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Dawn OOC

[Tara] Coming Home

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Capt. Muhammad Sarr blinked groggily, trying to bring the blur in front of his face into focus. He knew that the blue and white smear was Hector but convincing his eyes to work was a struggle. Fortunately, his first attempt at speaking went better than his first attempt at seeing. “What is it, Hector?”

 

“We have arrived, Captain.” Hector’s pleasant voice confirmed his suspicions despite his eyes unwillingness to discern for themselves. “We are on the primary approach to Tara’s orbit.”

 

“Good.” Sarr rubbed his eyes and sat up, pleased that his abdominals and fingers were working better than his opticals. You always have the most trouble with your eyesight, he reminded himself as he held out his hands. A warm mug of coffee was placed in it, Hector’s cool, smooth fingers curling over his own until the personal robot was sure he had a secure grip. “What is the status of the Melbourne?”

 

“The ship is in good repair. I have a list of minor services that should be made to the parts that will be used once we make planetfall.” Hector helped him out of the white cryotube, stabilizing him when he slipped on the water that had melted off the outside of the module. “Additionally, Commanders Yuan and Bellamy are waking well. I am uncertain as to Mr. Ferro’s status as his personal assistant is tending to him.”

 

The coffee was an assault on his tongue, a symphony of heat and taste on an empty stomach. “And the third Jeeves?”

 

“Lex is assisting Cmds Yuan and Bellamy.”

 

His eyes were finally working and Sarr took a good look at the room he had slept in for most of the last decade. The long area held a triple row of cryobeds which stretched to the back of the room. He was in one of the men’s areas; the only woman in sight wasn’t really a woman. Sakura bent over another tube, her rosebud lips turned up in a smile as she helped Ferro sit. The engineer wasn’t entirely upright yet as he hunched forward over his knees.

 

Sarr glanced at Hector against, taking another sip before asking, “What of our guest?”

 

Hector’s facial matrix allowed for minimal expression but Sarr caught a definite sense of disapproval. The robot didn’t have emotions so he was merely mirroring Sarr’s own irritation. “Sleeping well, sir.”

 

“Keep her that way.” Sarr turned and headed to change out of the shorts and t-shirt he’d slept in. He had work to do.

 

*  *  *

 

Leonardo Ferro took a cautious sip of his hot tea, pleased when it stayed down. Waking from cryosleep always left him a little nauseous. Next to him, Sakura waited patiently with fresh clothing. “Oh, I love traveling but I hate cryosleep so much.”

 

“The hangover is better than Temporal Distortion Jumping Sickness.” Sakura spoke with a wry smile, her programming aware that he preferred a flippant remark over somber ones.

 

Leo tsked softly. “Too true.” He smiled fondly at her as he tugged at his boxers. “Let’s get me presentable. I wouldn’t want to scandalize people by showing up in my underwear.”

 

“It’s too bad. You do your best work when inappropriately dressed.” Despite her playful tone, his personal robot shook out his clothing, preparing it for him to wear.

 

Leo chuckled as he traded his damp boxers for clean, unabashed about being naked in front of Sakura. “Do we have a list of repairs to do?”

 

“Hector has provided one and I uploaded it to your PD.” The robot smiled demurely. “I look forward to working with you again, Leo. Astrophysics is dull stuff.”

 

“Don’t let Bellamy hear you say that.” Leonardo chuckled as he stepped into his pants and reached for the slim device she held toward him. He turned it on and opened the list from Hector, scanning it quickly. Despite the distraction, he told her, “You’ll get a lecture. I’ll switch out your programming as soon as we’re planetside, okay?” The robot made a face, her faux-skin allowing for a wide range of expression. “I’m sure she’ll want your help taking readings as we descend. After all,” he laughed, affecting an accent like the UE woman, “we’ll never get a chance like this again.”

 

His personal bot rolled her agate-brown eyes. “The other ships could take readings as well as I could. And I notice Hector and Lex didn’t have to help her.”

 

“Lex is an older model and Bellamy didn’t want it working on her equipment. Hector’s duties to the Melbourne took priority.” Leo looked up at Sakura’s soft sound of irritation. “Saku-chan, it’s the agreement we made so you can be here.”

 

“I’m aware. I don’t have to like it.” Sakura pouted cutely. She was silent until he pulled on his shirt. “You haven’t asked about the girl.”

 

“I assumed she was still safely in cryo and you’d tell me otherwise.” Someone might have thought that she was chastising him but Leo had programmed her; he knew she was acting in her role as an assistant, reminding him of important events. He peered at her inquisitively. “Is this you telling me otherwise?”

 

“No, Leo.” The fake woman smiled as she reached out and finger combed his damp hair away from his face. “There. Presentable.”

 

“Thank god you didn’t say professional.” Leo squeezed her arm before leaving. Sakura followed, breaking away at the hallway to the astrophysics sensor array. The personal assistant made a final face as Leo waved to her and continued to the bridge.

 

*  *  *

 

Darya Bellamy checked on Valentina one more time, studying her daughter’s sleeping face. One of her biggest worries about coming here had been the children. Oskar and she had talked about it for hours before deciding to bring it up to the kids. Their reactions had been mixed but she was so proud that in the end, all three of them had seen this move as an adventure and a chance to be part of scientific discovery.

 

With a final smile, she glanced over at Yuan and the other Jeeves. The other woman was having a harder time adjusting to the transition to wakefulness and Bellamy left to give her privacy. Moving through the halls, she went to the men’s bay, pushing open the doors despite the rules on gender segregation.

 

“Commander Bellamy.” Hector straightened from the monitoring screens on a cryo pod, its Euro-Russo flawless. “You cannot be in here.”

 

“Save it.” Her words came out sharp. “I am checking on my family.”

 

Hector’s expression became mildly reproving. “They are well, I assure you.”

 

“I will assure myself.” The scientist brushed past the robot, knowing he wouldn’t physically stop her. With all of security still in stasis or recovering from waking up, no one could stop her. Sarr or Ferro could try but the former was no doubt wrapped up in preparations for landing and the latter didn’t have the balls to deal with her.

 

She stopped first at Oskar’s pod, smiling fondly at her sleeping husband. While glad to see he’d arrived safely, a mother’s worry propelled her to the next two tubes, peering inside them in turn. Dmitri and David slept peacefully, their frozen poses unconsciously mirroring each other. Bellamy felt something ease in her chest as she confirmed that her darling twins were safe. She’d never admit it but if forced to pick a favorite among her children, it would be the twins. Not one of them but the two of them as a unified being. In her mind, they were almost the same: brilliant and charming children who never failed to amaze her.

 

“Commander, Captain Sarr requests your presence on the bridge. You are needed for a pre-landing meeting.” Hector sounded flustered but Bellamy knew she was projecting onto it. It was a complex, mobile computer and nothing more.

 

Instead, she glanced at her sleeping darlings one more time. Let Sarr wait just a moment longer. Nothing he wanted mattered more than her family.

 

*  *  *

 

Yuan finished her last stretch, straightening gracefully. Waking from cryo was harder for her than others and few things helped her transition faster than yoga. It left her refreshed and warm after her cold sleep. Ready to face Tara, she pulled on her combat gear.

 

Lex stood nearby, its face set in a vague, pleasant smile. “Do you require anything else, Commander?” It’s Standard Chinese was perfect, of course. Yuan didn’t expect anything else but the occasional mistake would make the constructs seem more human and less robotic.

 

“Is my interpreter awake?” She couldn’t quite stop her scowl at her question; had she known that she would need to know other languages when she was in school, she would have made time for them. She’d planned on working for the PRA until retirement. The Zheng flu had altered those plans and forced her to remove her family from the stations. Tara had been the only option but her lack of foresight left her dependant on another person.

 

“No, Commander, he is scheduled to be awakened among the secondary personnel. Captain Sarr believed that Hector and I could serve you as translators until Mr. Zu is revived. The captain is also fluent in Standard Mandarin as well.” The Lexus-model Jeeves stared at her with infinite calm.

 

Yuan stiffened, frowning tightly. Sarr knew she didn’t trust a Jeeves and preferred her human translator.

 

“Shall we, Commander? The captain is waiting for us.” Lex gestured toward the door, the sweep of his arm as demure as any properly-trained servant.

 

Yuan stalked out of the room, ignoring the robot. It followed in her wake, passive and subservient. When they passed the men’s room, Lex broke off to start reviving the security team. By the time they landed, she needed to have her commandos on their feet and ready to go. She didn’t know what waited for them on the surface of the planet but she would be prepared to protect this ship and crew.

 

*  *  *

 

Sarr nodded to Yuan as she arrived on the bridge last. He’d expected that; her files indicated that she had a hard time waking up from the cryosleep. She returned his greeting with a nod of her own, ignoring the Jeeves hovering over her station. Hector stepped back when she took her seat, relinquishing full control to her.

 

The captain turned back to the screens in front of him, reviewing each one for data about their coming landing. This would be the hard part of the immigration to Tara. Though he was far from a devout man, he still whispered a prayer to Allah as he ran his gaze over the readouts. “Commander Bellamy, what is our status for landing?”

 

The brunette woman twisted her chair around to nod to him. “All our calibrations and vectors have been checked three times, once by me and twice by the computer. SciDiv is ready.” Her cat’s smile smile was smug and assured, and Sarr hoped that she was right in her self-assessment. He knew all these people but they hadn’t had time to truly bond as a crew. That took more than one flight together, and they’d spent this one asleep. In the back of his head, he also knew that this was temporary. They were a crew only long enough to get to the planet and do the initial set up. He suspected they would drift apart once the remaining ships arrived and the permanent government for the settlement became established.

 

Before Sarr could ask, Ferro spoke. “My boards are green, or whatever color they should be. The ship is ready for the landing approach.”

 

“Let’s hope it’s a landing, Mr. Ferro, and not just an approach.” Sarr covertly checked his restraints, making sure the silver straps were snug around his torso. “The Melbourne can make multiple attempts at landing but I want to do this once, if at all possible.”

 

Reminding himself that he was stating the obvious unnecessarily - he had a better crew than that - Sarr turned to Commander Yuan. “Are you prepared to make the landing?”

 

He had learned Chinese many years ago so she was able to speak to him directly. “We are. Lex is currently waking my initial task force. They should be ready by the time you are ready to unseal the doors.”

 

“Very good.” He turned back to the console, noting the twenty tiny windows that monitored the few crew members who were awake. Sarr watched their soft green glows, all the vital stats hidden until he focused on them, drawing them up with a flick of his fingers. “Hector, what is the status of the Melbourne’s computers?”

 

Hector was quiet for a second, the blue LEDs on his shoulder flashing. “The Melbourne’s internal systems are ready.”

 

“Captain, before we go, can we see it?” Ferro’s request was not part of their procedure but after he spoke, Bellamy and Yuan looked at the captain hopefully.

 

Sarr studied the hopeful expressions in front of him. In truth, when it was mentioned, he was just as eager as the other three, and he smiled as he tapped the controls to show a live image of the planet. It appeared on the largest screen in the room, the central bridge screen.

 

The green and blue globe looked like old images of Earth. Sarr felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight. So far from our homeland, yet I feel right. I feel like I am in the right place. I feel like this is Home.

 

Keeping the video feed active and on the main screen, Sarr turned back to his console. In front of him were the controls that would start their descent. Everything was ready; all that was left was to start the process. The moment seemed to require that he say something profound and Sarr had thought about it. He just hadn’t been able to come up with anything good enough. Now though, the words came. “Welcome home, everyone.”

 

The command crew smiled at him, unified completely for one moment. Sarr cleared his throat and said, “Beginning descent.” His fingers almost paused over the controls but he refused to hesitate on the cusp of their homecoming.

