Castaway Resolution – Chapter 27

Chapter 27.

Relief and fear speared simultaneously through Laura. “Francisco? Thank God! Are all of you all right?”

“Hitomi and I are good, yes. Whips. . . Whips is not good. He cannot move much.”

Then Whips’ voice — weak and with the burring undertone of pain and exhaustion — came on the comm. “I’m here. . . Mom,” he said. She smiled and felt tears start from her eyes at the same time. “Relaying through Francisco’s omni — I can link through the open airlock door.”

“I’m here, Mommy!” Hitomi said. “Whips is hurt bad, can you help him?”

“I’ll do what I can, baby girl. Francisco, are you all safe right now?”

“If nothing big comes after Emerald Maui we are,” Francisco answered promptly. “There are raylamps crawling on the outside here, but if I watch them they aren’t too dangerous.” She could hear the tension in Francisco’s voice and knew he was more frightened than he wanted anyone to know.

“The important thing,” Campbell said, “is that you’re alive. Thank God for that. Whips, we — well, Saki — already guessed the tsunami stripped the exterior antennas. What’s your condition otherwise?”

“Most internal systems…” Whips trailed off, took another breath, continued in what was a clearly weaker voice. “. . . most of them are okay. Life support, power, base controls, even the comm if it had antennas. Haven’t tried the jets yet.”

Laura had managed to link to the telemetry from Francisco’s omni, and through that she could connect to the other two.

She heard herself gasp. “Shit.”

Mother?” The shocked, half-accusatory cries came from all four of her children — five, actually, since she heard Whips echo it.

“Sorry,” she said. “But. . . Harratrer, you are in worse shape than I thought. What happened?”

A brief explanation clarified it. “No wonder. You look as though you were in two or three wrecks all at once.”

“Can you help him, Doctor?” Campbell asked, on a private channel.

“I’ll do what I can, but there’s things nanos can’t do without outside support. Like moving and resetting bone or, in this case, broken plates. They’re not good with draining fluid fast, either.”

“How bad is it, Laura?” Akira asked, linking in with his own channel.

She connected the two channels and added in Xander, since he was explicitly in command of Emerald Maui by the Sergeant’s choice, and Pearce Haley. “Very,” she said quietly. “His oxygen-exchanging manifold got crushed internally; it’s functioning at an acceptable level in air because the major damage is after the air-water bypass. But if Whips went into the water and tried to breathe, he’d be running salt water over an open wound and probably be close to drowning.”

She continued, trying to sound dispassionate, clinical. “The impact also badly damaged his Sutter Organ — that’s something like a combination of our liver and kidneys — broke multiple internal plates, ripped tendons and ligaments and muscles in multiple places, damaged one of his eyes maybe beyond repair, and he’s bleeding internally in at least three other places. He needs surgery, not just nanorepair, and he needs it soon. His digestive system’s mostly — but only mostly — intact, so he’s getting nutrients into the system, but at the rate he’s bleeding, even with the nanos trying to shut it down. . .” Her voice was still calm, but she felt two tears splash down on her arms, which she’d folded across her chest in tension.

“Damnation. How long?”

“If he doesn’t get treatment? A day. Two days, at the most.”

“Xander, can we run Emerald Maui back here by wire?”

There was a pause as the younger man looked over the data they had. When he answered, his voice was grim. “Not a chance. Without external antennas we can’t link directly into the shuttle systems, and the drive systems won’t engage with the airlock open — at least not without someone overriding a lot of the safety protocols, and I think the interlocks require that someone to be on-site, not remote.”

Laura understood what that meant; they couldn’t use the omnis to relay remote-control instructions to Emerald Maui — at least not without some very clever programming to get around safety features that normally prevented people from doing very stupid things with the shuttles.

“Not that it would matter anyway,” Xander went on. “The exterior cameras are completely gone. The antennas also provided the satellite navigation link, so Emerald Maui doesn’t have that. Internal camera feeds show that even the front port is almost impossible to see through.”

“That’s something we can work around,” Campbell said. “We’ve got satellite feeds, they’ve got omnis, so do we. Between all that we could navigate Emerald Maui pretty well, good enough that we could get her back here and board her. The problem’s those damned interlocks. How long for us, together, to hack a way around them and let us run her with that door open?”

“I really hate that idea, Sergeant Campbell, because I can just see a big wave — or nasty animal — coming through that airlock. But. . .” He thought, then she heard him talking quietly to Tavana, Sakura, and Melody for several minutes. Finally he came back onto the private channel. “Days, probably. At least two or three days, maybe a week.”

“At least? No way to speed it up?”

“I’m assuming your codes speed it up already, Sergeant,” Xander said. “You’re talking about disabling some pretty solidly-written safety precautions and not screwing up all the other associated systems. That’s not simple work. We can’t afford to mess up here; we could brick whole sections of Emerald Maui‘s systems if we mess up.”

Laura was silent for a moment. Days. Whips does not have days. If I was there I could help, give him more time. . .

“Doctor Kimei,” Pearce Haley said, “could you suspend him? The way Samuel did for me?”

Laura closed her eyes and whispered a prayer. “Maybe. Yes, maybe I could. I was looking into that off and on since you arrived. Xander, can you and the others search the archive you have from the medical station, see if you can find my notes on suspension of Bemmius Novus?”

“Right on it!”

She switched back to the public channel. “Whips, Hitomi, Francisco, we’re working on ways to help all of you. For safety’s sake, I’d like you to go back inside, Francisco, and call us back in. . . in one hour, all right? We’ve got a little work to do before we figure out how we will get you home. But we will get you home, understand?”

“Yes, Mommy,” Hitomi said.

“Understood, Dr. Kimei,” Francisco answered.

“Got. . . it,” came a weak response from Whips.

In a moment the transmission cut off. “Tavana, Saki, has Xander told you what we need?”

“Yes,” Tavana said. “Your archives, we need to find the right material in them. Melody, this is something you can do well.”

“Should we start on the safety overrides?” Xander asked.

“Only if that will not in any way affect how long it takes to find the nanosuspension data,” Laura said. “Understand, everyone: if we can’t find that data and I can’t apply it in the next. . . twelve hours,” she hesitated, not wanting to say the words. But there was no avoiding the truth. “. . . if we can’t, then Harratrer is going to die.”