18 Jan

Rescued

Ship's log, 21:23, 14 March 2214
Location: 5 light-minutes from Terra Sol, Home System
Status: Sublight transit

 

There are two escape pods sitting in my cargo bay. They’re three metres long and two wide, big enough to hold three people each, or four at a squeeze. Both of them have the name Firebird emblazoned down their sides, with scorches where their separation thrusters shoved them out of their home ship. One is pitted and dented, damaged from being too close to the ship when it exploded. That must have been the last one to uncouple.

Cameron is watching warily as Elliott begins the process of cracking them open. He’s starting with the scarred pod, as whoever is in there is likely to be the most in need of help. Also, it needs someone with his expertise to get past all the damage; I can hear the hatch controls screaming about malfunctions without needing to hack the pod’s systems. At least one of the seals has been warped and won’t release. Elliott is directing Big Ass to cut open a section of the pod’s doors.

Rosie and Swann are arriving at the cargo bay, weapons in hand. They’re taking up position on either side of Elliott, back out of the way. Just in case. No-one here is complacent, not now, not on board this ship. Everyone is suited up, protected from potential threats and I’m sealing the inner cargo bay doors behind them.

Big Ass’s cutting tools are making the edges of the hatch glow hot and he’s making good progress. There’s a jet of gas as the seals are broken and the pod’s atmosphere equalises with mine. Nothing untoward detected there. Now a click followed by a deeper clunk, and the drone stops cutting. He sucker-clamps onto the door and lifts it clean away, swinging it off to the side so the SecOffs can cover the contents.

 

Location: Cargo Bay 3

ROSIE: (leans forward to peek inside the pod, checking the read-out on her forearm display with tiny glances) Looks clear – no movement. Doc, you’d better get in here. I’m not getting any life signs.

DR SOCKS: (jogs forward, awkward in his suit. It’s brand new, bright white and crisp-edged, and he’s not used to using it. A green cross on every limb marks him as a medic.) How many have we got?

ROSIE: (shifting back so he has room to step up onto the open side of the pod) Just one.

DR SOCKS: (nods and pulls himself up, clambering gracelessly into the pod.)

 

I can’t pick up any life signs either. There’s no point in mentioning it; the doctor already has his scans going and they’ll be deeper than anything my standard sensors can detect.

Elliott is rubbing the back of his neck the way he does when he’s uncomfortable about something. I want to say something to him but what is there? We knew casualties were a possibility. He’s sighing now and turning for the second pod. He slaps Swann’s shoulder on the way; it’s his way of requesting SecOff backup. Swann shrugs, unmoved by the potential corpse, and follows my engineer.

I’m not sure that I’m entirely comfortable with Swann carrying weapons yet, or the easy way he handles them.

 

DR SOCKS: (head popping up out of the pod) She’s alive! I need a stretcher in here.

STARRY: (surprised) On its way. You’re sure?

DR SOCKS: Yes. She’s unconscious, but she has a pulse.

 

I still can’t get any life signs, but he’s the doctor. Maybe the pod is still blocking my sensors.

Big Ass has put the pod’s door down and is returning with the anti-grav stretcher that lives in his internal storage unit. He’ll help the doctor get the patient out of the pod.

 

Location: Med Bay

HALF-FACE: (on his bed, watching the sensor feeds of what’s happening in the cargo bay) Hey, Starry, what’s going on with the sensors?

STARRY: (voice only) Not sure, but it looks like we’ve got a live one. You might have some company soon.

HALF-FACE: (looking puzzled) Right.

 

Elliott has the other pod’s hatch open already. There are two in there, life signs strong and steady. One male, one female, and both of them look like they’ve been through the wringer. Crumpled shipsuits, sweaty faces. The male has blood down one side of his face from a head injury.

Rosie is jogging over to help cover them, though neither appear to be armed. Yet.

 

Location: Cargo Bay 3

MALE RESCUEE: (gripping the edge of the hatch to pull himself up) Where the hell…?

ELLIOTT: (steps back out of the way, making room for the SecOffs to step forward.)

SWANN: (hefting his weapon meaningfully) How about you just stay where you are for now?

MALE: (stops and stares at him.)

FEMALE RESCUEE: (scowling as she wriggles her way up to the edge of the hatch) What’re you doing?

CAPT: (striding over and removing his suit helmet) Your ship exploded. You’ve been picked up; you’re safe. Swann, stand down. They can climb out. (He gestures for the two rescuees to exit the pod.)

(The pair inside the pod exchange a glance, then take turns to climb gingerly out onto the cargo bay deck. Neither looks very steady on their feet.)

STARRY: (avatar materialising next to the captain) Our medic is currently attending to your crewmate. Neither of you appear to be in distress, so we must ask for your patience.

MALE: (stares at the hologram, dabbing at his bloody temple with his cuff) What the–

STARRY: (glances at the captain uncertainly.)