 

He was one of the new people qualified to land the Melbourne but was the only one who had run through all of the disaster sequences in the simulator. The entire bridge crew had prepared for landing but not like he had. This was his last action as captain and he wanted it done right.

 

The computer began to relay all pertinent data for their descent, a complex and varied rainbow of information. “We are entering the thermosphere,” Bellamy reported calmly but a current of excitement ran through the room. “I am releasing the weather and communication satellites.”

 

“Thank you, Commander.” Sarr kept his focus on his screens, trusting that his science officer could handle the launches of the various platforms they were leaving in orbit.

 

They lowered in silence for twenty minutes, each person attending to their station. They continued smoothly through the layers of atmosphere, passing through each on schedule. Bellamy broke the silence to announce, “We’re at fourteen kilometers, and just passed into Tara’s troposphere.” A shudder ran through the ship and the captain looked at his science officer. The brunette answered his unasked question. “Minor turbulence, to be expected in the troposphere.”

 

“Stress to the Mel is well within tolerances.” Ferro sounded bored; Sarr shot a quick look at him and saw the man was slumped in his seat, hands on the arm of his chair instead of ready on his controls.

 

“Look sharp, Mr. Ferro.” The captain didn’t bother to hide his irritation. They couldn’t afford any problems due to a lapse in judgment on the engineer’s part. This was exactly why he’d wanted a military engineer rather than a civilian.

 

“I am sharp, Captain.” The engineer turned to give him a quick smirk. “Trust me, the ship is fine.”

 

Sarr spared him a single hard glare before returning to his screen. “Humor me, please. We’ll soon be to the surface and where it is more interesting.”

 

Ferro sighed heavily but did as asked, sitting up and taking a more active interest in the screens. The captain sighed in relief and returned his full focus to their chosen landing site. It was a low, flat plain above an underground aquifer. It was a bit higher above sea level than the area around it, making it ideal for keeping an eye on their surroundings. It was close to mountains and a large inland sea and not too far from the coast. Sarr was looking forward to claiming some beachfront property and building his final home there. Just two more kilometers to home--

 

“Sir, we have a mass rising from the planet’s surface.” Bellamy’s voice cut through the quiet atmosphere on the bridge. “It’s organic and it’s on an intercept course to us.”

 

“What is it?” Sarr pulled up the feed on the main screen, spotting the black dot instantly. It was growing as the Melbourne approached it.

 

“I think it’s indigenous flora - yes, some of the flying creatures reported in the survey.” She swallowed tightly. “The reports never showed a flock of this size. Sir, I don’t think they’re going to break off.”

 

“Abort the descent.” They were only a kilometer from the landing site; the knowledge was bitter to him. So close yet so far. Sarr knew that the spaceship could take some damage but they knew nothing about these birds. If they flew through a flock, it could do quite a bit of damage. “Coming up fifteen degrees--”

 

“Captain, they’re altering course to follow.” The alarm in Bellamy’s voice spiked Sarr’s heart rate. He didn’t reply, merely adjusted their heading more. The computer offered several suggestions but he took one of his own, turning hard to starboard and increasing their speed. “Sir, they’re still adjusting! Impact in twenty seconds!”

 

Cursing under his breath in his native tongue, Sarr quickly set the computer to pick a spot for emergency landing in their path. We might not need it but--

 

The first impacts with the flock went unnoticed but the culmulative weight of the animals began to rattle the ship. Sarr ground his teeth as he considered the sheer number of birds hitting them to have that impact. “Hull integrity is dropping!” Ferro called out from his station. Something boomed deep in the ship and the engineer cursed in Spanish. “They’ve penetrated the hull!”

 

Sarr reversed his attempt to ascend. A hull breach meant they couldn’t escape into space again. “Where!”

 

“B-55, it’s communications. But it’s next to the engines and they’re attacking them.” Ferro looked toward him, his brown eyes wide. “We’re going down.”

 

“I know.” Sarr kept his voice soft and calm. Panic wouldn’t help, especially once warnings began to flare on the screen as more and more systems took damage. “We’re going to make a hard landing.”

 

Dread filled the bridge. They’d prepared and practiced for it but had hoped and prayed to avoid that scenario. Turning to his security officer, he ordered, “Cmd. Yuan, please go down to the cryotubes that hold your security team and be ready to brief them.”

 

“Yes, Captain.” Her voice faded at the end as she hurried out of the room.

 

Sarr fell back on every trick he’d learned in the simulations to keep the Melbourne in the air and give her more time to prepare. With hostiles aboard, and more likely to attack once they had landed, she would need all the help he could give her. Despite his best attempts, the screens filled with the image of the new landing site. Sarr hoped it was safe enough, as it had been chosen by physics instead of his intent. That was his last thought as he pulled up the nose and they slammed into the earth of their new home.

 

The cyrotubes are designed to open in case of a loss of power. It is a controlled release performed on battery backup power. If your PC’s tube is undamaged, he or she will wake safely, so you can post that. You’re free to decide if you come out of the tubes groggy or sick. There will be no combat on this round of posts, so you may hear guns and strange animal noises but you’ll not have to fight any of them unless you go looking.

 

If your character is necessary personnel, you will be awoken pretty quickly. So you can either post being woken by someone, or being woken in the crash. Necessary is:

 

Dr. Temnikova (if you’re still around Noir)

Jack Spade

Morgan

Rochelle

 

Those who are not considered necessary are: 

Gabrielle

Talina

Jaime

Moira

 

The four of you can wake through power loss to your pod or through someone else (ex. Talina's dad) waking you up.

 

My next post will be a week from today, or after everyone has posted.

 
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Morgan shivered as he watched through a porthole his family tumbling into space towards Mars on the other side of the sealed hatch.  Tears welled as he turned away.  He was forced to push away his grief as he was grabbed by his brother Michael.  

 

“C’mon!  Living first, dead later.”  Michael screamed, shaking his sibling.  â€œLook at me!  Eyes open, Morgan.  Eyes open!”

 

Eyes open…Morgan blinked and quickly sat up, immediately regretting it as lances of pain shot through his brain.  He clutched his head and fell back.  He tried to groan, but barely a raspy croak escaped from his dry throat.

 

At least I’m not sick.  The Chief sat up again slowly and swung his legs over the side.  He again opened his eyes, rapidly blinking as the pain started again.  â€œSo bright.”  Wait a minute...Why is it bright?  He looked around and noticed that all the typical floor lighting was dark and the nearby cryotubes only had half the lights they were suppose to according to the training.

 

He set his feet and slowly stood up, happy to find he managed to avoid the typical disorientation and nausea even if his head was pounding.  He stumbled to his brother’s tube and started the ‘defrost’ process.  Morgan was relieved to find it was functioning, but seemed to be running on the backup battery.  He quickly glanced around ahead of him and noticed that as far as he could see, all the cryotubes were on backups.  As the procedure was near finishing he initialized Cassandra.

 

Yawwwwwn.

 

“Enjoy your nap?”  Morgan asked.

 

It was nice to get a break from you.  I taught myself spanish and learned to garden.

 

“No you didn’t, I uploaded it right before we left.”

 

Well, I practiced until I got bored and went to sleep.

 

“Did you dream of electric sheep?”

 

No, we became tomato farmers and rode on tractors all day.

 

“Dream big, do ya?  Keep it down for a bit please.  My skull feels like it is gonna split open.  The beds are on backups and main power seems to be offline.  I need to get Michael up, find some painkillers and figure out what’s going on.”

 

“Morgan, I think we have a bigger problem.”  Michael said, not appearing to be suffering any side effects as he sat up when the tube opened.

 

“Oh, what?”

 

“Turn around and open your eyes.”

 

Morgan turned and squinted.  His eyes went wide as he looked down the hangar and saw the large break in the ship.  Sunlight streamed through.

 

“Michael, start waking people up.  Prioritize by necessity.  Ignore failed or damaged units.  Get some teams organized.  I’m going to find Ferro.”

 

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State of the art machinery served its purpose, damage to systems triggers the appropriate relays, circuits opened and closed, internal and external sensors measured viability. The Tube was on internal power, but the integrity was compromised. Attempts to reconnect to external power sources failed.

Query main computer: failed. Query Auxiliary computers: failed. Initiate emergency protocols: In progress. Alert Appropriate medical personnel: Failed. Asses  Tube Viability: compromised, failure imminent, Asses Subject Viability: subject viable, expiration imminent due to tube failure: initiate emergency revivification process: in progress

 

Needles slammed into the deep sleeping girls arms as multiple drugs were pumped into her body not in the calm orderly manner normal wake up procedures call for but in the crash do or die manner usedr in extreme emergencies. At the same time all the various tubes and sensors were simultaneously extracted air pressures were equalized and then the tube opened.

 

Talina Mercer came awake as her system was shocked into consciousness by the cold blast of oxygenated air and the drugs roaring through her system. Cold and wet her body reacting violently to the effects of suddenly waking up from a years long sleep she griped the edge of the tube and pulled her self up to lean over the side as she dry heaved trying to empty the non existing contents of her stomach. Her eyes didn't want to work everything was light and shadows flashing and the noise filled her ears with a howling and screeching and funny popping sounds going off in rapid succession. She was completely disoriented from the nausea which wasn't getting better, she screwed her eyes shut and griped the lip of the tube tightly , fuck where is the doctor whats going on oh my god mommy, her sense where all screwed up she even felt like the tube was rocking back and forth which made her heave even more.

 

Once the current wave of nausea passed she slowly opened her eyes the moving sensation was more pronounced now, then suddenly the tube gave a violent jerk and it really did move and tipped at an angle. It was still for a moment then the rocking started again, her vision began to clear an her mind couldn't comprehend what her eyes were seeing.

 

Twisted metal, sparking wires and conduits, sunlight streaming through the shattered hull revealing the battered and broken cyro tubes littering the ground dozens of meters below her rocking tube. Across from her incomprehensibly lay the other half of the Melbourne. As the horror of what she was seeing slowly seeped into her sleep and drug addled brain she looked up and saw that the rocking motion she felt was from the sole metal support left and the conduits and wires holding her cryo tube in place keeping it from plummeting to the ground below.

 

Suddenly the popping sounds shattered her reverie, louder and closer than before, the scene she was seeing snapped into focus and the terror came boiling up. Talina Mercer, fifteen year old reluctant colonist, began screaming.

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Her cryodreams were endless corridors back on El Astraea, running and running and never knowing exactly what or who she was running from. She needed to find her family, she thought. She needed to help them, but how? The corridors finally ended in sharp explosion and then a loud crack. She slammed against a bulkhead, then woke up to shards from the cryotube cutting into her skin. 

 

She blinked in the bright sunlight, too stunned to move for several minutes. The storage room was full of empty, broken cryotubes and other extra supplies, tossed around like someone had done their best impression of treating the Melbourne as a snow globe. Past the sounds of the emergency sirens blaring into the room, Gabriela could dimly hear the report of gunfire and...something else. Something she couldn't place. She shook her head and tried to sit up. She felt the blood from her cuts run down her arms and the world spun with every inch she moved. I'm bleeding. I'm bleeding and there's sunlight. Sunlight means...what? Something important. I'm bleeding. Am I going to die?

 

She stumbled out into the hallway and the hole in the ship followed her. Looking up she could see blue sky and it finally clicked. We're here. We're on Tara! Her whole body was shaking and now she didn't know if it was from blood loss and shock or just shock. We're here!....and someone crashed the ship. Way to go, guys in charge. She took a breath and began carefully picking her way through the dimly lit mangled rooms, hoping to run into someone helpful soon. What a first impression to make. 'Hello, new planet. We're humans and we're crashing the neighborhood. Literally.' 

