“GO! GO! GO!”
The voice echoed and crackled in his radio. Mustering all of his strength, Gregory jumped forward off the pumice pillar. Far below him, he could see the bubbling pits of molten rock that glowed bright red and orange. Even through his spacesuit, he could smell the stench of rotten eggs. If he missed this jump, it would smell like cooked adventurer.
Luckily, he didn't miss the jump.
He hit the next pillar hard, but landed on his feet. Behind him, he could see his fellow adventurer Brian. He too had made the jump and landed on the pillar that Gregory had just left. Directly in front of them, their leader Jason stood upon another column of dark, volcanic rock.
“Where are we going?” Gregory screamed. Even with the aid of the radios in their suits, they could barely hear each other over the roars of the molten planet with its heavy winds and boiling surface.
“We have to get to the ship!” Jason responded, his voice breaking over the static.
Gregory scanned the horizon. Where was Jason leading them? All he could see was smoke and ash above, fire and boiling rock below.
“Where is it?” he yelled desperately.
“There!” Jason said, pointing off to his right.
Gregory squinted his eyes. For a moment, his suit visors were still blurred with nothing but hideous plumes of black smoke. Yet, as he stared, some of it cleared. It was just enough.
“I see it!” Gregory gaped in response. “I can see it!”
“Good! Now we just have to get to it!” Brian called from behind.
The heat bore down on him. Even with the help of the spacesuit, Gregory sweat and panted as he watched Jason steady himself and jump to the next pillar over. He hadn't realized they were so close to the ship. They were almost there.
If only he'd been ready to jump instead of watching.
Gregory felt himself shoved from behind as Brian landed on the too-small column of pumice rock. If he'd been ready, he might have been able to jump, but just as quickly he found himself falling face first towards the lava below.
Gregory shut his eyes as he plummeted towards the molten rock below. He felt his heart pounding in his chest. Any moment he'd hit the surface and...
His hands instinctively found the controls. Years of training did the work for him and, just as fast as he'd been falling before, he was soaring high over the pumice columns; safe from the lava below.
Jason and Brian gaped at him.
“Hey! Jetpacks aren't fair!” Brian yelled angrily.
“Too bad! My suit has a jetpack. It's not my fault you don't have one.”
“I want a jetpack...” Jason grumbled.
“You're dumb.” Brian growled.
“You're dumb.” Gregory snapped back as he rocketed towards the outcropping where their ship was settled.
He landed with little effort atop the porous black rocks and quickly ran inside. He could see the others still jumping from pillar to pillar. While he waited, Gregory ran inside the ship and hopped into the pilot's seat. Turning the ignition key, his stomach sank.
Moments later, his fellow adventurers crowded into the ship and quickly sealed the airlock against the acrid heat and stench of the burning planet.
“We've got to get out of here!” Jason called from the airlock door.
“We can't go anywhere! We're out of gas!”
Jason and Brian both piled into the cockpit. Brian angrily shoved Gregory out of the pilot's seat and tried to turn the ignition key.
“We can't be out of gas!” he growled. “I filled it up on the ice planet!”
Gregory un-apologetically kicked Brian in the gut and shoved him back away from the pilot's console.
“Yes. We are! We used too much getting here.”
But Brian didn't argue. Instead, he was slowly curling into a ball, holding his stomach. Tears were beginning to stream down the brave adventurer's cheeks. Jason simply stood over him, seemingly not sure of what to do.
“Oh no!” Gregory abandoned the pilot's chair to console his friend who was now coughing and sputtering from the kick. “I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!”
“No, you're not!” Brian screamed, his voice cracking as he cried harder.
“Mom!” Jason screamed. “Mom, I think Greg hurt Brian!”
In horror, Gregory looked back just in time to see Jason was already outside of the ship somehow. With Brian curled up in pain, he could only scream as he watched his friend and leader dive off the pumice rock face towards the molten rock below.
“NO! You can't, Jason! The floor is lava!!!”