Project Unity: Project Unity: Search and Recovery; Chapter One

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Project Unity: Search and Recovery; Chapter One

Chapter 1

The acrid smell of charred components jarred Freya into consciousness. Her head swam as she opened her eyes and found her world tilted sideways. Pinned under a slab of console, she twisted toward where Robert had been sitting but smoke spilled from the corners of the small shuttle, inhibiting her vision. “Not good,” she muttered, attempting to jerk her legs free without thought. Shards of metal dug into her calf and she felt the trickle of blood. “Yeah, n-not good. Robert?” Without a response, she continued to try to claw herself free, to no avail. She propped herself up on her elbows and surveyed her condition carefully. In addition to the obvious shrapnel wounds, she suspected her leg was broken as well. Both things were fixable if she could free herself and reach the medical kit. The more immediate issue, however, was the toxic atmosphere caused by the smoke. With a grimace, she laid back down and tried to recall the shuttle schematics. There were a dozen small holes tucked into the bulkheads, each with a specific gear item so any crew member would know where to find what they needed. As luck would have it, the filter masks were to her left – just out of reach. She strained and stretched, trying to trigger the release button but her fingers barely skimmed the edge. In one last ditch effort, she threw herself toward the bulkhead and slammed the button. The masks fell out of the compartment into her outstretched hand but she made no attempt to put one on as pain seared through her body. She fell back, out of breath and struggling to remain conscious.

The console lights flickered meekly, as if the shuttle itself was trying to hold on to consciousness as well. “Doc?” Robert coughed, peering through the darkness for her. Still strapped into his seat, he felt blood rushing to his head as he realized the ceiling was now their side wall. “Doc? You okay?” From somewhere in the smoke, Robert heard a groan and a clank of metal. He pressed the release button and braced for the tumble out of the seat as he fell free. Though the fall was only a few feet, compounded with the impact of the crash, his body ached. Finally on his feet, Robert reached toward where Freya ought to be strapped into her own seat above his. The severed straps dangled limply to the side.

Freya, hanging onto the threads of consciousness, turned toward his voice. She tried to speak but a gurgled, raspy cough and groan came to her lips instead. She felt the masks leave her hand and then he buckled the mask to her face, “breathe,” he commanded as he started to assess her injuries.

Freya clutched his arm with one hand and fumbled for the mask with the other. “M-med kit,” she rasped, pointing toward the other side of the shuttle. She couldn't help but take note of her trembling hands. Robert nodded and disappeared into the thickening smoke. They needed to get out of this shuttle quickly. Freya tried again to move her leg once more and bit into her lower lip. The jagged metal dug deeper into her flesh as she pulled.

“I thought I told you not to move,” Robert said, settling beside her with the medical kit. He glanced around, taking in the sights and sounds from within the shuttle. “We don't have long. I assume you've triaged yourself?”

“Left leg maybe broken and has a couple deep lacerations I suspect. And then there's this,” she said, grimacing as she pulled her hand away from her abdomen. As soon as she moved it, blood started to seep through her uniform top. There was a sharp piece of console sticking out of the wound. Robert sucked in sharply and the color drained from his face as he put her hand back over the wound. “Th-there should be a dermal seal in the kit,” she said haltingly. “When I remove the shard – you'll be ready?”

“One. Two. Three...” They moved surprisingly quickly and the blood stopped flowing. “This won't last long,” Robert observed. It was only a thin layer of synthetic dermis that would last a day at most. And that's assuming the wound clotted on its own underneath. Before he could think long on that, the flickering console emitted a series of angry beeps. “Not good,” he mumbled, tilting his head to try to read the alarm. He looked back at her trapped legs, making a snap decision. “If I move this, think you can walk on that leg Doc?” He'd already thrown the med kit back together and grabbed a few other supplies. “We need to get out of this shuttle.” The angry beeps became more persistent. “Now.” Without waiting for her to respond, he heaved the console up and away from her.

“Good plan,” Freya said, rolling away from where she'd been just seconds before it came crashing down again. “I'm sure. But the door is up there,” she said, raising a trembling hand toward the new ceiling of their pod.

Robert nodded in agreement, his brow furrowed in thought. After a moment, he nodded again and spun around on his ankle. He removed another panel to their left, revealing the shuttle's stock of engineering tools. After a few seconds of searching, he twisted around to grin at Freya, holding up his find in triumph. “I know how we're gonna get out of here,” he said with a chuckle. Without explaining, he jumped into action, removing the bolts from one of the side panels. Freya watched in confusion but remained still and silent as he worked. After a couple minutes, the square panel fell outward and the smoke began spilling out of the hole. “It's the old docking hatch,” Robert explained, offering her his hand.