 

She rounded a junction of corridors and ran into...something...hiding in the tangled ruin of pipes running along the upper half of the space. It was sort of like the birds she'd read about on El Astraea; she'd even seen a few live ones when her parents had taken her and her sister to the arboretum on the Garden levels, but none of those birds had looked this predatory. It had feathers, prettily colored in varying shades of light blue, but it's beak and feet all looked oversized and ridiculously sharp. As it spotted her and screeched in rage, she noticed that the splashes of darker blue on some of the feathers weren't coloring, but some sort of viscous liquid. The creature dove at her but fell short of reaching her; one of its wings was badly broken. It fell awkwardly to the floor, limping slowly towards her in some oddly defiant effort to attack her despite its obvious distress. 

 

The floor shifted underneath her as she watched the 'bird' and she blinked in the bright sunlight, too stunned to move for several minutes. The storage room was full of empty, broken cryotubes and other extra supplies, tossed around like someone had done their best impression of treating the Melbourne as a snow globe. Past the sounds of the emergency sirens blaring into the room, Gabriela could dimly hear the report of gunfire and...something else. Something she couldn't place. She shook her head and tried to sit up. She felt the blood from her cuts run down her arms and the world spun with every inch she moved. I'm bleeding. I'm bleeding and there's sunlight. Sunlight means...what? Something important. I'm bleeding. Am I going to die?

 

She stood up and stepped on something sharp. "Merde," she hissed and kicked the bird away from her. The creepy little thing had snuck up on her and bit her. And a very fuck you, too, Tara, Gabriela thought uncharitably. She stumbled along a few more passageways and finally spotted one of the emergency medkits bolted to a still somewhat intact wall. She pried it down and spent a couple of minutes making sloppy bandages everywhere she'd been cut by plastiglass or unfriendly Taran native. She rested for a moment, staring down the still-empty corridors. She needed to run, she knew, but she was so tired. She needed to find her family, she thought. She needed to help them, but how? The corridors finally ended in sharp explosion and then a loud crack. 

 

She started, coming quickly to her feet and spinning around, trying to find the source of the sounds. The ship was split open above her and she could see out into the Taran sky. Tara? Have we landed? Way to go, guys in charge. She took a breath and began carefully picking her way through the dimly lit mangled hallways, hoping to run into someone helpful soon. What a first impression to make. 'Hello, new planet. We're humans and we're crashing the neighborhood. Literally.'

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The location was exotic, but such was that of a restaurant of the first class, serving the best clientele in the midst of a dinosaur preserve. Jaime proudly removed the lids of his dishes for this exemplary pair of distinguished guests with a flourish. Outside, through a window you could see a pack of raptors scurrying a swift pace. "For sir: creme of deep-sea vault lamprey, pulled, diced and poached in blood."

 

That was some of his best work ever, with completely non-vegetarian items. True, such plants were his greatest specialty, but skill demanding being able to put out highest worth meals no matter what the kitchen was stocked with. The coppery tang was enticing and strong. Jaime inhaled it in dramatically. Then, blinked. He realized that the patrons were blank-faced, literally.

 

He also realized that the blood was in fact, coming from him biting down on his lower lip hard.

 

Then he woke up, in the midst of a silent cryotube, strange animalian sounds erupting in the atmosphere of a mangled ship - and Jaime realized he really was bleeding from his lower lip. And more cuts from shards about his arms too. Shocked, he worked to free himself from the damaged cocoon - and happened to be unhappily reminded about some interesting tales about dreams and the unconscious spun to him from a fellow alumni at the University (a psychology major).

 

Carl Jung, I hate you.

 

Once extricated, Jaime began dabbing with his shirt sleeves at the various bleeding spots, trying to damp them down while he started to look around. It was not good - something had clearly gone wrong. Jaime quickly paced his way down the hallways, looking for the crew. A strange warble came from behind him. Jaime turned to see a trio of turquoise birds flap around the bend - then, before he could study them with interest - screeched. And charged.

 

Already discomfited, Jaime ran. Unfortunately, they seemed set on attacking him. Jaime burst over a metal catwalk, but had to stop himself at the last minute to avoid smashing himself into the solid door. Jaime banged on it desperately but only felt the sting in his knuckles. Another warble. Almost unconsciously, Jaime grabbed at the nearest thing: a piece of metal piping, and swung blindly.

 

The first bird pulled back, and its companions swooped in. Thus began the square dance of Jaime Lowery and his avian partners - if by dance, one meant Jaime desperately jabbing or swiping the pipe at any bird to come in close - whose fellows would swoop in turn while the others retreated.

 

Jaime really was doing this out of desperation - bit by bit the rhythm became more against him and his limited energy. "I! WILL! SEE! ALL OF YOU! ROASTED! ON! A! SPIT!" The scream was more for his sake of holding out than any promise.

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Hiroki woke in stages. From normal sleep, he was a quick riser, getting up almost the moment his eyes opened. He had always been an active person and sleep had been something you did so you could do more stuff tomorrow. A ten-year nap had been a necessary evil to get to Tara and now that he was here, all he wanted to do was get up and do. However, he was learning that he didn’t come out of cyro easily.

 

The tube sat open, waiting patiently for him. He rolled into an upright position – and froze.

 

The tube next to him was open, too, but the blue parrot-thing ensured that the slow waker in that tube wouldn’t wake up again. Crimson blood dribbled down its beak as it turned its head, looking at him with a brilliant green eye. Hiroki had a healthy respect for birds after a run-in with a goose at a young age, and while this bird was not as big as a goose, it was still over half a meter tall. The oversized bill and massive claws were unsettling. They were even more off-putting knowing that his weapons were stowed in the compartment to his right but they might have been on the moon for all the good they did him.

 

It spread dazzling wings and came at him, and Hiroki grabbed his only weapon – the wet pillow he’d slept on for a decade. The bird hit the foam with its beak and Hiroki tried to pinch it shut to trap it. It was only partially successful and the bird pulled free as its talons raked his arms.

 

Hiroki lunged for it; he had to get hands on it to kill it. He caught a foot and the creature shrieked and battered him with its wings. On a two-foot bird, they were substantial clubs but he refused to let go. The other foot clenched around his fist but Hiroki swung the bird around and smashed it against the side of his pod. Dazed, it flapped weakly but he bounced it off the hard plastic a few more times. When it hung limply, he grabbed its head and twisted until he heard some sickening cracks.

 

Dropping the corpse, he popped open his container and pulled out his armor and guns. The armor was standard issue; he’d had better on the force at Neo York. Of course, in Neo York, he’d been fighting against the Lunar Mafia and they’d been very well-equipped.

 

Shaking off thoughts of the world he’d left behind, Hiroki slapped on his armor, forgoing the full uniform. No doubt that hardass Yuan would take offense but fuck it, he could hear people screaming. He grabbed his Glock and Winchester and started scanning for blue.

 

A form dashed by a door, followed by azure streaks. Hiroki hurried over and saw a man tried to hold off three of the birds by himself. Hiroki stepped into the hallway and said, “Hold still.†When the man froze, he shot one bird on the floor, a second starting to come at him, and the third as it went after its target. The man yelped as the bird slammed into the wall by his shoulder instead of him. Seeing no more birds, Hiroki asked, “You okay?â€

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His frozen dreams were of darkness, of void, of unbearable grief. Of what his life had become with the lost of his wife and daughter to the remorseless environment of space on the surface of the moon. Ten years passed in an instant, an instant of infinite length, a decade lived in the nothingness between the stars and an all consuming silence, broken only the strains of loss and the strumming of grief falling over each other.

 

 

♫ I have died everyday waiting for you  ♫

 

♫ But there never seems to be enough time ♫

 

♫And if only I could, I'd make a deal with God ♫

 

 

Jack groaned, the instant ending with sensation and the awareness of time slamming back into him with a terrible suddenness. His skin, still cool from cryosleep, prickled with the heat of his blood once more flowing through his veins. Thoughts still sluggish with ten years of sleep, ears still ringing with the songs he had only started to learn to play in the subjective year since Alex and Sam had passed away, Jack sat up and... grunted as his head smacked into the underside of the canopy of the cryotube.

 

 

♫ Darling, don't be afraid I have loved you ♫

 

♫ To do the things you want to do, Once you find them ♫

 

♫ And I'd get him to swap our places ♫

 

 

Perfect! Jack pounded on the canopy with a fist, the sound resonating inside the cryotube, but the canopy didn't budge. We better be on Tara, because I'm never going into space again. No moons, no space stations, no stellar vehicles, none of it! Just give me dirt and mountains, trees and grass, wind and sunlight, and a place to call home.

 

He twisted on his side, got his fingers under the lip of the canopy and heaved, his breath frosting in the dissipating coolness of the cryotube. The canopy held for a moment, then retracted with a hiss as the force he exerted passed a certain threshold.He spun around and sat up, head swimming with grogginess and nausea, balance completely off with the after-effects of cryosleep. His hand closed around the pendant hanging around his neck - which the techs had advised he pack away but he refused to part with - the coldness of the metal biting his skin, but steadying his head.

 

 

♫ For a thousand years ♫

 

♫ I've looked around enough to know ♫

 

♫ Be running up that road, Be running that hill ♫

 

 

It wasn't only his balance that was off. The deck of the Melbourne was canted to a noticeable degree. The acrid scent of burning plastic was in the air, the crackle of electrical sparks and the squeal of stressed metal was a cacophony in his ears. Panic rose inside him, the ship was damaged, but his could still breathe, atmosphere wasn't venting, to steal his breath and his life.

 

Panic began to subside and now, Jack could make out the retorts of gunshots and the distinct sound of animal life, the trill of some bird or lizard he wasn't familiar with. There were muffled screams and curses coming from all over the hangar and beyond. Rough landing, but we're on the ground, were we're going to stay.

 

He looked over his shoulder and saw the deck of the ship cant even more sharply, to where the vessel was split open, cracked in half like an eggshell, sunlight streaming in, mingling with the flickering luminescence from the floor lights. Jack couldn't help a wistful smile crossing his lips as sunlight - slightly more orange than he was used to - fell across his face, sunlight he wished he could have given to Alex and Sam.

 

Then he heard the girl scream.

 

 

♫ I'll love you for a thousand more ♫

 

♫ That you're the one I want to go Through time with ♫

 

♫ Be running up that building, If only I could, oh... ♫

 

 

Jack heard his daughter scream. Intellectually, he knew he didn't really hear his daughter scream. She had been a moon away, and even if she had had time to scream, nobody could have heard it in the vacuum of vented atmosphere, but he heard it all the same. It wasn't his daughter screaming, but she was someone's.

 

Looking up, Jack saw the cryotube hanging over the edge of the shattered hull, supported by a single support and several cables, sunlight flashing off a head of red hair. With a whine, one of the cables snapped, the cryotube dipped lower, and the girl's scream rose higher. Jack moved.

 

It wasn't the rock and stone he was familiar with and enjoyed, but the Melbourne offered plenty of hand-holds to a seasoned mountaineer, other cryotubes, buckled deck plating, listing supports. His legs were stiff at first, hands and feet slipping on smooth, metallic surfaces, but adrenaline burned away the awkwardness and Jack adjusted to the synthetic climbing track.

 

"Hold on, Red, someone's coming!" Jack shouted up at the girl over the chaos of the damaged ship. He cursed as he cut his hand on a bent piece of steel, but kept climbing with a smooth economy of motion and tactical precision of chosen hand and footholds. He kept talking, loud but trying to keep any anxiety from his voice, that might make her panic and react poorly. "Just focus on me, 'kay? Don't look down, look at me. Follow what I am doing - I haven't lost someone on a climb yet."

