Thursday, February 25, 2016
August 26 (part 2)
I opened my eyes and thought it must be evening. The light was dim. Then I remembered I was on a ship, and evening was just a time on the chronometer nowadays.
My head pounded with the worst headache ever. What was in front of my face made no sense; a crazy quilt of abstract grays that seemed almost transparent. I blinked at the strange vision before me. Where the hell was I?
I raised my head and realized I on was on a floor. A floor strewn with debris. Had my quarters somehow been destroyed? Where was Anrel?
The thought of my baby cleared my head of the confusion in an instant. I gasped and surged to my feet.
Right away I realized I was not in my quarters. I remembered where I had been, though Resan’s training room was no longer recognizable. Shattered chunks of the lighting panels lay all around. Most had come from the ceiling, where exposed computer panels and narrow ductwork hung garroted from their wiring. What light remained came from four intact panels on the walls, and that illumination was lower than the norm.
I turned in a circle, noting one wall was buckled all to hell. Of course it was the wall with the doorway. The room’s one way out was so badly warped that the doorway was a funhouse version of itself. The frame had bent inward on both sides, giving it an almost hourglass shape. The door itself was shut, and I had a pretty good suspicion it wasn’t going to ever open on its own again. If it would, I thought I’d be able to squeeze through the bottom half.
Yeah, like that was going to happen. I didn’t have to be an engineer to see that door wasn’t going to budge, not crumpled all to hell the way it was. Me being me, I had to try anyway. “Door, open.”
Nothing. I thought about going up to it and giving it a push, but the broken bits of lighting panels were a shredding obstacle course with all the jagged edges pointing this way and that. I’d have to slowly clear a path, knowing full well my attempt to open the door would be in vain.
I reached for my portable com. It wasn’t in its usual pouch on my person, and I remembered I’d been trying to contact Betra when all hell broke loose. Fucking hell.
I wondered at the destruction all around me. It was pretty clear something cataclysmic had happened to the Pussy ‘Porter. I was betting on the ships that had been shadowing us for the last few days. They’d finally gotten the drop on our little convoy.
Were enemies on board the ship now? Was the rest of the ship in as much a mess as this room? Had Betra gotten Anrel to safety?
I had to hope the warning alarms that had sounded had given my Imdiko lover the time he needed to get my daughter to a secure place. No, I couldn’t just hang around hoping. I had to know.
“Com, call Liaison Betra,” I called.
Like the door, the room’s com seemed to be kaput. I had expected as much. I bent down, searching the debris-strewn floor for my private unit. I remembered hitting the floor before being knocked out. With my luck, the damned thing had flown halfway across the room to be buried when the ceiling fell in. I could be digging for days before I found it.
Screw it. I had to know if Anrel was okay.
I bent down and began to carefully push broken bits of paneling aside. It was then that I noticed all the blood smeared over my hands and arms. I paused to check myself over, to make sure I wasn’t bleeding too much.
I was a mess. Running my hands over my head, I felt a big lump on my forehead and an even bigger one on the back of my skull. My guess was that a lighting panel had smashed down on top of me. It was a wonder I hadn’t been killed. Further explorations of the parts of me I could see showed cuts all over my arms and legs. I even had to pick a few little bits of panel out of my skin. I’d worn a tank top and shorts to work out in, leaving myself bare to the flying splinters.
Now that I was past confusion and shock, stuff was starting to hurt. My back in particular had started to throb in mighty pulses. I decided I had taken the brunt of the blow there. I was betting I was one big bruise from neck to ass.
Despite the blood and ache settling in, I didn’t think I was mortally wounded. I even felt close to blasé about my injuries. I’d been in too many scrapes, had my life threatened too many times to be impressed with bumps, blood, and bruises, extensive as they might be.
What did bother me was not knowing if Anrel was okay. With barely a grunt to acknowledge the pain that flashed over me as I stooped down, I started my search for my com.
I had cleared a foot of floor when a deep groan startled me. I froze, my head coming up like prey who knows she’s been detected. Another groan.
Shit. Dramok Resan had been in the room too when it caved in. I’d been so consumed with discovering Anrel’s state that I’d completely forgotten about him.
I’m ashamed to say I hesitated to call out to him. It wasn’t so much because I hated his guts, though I freely admit to that. I wavered because of my overriding need to make sure of Anrel’s safety. I swear that was the reason I balked at halting my search for the com to find out if Resan was okay.
I stood up straight again, wincing as my back bitched at me. I looked around. All there was to see was shattered remains of the ceiling piled all over the floor.
“Resan? Can you hear me?”
Another groan. The sound of something shifting slightly. I saw nothing move, however.
Since I knew where the door was, I was able to get my bearings. Resan had been taking a case out of the closet on the opposite wall. I had to assume he was still somewhere in that vicinity. There was a big pile of panel chunks in the area.