CAPT: (gives her a little shake of the head and speaks to the two strangers) Just wait here please. (He turns away, but the female rescuee steps forward, reaching for his arm.)

FEMALE: Wait! What’s wrong with her?

CAPT: (stops when the scruffy woman touches him and looks down at her) That’s what we’re working on.

ROSIE: (steps up to them, fingering her weapon and looking at the female pointedly) You just gotta stay out of our way.

FEMALE: (looks from Rosie to the captain, then subsides, letting the latter go.)

CAPT: (heads towards where the doctor is examining the unconscious rescuee, with Starry keeping pace just behind his right shoulder. The anti-grav stretcher is hovering in front of the damaged pod.)

STARRY: (looking at the form lying on the stretcher) Weird.

CAPT: What is?

STARRY: I’m still not getting any life signs.

CAPT: (arriving opposite the medic) Dr Valdimir, she’s definitely alive?

DR SOCKS: (not looking up, his hands busy loosening the woman’s clothing) Yes, not that my scanners can tell anything. I had to check her pulse manually, but it’s definitely there. She must have some kind of implant that blocks her from being scanned, though why anyone would do that…

CAMERON: (stepping up beside the doctor) They’d do it if they had something to hide. What are you doing?

DR SOCKS: (flicking the Chief an annoyed glance) I just said: my scans are useless. I’m checking for injuries to explain why she’s unconscious, not feeling her up.

CAPT: (glancing at the ship’s avatar) Starry, what do your sensors say?

STARRY: (watching the doctor’s hands curiously) No life signs, no movement at all. She’s just a… shape. If I look at her optically, I can see the pulse in her neck. (She points at where it flutters just above the woman’s collarbone.) But I can’t detect her status otherwise.

 

It’s the strangest thing. She’s small for an adult woman, barely 150cm tall. Fine-boned, almost delicate. Her attire speaks of expense: her shipsuit is clean and neat, tailored precisely to her form, and a dark chocolate colour. Oddly, she seems to be wearing a cloak of some kind as well. She’s had an expensive dye job on her hair: fire-red at the roots fading through orange to yellow at the tips. There are no obvious injuries: no discoloration, bloodstains, or strange lumps.

I can tell all of these things, and that while she’s very different from her crewmates, she has been sharing their atmosphere; I can pick up similar chemicals in their clothes. I can even tell what her clothes are made of. But the body within them… that’s where my sensors stumble into darkness. They trip and stagger; they seem to know that something is there, but not what.

 

DR SOCKS: (withdrawing his hands from the examination) I have to get her to Med Bay. The equipment there should tell us more.

CAMERON: (frowning and looking across the stretcher at the captain) I don’t like it, sir.

CAPT: Neither do I. Is there anything you can do here, doctor?

DR SOCKS: (shrugs) I can’t find any obvious injuries to explain why she’s unconscious. Our best option is in Med Bay.

 

I share their reluctance. We don’t know these people or why they’re here, and we’ve been betrayed so many times. Trust comes hard to us now; we all feel that. Rosie and Swann are anything but casual as they cover the two conscious rescuees. The two strangers might look concerned for their shipmate, but a sympathetic emotion doesn’t mean they’re innocent.

But can we let this woman die just because we’re paranoid? She could be slipping away right now; I have no way to tell. Dr Socks is disturbed by it too. Cameron is quite prepared to take that risk but the captain is less certain.

What we need to do is move parts of Med Bay down to here and see if we can help her. Actually, we can do that.

 

STARRY: Casper is on his way down with the advanced medical scanners and deep analysers. Anything else, doctor?

DR SOCKS: (shakes his head, frowning at the body before him) That’s a good start, thank you.

CAPT: (nods at the ship’s avatar in agreement.)

 

Dr Socks is standing with his finger on the woman’s pulse; it’s the only way he has to monitor her condition. The captain looks unhappy with his arms folded over his chest but he’s satisfied with the cautious route. He doesn’t want strangers any deeper inside me than is necessary. Cameron is keeping a steady eye on all of them.

Casper will be a couple of minutes; he has to get to Med Bay and then down to the cargo bay. Not long now.

Wait, there’s movement in Med Bay other than my drone. The Lieutenant is sitting up in his bed staring at the sensor feed. He’s posed awkwardly: his deactivated legs lie there like two metal, unmoving logs, and his partially-useless arm is currently propping him up. His other hand is poking at the feeds, swinging the point of view around so he can see the person lying on the stretcher.

 

Location: Med Bay

HALF-FACE: (the flesh side of his face pales and both eyes widen.)

STARRY: (materialising beside him) Lieutenant, what is it?

HALF-FACE: (doesn’t so much as glance at the avatar. His voice is a whisper.) Kess?

 

There is no way that is a good sign.

 

Location: Cargo Bay 3

STARRY: (standing tensely by the stretcher) Captain, the Lieutenant knows her.

CAPT: (glances at the avatar sharply.)

CAMERON: How?

STARRY: (shakes her head) I don’t know. He said her name is Kess.

