I had started work on this as a NaNoWriMo novel, so I’m not making any claims to it being “good” but it’s fiction none the less.
The silence was overwhelming.
Moments ago the air had been filed with the scream of klaxons, then the shriek of metal being torn apart by forces that it was never meant to withstand.
But now – it was silent.
Cyanna knew she wasn’t dead from the amount of pain she was in. Being dead would mean she was in heaven, and in perfection there would be no pain. It was a small plus to know that she was alive, when she couldn’t be sure that anyone else was. How they’d ended up crashing to the surface of the planet below them, she didn’t know – it had happened too quickly for her to analyze. She groaned inwardly – when she got back – if she got back – she’d have to face the humiliation of having crashed a brand new star ship on her first captaincy. The Royal Empire Star Guard would be so pleased with her. Brilliant hotshot young captain crashing the pride of the fleet on her first mission, just what she needed.
Pulling her mind back from the mental pity party, she started on a mental inventory of what was hurting, broken or injured. The burning sensation on her temple, and the sticky-warm flow of blood down the left side of her head told her she had a good sized cut, likely one that would require some sort of suturing, but was far from the heart. She coughed, something was burning and irritating her lungs, and the weight on her body told her that she was beneath something heavy – possibly trapped. But, she was breathing – and if the ship had opened up like a cheap can of food in the market, that at least meant that the atmosphere wasn’t immediately poisonous to her and most of her crew.
She wriggled around, trying to see if she could free herself. It was possible that she was the only one of the crew that had survived, so waiting on someone to come and rescue her was not the wisest path of action, and definitely one that she’d learned not to take in her years at Brighton Academy. She could die, and the last way she wanted to die was sitting and waiting for rescue.
She’d gotten the nickname “self-rescuing princess” at Brighton. Six foot tall, vibrant red hair and the sparkling green-blue eyes that had been the source of her name, with a regal way about her, she could’ve gone into any field and been a success – people would have given her whatever she asked for. But Cyanna didn’t want that. She wanted to be judged like every other student, and as if to prove to everyone (including herself) she enrolled in the Star Guard – a four year program that was often described as hellish and evil. It was designed to separate the wheat from the chaff – and those who came out of the program were considered to be the Empire’s upcoming leaders. Not everyone who completed the Star Guard program went into Space. Some opted for jobs in the private sector, others to teach. The ones who did, from her school, generally went on to become officers in the Imperial Star Corps.
She wiggled her legs one at a time, each wiggle giving wider movement. Running her hands over the surface that held her to the floor (or wall, she couldn’t be sure), she discovered it was the desk from her Ready Room. The cold metal and plastic brought the moments before the crash rushing back to her – she’d been preparing a communiqué to headquarters – rather boring stuff – a description of the new solar system that they’d discovered, the standard maintenance logs, important events from the crew ranging from a birthday of her first officer to the completion of a thesis from one of the astro-physicists. She’d just finished inputting the last details of the thesis (copy attached for review of course) when the worried voice of her first officer had come over the comm system, requesting her presence immediately on the bridge. She hadn’t even had time to respond before the world had jerked like a child playing with a toy, and the first alarm had cut through the air. She couldn’t do anything – she was thrown around the room like a rag doll in a child’s hands before the world had become dark and still for her.
Pushing against the metal, she felt it bite into her skin and pulled her hand back, feeling gingerly for another handhold. Her legs were free, and provided she could get enough leverage with her arms, she was certain that she could free herself. Once she was free priority one was finding out what had happened to her crew, then find out what happened to their ship. Ships could be replaced, people couldn’t she thought.
Finding a dulled surface, likely bashed in by the force of the crash, she grasped on, and with a deep exhalation, slowly pushed herself out of the small space that she’d been in. She still couldn’t see where she was, what was ahead of her more than a foot – the emergency systems, lights and all, had clearly failed or had gone dead in the time that she’d been unconscious. She ran a quick check of her body, testing each muscle and joint for damage. She had a slight bruise that she could feel around her knee, the cut on her forehead which was still seeping blood, but had mostly slowed and a tender right arm, though nothing was broken.
“Thank The Lady for some small miracles,” she muttered as she pulled herself upright.
Holding a hand out in front of her, she made small, shuffling steps forward. She thought she could see the outline of a door, and her hand proved her eyesight to be correct. The door was upright, meaning that at least where she was had kept the normal up and down that she was used to. Slowly making her way along the corridors, she planned her route. First on her list was to find her first officer, J’ohdy – a fine boned Avar’ii. J’ohdy’s people at one time had been fully flighted, reminiscent of angels. Now most of them bore only what on first glance appeared to be a tattoo of wings, but it was not man-made. The image appeared around puberty, when normally they would have been strengthening their wings to fly. Children born with wings were quickly whisked away into the monastery and dedicated to a life of service.
Cyanna was, as she put it, bog-standard Terran. Her family had left Earth on one of the first extra-solar missions and had settled on the planet she was born on for twenty generations. The only excitement in her family line was her mother’s family being part Equis, one of the indigenous tribes of horsemen on the planet. Sadly Cyanna showed none of their legendary talent with horses – being bucked off on her first ride, and not having the courage (or as she stated – stupidity) to try it again.
Her left hand found a wall with a thud, and with a minor curse, she shook out the shock of impact and felt along its surface. This was the way to the bridge, where J’ohdy had been in command. She counted her steps as she walked. Twenty steps to a cross hallway, another forty to the curve that lead away to a lift. A hundred and ten to where the bridge should be. The hall was dark – darker than it should be. She couldn’t tell if the door was still there or had become a pile of rubble.
