Castaway Resolution – Chapter 24

Chapter 24.

Harratrer was rising through a nightmare. The Europan sea surrounded him, filled with darkness and menace. There were no Vents in range, and with horror Harratrer realized he was alone. He was in the high waters, nearer the Sky than the Earth, away from all safety.

And there was something coming, behind him even as he fled. Something huge and swift and hungry.

An orekath.

He jetted as hard as he could, but the water seemed to have turned to gel thicker than a stickyseal. He moved forward centimeters at a time, forcing his trembling body to drive forward, but instead of a dozen meters he covered perhaps one, and the hunting bellow of the creature was upon him.

A tentacle shot out from the darkness and caught at him, two of them, gripping him hard. Harratrer wriggled desperately, felt the crushing grip sliding down his body in a wave of stretched and bruised ligaments and shift-plates, but he was moving forward, he might just —

And then a second set of tentacles caught him just as he escaped the first. Once more he drove forward, almost escaping, but again he was caught, the orekath‘s mighty grip squeezing him, releasing, then constricting again. . .

He gasped suddenly and gave a hooting cough that echoed through the cabin, a cough driven by something pushing with emphatic broad force on his back, then withdrawing.

“Whips!” Hitomi nearly screamed. “Stop, Franky, stop, he’s waking up!”

I’m. . . I’m on Emerald Maui, not in the ocean, Whips realized fuzzily. Agony rippled through his body. “What. . . happened?” he managed to force out.

“Oh God, oh GodOhGodOhGodOhGod I thought you were dead and we didn’t know what to do and everything was rolling and then it stopped but no one answers and then I remembered the treatment Mom told us about once but neither of us was strong enough to do the compression because you’re so big and –”

Hitomi!” The sharp bellow turned into a gasp as pain lanced through him at even the simple motions of speaking loudly. “Hitomi,” he said again, this time as quietly as he could, “Slowly. The wave hit us, I remember. But I . . .” the terrifying moments came back to him. “. . . but I hadn’t finished strapping in and I started slipping out as we rolled and banged against things, and then. . .”

Francisco nodded, coming into Whips’ view, his usually chocolate-olive complexion slightly grayer with worry. The light itself seemed somewhat washed out, misty, as though the ship was caught in a fog. “Then you did come loose and you tumbled around the inside of the ship,” he said. “You missed hitting us by centimeters. More than once.”

“You weren’t breathing when we got to you,” Hitomi said tremulously. She swallowed and went on, “and we tried calling Mommy and Sergeant Campbell but no one answered and we both almost panicked but I remembered what Mommy and Saki said about panicking so we tried to think. And I remembered Mom and Dad showed us what first aid for a Bemmie was, including Bemmie CPR. So we tried to compress your body the right way –”

Si, but we were not strong enough,” Francisco said. “Then Hitomi thought that maybe we could do it with the adjustable seats.”

“Seats?” Whips managed to reach back with his top arm and feel the reclined back of the seats above him. “Oh. Oh, that was clever, Hitomi. You dragged me over behind one of the rows of seats and reclined and raised them in a wave.”

“Franky got the rhythm,” Hitomi said. “He called out one, two, three, and we would hit the raise and lower controls like he said.”

Probably overcompressed and torqued plates all out of place — the rear contours of those seats aren’t anything like the right shape.

But it did work. “Good work,” he managed to say. “But all that tumbling did hurt me.”

He turned his attention to his interior nanos, and even though it hurt he sucked in a breath. Screaming Vents, I’m in bad shape. His lower left arm was broken in three places — the shift-plates not merely dislocated or torn from their muscle-ligament joins but cracked across. His top arm was mostly-functional. The lower right arm didn’t have any actual breaks but a lot of dislocations.

But the rest of him. . . he shuddered and had his nanos trigger a surge of both emergenine — his people’s equivalent of adrenalin — and pain suppression before he dared look again. His mind cleared temporarily, but that didn’t make things look any better.

His right bottom eye didn’t respond at all. If it was still there and working, the exterior cover shutter was too badly damaged to work, and while he wasn’t in any way a doctor, if he read the nanosignals right the eye itself was damaged. His beak and masticators had been struck a few heavy blows; they’d probably work but it would be really, really painful. His main body structure. . . was hurt. Hurt bad. Some of the damage was new — the improvised CPR had done damage, some of it significant. No point in telling the kids that, of course. But he was bleeding internally in at least three places. Several organs were damaged, though he thought the nanos were getting that under control.

But overall. . . I. . . I don’t know if I’m going to survive this.

Whips saw Hitomi and Francisco looking at him with terrified, tense faces, and knew that that didn’t matter. As long as he was alive and conscious, he had a job to do.

“Okay. . . kids,” he said. “First. . . good work getting me awake. I’m getting my nanos on this. Hitomi, there were nanopacks stored onboard. I know your mom tailored at least a few of them for me. Do you know where they would be?”

