A book I read maybe 30 years ago in England. I really don't remember any plot details, all I got is a distinctive scene that pops up now and again in my memory.

There's a colony starship that's landed on an alien world, however it's way up in a massive mountain range. It's been there for generations and the occupants have a hardscrabble life scavenging what they can.

The problem is very fierce scouring winds that pluck you right off the mountains and send you screaming to a long drop. The winds die off for a few minutes at dawn.

In one area of the ship we are with a boy of four or five years old, he has drawn the rota for collecting water during the short lull in the wind. This means waiting in the airlock until a chime indicates the wind has stopped, then dash out with two buckets, follow a path of a couple of dozen steps down the mountainside to a spring, fill the buckets and get back with them before the warning siren.

In this scene he makes a stumble error and loses valuable seconds, he realises he's doomed but has one tiny chance, this is based on legend from the older boys who used to have this duty.

He drops the buckets and runs full speed at the airlock and huddles at the now closed inner door, he feels the wind beginning to pull him from the lockwheel and screams in terror but, at that moment, the outer door slams shut and he's safe.

He knows that he'll now be punished for the loss of the buckets, also he'll be on reduced rations for a week for not getting any water - he doesn't care because he lived!

That's really all I remember good people, I hope one of you identifies this one.


I remember a scene pretty much as you describe in a book by Charles Sheffield - it's either a reminiscence or flashback of one of the character's ( Hans Rebka ) childhood.

Without rereading the series myself to track it down I can't specify the exact story, as it's a few years since I read it, but it occurs in either 'Convergent Series' or 'Transvergence'

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    Seems confirmed here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heritage_Universe#Hans_Rebka – Organic Marble Sep 20 '20 at 20:52
  • Yeah, that's it, cheers. And the extract from the Wiki source given by Organic Marble is:- Rebka was born and raised on the planet Teufel, of the Phemus Circle, and is often known to quote the most famous saying about Teufel, "What sins must a man commit, in how many past lives, to be born on Teufel?" He also occasionally reminisces or relates situations to childhood experiences of growing up and learning to survive on Teufel. In particular, the task of retrieving water as a child while facing the Remouleur dawn wind, which would have killed him if he hadn't timed every move exactly. – DannyMcG Sep 21 '20 at 2:50

Picking up Martin's answer, I have managed to pin down the exact scene. It is in Summertide, book 1 of the Heritage sequence, chapter 17. The chapter starts:

The water-duty for seven-year-olds was precise and unforgiving.
Suit on, check air tank, seal respirator, walk to the lock. Warning: Opening takes place as the surface wind drops, five and a half minutes before first light, after the night predators retreat to their caves. Be there in time, or forfeit one day's food.

He runs into problems because the water containers fill slowly:

But not today. The trickle of spring water was weaker, and the cans refused to fill at their usual speed. Nearly five minutes were already gone. He was still on the top step, and his face mask was fogging over. He had to leave, with half-filled containers. Right now.

He doesn't make it back in time and is seized by the wind, but he is saved because he is grabbed by Darya Lang:

Time had run out. He dropped the water containers.

There was a strange, moaning cry in his ears, and his body was lifted and pulled across a rocky surface. Cold water drenched his exposed arms and legs. His respirator was pulled away from his face. Death would at least be quick.

But he was not ready to die. He writhed against the force that held him, reaching up to grab the respirator straps and hold it in position. His clawing fingers met human hands. The shock was so great that for a couple of seconds he could do nothing.

"Hans! Hans Rebka!" The cry came again, and this time he could understand it.

He opened his eyes for a last look at Teufel's dark skies. Instead of rosy streaks of wind-torn cloud he found himself staring at a shimmering blur of running water. Framed in front of the torrent, mouth open and panting with effort, was a dusty and droplet-streaked face.

It was Darya Lang.

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