Demons Of The Past 02: Revolution – Chapter 08
Ten people. Ten that just might still be alive.
But the very technology that made it possible that some of the people were alive was blocking her probes. Damn Imperial shielding; the passives built into the material are too sinking good.
And time was of the essence. No one knew that better than a miner, than someone who had lost friends in the horrific crushing black. She glanced coldly over at Guvthor, who was exerting his immense strength to shift a multi-ton boulder. If this was your doing, Thovian, you will have a great deal to answer for.
Varan was adjusting the hand sensors with the practiced skill of an engineer, but having no better luck.
Abruptly, she heard Sooovickalassa give a steamkettle hiss of contempt and rattle his crest in derision. Enough of this waste of time! I will show you where the survivors are!
The R’Thann scientist scuttled through the debris with supreme confidence, darting from point to point like an arrow. Here. Here. Two under this pile of rubble. Three here, one severely injured â€“ lifeforce fading, must get to him first. Two more over here, and the last one, also badly injured, beneath this mound.
“Howâ€¦?” She trailed off and then wanted to smack herself in the head. Varan very nearly did. Vick’s species was psionic, so of course it seemed obvious to him that you would use psionic abilities to seek out hidden people.
Explaining that to the surviving Imperials might be difficult. Better to explain it another wayâ€¦
“Dr. Sooovickalassa thinks he can smell where the survivors are!” she heard Varan shout, echoing her own thoughts. “He says he smells blood strongly here,” he indicated the pile where Vick had indicated three survivors, one badly injured, “and here.”
“Captain?” inquired Lieutenant Mansteros dubiously. “I would hate to question any assistance, but the Thovians have some of the most sensitive noses of any I’ve seen, and they can’t smell anything in this mess yet. Can you confirm anything of this?”
“Possibly â€“ if I concentrate my ship’s scans on this precise areaâ€¦” A very hazy scan built up on her screenâ€¦ hazy, but just enough to show a dark area, a void. “I can confirm one thing. There’s a space right under there, one large enough for three people â€“ part of,” she checked the outpost layout, “Geological Research, I think.”
“Threeâ€¦ there would be three people there.” Mansteros reached a decision quickly. “Follow his directions, people! It looks like Dr. Sooovickalassa is on the right track!”
Guvthor nodded slowly. “It is said indeed that the R’Thann have an especially keenâ€¦ noseâ€¦ for life, as hunters.”
The R’Thann’s answering smile seemed even more blade-edged than usual.
With dozens of Thovians, surviving humans, and the remaining machinery, the debris began to be cleared swiftly from the indicated spot. For the EÃ¶nwyl, it seemed both an eternity and only a few moments before a shout rose up from a man who had wriggled through a dark opening revealed by the excavation. “Bring a trauma unit! It’s Raher, Zahel, and Khaster! Khaster’s bad hurt, but they’re all three alive!”
With the R’Thann’s senses proven beyond any shadow of a doubt, the rescue party redoubled their efforts. The EÃ¶nwyl clawed for purchase on stone, hurled twisted pieces of metal aside as she helped clear the next site. More Thovians joined in, concentrating on the different locations Vick indicated.
Tons of debris were being moved every minute now, as hope and worry drove the rescuers onward. But a landslide is not a safe place to assume the ground remains stable, and the EÃ¶nwyl was suddenly reminded of that as a cracking, groaning noise sounded out. A huge mass of earth, led by a stone nearly eight meters long and four high, began to sweep down across the rescue ground â€“ straight for Sasham Varan and the small knot of people with him.
“Sasham!” she shouted, and started forward â€“ knowing that it was already too late, even Guvthor couldn’t stop that mass â€“
Varan spun around, saw the monolith of rock sliding toward him, striking the white mass of a projecting support and crushing it, continuing on. But instead of dodging, he spun again, grabbing another stone, levering it up with desperate speed as he stood between the oncoming slide and the other four people â€“ one Thovian, three human â€“ who were frozen with startled fear.
And then the stone swept over them along with a hundred tons and more of earth and lesser rock, scarcely a jolt to mark its passage, stopping suddenly as it hit a depression and came to rest with the debris pooling around it like filthy water.