 

The last was a lie, but now wasn't the time to go into details about rich folks not listening to the professional guide they had hired. Jack made it to the edge of the break, and feet braced against the uneven and canted deck, worked his way hand over hand until he was at the foot of the girl's cryotube.

 

He slammed a foot against a support, testing how solid it was. Finding it acceptable, he hooked a foot under it, balanced his other foot on the edge of the gap in the hull and stretched a hand forward as far as he could, ignoring the broken cryotubes and broken bodies dozens of meters below - there wasn't anything he could do for them, but he could do something for the girl.

 

She would have to reach for his hand, not far, but he couldn't risk the cryotube supporting both his and the girl's weight.

 

"Almost there, Red," Jack assured her with a tight one-sided grin, beads of sweat on his brow. Yes, he was good at this, but there was a girl's - a young woman's - life in his hands and he had just woken up from a ten year sleep a few minutes ago. The pendant with two diamonds in it swung back and forth from the chain around his neck, flashing in the sun.

 

"Now, in one movement, just like rolling out of bed, I want you reach out and grab my arm with both of your hands, okay? And I'll pull you in and get you down, safe and sound. Trust me."

 

 

♫... a thousand more... ♫

 

♫... go Through time with... ♫

 

♫... If only I could, oh... ♫

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The dark silence and near oblivion of Dr. Temnikova's cryosleep was suddenly pierced by an onslaught of sensations. The cool, fresh air washed over bare skin accompanied by the acrid smells of burning plastics and electronics. The unrelenting claxons of alarms, the snapping and popping of broken cables and wires and the occasional gunshot and screech pierced her ears. The bright sunlight stabbed at her eyes as she tried to open them, forcing them to recoil closed.

 

"What the hell!?" she muttered to herself in her native Russo-Euro as she sat up, but could not shake the disorientation of her balance. She reached under her pillow and retrieved a pack of cigarettes, withdrawing one and place it between her lips while her eyes remained closed, still not entirely grasping the situation.

 

"Damnit." she sighed in annoyed disappointment feeling the dampness of the cigarette between her lips.

 

She wiggled her toes on the cold, metal deck plate and stood up, despite her disorientation. Immediately her butt was greeted but the unforgiving metal floor while the back of her head kissed the canopy of the opened cryotube.

 

"Son of a bitch!" she cursed, the sound of her angry Russian exclamation piercing the noise of the room for a moment. With her hand on the back of her head she forced her eyes open. It was than that she relaxed that she was disoriented, but the deck was, in fact, pitched sharply.

 

Dr. Temnikova looked around the chamber as her eyes adjusted, The rows of cryotubes where now a mess, strewn about like a petulant child's toys. Some lay opened, others were flickering while others were broken with the interior of their remaining canopy splattered with crimson. She could see among the tubes the occasional fluttering of azure, but disregarded it as her mind set about prioritizing her immediate needs.

 

"Trouble never comes alone." she sighs aloud, remembering the old Russian expression as she slammed the open button to her locker behind her tube with her fist. She reached in and pulled out her bags, flailing limbs about as she tried to get dressed as quickly as she could. Finally she threw on her lab coat and wrapped stethoscope behind her neck. Despite the extra time it took to put on, figuring they would be the best way for any of the injured to recognize her as the doctor.

 

She stood up once more on the pitched deck and took stock of her surroundings more thoroughly this time, focusing on the immediate rather than how this situation came to pass. It was then that she could hear a scream and with all the grace she could muster, she began working her way to chasm that now divided the massive chamber, searching for the source of the scream.

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Her throat raw from screaming and crying for help, she paused to gasp for air and started coughing from the acrid smoke in the air. She still heard the sporadic popping sounds and now she could hear screams as well.

 

Tears running down her face she was close to panicking when she heard the man call out. She looked around and finally spotted him climbing through the twisted metal and plastic. He shouted something else but all she understood was the word red. He was getting closer, and again he shouted only a few meters away now, "Just focus on me, 'kay? Don't look down, look at me. Follow what I am doing - I haven't lost someone on a climb yet."

 

She watched as he climbed closer saw the red blood running down his arm and felt the panic rise again when she looked down at the crushed cryo tubes scattered on the ground below and saw the bodies of the colonists and then she noticed the blue things moving down there tearing at the bodies. She scurried back against the far side of the tube her heart pounding with fear, her movements causing the sway to increase.

 

“Almost there Red!â€

 

His voice snapped her head around and momentarily quelled her panic he was much closer now almost here, almost to her. Then he stopped an held out his hand.

 

"Now, in one movement, just like rolling out of bed, I want you reach out and grab my arm with both of your hands, okay? And I'll pull you in and get you down, safe and sound. Trust me."

 

“No,†she shook her head violently, “those things, I'll fall, I'll fall!†she was almost screaming again fear and panic in her voice.

 

As if in response to her anguished cry one of the last conduits parted causing the tube to slam back against the bulkhead the force throwing Talina out of the tube as the support gave way sending the whole thing crashing down toward the surface!

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"I'll catch you," Jack promised earnestly, knowing it wasn't going to be enough. His gut twisted with a sudden, vague prescience - it was going to go bad if he didn't act further. Even as the one of the conduits snapped, Jack planted his foot on the support he had had it hooked under and pushed up, while he let his foot on the tilted edge of the sundered deck slide down, using the weight of his legs to keep him on the deck while he stretched his arms and torso over the gap.

 

Miraculously, the red-headed girl had instinctively reached out for him in her terror, and he was able to grab one of her hands in his own, his other hand getting a grip on her forearm, supporting her several dozen meters above the Taran ground. Unfortunately, she still had some forward momentum and her forehead slammed into the bridge of his nose, making him see stars, his hands tightening their grip instinctively, as her weight wrenched his arms in their sockets.

 

"Okay, Red, little closer than I'd like, but I said I'd catch you," Jack said with his crooked grin, keeping his voice light and forcing the pain out of it as he blinked the tears from his eyes. "Now, just keep looking up - there's nothing down there we need to worry 'bout - and we'll get out of this in a nano-sec."

 

As soon as I figure out how. Slender and not tall, he was able to support her weight readily enough for the moment, though he could feel the blood from his hand starting to make his grip on her forearm slip, and the ragged edge of the split deck was digging into his rugged leather and canvas clothing covering his waist. But while the weight of his freely hanging legs was letting him keep his balance on the edge, without having his legs or feet braced against something, he couldn't get the leverage he needed to pull her up, not without her mass pulling him over. The throbbing beginning in his shoulders wasn't helping much either.

 

"Keep looking at me!" Jack reiterated sharply, as the girl didn't seem reassured and seemed about to look that. Complete panic wasn't going to help either of them. Jack kept feeling around with his feet, seeking something, anything, within reach to hook. If I can get some of her weight over my shoulders, shift my weight as she does, then slide back on my stomach at the right time... It might work, though we might suffered a hard tumble down the slope. Better than a fifty-sixty meter freefall.

 

"So, this is what we're going to do." Talina screamed as he let go of her forearm just long enough to get a different grip on it - it was harder on his wrist, but would allow him to lift her higher. "First, no screaming. Not that I don't mind a woman screaming all that much, but you need to hear instructions right?" His voice was growing tighter with the strain of holding her in this precarious position. "Next, on three, I'm going to lift you as high as I can and I need you to pull up at the same time. When you're as high as we can get you, I'm going to let go of this hand." He gave their entwined fingers a squeeze. "Then you are going to reach as far as you can down my back and pull yourself. I'll boost you up as much as I can by the leg. Then we are going to slide down the deck, okay? Trust me. I got you this far, already and you haven't fallen, didn't?"

 

The girl looked up at him, her eyes frightfully wide, her lip quivered with a barely suppressed scream, her face painfully young. Finally, after a moment that was longer than he'd wished, she gave him a tiny nod. Jack nodded back, his smile tight and fierce and encouraging.

 

"Good. On three. One..."

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Holding on and doing her best to do what the man said Talina swallowed her fear and held on for dear life, but his arm was slick with the blood from his cut and its was running onto her hands making her grip slippery. it was also dripping onto the beam and a single drop had pooled on the edge. Jack shifted his weight and adjusted his grip the movement caused the beam to vibrate and  the single drop of blood fell...

 

The cryo-tube slammed in to the ground with a solid crunch causing the azure avian like creatures to scatter but they didn't flee the things weren't fearful just annoyed at having their feeding disturbed. One of the avians had leapt several meters from where it had been and its feral instinct caused it to look up in case there was more threat from above. It looked up and the drop of blood landed on its beak, warm blood, the blood of prey. It let out a horrendous screech and all of them stopped and looked at it then they looked up, and they all screeched...

 

 

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For his part, Jaime was perfectly happy with the rescue. At worst, the surprise near-bird collision was just his nerves. That was all. Panting, he bent down to exhale our his lungs before straightening up to acknowledge his companion. "Nothing that this.... whatever happened.... seems to have done to me. Thank you very much though."

 

The rank and strewn about wasteland of a ship pretty much explained everything in glowingly obvious terms. "This is not how I was imagining our first experience to our new home at all. Have you seen anyone else out there? You're the first person in my case."

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"Bozhe moÄ­!*" Dr. Temnikova exclaimed as she reached the edge of the chasm in the deck and could see the man that was hanging half off the deck was holding a girl by one arm.

Immediately she looked around and pulled off her bag, taking a seat behind the man's feet. She pulled at a small grate cover a drain in the floor, pulling it open and then sitting back and slamming her heel into it.

 

"Keep the holding on!" she yelled in the best English she could muster as she wrapped the strap of her bag around the man's ankles and sat in a wide stance, wedging her heel into the drain as she pulled with all the might her tight frame could muster while letting out a primal grunt of exertion, hoping it was enough.

 

* "Oh my god!"

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“You’re welcome.†Hiroki spoke with the peculiar NAA accent that suggested he’d spent most of his life in Japan proper. “You’re the first I’ve seen but I’ve only woken up.† A shriek echoed down the corridor and the soldier’s expression turned grim. “Find a safe place to hide or stay behind me.â€

 

Without waiting for an answer, Hiroki turned and headed for the too-human cry of pain. It lead him away from the other cyrotubes, which he wasn’t sure was a good idea. He couldn’t ignore those sounds. The man he’d rescued followed, sticking close as Hiroki had suggested.

 

They led into a hallway. A small flock of the monsters attacked a man on the ground; he was still flailing and crying for help. Scowling, Hiroki took his best shot, blowing one of the birds out of the air. The others turned toward him, their beady green eyes moving from his Glock to their companion on the floor. As one, five of the remaining birds launched themselves at him. Standing solidly between them and the man he’d saved, Hiroki fired three times.

 

The remaining two slammed into him. He left claws dig into his armor as the little monsters pecked at his face. He swung his arms up and in front of his face, sweeping them away. One was knocked to the floor and Hiroki stomped on it, pinning it to the deck. The other one flapped away and back in, and he lashed out with an open palm. His strike sent it flying away from him on a new path.

 

It didn’t come back for a third time. Instead, it perched on a nearby pipe and stared at him. Hiroki didn’t want to call the look thoughtful but it had an element of assessment. He raised his gun and the bird darted away from its spot. So you have learned what a gun is. Unfortunately for it, there wasn’t enough room to get away and Hiroki’s next and final shot killed it.

 

The four that continued to attack the man stopped as his screams faded, turning their assessing eyes to him. Hiroki dropped his Glock and unslung the rifle. As they swarmed at him, he fired, taking out three of the four. The fourth feinted over his shoulder and disappeared down the hallway behind his companion.

 

Hiroki grabbed his empty Glock and stepped forward, kneeling next to the man. He pressed fingers to his throat but there was no pulse: another victim of their new, hostile home. This was supposed to be a safe place. Angrily, he popped the clip and loaded a fresh one.

