Castaway Resolution – Chapter 23
Hitomi gripped the arms of her seat tight, focusing on the panels in front of her. She had to concentrate, because if she didn’t she’d skip from thought to thought to thought in a blur, and it would be scary. Way too scary.
Whips was still out there, and the wave, the wave was coming, a big wave they said. No, wait — she heard the dragging sound of the big Bemmie moving fast behind her.
“Are you both strapped in?” he said, his voice having that hooting undertone it got when he was breathing hard.
“Yes!” Hitomi answered, feeling relieved that big brother Whips was onboard. She heard Francisco also answer, from his acceleration seat nearby.
“Good,” Whips said absently. She heard him fumbling with the straps, and for a moment she could see the straps in her mind, remember the exact position of every strap and fastener, and she swallowed hard. Those aren’t right for a Bemmie.
She heard a rippling rumble that she knew was a Bemmie bad word, and the whispering of the straps and the muffled jingle of fastenings intensified. She tried to turn her head to look, but the seat wouldn’t let her. Of course not, she thought, remembering the diagrams in the emergency courses, arrows and vectors showing how sitting the wrong way in the seat could hurt you bad.
“Get ready, Francisco, Hitomi!”
Hitomi heard it now, a faint whisper like a stream . . . but a stream that from the sound was passing under them. She couldn’t see it, not from where they sat, but the water was coming. But this didn’t sound so bad. . .
The light from the port dimmed, and her gaze snapped up to look.
Her first thoughts were that it was beautiful; it was a massive green wall, streaked with foam moving in almost-patterns across it. The focused part of her started trying to count the lines of foam and see if they came in patterns.
But then Francisco screamed, and suddenly Hitomi felt as though something had switched on in her, and her focus was gone; she could see it coming, a monstrous wave that was blotting out the sky, and a spurt of cold-spiky terror ripped through her, stealing her breath; she couldn’t make a sound.
Lines creaked behind her, the sound of Whips’ arms entwining themselves tightly around them. “Hold on!”
The wave began to curl, and Hitomi’s terrified memory replayed another book, a chart of a wave, hitting shallows, oh, yes, the skirt-shelf that sticks out from the island, and at the same time all she could do was gasp in and then hold her breath, redoubling her hold as the whole world turned green-white-black â€“
A gigantic hand slammed into Emerald Maui, skidding the lifeboat sideways with a grating, ripping screech, but still, that wasn’t so bad, if the hull held out everything would be fine â€“
And then Emerald Maui tipped and began to spin, tumbling over and over, smashing randomly into things now caught up in a murky blackness that enveloped them. Hitomi did scream now, feeling the pain of the high-pitched sound in her throat but hearing none of it over the roaring, grinding, grating thunder that beat on the ship’s hull from every direction.
Something flew over her head and hit the wall with a thud that was, barely, audible in the din, and then it flew past again, striking with a deep, pained whoop.
It’s Whips! He’s. . . he didn’t get strapped down enough! She cringed as far down into her seat as she could, trying not to think about what would happen if Whips fell on her.
The tumbling and crashing went on, spinning them around and around, and Hitomi was getting dizzy, her stomach starting to protest as the ship not only rolled but whirled around, nose to tail again and again and then flipping end over end before going back to rolling, and all the time hitting things, grinding-growling battering, and poor Whips tumbling around like a pebble in a can.
Then, without warning, the tumbling slowed, steadied. The ship was still careening and bounding along, but she rolled once more, righting herself, Emerald Maui finding her natural pose. She was rolling and rocking in what had to be waves, but smaller waves, waves under her. Light began to return, the splash and ripple of waves clearing the blackness from the front port.
But. . .
But there was nothing out there. With a creeping horror Hitomi stared at the port. Instead of waves or the waving trees of the island, or even wreckage, there was nothing, just a . . . a milky whiteness. For a moment she wondered if it was a cloud, fog, thick fog, but the day had been clear. And this didn’t have the look of fog. It was somehow swirled yet unmoving, her eyes just able to sense some kind of texture to it, but it was a texture that looked like. . . like. . .