Letting her fingertips roam over the surface in front of her, they reported back that the door was still there, in place. The smooth exterior was no longer flat and cold the way it should be. It was rough and warm.
“J’OHDY?!” she called, pounding on the door. She could hear nothing, and worry was beginning to gnaw at her belly. Surely she couldn’t have been the only one on a starship carrying over a thousand crew and their families to have survived. It didn’t make sense. She pounded again with one hand, desperately searching the door for a crevice to get her fingers into. If she could get a grip she could push the door open, or work it until she could use her own weight to get it out of the way.
She was so intent on moving the door that when the hand softly fell on her shoulder, she screamed and leapt about a foot off the ground in shock.
The birdlike features of her first officer smiled down at her, battered, bruised and covered in soot, but still very much alive.
“Anna, you’re alive. Thank the Great Mother!” he folded her into a hug, a gesture that was out of the ordinary for him and spoke volumes about the sense of relief that he felt.
“Have you found anyone else J’ohdy? You’re the only one I’ve seen – alive or dead – so far.”
“Only Mikhail and Jonsey from the bridge crew – the rest…” he paused, looking away, face clouded with a look of disgust and sorrow “…the rest, didn’t make it. I’m sorry Anna.”
Cyanna swallowed and nodded. There would be time to grieve later, and she would then, and only then, break down the façade that was holding together right now. Leaders didn’t falter in times of crisis. They lead their crew out of danger, then took time to themselves to deal with it. All in its own time.
“We should work our way downward from here. Where are Mikhail and Jonsey?”
They’d set up a meeting point two decks down, and Jonsey had set out to find others – Mikhail had a severely broken leg, and was resting there. J’ohdy and Cyanna made their way there, and the Cyanna’s heart was lifted and broken at the same time. Mikhail was relieved and happy to see his captain alive, but it was clear he was in severe pain, severe pain that needed to be treated and there was nothing around that could do the job. The medical center was over ten floors away, and that was straight as the crow flew. If there was anything obstructing the way there, it could be over a day or more just to climb there through the access tubes and across decks. Cyanna offered a silent prayer to a God she didn’t believe in that they’d find someone with more than basic medical training. She could splint the bone and do minor stitches if required, but it was far from her specialty. She’d been almost literally born and bred to be an officer. To be the first female captain of an Imperial Star Guard ship – responsible for the lives of her crew, the advancement of science and of course the advancement of the Empire. Though they’d never mentioned that it was the source of the drive – the science was just a bonus, building an extra-terrestrial database. Cyanna could only guess at to what purposes, and most of those guesses were things she didn’t want to think about. Some were simple curiosity, others delved deeper into the unimaginable, unbelievable that her own species could think that way.
She comforted Mikhail, and with J’hody set his leg and tried to make him comfortable with what painkillers were on hand in the emergency pack that they had there.
The comm system was still not working, so there would be no way for them to keep in touch with each other, except to return to a common point each day. Their personal chronometers where still clicking away, and in sync, so they agreed on a time to return with news, people or any supplies that they could find. It was Cyanna’s job to find the medical bay and any medical personnel that she could. She was also in the best health out of everyone – slight bruises and scrapes, the cut on her left temple had been stitched shut with delicate stitches by J’hody and would likely not scar massively.
J’hody had volunteered to take the upper levels, where his early investigations had shown there was a lot of damage, and a person who was light and flexible would be the best candidate to get through it. So with great trepidation, they split, lights and emergency medkids in hand.
Cyanna made her way through the second and third floor corridors. No one anywhere. It seemed that most of the crew had either made it out or were dead in places that she’d yet to go, and didn’t want to go. There wasn’t generally much activity here anyway – it was offices used for counseling, for administrative things that needed to be done, and rarely had a steady schedule. If she found someone here, it would be shocking.
She sighed, and headed down the first of what she was sure by end’s day would be many access tubes. They were the quickest way to get to any other part of the ship when the lifts weren’t working. They were exercise – hand over hand climbing in either direction, many many yards between levels, just big enough for one person alone – never with the med-packs or repair kits that they needed to bring with them.
The fourth floor was completely different – as she crashed open the door, the smell of burnt and still burning flesh assaulted her nostrils. She gagged, pulling her sleeve up over her hand and trying to cover her nose and mouth. Retching as she made her way along the hallway, she stumbled over the bodies of those who hadn’t been lucky enough to make it out. Names flew through her mind – Ellison, M’Har, Kinsley – more and more as she made her way. She knew the names of the people who worked with her, that had to count for something even if she didn’t know them personally she wondered. They mattered to her, they weren’t just numbers on a crew roster – they were her colleagues, some were her friends, and a few she considered her family. J’hody was one of those who was her friend and family.
Cyanna pushed through, trying to keep from vomiting from the smells that assaulted her through the thin fabric of her uniform sleeve. Charred humanoid flesh and burning electronics combined, the acrid smoke clouding the air and making it nearly impossible for her to see.
She succeeded until she tripped over something in the dark, crashing to the floor with a meaty thud. The smoke burned her eyes, making them water and the smell finally overcame her. Trying not to suffocate on her own vomit, she rolled over and into the face of the crewman whose legs she’d most likely tripped over. The half charred, half normal visage before her made her scream, forgetting rank and training, forgetting who and where she was. She was once again a scared five year old in a war zone.