Together, they stumbled out of the pod and into the glaring sunlight of the planet they'd crashed on. They'd made it a few yards before her leg gave way and she crumbled into the hot sand. Robert dropped beside her and tore away the bloodied pant leg of her uniform. “Med kit,” Freya said through clenched teeth. With nothing to soak it up, blood spilled from the leg wound as she ripped open another dermis patch. “Only have one more of these,” she muttered. She dusted away as much of the sand as possible before applying the patch.

Robert squatted beside her, bouncing on the balls of his feet as she repaired herself. Occasionally he glanced back at the shattered remains of their shuttle pod and then up into the blinding sky. “We better get moving,” he whispered. She didn't have a chance to ask why before a sleek, metal object whizzed overhead, aiming for the pod. Several beams shot out from it, piercing the pod's remnants, before it disappeared over the horizon. “I bet it'll be back,” he said throwing his arm around Freya's waist and hoisting her up. “I don't think we ought to be here when that happens.”

Other metal objects joined the first, each targeting the pod, as the pair hobbled away from the crash site.


They were a couple kilometers from the crash site when they stopped. Caked in sand and physically exhausted, they nearly collapsed when they saw the first glimmer of liquid in the distance. While they couldn’t be sure it was safe to drink, or even water, they clambered into the oasis and fell at the bank of the little watering hole. Freya was sure she saw a flurry of activity as small alien rodents dispersed. Despite her thirst, she had presence of mind enough to pull a scanner out of the med kit and take a sample for analysis first. “It’s not completely clean but it is water…”

Robert nodded and dug into the quick bag he’d packed as they fled the shuttle. After a moment, he produced two canteens, complete with viable filters. He filled one and triggered the filter mechanism but didn’t drink it once it had finished. “Let’s clean those wounds up first,” he said, crawling over to her and ripping a bit more of her pant leg away. The temporary dermis layer, hastily applied, had failed to completely adhere and peeled away easily. “Can’t salvage that,” Robert said as he tossed it aside. 

Freya nudged the med kit toward him. “After the wounds are clean, there’s a tube of antibiotic cream and gauze bandages. They’ll have to do – I think we’ll need the other dermis patch for my abdomen. There should also be an Insta-splint in the pack,” she said, silently hoping she was right. The oasis water was chilly and stung as it washed away the gritty dirt and sand. Propping herself up on her elbows carefully, she could see two deep lacerations on her left leg and several small, superficial scrapes. In spite of the potentially crushed femur, the wounds weren’t too bad really. Though she winced a few times as Robert slathered the cream on, soon she was bandaged and splinted. 

"Why don't you just lay back and let me be the doctor for the moment Doc?" Robert teased, pushing gently down on her shoulder. "I took the same emergency medic classes every other officer does."

"Yeah but how long ago was that?" Freya asked, though she allowed herself to be repositioned on the ground. She pulled the hem of her jacket up, tugging lightly to break through the caked up blood. "There's a scanner..."

"Yeah, I know," he said, holding it up with a smirk. He pretended to fumble with it for a moment, just to get a rise out of her, before flipping it open and passing it over the stomach wound. “This one looks better, scan shows good clotting,” Robert noted, hesitating to pull the dermis patch away if they didn’t need to right away. “Will the cream penetrate the patch?”

Freya shook her head, “no, but there might be an injector in the kit.” A minute later, he extended it out to her and she carefully programmed in the medical request for antibiotics. Freya tried to contort herself to apply the injector herself but every attempt sent spasms of pain. Finally she held it out to Robert, “apply as close to the wound as you can, just beyond the edge of the patch.” The hiss reassured her, though it did nothing for her pain. "You know, in the event of an emergency – one where your doctor was unconscious or not part of the mission – you would have been in real trouble just now..."

"Yeah yeah, take it up with the commanding officer," Robert smirked. "Oh wait – that's me isn't it?" Freya chuckled and then grimaced as the small laugh sent a new wave of pain through her center. “What about pain meds?” Robert asked, examining the injector closely. 

Freya shook her head, “I’ll be fine. Don’t know how many uses we’ll get out of it and better to save it for the antibiotics.” She groaned as she pushed herself into a sitting position and took the injector away from him before he tried to insist. "Can I see the scanner a moment?"

"I told you, I'm capable of running a med scanner over someone," he said. After a long moment of silence, in which she continued to hold her hand out toward him, he placed the device in her hand reluctantly. To his surprise, she didn't attempt to scan herself. Instead, she pulled up the latest scan results and skimmed them quickly, letting out a sigh of relief. "The baby is fine Freya – strong heartbeat and nestled safely away from your wounds."

End Chapter


  1. Oh my. Good thing they were both awake after the crash or there would have been trouble.