Episode One

     
 

 

On Planet Y2063

"What the Hell is that Smell!" Shane burst out. "Chigs be damned" she thought, angrily tying a bandanna over her nose and mouth.

The atmospheric reading equipment must have taken one too many hits on the way down. There was no way she would have classified this air as anything approaching healthy. The place smelled like something dead! She was certain that Vanessa, in her blissfully unconscious state, was better off than she was. With a growl, Shane struggled to keep up the pace, dragging Vanessa and supplies in an inflatable emergency raft behind her. Slowing down just let the mud suck her in deeper. Tiny slate blue, variegated fungi bobbed about on the thin layer of scum disturbed by their passing. Massive skeletal trunks rose up out of the muck, their monolithic forms obscured by cotton like humidity hanging in the air.

In the distance, Shane could just make out the silhouette of what looked like solid ground. Shane had passed the point of collapse hours ago. In determination she staggered towards the raised roots of a tree trunk. It was the only thing she had seen for hours that looked solid enough to hold any weight. But the closer she got, the softer the muck became, and the deeper she sank. Tying the raft's rope around her waist she leapt the last four feet. Through her gloves she could feel her fingers sink into the rotting mass of twisting cords. Gritting her teeth she dragged her right leg out of the muck, looking for a foot hold. Her body shook with fatigue as she slipped and clawed her way to the base of the trunk.

Fishing a half-eaten MRE out of her pack, Shane mutely stared at the food. Even in normal circumstances MRE's were far from anything approaching appealing. She wasn't sure if it was the smell or the blow to the head from the crash, but she hadn't been able to keep anything solid down. She had no idea how long their limited supplies were going to have to last. In disgust, Shane thought, she wasn't even sure she would be able to find herself in all this muck, but she was loathe to waste any of the supplies. The first half of the MRE was already wasted, chunks of it floating with the little striped mushrooms. With a resigned sigh, Shane took a small bite of an energy carbo-grain bar. She had to keep her strength up. Setting the MRE aside she dragged the radio over and flipped on the power. Nothing, she flipped the switch back off. Prying the faceplate off with her K-bar she checked the fuses. None of them looked burnt out or loose. All the internal connections appeared complete. Popping the faceplate back into place Shane flipped on the power switch. Nothing.

Exhausted Shane leaned back against the tree. She let her gaze wander to Vanessa. It was reassuring to watch the rise and fall of Vanessa's uneven breathing.

"We will survive this together" Shane swore to herself.

Shane bolted awake and whipped her gun to the ready. The tree roots she sat on seemed to sway as her aching head protested the sudden move. Holding her breath she listened, ignoring the agony in her head. Shane searched the sickly green fog for what had woken her. There was something there in the silence. Glancing at Vanessa, cocooned in a standard issue cargo tarp Shane caught the shadow of something disappear over the edge of the raft.

Reaching for her K-Bar, Shane stepped into the raft beside Vanessa. Keeping her eyes trained on the edge of the raft until the last moment, she pulled the tarp away to check on Vanessa. Her bandages were shredded and fresh bloodstains had begun to mar the white. Silently cursing herself, Shane slung her assault rifle and laid her palm against Vanessa's sweat soaked forehead. It might be optimism, but Vanessa's fever seemed to have lessened. Pulling the tarp flap back over her friend, Shane stepped over Vanessa and headed for the far side of the raft.

As she pointed the muzzle of the rifle over the edge of the raft, a small reptilian body bolted into the tangle of roots. If it weren't for the possibility of nearby Chigs, Shane would have killed the scavenger with a quick burst from her rifle. Reluctantly she let it go and returned to Vanessa's side to change her bandage.

As the light began to fail, Shane gave Vanessa a set of antibiotic injections. By-passing her half-eaten MRE, she popped two protein pills and chased them down with a swallow from her canteen. In complete disgust she stared at the pearly gray mud. In desperate hope Shane stood at the edge of the root mass staring up. She knew that they had to get back on the move. Biting her lip, she procrastinated stepping back into the stinking ooze. 

"Ugh, it's just my luck! There's probably no way in hell a SAR team will show up until after I've jumped back into that godawful stench." Shane muttered, tying her bandanna on tighter.

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