“The port,” Francisco said, and his voice seemed loud in the ringing silence. “It has been clouded. Like the glass on the shower doors at my old house.”
Hitomi gave a huge sigh of relief. Now that Francisco had said it, it was obvious. The front window of Emerald Maui had somehow become the color of milk. Light sort of came through, but not images.
And hearing Francisco talk made her feel better too. They’d come through that disaster. “Whips? Are you okay?”
She remembered the thudding tumble and swallowed, then unstrapped herself. “Whips!”
The Bemmie was sprawled against the back wall, arms splayed and crumpled under him. She could see that he was badly hurt, there were lumps and twisted parts that just didn’t look right, and. . .
“Hitomi. . . he is not breathing,” Francisco whispered.
“Oh no. . . Mom. MOM!” she shouted. “Mom, Whips is hurt, he’s not breathing, what do I do, Mommy?”
There was no answer. Hitomi heard herself starting to breathe faster, panic creeping up behind her like a monster, as she realized that her connection was dead. Her omni showed the red slash symbol that meant no connectivity to the main net. And a red slash through all her family’s icons. Only Francisco’s and Whips’ were still green and ready.
“They can’t hear us,” she whispered, and heard her voice squeak as she did. “Whips isn’t breathing and they can’t hear us!”
“Dios mio,” Francisco said. “Then. . . then we’re alone.”
That thought, and the terror in Francisco’s voice, was almost enough to bring the monster panic down on her. Alone, with Whips dead or dying, no way to talk to anyone. . .
But then she remembered all the other scary days, and Mom and Sakura and Dad saying that the most important thing was not to panic. . . and most of all she remembered her sister Sakura on one of those days — sitting herself in the pilot’s chair and trying to land LS-5 by herself. She remembered every detail of that moment, just like she could remember almost everything, and she saw her sister’s face, turned to look to the side, so pale it was almost white, and it finally really dawned on Hitomi how scared Sakura had been.
But she had done it. She had taken LS-5 from the depths of space all the way to the surface, flown them through a storm, and landed them. Crashed. . . but they’d lived. Because Sakura hadn’t let being scared stop her.
Hitomi closed her eyes. Focus. Focus on something. Think. Think. Think. What do we do?
It was hard. It was so, so very hard to focus, her mind wanted to run in all directions at once. But that was why she needed to focus, why she did focus so much when she could, because if she didn’t find something to concentrate on, her mind skipped all around from one thing to another. It didn’t bother her but it confused everyone else. And it did make some things difficult — stop that. Concentrate. Whips, we need to focus on Whips.
She swallowed again, then moved to Whips’ side.
Not breathing. Francisco’s right. A flash of a medical manual, saying two minutes without breathing or heartbeat would result in brain damage. . .
No, wait. That’s humans. Wasn’t there something about Bemmies? Mom. . .
And suddenly she had it, a talk that Mom had given them on first aid, on emergencies. . .
“. . . now for one of us two minutes without breathing or heartbeat is very bad,” her mother said. “But with Bemmies it’s different. If they’re not breathing on land that is a bad sign, but it’s not quite that desperate. Bemmies are mostly aquatic creatures, and they store up extra oxygen in what we call Klugman’s Organ — sort of a specialized liver-type organ which is solely for binding oxygen in a highly concentrated manner that can be released back into the bloodstream.”
Hitomi had never felt so thankful for her peculiar memory as she did then. She shushed Francisco as he started to say something, and listened hard to her mother. “So you have at least half an hour, and maybe as much as an hour and a half, before you need to worry about oxygen. Even if the heart stops, the brain and other organs have protections against low oxygen conditions. Ten minutes without heartbeat is about the limit, though.”
“But Mom,” Caroline said, “You can’t give a Bemmie CPR, right?”
“Not the way you do to humans, no,” Mom said. “But there is a way. . .”
Hitomi straightened up. “There’s a way to help Whips!” She looked around desperately. “If we can just figure out how. . .”
Francisco looked at her, then nodded. “You tell me what we need to do. We’ll figure out how.” He nodded again. “We will.”