I set about carefully picking my way over there. The middle of the room wasn’t quite as bad as the edges, where both ceiling and wall pieces humped like jagged drifts of plowed snow. It was still plenty dangerous, however. Shards jabbed at me as I made my way towards the last place I’d seen my physical trainer.
“Resan? Come on, give me a grunt. Yell an insult. You’d better be alive, because no one will believe I didn’t use this as an opportunity to get you out of my life once and for all.”
Another sound of shifting. I thought I saw some stuff move at the edge of the area I was aiming for. Good, that pile wasn’t so bad. If Resan had been buried under one of the big ones, I’m not so sure I would have dug him out.
Still, those were some nasty shards jutting up from the heap of debris. I was glad to see my weightlifting gloves were still attached to the loop on my shorts. I pulled them on, knowing they would afford me a little bit of protection from more cuts.
“Hold still, you big ape,” I said as I began to carefully removed the mass of broken panels. “If you cut your own throat on any of this, you’re done for. No one’s getting through that door and I’m no nurse.”
“Mata ... ta ... ra ... Shhhli ... ah?”
He didn’t sound so good, but at least he was conscious. I supposed that was a good thing. “Yeah, it’s me. Just keep your fangs on and wait. This stuff will slice you to ribbons and it’s taking me time to get it off you.”
“Wha ... what ha ... happened?”
Resan sounded a little stronger with the passing seconds. Or maybe it was because I was getting closer to him.
I grunted as I hefted a larger chunk of clear gray paneling off him. “I’m guessing we were attacked by those ships that have been watching us. The door is blocked and looks like it will stay that way. The room’s com isn’t working and I lost mine during the ruckus. Hopefully you still have yours and it works.”
As I said the last, I pulled another large chunk away that seemed to be leaning against the wall. Turned out it was leaning against Resan’s head and shoulders. He blinked up at me with the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut. A thin trickle of blood had run from his scalp to his jaw and dried there.
“You look like shit,” I sighed.
“By the ancestors,” he grunted. “Your face is covered in blood.”
“Then it matches the rest of me,” I said. I kept digging him out.
“Watch your hands,” he growled. “You’ll tear them up on this stuff.”
I paused long enough to waggle my glove-covered fingers at him. “I’m wearing my gloves. The ones you said are for wimps who worry more about their smooth skin than being strong.”
He glowered at me but only for a moment. I freed his chest and arms. He started to move, slinging debris off his lower body with a strength that awed. And not minding that he was cutting up his own hands in the process.
“If you get an infection, it’s on you,” I scowled, stepping back to let him finish the job. “Who knows how long it will take until they can get to us? Medical may be a few steps down the hall, but it might as well be on Kalquor with that door messed up the way it is.”
“I’ll see to the door.” Resan shoved the last of the wreckage off his legs and stood.
I rolled my eyes but said nothing. If he could find a way out of the room, more power to him.
Before he did that, he grabbed his portable com off his belt. His eyes scanned the room as he clicked a frequency. I saw how his eyes widened at the sight of the door. Dismay shadowed his face.
I managed not to say ‘I told you so.’ Barely.
He stopped looking at the door to scowl at his silent com. He clicked it again. And again. And again.
“Maybe it will work the hundredth time,” I drawled.
The one eye he had that worked glared at me. He shoved his com back in its pouch and made his way towards the door. “Transmitter may be out ship-wide. Or the transport lost power so all backup has gone to life support and defenses. Or maybe my com was damaged when I was hit. Where’s yours?”
“I was looking for it when I had to stop and dig you out. Do you want me to look for it or help you argue with the door?” Whatever would help me find out about Anrel first was fine with me.
Resan snorted. “I don’t need your help, Earther.”
“I’ll remember that next time you’re buried alive,” I muttered. I went back to where I’d woken up and resumed my search for my com.
I shook my head when Resan ordered, “Door open.” He had to know I’d already tried that. Or maybe he didn’t. We didn’t exactly have a high opinion of each other’s intellect. I picked up rubble and moved it aside, intent on doing my own thing. Let the asshole argue with a door that was obviously busted. I had better things to do.
Resan snarled something ugly in Kalquorian and started tossing things out of the way so he could reach the door. I glanced up to see how freely his hands bled. I considered for a moment that he was a tough son of a bitch. Then I decided he was also a dumb son of a bitch.
We worked at our own projects, ignoring each other. After five minutes, I still hadn’t found the first sign of my com. I was really hoping Resan’s didn’t work because it was damaged. That meant there was hope that mine would operate once I tracked it down.
Resan had better results ... to a point. He got to the door after about five minutes of tossing and swearing. I thought his ugly language had to do with the damage he was doing to his hands. Dumb or not, he did clear a path to the bent remains of the door. He shoved at it, trying to make it slide into the one wall the way it normally operated. He left bloody smears, but I didn’t think the door budged an inch.