 

Movement in the corridor brought his head up. A teen girl with dark skin stumbled toward them. “Are you alright?†Hiroki called and he rose to meet her. She almost fell and he instinctively caught her. “Are you hurt?â€

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The sound of gunshots, louder than the other crash-and-violence background noises, drew Gabriela down to her right. The corridor was sheared off about twenty feet in, but she managed to pick her way down to the next level with only moderate difficulty. Her head was spinning by end and her arms were starting to shake; even though her cuts had clotted, she was still streaked in drying dark red. If she didn't get somewhere with better medical care than a first aid kit soon, she was going to pass out. And get eaten by vicious bluebirds. Great. 
 
“Are you alright?†A man called out to her in English. She stumbled, blinking and trying to see him. It wasn't dark. There was light, bright light, but she couldn't see him well. "Are you hurt?"
 
She felt arms wrap around her and tensed, trying to struggle but too tired to make much of an effort. "I'm fine. Just...just a little winded," she lied like she always did when the doctors or her family started to fuss over her. "No big deal. Gimme a minute and I'll be fine. Promise. Could you turn off the light? It's in my eyes."
 
"It's the sunlight. We need to find a doctor." The man turned from her, still half-supporting her. "You are clearly hurt."
 
"I'm not hurt," she mumbled petulantly into his shoulder, "I'm just sick."

 

"You still need a doctor." His voice was gentle and he shifted so she could walk with him. "Put your arms around my wrist; I need a hand free for my gun."
 
Her brow furrowed and she tried to focus on him better. "...guns aren't allowed in the EAC ward..." she murmured and then her head dropped against his chest, half-unconscious.
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"... Two-"

 

Hearing the Russo-Euro exclamation, Jack cut his count and looked to the side, but the angle was wrong and he couldn't see who had spoken. But he could faintly feel the vibrations of the person moving around his feet. He turned back to the girl, his smile growing wider and more easy.

 

"Hold on, Red, I think we have help incoming."

 

"Keep the holding on!" Jack heard a woman yell, her accent making her nationality clear. He felt her begin to wrap a strap around his ankles but quickly kicked one free.

 

"Spasibo za pomoshch'*," Jack replied in fluent, if accented Russo-Euro. "Ostav'te odnu nogu besplatno, ledi. Mne ponadobitsya, chtoby prisposobit' yego ravnovesiye i polozheniye.**"

 

When Jack felt the woman adjust and plant herself, bracing his leg with her weight and strength, he nodded to himself and prayed she had a solid footing. His stormy grey-blue eyes twinkled with encouragement as he focused on the red-headed girl instead of what was going on around his legs.

 

"New plan. On three, I'm going to lift you up and pull back. You pull up at the same time and when you get at least half way over the edge, you lean into me and give me a hug, okay? Then over and down the other side we go. Ready?" The girl gave a terrified nod, but Jack was purposefully moving fast to give her less time to think about it, and because his strength was beginning to fail. "Good. One... Two... Three!"

 

Jack pulled up with his arms, and with woman bracing him was able to use his back and leg strength to straighten at the waist. At the same time, the girl pulled herself up as much as she could. As soon as she rose higher than the broken edge of the deck, Jack pulled her closer. When she got within reach, she wrapped her arms around his neck with petrified strength, scraping herself a bit as she slid over the edge. Jack put his arms around her and rolled them so he was on his back with the girl on top of him and began sliding down the canted deck.

 

"Get out of the way, miss! We're coming down!" Jack warned the woman who had helped them, just catching a glimpse of pale blonde hair over Talina's shoulder as the woman scrambled to the side. He grunted and groaned as his back and behind slid over crooked deck plating and writhing cables, then let out a long breath as their slide slowed to a stop as the tilt of the deck grew less severe.

 

"That wasn't so bad, now was it?" Jack said with wry understatement, patting the girl on the shoulder, then sitting up, but letting the girl stay in her arms as the tenseness of terror just began to fade. "Now, ladies, how's 'bout we go find some of the security staff before those birds think we've been tenderized for them, eh? Those things seem far more aggressive than they should be toward things they couldn't have had experience with before."

 

When on a trek or outing, Jack usually just settled for using a screamer to scare off any hostile animals. But he didn't own one himself, just used one from the wilderness company he subcontracted through, but he wasn't sure if they would work on the Taran animals without adjusting anyway. Just to be safe, he reached out and picked up the broken spar of a support, more to warn any of the birds away than to beat the things into submission.

 

Translation

* Thanks for the assist.

**Leave one foot free, lady. I will need it to adjust my balance and position.

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Hiroki didn’t know what was wrong with her but the girl was becoming less and less self-sufficient. He tightened his arm around her waist, wondering how the hell he was going to get her to safety. Staying here was an option but it was a poor one. More of the girl’s weight rested against him and Hiroki grunted softly. He was running out of possibilities rapidly.

 

The mention of EAC wards sent his heart spiraling down into his gut. It also brought up bad memories, which he ignored. Now was not the time to think about he had lost.

 

“Can you handle a gun?†he asked his companion.

 

“I can try.†The man’s lack of confidence did nothing of Hiroki’s but he handed the rifle to the man. “Rely on the laser sights. They will help you.â€

 

With the gun situation half-resolved, Hiroki bent over and put her gut in his shoulder. She naturally flopped forward and he stood up into the fall, letting her settle against his back. I hope she went into cyro with an empty stomach.

 

He locked an arm around her legs to hold her in place. Immediately, he remembered the last time he’d carried a woman like this and it didn’t help his situation. Expunging inappropriate thoughts, he hefted his Glock in one hand. Lifting it to his lips, he murmured, “Right hand mode.†With a soft click, the computer in the barrel adjusted for the changes in stance and motion.

 

Glancing back at the nervous man behind him, he shifted the girl higher on his shoulder and headed back for the cyropod bay. The medical staff would be there, and he hoped there would be safety in numbers, especially after he opened a few more pods. “Time to find a doctor,†he told his tail as they moved.

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"The stars are so pretty, Daddy! I've never seen them so bright!" the little red-haired girl exclaimed, spinning in a slow circle as she stared up at the night sky through the trees.

 

"It's because we're not in the city, princess," her father replied indulgently, watching his little girl spin. The small solar camping lights had been dimmed, and the campfire had been banked for the night until all that was left was softly glowing embers.

 

"Do they use brighter stars in the country, Daddy?" she asked, eliciting a chuckle from the handsome, blonde-haired man as he attached the renewable generator to the self-expanding family-sized portable outdoor shelter.  Or as Moira called it, their 'forest house'. 

 

"No, darling - we can just see them better because there aren't so many lights," he explained.

 

"You're wrong, you're wrong! They can so turn the stars up higher, they're doing it now, see? They're brighter, they're brighter, Daddy!" she yelled, trying to be heard over the noise of the shelter's assembling mechanism, louder than she'd ever heard it.  It was supposed to be quiet, so it didn't scare away the animals, but this time it was screeching like metal twisting against itself.

 

"Stop it, Daddy!  It's broken, it's broken!  Please stop!!"

 

"...stop it, Daddy.. please. Oh, it's loud - the stars are too bright..." Moira murmured listlessly as the last of the cryo-drugs made their way through her system, finalizing the accelerated waking process.  With a groan, her eyes opened slowly. She could see brightness, too much brightness for the ship's interior.  In the background was a muffled but still incredibly loud creaking sound, as well as an irritating clicking sound close by that echoed in the sleeping chamber for some reason.  As her vision cleared she saw through the glass of the cryo-tube, though she couldn't make sense of any of it. Her side hurt for some reason, as as she felt around with damp fingertips she could feel something wrong. It took her a moment to realize she couldn't move that arm, that it was pinned to her side by metal, bent at an odd angle that betrayed the smooth cylindrical engineering of the cryo-chamber.  She twisted slightly so that her other arm was free, and she reached up to push against the glass to free herself.  

 

The clicking turned into an odd grinding noise as she pressed against the glass, but it refused to budge.  Anxiety started to set in, a sense of claustrophobia that Moira had never experienced before. She twisted again, trying to free her trapped arm and succeeding, but not without scraping it against a jagged edge of bent metal. She lifted both hands and pushed again, straining with all her might to free herself from the jammed tube but without success.  

 

"Oh god, oh god, oh god," she whispered, trying to quell the surge of panic she felt flowing through her.  She began to bang against the inside of the tube as hard as possible, yelling loudly in the hopes that someone would be able to hear her through it.  "Help!  Someone help me, please - I'm trapped!"

 

Moira's tube has been rammed into by another cryo tube, and the release mechanism has been jammed shut from the outside.  She could really use a hand here... 

:whistle: 
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"Leave? People are still waking or hurt. They must be helped or they will be like the pre-packed meal." Dr. Temnikova said in much better NAA English now that she was more composed. Her Russian accent was unmistakable though..

 

"They are birds, like the duck or goose. They are small. You are big, strong man." she pointed out with a wry grin, giving Jack a pat on both shoulders before turning the red-haired girl.

 

"Girl. Help me search for waking people." she ordered flatly, trying to give the panicked girl something to do to keep her busy.

 

"Do not worry. Big man protect you from small bird." she added as she slipped an arm around the girl and guided her toward the nearest pile of cryotubes to begin their search.

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Talina, clinging to the man with no intention of letting go dazedly looked at the blond haired woman with a blank stare fore several seconds.

 

"Why?" she spoke barley a whisper as the tears started to roll out of her eyes again, her face passive.

 

"Their all dead, they told us the tubes would automatically open in an emergency, like mine did, unless there wasn't any reason too."

 

The tears streaking her face soaked into the mans sleeve where they fell.

 

" I want my mommy." She buried her face into the mans chest and softly sobbed.

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Dr. Temnikova let out a groan that was a mixture of disappointment and annoyance at the girl's reaction, rolling her eyes and shaking her head faintly. With a dismissive wave of her hand she turns back to the cryotubes and rushes over to them.

 

Doing her best to be as quick and efficient as possible she begins to check the tubes remaining and then suddenly stops after a few seconds. Her head turns sharply and she stands there, trying to listen over the noise of the room with her eyes darting about, searching for the sound.

 

"This! This is why we search!" she exclaims, moving to the source of the sound as best she could until finally she looks down through the canopy of the cryotube to it's trapped occupant who is pounding frantically with her screams muffled by the canopy. Her tube was pinned by another cryotube, jamming the release mechanism shut from the outside The emergency awakening procedure had taken place, but there was no way she could hope to open it.

 

"This one is trapped!" she yelled as she pounded on the canopy, trying to show its trapped occupant that help had arrived.

 

"Strong man, come help." she ordered as she tried to push the tube, but could not budge it herself.

 

"Use your stick, like fulcrum. And you too, girl. This person need help, just like you did. Save your tears for your pillow and come help. You can cry when we are safe."

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George Kalnan slept for 10 years, as he always did, without dreaming, or at least without remembering them.

Instead he awoke to the groans of stressed metal and the gentle hiss as the lid of his cryotube was opened.

"Sergeant Kalnan", he heard as he tried to blink and rub the crud out of his eyes. It wasn't until the voice repeated his name that George placed it as being Lex, one of the ships Jeeves.

"Sergeant Kalnan, you medical skills are required"

With a soft "Aw shit", he pulled himeelf up to a sitting position, his neck vertebrae grinding as he quickly glances around to take in the situation. Seeing one of the Commanders hand picked commandos fussing over her and several bodies lying nearby George wasted no time in exiting the cryotube. Opening the his foot locker he paused briefly to check his k9 partner was defrosting before donning his gear and grabbing his paramedic kit bag.