She shouted Varan’s name again and found herself at the new mound of crushing stone, tearing at it in a completely uncontrolled fury that startled her. Then Guvthor was at her side, digging with more control but equal intensity, and Sooovickalassa, tossing aside boulders with a strength vastly out of proportion to his tiny frame.
Guvthor’s arm broke through with startling abruptness, and there was a growl of pain from within. Thovian strength caught at stone and rock and hurled it away.
Sasham Varan was braced against the stone he had thrown up, legs dug knee-deep into the debris beneath him, holding up that stone which had formed the one support and bulwark that had â€“ just barely â€“ forced the immense boulder to pass over the others as they had thrown themselves flat. He looked up and redoubled his efforts; she saw with horror that the mass of stone and earth above was still trying to shift, still pressing down to erase the five small lives beneath it. “Getâ€¦ the othersâ€¦ out!” Varan coughed, dust and earth covering his face.
Guvthor grasped his fellow Thovian and pulled him free with one arm, lifting three meters and half a ton from the grasp of fallen earth as though uprooting a sapling. Vick and The EÃ¶nwyl dragged Meinar Forrant out; Forrant’s wife Nadha scrambled free herself and helped to pull the last man, Ghidein, from the loose earth. All were bleeding from scrapes but seemed otherwise unharmed.
“Don’tâ€¦ think I canâ€¦ jump free. Stuffâ€¦ will move real fast.”
He’s right, she thought. He shouldn’t be able to hold it at all; she realized that he had to be using his psionics to reinforce his body and increase his strength. But if he stopped even for the instant needed to jump free, the pressure above would send hundreds of tons of more debris right over him before he could free his legs.
“If all of you will move well away,” Guvthor’s voice rumbled gently, “I believe I can get our friend out.”
Part of her wanted to protest â€“ for some reason, she did not want to move away from that desperate, grim face. But she realized that Guvthor was right; he was probably the only one capable of getting Varan out. There was not enough time to rig one of the excavators, no way to put a safety harness on him and pull him free. Only the immense Guvthor Hok Guvthor might both be able to reach Varan and yank him out with the necessary strength and speedâ€¦ and still manage to get both of them clear of the slide which would result.
“This may hurt a bit,” she heard Guvthor say as she backed to a safer distance.
“It already hurts.” Varan’s voice still held a pained note of humor. “If it still hurts after you do it, I’m alive.”
“True enough, and well said.” The Thovian astrophysicist balanced himself on the unstable ground below him, took a breath audible fifty feet away, and plunged his huge hand into the hollow beneath.
In a single fluid movement he scooped the hand up and rolled away as stone and earth lunged downward, erasing the tiny refuge, catching up the original stone and plowing downward for another hundred and fifty meters with irresistible force.
Guvthor was sprawled just clear of the edge of the fall, face down, back bent to shield himself.
From beneath the scientist came a familiar voice. “Yes, it does still hurt.”
The EÃ¶nwyl found herself â€“ uncharacteristically — giggling in sheer relief. Guvthor joined her with a deep chuckle, and suddenly everyone on the mountainside was laughing, even Sasham Varan as he crawled from under his rescuer. She ran to him and helped him up.
“That wasâ€¦ that was amazing!” Lieutenant Jan Mansteros said as he reached them. “Sasham Varanâ€¦ I knew the name was familiar! You’re the Sasham Varan â€“ the one that held off the Zchorada at Tangia Station, the one who â€“”
“Who keeps getting himself in these situations, yes, I am.” Varan’s smile and tone kept that from being a dismissal, made it more of a self-deprecating acceptance. “But thank you for the kind words.”
“You acted to save others and not yourself,” Guvthor said, standing. “You did so with quick wits and a tenacity worthy of one of my people, and did so before many who witnessed it. In its way, a fortunate occurrence.”
“Talking enough is!” Vick snapped. In her mind, she heard, Or would you ignore the fact that others still remain?
The simple words were enough to remind them of the other trapped people; the recent close call enough to make all more alert to the treacherous shifting of the slide. There were no more accidents as they quickly retrieved the remaining survivors.
“Well done,” Guvthor said as they sat down finally. “All who could be rescued, have been. A night for rest and recovery. And then,” he said with a bow to both herself and Varan as well as Vick, “and then, my friends, you will begin to learn why we have come here.”