CAPT: Put us through on comms.

(A comms panel materialises beside the captain, overlooking the stretcher. The Lieutenant’s torso appears and he blinks uncertainly at the comms panel in Med Bay.)

CAPT: (frowning at the pirate) Do you know this person?

HALF-FACE: (glancing between the comms and sensor feeds) Uh… yeah. She’s…

CAMERON: (with an unhappy dawning flattening her tone) The one who hired Hunt.

ROSIE and SWANN: (take their weapons off safety and level them at the two conscious rescuees. The weapons whine in warning.)

RESCUEES: (lift their hands and shrink back against their escape pod’s side. They look genuinely scared.)

DR SOCKS: (reaches down to check the woman’s pulse again, but he stops abruptly and straightens up. Hurriedly, he takes a step back from the stretcher.)

KESS: (gasps and opens her eyes.)

CAMERON: (aims her weapon directly at the middle of the woman’s chest.)

 

Uh oh. This is definitely not a good sign.

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10 Responses to “Rescued”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Nope, definitely not good…

    …and the caution pays off πŸ™‚

    *looking forward to the next update*

    mjkj

    .
    PS: suspected typo:
    The two strangers might look concerned for their shipmate, but a sympathetic emotion doesn’t meant they’re innocent. => doesn’t mean

  2. Targetdrone Says:

    now things really start to get interesting :p

    so they have the reason hunt is after them on the stretcher in their cargo bay? … i guess they have a lot of things to talk about πŸ˜›

  3. Blik Says:

    I’m envisioning Starry closing the blast doors to the cargo bay first thing next update. Both to keep Kess and her friends contained and to prevent her and Half-Face from colluding.

    Question: How did the Red Cross become the Green Cross? What’s the history behind that?

  4. daymon34 Says:

    Oh Kess is not going to be happy about the guns, but maybe pleased to actually be on the Starwalker.

    I wonder if the other two know anything about who they were flying with. Makes me wonder if she blew up the ship so she could be rescued by Starry.

  5. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – well spotted! Typo fixed, thanks. πŸ™‚

    Targetdrone – you betcha. πŸ˜€

    Blik – indeed! Luckily, Half-Face is still confined to Med Bay. πŸ˜‰
    Have to be a bit careful with using red crosses for medics – the Red Cross tend to complain about it (they’ve tried to get it pulled out of video games before). The green cross is just an alternate way of identifying a medic or medical supplies.

    daymon34 – have to wait until next time to find out! πŸ˜€

  6. EdorFaus Says:

    Dammit, now look what you made me do… I just spent the last ~17h reading this, while I was supposed to be working for 8 of those, and asleep by now… and I still want to know what happens next. πŸ˜› Oh well, I really should know how to be patient for things like these by now, considering how much serialized stuff I read…

    As for this chapter… I’m not so sure Cameron’s assumption is correct here. I guess I might be humanizing Half-Face more than he deserves, but I think his reaction doesn’t really seem appropriate for what Cameron thinks, it seems more likely it’s some personal connection, e.g. a (possibly long-lost) sister/lover/daughter or something like that…

  7. Blik Says:

    Green Cross? Really? Since when? And why would the Red Cross try to make video game medics wear green ones? According to Wikipedia, the Red Cross has been sanctified as a protective emblem “For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field” ever since the Geneva Convention in 1864, and is recognized as such by 152 countries.

    I uncovered several articles detailing the disparaging opinion the IRC has towards violent video games, stating that military violence shown towards civilians violates international law. (The IRC has officially declined to prosecute gamers for war crimes; however, they DO want to put pressure on video game companies to tone it down.)

    The only “green crosses” of note I could find were a UK traffic safety commission, a Japanese emblem of industrial safety, and a class of WWI chemical warfare agents.

    Oh, and of course it’s a popular symbol among the medical marijuana community.

  8. mjkj Says:

    Well, green crosses here denote first aid kits or boxes, be it in cars, buses, houses or public places…

    …and the Red Cross is also an organisation with many competing ones (here it is Malteser, Johanniter, MKT and several more)

  9. Melanie Says:

    EdorFaus – hi and welcome to the blog!

    Wow, you read it all in one go? Amazing! So you know, it’s just under 220,000 words now. Glad you’re enjoying it! πŸ˜€

    As for Cameron: she’s not wrong, but neither are you. There is a personal connection there, but closer to friends, I think. We’ll find out more in Book 3.

    Blik – yeah, the Red Cross was putting pressure on video game companies to tone down the wanton violence and to take its emblem out of the games (I don’t think it came to much in the end). Green crosses are used for medicine, first aid kits, and pharmacies (in some places!), so I figured it was safe to extend to a general ‘medic’ emblem.

  10. Andrul Says:

    Whoo, suddenly I have the option to post a reply!
    Been loving the story. Sad to see I’m almost caught up. By the way, it’s not paranoia if they’re actually out to get you, which is totally true in Starwalker’s case πŸ˜€