Approaching the Commander sitting on the base of an open cryotube he pauses for her attention then salutes and addresses her in accentless Standard Mandarin, "Sergeant Kalnan reporting Commander. I believe you and others require medical attention? "

At her nod he quickly checks the cast the commando had put on her arm, then pulls a penlight from his vest and checks her eye dilation.

"You have a minor concussion Commander but it should not significantly affect you for now."

"With your permission ", he indicates the other troops lying nearby.

He starts moving amongst the immediate area performing triage, separating the dead and dying to concentrste on those he can help while waiting for this partner to finish defrosting.

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"We'll find your mother, hon," Jack promised the girl, no stranger to loss himself, though he couldn't guarantee what state they'd find her in. Looking around - not only did they have a really rough landing, they'd already suffered losses. Many of us are here to start new lives, yet some of those lives had ended before they have started... "Stay next to me, Red. Some of those still in the cryotubes have a chance."

 

Jack gave the blonde woman a hooded look, but nodded as she issued her commands and followed with the red-haired girl tucked under his right arm, leaving his left arm free to ward off any birds with his improvised club. The Russian woman had clearly never tangled with an angry goose or swan before, and these turquoise turkeys seemed more aggressive than either, and had a raptor's talons.

 

And he hadn't suggested leaving, but joining up with the security staff, for the safety and support in numbers. Though he reluctantly had to admit, the woman did have a point - by the time they found others, it might have been too late for some of those in the cryotubes. He didn't like that - the Russian had a demanding manner that he associated with those that had too much money and didn't appreciate how good their lives really were. Doctors always thought they were right, even in areas that had nothing to do with medicine.

 

As he followed behind the blonde doctor, Jack looked in the cryotubes they passed, to see if any were occupied with those that still could be helped, and gave anyone still groggy from the drugs a hand up. When the Russian started excitedly pounding on one of the cryotubes, Jack hurried forward. He'd been stuck in his for a moment, he knew how confining it could be. This one was jammed worse than his had been though.

 

"I know how to use a lever, lady," Jack growled in irritation as he stepped up next to the blonde woman. "Red, stay near us and keep an eye out for any of the birds or military personnel while we work, 'kay?" Jack turned back to the tube and lightly tapped on it. "Miss, we'll get you out of there in a sec. Can we just get you to scoot over as far as possible to the other side of the tube? It'll give us more space to get better leverage to pry up the canopy."

 

"...Okay, I moved," came the muffled reply tight with barely suppressed panic after rustle. Jack only saw a faint hint of movement through the frosted interior.

 

"I'm jamming in a pry-bar now, yell if it comes too close, yeah?" Jack warned. He tried to wiggle the end of the bar into the tight gap between the canopy and the bed of the cryotube, then spun it around and used the other end, which was a bit flatter. He got it in as far as he could with hitting the woman inside then crouched low, waving at the Russian woman to do the same. "Lift with your legs, not your arms. On three."

 

Unlike his cryotube, this one didn't automatically release after enough force was applied. The canopy groaned and grated the entire time Jack and the Russian woman used their lever to pry it up. Jack hissed as the bar pressed against the cut on his palm. Finally they got it open enough for the woman to just barely squeeze through. Jack reached in a hand to help her out.

 

"There you go, miss. I hope you're not too messed up from the drugs. Things are pretty chaotic at the moment." Jack gave the woman they had just freed a quick appraisal, then glanced over at the other two women - well, a woman and a girl - with him, and wondered how he ended up in this situation. Him grinned with wry understatement as he tore off a strip of his shirt and used it to wrap his bloody hand. "Things haven't exactly gone at planned. I'm Jack, by the way. We should keep moving, help those as we can while trying to meet up with the security staff. There's safety in numbers and it'll be easier for you, Doc, to treat people together rather than running after individuals."

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Moira nodded weakly, looking a little rattled but mostly in the moment. She glanced down to evaluate her situation briefly, and noticed the streak of blood running down her forearm from where she'd scraped it against the bent metal of the tube. "Shit, that hurts." 

 

She pressed one hand over the cut to stop the bleeding, but the other two could see her fingers trembling as the cocktail of stimulant drugs combined with the natural adrenaline in her system exaggerated her body's reaction to the situation. Nonetheless, she did her best to maintain her composure as she took her first look around. "What the hell happened? Do we know what's going on?"

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"We crash. Blue birds attack us. Many dead it seems." Dr. Temnikova recounted  as she withdrew a penlight from her coat pocket.

 

"Look at me." she commanded in her thick Russian accent as she shined the light into Moira's eyes one at a time, checking them. She then looks down at her trembling hand trying to cover the scratch.

 

"I will look at arm." Dr. Temnikova stated flatly, grasping Moira's wrist and turning her arm, examining the scratch with an obvious lack of bedside manner, though it was not clear if that was due to simple brevity or not.

 

"Is scratch. You'll live." she points out dryly and opens her kit, withdrawing a small spray bottle.

 

"But we must be sure it does not infect." she adds as she sprays the clotting/antiseptic agent on the wound.

 

"I am Dr. Polina Temnikova. This is 'Red' and Jack." she says, motioning to her two companions with her head.

 

"Do not worry about birds. Jack is strong man... with stick." Dr. Temnikova assured with a wry grin.

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"I do what I can," Jack replied blandly, vaguely annoyed by Dr. Temnikova's Russian stoicism. He thought himself pretty knowledgeable about animal behaviour - these birds didn't act like any animal in his experience should. Not in such a widespread fashion. He gave Polina a nod as she sprayed the clotting/antiseptic agent on the other woman.

 

"So should you, Doc. If I recall, the security team bay is over that way." Jack pointed deeper into the broken ship with his chin, away from the cleft in the hangar. "If it hasn't been badly compromised, I'd guess security would be bringing the wounded there to keep them safe and for treatment. They could use your help, I'm sure." The girl under his arm was trembling, and he wasn't sure, but might be going into shock. He gave her a sympathetic squeeze around the shoulders. "You'd be safe there, Red, while we try to find your mother. Let's move, girls, and stay close. If you have anything you need from your cubbies, we grab them now. Red, we'll go back for yours when we can."

 

So saying, Jack let their newest companion grab what she needed from her locker, and seeing that the Doc was already equipped, led the group back to his cryotube. And... the Doc was right. If he wasn't a soldier, he was still a fit man - if sore from his actions and the quick waking from cryosleep - and did carry a piece of metal support that functioned well enough as a bat.

 

Finding a solitary turquoise terror turkey trying to jam its beak and claws into a half open cryotube, and hearing the panicking yells from within, Jack gently pushed the girl under his arm into the care of the red-haired woman and moved forward to try to shoo it away with the point of his - sigh - stick. That only seemed to piss the damn thing off and turn its attention onto him. When the thing screeched at him, Jack didn't wait for it to move first, striking at its wings and neck with his club. Thing is bloody well tougher than a turkey, he thought, his blows stunning it rather than severely crippling or killing it. He finished it off by stomping on its neck with an audible crackle.

 

"There are birds, and then there are birds, Doc."

 

Jack reached his cryotube and opened his locker - thankfully the mechanism was still working. From his locker, he pulled out an expertly packed, modular, tactical rucksack. Some outdoor gear could be seen lashed to the outside, including a sizable survival knife and a hatchet. He also pulled out a satchel, and incongruously, a battered guitar case.

 

Seeing the looks the girls gave him, he shrugged, though his storm-coloured eyes grew a touch darker witha melancholy wistfulness. "It was a gift from my wife. I always meant to get better a playing, just never got around to it. Figured I'd have the time here, yeah? I got what I need, shall we continue on?"

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Someone was shaking Rochelle's shoulder. Eyes still shut, she frowned and wiggled a little, trying to move away from the unwelcome contact. She was vaguely aware of someone talking to her in far too loud a voice. Her vague, bleary irritation suddenly crystallized into gut-stabbing panic. Had she missed drills? Was today drills? Oh no!

 

But something was wrong. She could barely move, and her mouth felt like she was wearing a mitten over the inside of it. Her eyes were so gummy that even after opening them all she could see was a grungy smear for a moment. And she was cold!

 

"Name!" someone shouted at her. "What's your name?"

 

"Muh," she replied. "Ruch...Roach..." the engineer coughed and managed to get her wrist up to her mouth to wipe it off. "Rochelle. McKendrick." Rank. Service number. Crap. She couldn't remember!

 

The blur changed shape.

 

"Fingers. How many fingers?!"

 

Rochelle moved her hand up to her eyes, squinching them shut as she tried to peel away the gunk. It was bright when she opened them. Were the cryopod chambers supposed to be that bright? She didn't recognize the medtech either. "Three. What...oh...are we there?"

 

The medtech gave her a grim look. "You could say that."

 

And then the screaming started...piercing, from a little ways away.

 

Rochelle tried to sit up and banged her head on the lid of her pod, which was not opened completely. "Ow!"

 

"You need to keep calm and get yourself situated," her awakener said. "We need you in engineering a-sap. And it's not secure in here, so keep your voice down."

 

"Not secure?" she asked. "How is that..."

 

With that, Roach finished sitting up more carefully, and finally got a good look at what was going on. The pod bay she was in was in disarray, bulkheads buckled and many pods spilled out over the floor. A lot didn't have lights from their monitors. Too many. Even one was too many! Farther down the hull, she saw what looked like part of a breach. PART of a breach. The rest looked to be out of sight behind twisted metal.

 

"Oh my god," she whispered.

 

"There's others getting woken up too, farther over there towards the tear in the hull," the medtech said quietly. "You can meet up with them, or try to get to engineering. I have to stay and try to get more people up and moving. A lot of pods lost power. I...I'm sorry it had to be this way."

 

This isn't real. It's a cryodream. It has to be.

 

But she started moving anyway...because what else could she do? The central lifts would be that way anyway, assuming they still worked. She aimed for the sounds of people talking, hoping for the best.

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She couldn't think her mind was numb. The two women and the man kept talking but their words didn't seem to have any meaning they were just noises. The blond kept barking like a little dog she had seen in a video when she was little, and the man, Jack, he had said he would keep her safe, find her mother...

 

"Don't worry honey its perfectly safe, it just like going to sleep" Talina's mothers voice said so softly trying to calm her daughter, soothe away her fear. "When you wake up we will be at our new home a real planet not a station.."

"No!" Talina's voice had been harsh full of pent up anger. "We'll be at your new home, this is my home and i dont want to leave it, i dont want to go to some fucking planet. Your making me go! I hate you! I hate all of you!"

 

The memory rushed through her head again like it had  a hundred time since the Man, Jack, had pulled her to safety. It's all there was. With a sob she pulled free of the red haired woman and ran through the tubes and wreckage until she came to the bulkheadl were she slid to the floor sobbing her face in her hands.

 

Blondy was barking again her mind couldn't translate it but then she heard Jack's voice cut through the barking, strong, calm, soothing. "Doc, I'll get her," he handed her the Stick,"keep watch."

 

He came up to the distraught girl crouched down by her and spoke quietly. "Hey Red, I know it's bad right now , but we 'll be at a safety Station in a few minutes and everything's going to be fine. We'll find your Mother..."

 

Talina looked up and his voice caught,  "No we wont, I told her I hated her, hated all of them. Its the last thing I said."  She was looking at him tears streaming down her face her voice hoarse from crying. "She was right there, her tube, right there next to mine."

 

She threw her arms around around Jack and buried her face in his chest, shaking.

 

Jack comforted the little girl for a few moment then rose and picked her up cradling her in his arms made his way back to Dr. Temnikova. The Doctor looking irritated at the delay, holds the stick out for him to take.

