was slowing dramatically.
“Mom, are you damaged?”
“Yes. My skinbrain has gone stupid.” Her skin has brains? Of course. Each skin node acts like a node in a nerv-- the sandflea lurched sideways in the air and the squall she made was almost like a living thing.
“I am still functioning. We were struck by a stone chip.” That must have been some 'chip' to hit us that hard. “Height 3,001 metres.”
“What's our fall rate?”
“According to my E6-B we are still falling at fifty metres per second... slowing... thirty four metres per second... attempting deployment of skin. Unsuccessful. Twenty metres per second.”
“Mom... is there a body of water anywhere in reach where we could land?”
“Negative. Attempting re-deployment of skin. Partially successful. Glide mode engaged... fall rate stabilizing forty to one.”
The howling winds had marched away, ahead of them, plowing up dirt and debris, like fingers of sand and rain and hail trailing along the edge of what Terry could see now were mushroom rock badlands. “No place to set down there, except in the desert itself, Mom.”
“I am scanning. I require silicates and carbon in high quantities to repair myself.”
“Terence? My head hurts. What is that roaring noise? Eshmaeel is still unconcious. I'm going to...” Davood had enough dinner in his system to throw up more of it. Wonderful. The air and floor scrubbers weren't functioning.
The ground was coming up at them frighteningly quickly for an unpowered vehicle and Terry wanted to fling his arms over his face, but settled on closing his eyes. “We're about to land! Brace --”
Mom extended her running legs as far as she could, he could see the front pair and the broken tips of the next pair back, reaching forward. “Coming in for a landing.” The legs began churning in the air, matched to their airspeed and when they first touched it was like she landed running. They bent back almost ripped off but retracted enough to let the second, third, and fourth set take the shockwave and then the first legs again.
It was like a long, screaming, bounding hopping scramble, a brutal parody of Mom's normal motion. She used the stumps of two legs, thinning them out to reach and one snapped again, even as she slowed from a mad scramble to a trot, then to a stop just to one side of the funnel cloud's ploughed track. “Landing successful.”