“Ummm. . .” Hitomi closed her eyes and visibly calmed herself. Whips crossed two of his functional fingers in the gesture Sakura had taught him long ago; if Hitomi could focus enough to get into the right mindset, she’d be able to recall the exact location of everything she’d seen packed on the ship. That was one of her talents, even if the obsessive focus had previously gotten her in trouble.

The little girl’s face lit up, the blue eyes snapped open. “Duh! They’re back in storage, port side, rack seven, shelf three!”

“Rack seven, shelf three,” Francisco repeated and dashed unsteadily back.

Unsteadily? Oh. Now that he thought about it, he could feel Emerald Maui rocking back and forth in a significant swell. Whips triggered a connection to the ship, was relieved to sense its immediate response. Main operating systems still working, at least. He sent the reconfiguration codes, and those, too, seemed to be working; he felt Emerald Maui’s motions flatten out noticeably as the rear rudder-vanes and the outrigger extended themselves to operating dimensions. That will make it easier for the kids, anyway. And reduce the amount of motion my body has to put up with.

Francisco came back with a nanopack. “What do I do with it?”

“Let me look at it first.” Sure enough, there were the markings on the green-blue gel pack that showed that Laura had tweaked the performance of this healing pack for Bemmie biology. “Take about half of it and smear it on my face, including near my eyes. Then I guess I’ll have to swallow the rest.” He didn’t look forward to that; nanogel had a particularly nasty texture for swallowing and the taste was not anything he’d recommend, either. But if even half the nanos could get on the job, he’d have a better chance of living.

The two children carefully applied half the gelpack to his face area, then Hitomi squeezed the repulsive ooze into his mouth. Somehow Whips kept his throat from sealing itself shut and forced the vile sludge down. Ideally it would be injected into him, but the pack wasn’t injector-equipped and he wasn’t up to instructing either of them on locating, identifying, and applying Bemmie injector assemblies.

That’s about all we can do right now. I’ll have to wait and see if I need more packs. . . or if the packs can’t do the job. Without a doctor or at least trained medical nanotechnician to direct the nanos they had to rely on general programming, which might not be ideal for this situation. So much damage in so many areas. . . maybe he should do another pack right away. But there were only so many of the packs available at all.

He gave the rippling Bemmie equivalent of a shrug, and winced as that reminded him of just how widespread the injuries were. He’d rolled around and around in the cabin, bouncing off almost every hard surface. It had been a minor miracle that he hadn’t landed on Hitomi or Francisco.

“Okay. First thing. . . we’re stable, we’re not sinking, I can get a response from Emerald Maui, so we’re not in immediate danger. Air processors are working fine, reactor’s online. So next thing is getting contact with the others.”

The fact that the children hadn’t been able to make contact didn’t mean much. Inside the ship, the omnis depended on being able to make a good relay connection with Emerald Maui and her inlaid antenna arrays, and there were plenty of reasons that might not happen in an emergency. Whips engaged the shuttle’s main transmitters. “Sherwood Tower, Sherwood Tower, this is Emerald Maui, come in.”

There was no response, and Whips noticed there were a couple of yellows and reds showing on the comm board. “I couldn’t get Mommy or the Sergeant on the line. Neither could Francisco,” Hitomi said.

No connectivity with the array? How in the depths did that happen? The array’s molded into the hull, multiple wavelength support inherent to the design, just tune and transmit. I’m not seeing any damage in the actual structure of the ship, and the actual connection cable’s also molded in, so. . .

Whips froze, and the tension sent sparks of pain dancing along his body. Oh, I have a bad feeling about this. He saw the misty-fog light illuminating the cabin, a light that came from the forward port — the internal lights dim or off because they weren’t needed.

With an agonizing effort, Whips pulled himself forward a meter or so, giving him a chance to look directly forward.

For an instant, he thought they were in a fog, for there were only faint shadows visible in the port, most of it a pearlescent, almost featureless white. But then he was able to make out a dim but visible pattern within the white, a pattern of an innumerable set of lines and streaks large and small that covered the entire port — a port whose exterior had a hardness equal to diamond.

“Oh, Vents,” he sighed.

The tsunami. It had picked them up on the north side of the continent, then dragged and tumbled them across kilometers of the semi-landmass, in what had become not water but churning mud filled with fragments of natural carbonan fibers and spikes that were the key reinforcement and strength of the floating continents.

Emerald Maui had been literally tumbled through a gargantuan grinding and polishing cycle driven by the power of a small asteroid impact. The diamond-hard dust and mud had scoured the exterior of the shuttle to the point that its reinforced viewports were almost opaque. . . and had scraped and gouged at the rest of the hull until, undoubtedly, the antenna array had been ripped off or ground down to the base hull, completely eliminating it as a functional connection to the world.

There was no way to communicate from inside the hull. And Whips knew that he was in no shape to leave.

Which meant that he was going to have to send one of the kids outside.