 

Jack keeps walking, going past her, "Come on Doc, you've got the stick now."

 

 

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George

 

Olivia woke up with a wagging tail and a doggy ‘smile’. She didn’t seem bothered by the crash or the strange noises, stretching out her retractable claws before arching her back. She relaxed and sat down until George snapped his fingers and made the heel gesture. At that motion, the fenine moved to his side, her golden eyes locked onto him. George had been glad to know that the expedition was willing to pay for the Leonine Shephard; they were the best breed created by the crossing of felines and canine genetics. He felt better having the well-built and well-trained animal at his side.

 

“Basic plan,” Yuan said, Lex translating for those on the team who didn’t know Standard Mandarin. “We sweep from here to the back of the ship, opening pods, looking for survivors and wounded, and eliminating hostiles. The medical bay is two thirds of the way back on the starboard side. That is our first target. There is a hull breach and we do have potentially hostile native life onboard.

 

“Once we’ve swept to the back, the captain wants us to go down using the emergency stairwell at the rear to check on the status of the engines and gear stored in the lower levels.” She gazed levelly at them all. “Since we landed on our belly, we’re going to see the most damage down there. Questions?”

 

At that point, a mechanic poked his head in. “Ferro?”

 

~  *  ~  *  ~

 

Morgan and Cassandra

 

Morgan found the security bay, where a battered Yuan had just finished assembling her team, including a large, vicious-looking dog. The animal had the unmistakable golden hue of a Leonine Shephard with the breed’s characteristic black saddle. The god’s collar said, “Olivia” and it sat quietly and obediently next to blue-eyed man. The people and the dog wore the navy blue armor of the elite soldiers. “Ferro?” Morgan asked the room.

 

“Bridge, I believe.” The Jeeves in the room turned at his question, as helpful as their kind always was.

 

Giving the Jeeves a thumbs up, the mechanic turned and raced for the next big set of doors. That led to the bridge, where smoke poured out of the open entryway. Morgan felt his dread double at the thought of fire, an ingrained response after a lifetime in an enclosed system.

 

The danger here had already been dealt with. A used extinguisher sat in the corner while white foam covered one of the panels. Ferro and Sarr both had their heads in a console, poking at the wiring. Ferro was doing much of the work and he looked relieved when he saw Morgan. “I’m glad to see another wirehead. We’re trying to get the sensors booted--”

 

“What is your visual assessment?” Captain Sarr sat up, looking at Morgan. A thick blue bandage covered the left side of his skull but he looked better than Yuan. “How is my ship?”

 

~  *  ~  *  ~

 

Rochelle

 

The first set of central lifts Rochelle remembered were on the other side of the breach. The once-vertical shafts now leaned away from her part of the ship, only stretching halfway up the other side due to their tilt. Frustrated, Rochelle back to find another set of lifts but something outside stopped her.

 

A large reptile was scaling the canted lift, working its way up to higher levels of the ship. After a moment of watching it, Rochelle changed her opinion of it – it wasn’t a reptile as much as a dinosaur. It moved with a grace and agility that a gator or crocodile wouldn’t have. Red scales bunched and gathered as it used oversized claws to work its way up.

 

On the other side of the breach, Rochelle could see people moving, unaware of the monster clawing its way up to them.

 

~  *  ~  *  ~

 

Jack, Polina, “Red”, and Moira + Jaime, Gabriela, and Hiroki

 

After walking a short distance, the group found a makeshift regrouping site. An older man was in the middle of the more-or-less level and open area, trying to create some sort of organization among the survivors. Seeing them, his eyes lit up and he hurried over.

 

In hesitant NAA English, he said, “Oh, a doctor! Thank the heavens! You can help us with this nightmare!” While he had seemed competent and in control before their arrival, now he seemed anxious and overeager. “And you!” He looked to Jack, still cradling Red in his arms. “Are you security? We need protection!”

 

As if his words had summoned what he sought, a man in the blue-gray armor of Melbourne security appeared, a woman slung over his shoulder. His Asian features reflected relief at the sight of them, particularly at the doctor. A lean dark-haired man followed, clutching a rifle nervously.

 

“I have wounded,” the man said, even as another person stepped up to help him set down the woman. When she was off his shoulder, her true age – young – was apparent, as was her frail appearance. When the man straightened, the nametag on his shoulder said Wu. He took the rifle from the other man with a nod of his head  and asked, “Have we seen anyone from the upper command yet?”

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The whole world was swaying, but it wasn't as bad as she'd thought it would be. She'd had to be careful: if she got on too soon, she might be found with enough time to reset the count and boot her off. Luckily it wasn't like they were blasting off from Earth (or she wouldn't have had a chance anyways). So, the final count was more about safely detaching from the shipyard and getting far enough away to engage the jump drive rather than setting fire to thousands of pounds of explosives in order to escape a planet's gravity well. The swaying was almost soothing, actually, though her stomach hurt and her arms and legs ached. She looked around the supply room and mentally began to rearrange it. She was going to be stuck here for a while, after all.

 

She tried to resettle herself more comfortably, but nothing seemed to work. Sighing, she pulled out the slim, folded computer that was the only thing beyond her current set of clothes and a satchel of meal pills and meds that she'd dared to bring with her. It had years’ worth of reading and videos downloaded onto it from the Universal Library, but far more importantly it had the hacker program she’d bought that would ensure that the life support system in this room would stay on and that the central computer wouldn’t notice that.  The download from the Library would hopefully be enough to keep her from going batty while waiting for the Melbourne to reach the point of no return. After that, she might risk crawling into a spare cryotube - once she was sure they couldn't send her back in a lifeboat or just turn around. Her hands were shaking as she swished it on and loaded up the file on Tara. She paged through the satellite scout pictures of the far-off world and smiled. She knew the file by heart at this point, but still, it was a good way to start the journey. Hello Tara. I'm Gabriela. I hope we can be friends, because I'm going to die without you.

 

She woke to the sound of metal feet headed her way. Her body ached from weeks of subsisting on meal pills and her muscles doubly ached from the constant movement of zero g – but someone had turned on the artificial grav while she was sleeping. The hacker program had done its job, keeping the room warm and the oxygen breathable, but boredom had set in quickly and she missed having someone to talk to. She waited for the footsteps to go by, but they didn’t. Instead, the door panel gave a protesting beep as the hacking program keeping it shut was overridden. Gabriela grabbed for her computer, frantically checking how far along course the ship was. There was nothing she could do about being found, but she needed to know if she’d managed to hide out long enough. The date blinked up at her and she frowned. Three months? I thought it had only been a couple of weeks. Her heart raced as she realized what that meant. I made it to the first recon point!

 

The door finally slid open and a Jeeves stepped into the room, quickly followed by several humans. Captain Sarr and Cmd. Yuan strode forward with focused purpose, both armed with tranq guns and ready for a violent confrontation; Dr. Ferro trailed behind them, looking around curiously. Gabriela shrank back into her corner.

 

The Jeeves pointed in her direction and said in AraSwahili, “There, sir.â€

 

“Come out,†the Captain ordered in his native tongue. Gabriela didn’t move and after a moment Sarr nodded to the ship’s Jeeves to translate for him. When Gabriela still didn’t come out, Yuan strode forward with her gun at the ready. She reached into the impromptu nest Gabriela had made for herself and hauled the teen out by her shirt.

 

“Jesus,†Ferro breathed. “It’s a kid!â€

 

Yuan didn’t understand his words, but she frowned at his tone; both she and Sarr did lower their weapons, though. “Identify yourself,†she said with a hard edge to her voice.

 

“I…my name is Gabriela,†the teen said in Spanish-accented Standard Chinese. Yuan nodded, pleased that she wouldn’t have to use the Jeeves to translate for her.

 

“How did you get on this ship? Why are you here?†she demanded.

 

Gabriela took a breath, glancing between the adults, then shrugged. “I snuck on board before the launch.â€

 

“You’ve been awake this whole time?†Ferro butted in, his eyes wide in shock. “Why would you risk that? You do know about jump sickness, don’t you?â€

 

“Of course I do,†Gabriela snapped back with the brittle pride of a teen. “I hit stage two and they bumped me from the Sydney. Risking being a bit screwed up in the head is better than absolutely being dead by the time I got on another ship.â€

 

Yuan’s lips thinned, her only indication of shock and Sarr muttered a curse under his breath. Ferro let out a low whistle and stated the obvious, “You have EAC.â€

 

“Welcome to the conversation,†Gabriela said sarcastically. Ferro didn’t quite manage to suppress a grin at the girl’s gumption.

 

 Captain Sarr motioned to the Jeeves. “Wake up Dr. Shankar and have one of the spare cryotubes prepped.â€

 

“Well, Stowaway,†Ferro said amiably, “welcome to the Melbourne.â€

 

The swaying had stopped and Gabriela could hear people talking around her. The EAC ward was always full of intense whispers and quiet words. And crying. It wasn’t always the patients crying, at least during the day, but you learned to sleep through it or you didn’t sleep. People sounded panicked now, though, and she felt a dizzy, world-shifting sensation. Did I fall down?

 

She blinked her eyes up, staring up into unfamiliar faces. They weren’t wearing lab coats and the room smelled like fire and metal. “Where am I?†she asked in Spanish. “Did something happen to the station? Are we being evacuated?â€

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“Upper command? No.†The anxious man wrung his hands as he watched a medic start to assess the girl. “Who is she?â€

 

“I have no idea.†Hiroki rotated his shoulder, wincing slightly. The girl hadn’t been that heavy but any grown human was a strain to carry for extended lengths of time. “I need to get to a superior officer to help with se--â€

 

“No!†The man grabbed his arm. “Mr. Wu, please don’t leave!â€

 

Hiroki stiffened at the assault on his person and extracted himself from the grip. “Don’t do that.â€

 

“There are monsters out there!†The man shivered sharply.

 

“There are aliens out there,†Hiroki corrected. “Calm down.â€

 

“Can you stay with us until more security arrives?†The medic tending to the girl looked up at her, her expression hopeful. “You are the only one with guns.â€

 

Hiroki took another look around. The woman was right; he was the only person armed in sight, save the doctor who had been holding a stick. “Very well. What of the girl? Will she be okay?â€

 

The medic shrugged with a small smile. “I think so. She’s got a number of cuts but they appear superficial. It’s probably shock, though I’m sure that the doctor will want to check her.â€

 

“Good.†Hiroki let his gaze linger on her another beat. She seemed so young to be part of a new world. She should be at school, gossiping with her schoolmates and teasing boys. Realizing he was staring, he shifted his eyes to the room at large. “Does anyone here feel comfortable with a gun?â€

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Dr. Temnikova gave a wry grin and nods to Hiroki, outstretching one hand as the other returned the metal 'stick' to Jack without even looking at him, letting go of it a split second before he took it from her.

 

She accepts the rifle, inspecting it for a moment, ejecting the magazine and checking it, then slapping it back in and readying the weapon before looking down the sights.

 

"Very nice." she says approvingly in English with her thick accent.

 

Jack looks at the Dr Temnikova in surprise. He looks down at his stick and looks back at the her and then at Hiroki.

 

"I know how to use a gun too." he commented. 

 

"Too bad I only have two." Hiroki replies as he tightens his grip on his Glock protectively.

 

"And yet.. you have stick." Dr. Temnikova added amusedly.

 

"No one thinks less of you for having a stick." Hiroki says with a smirk at Jack

 

"But I have medicine to be doing." she comments, handing the rifle to Jack, barely waiting for him to take it before walking over the girl Hiroki brought in with him.

 

"I will look." she says to the medic, moving past him to girl. She checks her arms first, examining the scratches and spraying them with the clotting antiseptic spray.  She then ignites her penlight, checking the girls eyes.