He kept trying. After several attempts, he turned to me.
“Not that your weak ass will make much of a difference, but why don’t you stop crawling around like a worthless fool and help?”
I said nothing. I raised my hand and then my middle finger. Childish perhaps, but oh so satisfying.
Resan stared and heaved a sigh. “Fine. Please, sensitive little Earther, lend your help on the slim chance it will get us the hell out of here.”
Boy, he must have been desperate to have asked so nicely. I shook my head, but I got up and went over to him. I planted my hands just below the smears of his blood. He got behind me and braced against the door.
“On three,” I said.
“Fine. One ... two ... three!”
On ‘three’ we heaved against the door, both of us grunting with effort. I pushed as hard as I could, even with my back howling in misery.
“Fuck!” Resan screamed in helpless fury.
It was as good a word as any to throw in the towel on. I groaned in pain and slid to the floor, curling in a fetal position as my back throbbed mercilessly.
“What?” Resan panted. “Did you hurt something?”
“I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute,” I snarled through clenched teeth. I squeezed my eyes shut and pretended he wasn’t there. Damned if I was going to admit I wanted to die at that moment just so I could escape the pain.
He took me at my word, walking away. I heard him shoving stuff around again and didn’t care. I lay on the floor, concentrating on my breathing in an effort to ignore my suffering.
Bit by bit, the worst of the agony abated. My back returned to the dull roar it had been at before I abused it by shoving at the jammed door.
Something cold and wet swept over my face. I yelped and shoved it away.
Resan sat next to me with what looked like a tissue in his hand. I recognized the antiseptic wipe he held, having spent far too much time in Medical.
“Where did you find that?” I asked, taking the proffered wipe and rubbing it carefully over my face. It was soon covered in drying, sticky blood. I’d spouted a fountain, all right.
He gestured to the first aid kit he’d brought over. “It was in the survival case I was pulling out to take to the escape shuttle I’m assigned to.” He spoke with an emotionless voice as he pulled out more wipes. He tried cleaning his hands, but they were still bleeding too much for it to do much good. He grabbed a spray dispenser and soaked his hands with the liquid inside it. I figured it must be an antibiotic coagulant.
I continued to mop up the blood that covered my face, arms, and legs. Some of the cuts were deep, but most were not. I’d gotten lucky. I checked the bump on the back of my head. It didn’t seem to have bled, but boy was it ever big.
“Two hits on the head?” Resan asked. He finished wrapping gauze around his palms and up to the first knuckles of his fingers. “Let me see.”
I tipped my head forward to let him investigate. I knew he wasn’t doing it to be nice. Resan was in duty mode, being a fleet officer with a responsibility to the civilian in his care. The bored official tone said it all.
“That’s big, but no sign of broken skin. Let me see your eyes. Double or blurred vision? Nausea?”
“No,” I said. “It just hurts. Your eye looks terrible.” I was forced to look at the black and blue swollen mess in front of my face.
“It’s just an impact injury. It doesn’t feel like anything got in it. How is my other eye? Is the pupil overly dilated? In this amount of light, it should be about halfway between slit and wide.”
I peered at him. “I think you’re okay.”
“Check your abdomen for signs of bleeding. I’m assuming nothing feels internally damaged?”
“Nope.” I looked anyway. We were an official pair, cataloging how much trouble we were in physically. “I look okay.”
“As do I. Let me see your back.”
I turned away, trying to lift the back of my top. I hissed as pain doubled. Resan had to raise it for me.
He sounded impressed. “That is a lot of bruising. You took a huge impact from a falling panel. I can’t believe it didn’t shatter your spine. At the least you should have a couple of broken ribs. Any shortness of breath?”
I shook my head. “No. All the pain feels like it’s on the surface.”
“You got lucky.”
I turned around as he rooted in the first aid kit. “It could be we’re stuck in here for a while depending on how bad a hit the rest of the ship took. We’ll have to ration our supplies just to be safe. Take half a tab for the pain.”
I did so, letting it dissolve on my tongue. Then we sat there and stared at each other for a few seconds. I have no idea what Resan was thinking. My thoughts were on how it was so Shalia-typical that I would be trapped injured in a room with the one person I despised above all others on the ship. A man who disliked me every bit as much.
There were more important things to worry with, however. I spoke of the uppermost consideration on my mind. “My com.”
Resan nodded and got to his feet. “Let’s find it.”
He was the one who unearthed it several feet from where I’d regained consciousness. I clicked Betra’s frequency. Nothing. I tried Oses. Nothing. I tried Katrina, Candy, and Medical. Nothing.
We were cut off from whoever was left on the ship. I was cut off from Anrel with no idea if she was all right.