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Authors: Gary Paulsen

Skydive

Terminal Velocity

Jesse worked to help Robin to an upright position. She flung both arms around his neck and hung on for dear life.

Everything on the ground started to look bigger by the second. Jesse tried to gauge when they would hit.

He suddenly realized that something was terribly wrong. Beneath them, instead of seeing the flat plains near the airfield, he saw mountains. The shapes of trees loomed below him, first small and then immense. Jesse braced for the collision.

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YEARLING BOOKS
are designed especially to entertain and enlighten young people. Patricia Reilly Giff, consultant to this series, received her bachelor’s degree from Marymount College and a master’s degree in history from St. John’s University. She holds a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University. She was a teacher and reading consultant for many years, and is the author of numerous books for young readers.

Published by
Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
a division of
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
1540 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Copyright © 1996 by Gary Paulsen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

The trademarks Yearling
®
and Dell
®
are registered in the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.

eISBN: 978-0-307-80400-6

Interior illustration by Michael David Biegel

v3.1

Dear Readers:

Real adventure is many things—it’s danger and daring and sometimes even a struggle for life or death. From competing in the Iditarod dogsled race across Alaska to sailing the Pacific Ocean, I’ve experienced some of this adventure myself. I try to capture this spirit in my stories, and each time I sit down to write, that challenge is a bit of an adventure in itself.

You’re all a part of this adventure as well. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of you in schools, and this book is the result of hearing firsthand what you want to read about most—power-packed action and excitement.

You asked for it—so hang on tight while we jump into another thrilling story in my World of Adventure.

Contents
C
HAPTER
1

Thirteen-year-old Jesse Rodriguez emptied the contents of the rusty metal dustpan into the trash can and surveyed the room. Earlier the airport’s small parachuting clubhouse had been full of excited students coming back from a training exercise. Now it was quiet. The only ones still here were Jesse and Buck.

Jesse smiled when he thought of Buck Sellman, the owner of the club and the small, rural airport. Buck was all right. Actually, he was more than all right. He had been airborne in the Vietnam War along with Jesse’s dad. He’d lost his right leg to a land mine on the same mission during which Jesse’s father had lost his life.

Buck hadn’t let his disability stop him, though. When the tall, lanky ex-sergeant had been discharged, he’d bought an out-of-the-way airfield near Seattle and set up shop teaching people how to fly and skydive. To help pay the bills he’d hired a couple of other pilots and started an air freight transport company on the side.

Jesse had been coming here almost every day for the past five years, working and learning everything about parachutes and skydiving that Buck would teach him. He already knew more about rigging a chute and jumping than most of Buck’s advanced students, and he lived for the day when he would be old enough to make his first jump.

The front door swung open, interrupting Jesse’s thoughts. A man wearing an expensive double-breasted suit sauntered in. A pretty girl with long blond hair, who looked about the same age as Jesse, followed him. The man took off his sunglasses and inspected the lobby.

Jesse leaned the broom against the counter. “Can I help you, mister?”

The man gave him a bored look. “I doubt it. Isn’t there anyone here besides”—he cleared his throat—“the janitor?”

Jesse ran his hand through his jet-black hair and
frowned. “The janitor?” Then he remembered that the dustpan was still in his other hand. “Oh, you mean me.”

“Bright kid.” The man sighed and took the girl’s elbow. “Come on, Robin. We’ll come back later, when there’s someone besides the hired help around.”

“Wait a minute. I’m not—”

“Is there a problem here?” Buck had been in his office and had heard the whole exchange. He winked at Jesse and then stuck his hand out toward the man. “I’m Buck Sellman, the instructor. Is there something I can do for you?”

The man reluctantly shook Buck’s hand and then straightened his designer tie. “I’m J. W. Waterford the Fourth. This is my daughter, Robin. I understand that you teach skydiving here?” He didn’t wait for Buck to answer. “My daughter would like to take lessons as soon as possible.”

The girl glanced over at Jesse, swallowed nervously, and then tightly closed her large blue eyes.

She doesn’t look like she wants lessons
, Jesse thought.
I’d say she’s scared stiff at the whole idea
.

Buck scratched under the collar at the back of
his orange jumpsuit. “I give lessons, and I’d be happy to teach Robin. The only problem is, according to regulations, a minor has to be sixteen before she can make her first real jump.”

“I see.” The man raised one eyebrow. “Perhaps you could recommend a club that would take younger members?”

Buck shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s the rule at every legitimate club. But if you’re still interested in joining, we can teach her everything she’ll need to know to make her first jump. That way, when she’s old enough, she’ll practically be a professional.”

Mr. Waterford folded his arms. “I don’t know.…”

Buck smiled and showed them to the door. “Don’t let me pressure you. Go home and think about it. If Robin decides to join, her age group meets on Tuesdays and Fridays at two o’clock all through the summer.”

He closed the door behind the Waterfords and turned to Jesse. “Well, what did you think?”

“Why ask me?” Jesse tried not to laugh. “I’m just
the hired help
.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” Buck playfully punched his young friend on the shoulder. “I
don’t remember ever saying this job paid anything.” The tall man walked down the corridor toward the practice hangar, the limp from his prosthetic leg barely noticeable. He looked over his shoulder. “Are you coming? I could sure use some help packing parachutes.”

Jesse stored the broom and dustpan in a narrow closet and called after his friend, “Does this mean I’m being promoted from janitor?”

“Shut up and get in here,” Buck said with a laugh.

C
HAPTER
2

“So to review: There are an endless number of ways to exit an airplane, but there is only one right way. At the jumpmaster’s command, put your feet on the step. Then grasp the wing strut and pull yourself forward to a crouched position, remembering to lean well to the front. On the signal, jump backward, away from the plane, and spread out into an arch. Your body should be arched from head to toe.…”

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