 

"Hmm.." she mutters to herself while slipping on her stethoscope. She presses it to the girls chest and torso.

 

"Borderline malnourished. And in mild shock, yes. Probably due to rapid awakening from cryosleep, in part." she comments while considering her examination.

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Jaime was a bit relieved once the Asian guard took back his rifle - he probably wouldn't have been any worthwhile with it. When the white-blond haired woman with the Euro-Russ accent studied the younger, less healthy girl and pronounced the word 'malnourished' Jaime raised an eyebrow. Now there was something he could do about, yes!

 

"I'll see what rations we have here - and start making food." Jaime spoke up. "Oh." He fixed the now armed men with a calculating look. "If any of those things come this way and you can manage it, bring their corpses my way. Hopefully, we might be able to get some use out of those infernal creatures."

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The Doc is really starting to irritate me, Jack mused in annoyance, mostly because Dr. Temnikova seemed to be taking such delight in it. He barely had time to set the girl in his arms back down on her feet before he dropped the gun. Like the Doctor, Jack checked the sights, tested the heft and slide of the weapon, then gave the security officer a nod.

 

"A sight better than a stick," Jack admitted with a wry grin. "I might not be security - though I've been assigned to Cmr. Yuan - but I've hunted before and had to defend clients from aggressive animals and chimeras the screamer didn't warn off. These terror turkeys don't seem as bad as a wild fenine or an angry mama bear."

 

Jack looked over the impromptu regrouping site, the injured, the two girls, one in shock, the other sick. This wasn't how Tara was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a new beginning, virgin land. If not necessarily safe, it wasn't supposed to be inimically hostile. Jack hit the quick-release on his pack and lowered it to the ground. He leaned his guitar case against the wall, further out of the way and hopefully out of danger.

 

Crouching on a knee, he dug through his pack, pulling out the Adventure Medical Kit - not as sophisticated as the Doc's he was sure, but it would extend their supplies. He also retrieved half his stock of high-energy protein bars. He could get the rest and the dehydrated food and mini-rehydrator if needed, though at the moment, he wanted to keep them in reserve, in case the situation was even more dire than it seemed.

 

"Here you go, Doc," Jack said, handing Dr. Temnikova the field kit. The doctor gave a sharp nod of approval, more at the kit than at Jack - it was good quality kit, meant specifically to quickly deal with injuries in the field, until real medical attention could be reached. "I'm sure you can use this better than I can, if we get more wounded here." He handed the man watching him and the security officer with an oddly intent look the protein bars wrapped in bio-degradable organic plass. "Here's what I got for emergency rations - just peel and serve."

 

His grin turned crooked as he looked back towards the chaos of the shattered ship. "We'll see about providing meat for the table, just as soon as someone tells us they are safe to eat." Jack walked back towards the perimeter of the camp, giving Red a comforting pat on the shoulder. "And as soon as more security gets here to keep you guys safe, I'll go out there to find the rest of your family. Red, can you give me a name, so I know who I'll be looking for?"

 

While giving her a chance to answer, Jack unsheathed the survival knife and hatchet from the outside of his pack and held them up in a hand, arching a brow questioningly at the regrouping site. "Anyone willing to wield one of these in case a turkey gets pass me and the sec-man, Wu, is it?"

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Talina had just stood where the man put her down. The world was spinning people were hurt lying on make shift pallets and then more came with guns. To her it was like the world was moving around her stationary form and the voices coming all at once just noise. She smiled at a memory, this was like when Nixie had given her that powdered crystal at the party a few weeks ago... no that's not right. Nixie was gone, the party long over, the memory just a dream from lightyears away in time and space.

 

Talina flinched when Jack patted her shoulder he had said something to her she hadn't heard, she looked at him Blankly for several seconds his face sinking into her consciousness. "What?" She coughed her voice was a rough croak, she cleared her throat and asked again. "What? I didnt under stand."

 

He had turned from her and was kneeling looking back at the group of people holding some sort of tool and a knife made for something other than kitchen work

 

 

. "Anyone willing to wield one of these in case a turkey gets pass me and the sec-man, Wu, is it?"

 

Jack heard the girl ask him a question, he looked back at her, she looked totally out of it. "Your name Red, so i can find your family."

 

Talina looked around the room again and back at Jack. "Talina, ummm, Talina Mercer. My dads name is James and I have a brother, a little brother, David."

 

She continued to look at Jack with that faroff stare

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“Anyone willing to wield one of these in case a turkey gets past me and sec-man, Wu is it?â€

 

Hiroki had prepared for this moment; he’d known it would come. He nodded to the other man and said, “Call me Henry. And you?†He offered his hand.

 

“Jack Spade.†The other man smiled and returned the gesture, a normal reaction in abnormal times.

 

That established, Hiroki turned to establish a safe perimeter, only to stop at the sight of the red-headed girl. She looked lost, focused on Jack as if he were the only constant in her world. It figures that he would get the little duckling while I would find the sick girl. Of course, Jack was a handsome man; it was natural for the teen to become smitten with him.

 

Regardless of her feelings about Jack, she needed some help. Hiroki knelt next to her and held out half a ration bar. “Eat.†She turned her blank stare to him. “Eat,†he said in his best command tone, allowing no dissent. “It will make you feel better and help with the shock.â€

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After she had told Jack her name an that of her father and brother, Talina had knelt beside him watching him get ready to go. She watched and listened as Jack exchanged names with the the man with the guns, things were making more sense now but she was nauseous and cold. The man, Henry she had heard, stepped closer to her when he finished with Jack.

 

 Hiroki knelt next to her and held out half a ration bar. “Eat.†She turned her blank stare to him. “Eat,†he said in his best command tone, allowing no dissent. “It will make you feel better and help with the shock.â€

 

He had a determined look on his face the same kind her gym teacher would get when she complained about doing exercises, the look that said do as I say and don't fuck with me. She looked at the bar of food. it brought back the memory of the ground littered with crushed tubes and broken bodies and blue birds tearing at flesh.

 

"They were eating people." she said without emotion. then took the ration bar and started eating it.

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Rochelle felt the bottom drop out of her stomach and plunge impossibly down into her as she gawped up, slack-jawed, at the monstrosity climing up towards the others. Part of her was just freaking out over the giant alien (ALIEN) and how awesome it was...most of her was freaking out because it looked like a lot of the people who were left alive on the ship were poised to lose that status.

 

But what was she supposed to do about it? She was just an engineer!

 

If the lift still worked, I could send the car up, which would probably knock it off...which does us no good because it DOESN'T still work! Think! Not what WOULD work, what WILL.

 

It was too high to throw anything at, too big to hope to accomplish much even if she could, and there was already quite a bit of noise. She wasn't sure she could shout loudly enough to warn them in time.

 

Wait a second. She didn't have to send the car anywhere, did she? The shielding panels had come off from the lift shaft along with the rest, changing the tubes into a kind of ladder the creature was using. But those panels had been there for a very good reason. The central lifts, designed for both cargo and mass personel transfers between decks, were equipped with powerful electrical rails that supplied giant motors with the energy to operate. Even with the buckling, some of the system might work. And then?

 

Then it would be like climbing an electrical fence, not a ladder.

 

No sooner had the idea coagulated than Rochelle was dashing to her right towards the bulkhead, leaping over one of the spilled cryopods and dodging around debris. The alarms, the flashing lights, the smoke...she tuned it out and managed to force-start the console on its backup power. For a breathless few seconds she prayed that its connection to the ship's system was still intact...and then it pinged and logged in.

 

No time!

 

The power grid was spotty, but not entirely gone. It had mostly shut off as a safety measure at the massive system disruptions, but some of the backup routes still showed blue on the diagram. She just had to reinitialize the right ones...

 

A quick glance up showed her where the beast was...way WAY too close!...and she routed power there, to the upper portion of what remained of the central lift on the cryopod level.

 

Overhead lights flared on here and there, and there was a sudden shower of sparks, coupled with a loud buzzing crackling noise as bright blue arcs of electricty danced between the outstretched limbs and claws of the dinosaur.

 

Rochelle winced at the display, but there was a stab of satisfaction too. "Engineers, one," she muttered.

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"Thank you Henry" Talina smiled at the man as she ate, "You don't look like a Henry, Henry's are either fat with greasy hair, or thin and spotty with thick glasses." She looked around for someplace to dispose of the wrapper and saw the floor littered with debris and cast off junk so she just dropped it.

 

 "How many Henrys have you known?" The man smiled at her like men did on the x-rated vids. Scooping up the litter she'd dropped, he stuffed it into a pouch and remarked, "You don't look like the one Talina I met, either."

 

"Hehe I bet."  Omg she thought is he coming on to me, this could be fun. All thought of the last hour gone sunk into a dark place where she kept all her secrets she pushed on.  "I've known a few,  enough to form an opinion of them, and you are not a Henry. More of  a Cade or a Rafe." 

 

She turned away before he could reply her eyes roaming around the makeshift shelter, taking  in the the injured and those who were doing things helping. Then she saw Jack the man who had risked his own life to save hers, his look full of concern and sorrow at the same time. Smiling at Jack in a much different way than the smile she had just given Henry she reached out and took his hand.

 

"Thank you Jack, you saved my life." She squeezed his hand in hers and looked back around at the other people in pain and shock, the pointed at the guitar case jack had leaned against the wall. "I know im just a kid but could I?"

 

Jack was as startled by the question as he had been by seeing the Little girl who had been near hysterical only minutes ago flirting with the security man, but if it would help her he couldn't bring himself to say no. "Sure, Why not I'll get it for you."

 

He picked up the case with a  gentleness and care and almost wistfully opened it. He carefully took out the instrument which had come so far.  It was an old style, vintage 6-string guitar. And it was old, not just a simple modern reproduction. The dark spruce top with the sunburst finish was smooth from use, marred by the few scratches and dings of age, but the guitar was obviously loved and well maintained.

 

While Jack was getting the guitar, Talina not forgetting Henry, glanced back around at him and gave him the smile he had been hoping for, god men are worse than boys, she thought to herself as she turned back in time to see Jack looking lovingly at the old Guitar.

 

Jack  ran his hand across the body of the instrument and with a slight hesitation passed it toward the red haired girl. "Be careful with it " he said with a bit more emotion than he had intended, "its an antique and I cant easily replace it out here." She smiled at him as she took it and the strap he offered as well.

 

Slinging the Guitar strap across her shoulders still sitting on the floor she bent her head and tuned the old six string. when satisfied she strummed a few chords. her muscles and memory falling back into the habits of years of practice, in the quiet hidden places of the station she had called home. One part of her mind was still there with friends her parents could never understand, friends who she would most likely never see again. The darkness welled up as she began to strum.

 

A few heads turned as the music filled the room. the first human music on a new terrifying world. Talina, eyes squeezed tightly shut holding back the tears, began to sing...


 

 

 

 

ooc
thanks to Dawn and Asa for contributing :)

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"Bozhe moÄ­*." Dr. Temnikova groaned in her native Russian while rolling her eyes.

 

"This is triage station, not house of coffee. This is not time or place for that." she said in English with irritation noticeable through her heavy accent.

 

"Put it away. We do not need to be attracting more attention from native fauna." she added in a firm, irritated tone as she continued to check the wounded. Thankfully she was seeing little more than minor cuts and scratches so far.

 

"And the birds were not eating people."she clarified.

 

"Most animals interact with world using mouth. Birds are probably trying to figure out just what we are." she continued..

 

"Like shark." she said, using an example that was probably not the most comforting.

 

"When shark bites person, it is because curiosity or confusion. Rarely it is predation." she pointed out matter-of-factly.

 

 

 

Translation
* "Oh my god."
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