Iris held Peter in her arms while he slept. She was inexplicably tired as well, but with the noises they’d all heard coming from the other side of the closed door, she hadn’t been capable of sleep. The only thing that her confused mind knew for sure was that it wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Peter whimpered softly in his sleep and she wanted so badly to take all of his fear away, but she didn’t think it was possible for her to accept anymore. Her eyes drifted, as they had multiple times since waking, to her parent’s hibernation pods, and her bottom lip quivered, but her tears had given up an hour ago.
A group of mostly boys, and one other girl about her own age, had been scouring the massive room for anything they could use as weapons since it seemed obvious that they would need some soon, but they now congregated in front of the large door with whatever they had found. She stayed on the far side of the room with the smaller kids. She told herself that it was because they needed her to be there with them, to comfort them, but Iris wasn’t so sure. Fear outweighed her sadness, and as the scratching at the door started up again she was certain that her legs would not carry her toward that sound.
The light coming from the youth hibernation pods and above the door, flickered. Being as it was the only light in the large room everyone reacted with the same level of concern. Murmurs broke out among the older group by the door, and a wave of uncontrollable sobs came from those who were still awake among the kids scattered around her.
“It’s okay. It’s okay, little lambs.” She said, trying to comfort the little ones. Her voice didn’t seem up to the task, however and was drowned out.
The clawing at the door intensified with the sound and was accompanied by screeches of excitement as the animals outside heard the proof of their quarry behind the door. The sound only increased the kids’ fear which, in turn, sent the creatures into a frenzy.
Bedlam was the word that came to Iris’ mind. Utter madness.
Peter was awake now, as were the others, and the realization that all of this was reality instead of the nightmare it appeared to be was written across their agonized faces. Her heart ached for them, but every attempt that she made at comfort was ignored.
And then the lights went out.
The one above the door was apparently the most important to their survival at that moment since it controlled the magnetic lock that held it closed. Those closest to the door heard the click as the lock disengaged, but in the darkness it was impossible for them to see the thing swing in.
Screams in the dark, blood curdling in their severity highlighted an undercurrent of sound, a much more terrifying snarling that was interrupted only by what could only be described as the gnashing of teeth.
Peter sobbed in her arms and she struggled to her feet, half holding, half dragging her brother to the wall she knew was behind her. Something leathery flapped against her cheek and she screamed but kept moving. Her hand touched the glass of a pod and she searched for the clasp on the right side while her other hand held tight to her brother. She pulled it open as something slammed into her back.
She felt claws rake her there, a line of fire that traced down from her right shoulder to between her shoulder blades. Let go of the pod and elbowed at the thing and it was gone.
She picked up Peter and threw him in the pod then closed the lid. She could hear his muffled sobbing from inside, his pleading little voice begged her to join him, but she knew there was not enough room. Iris placed her bloody back against the pod to keep her brother from forcing his way out and stood guard there.
Iris assumed the stance that her old Judo teacher had taught her, though she was certain that the lessons did not have these creatures in mind, the stance served to calm her nerves ever so slightly.
A light, faint and broken by myriad shadows shown briefly through the doorway. It happened so quickly that Iris thought that maybe she had imagined it, but after a few more seconds of chaos it came back and then grew brighter. Shadows jumped and writhed in the space that separated her from the figure that stepped into the doorway. A silhouetted black mass was in front of it and for a terrified moment she thought it was some new threat, but then it barked and she recognized it as a dog.
As the dog’s rumbling alarm echoed around the room, wings flapped in unison and the creatures lifted into the air, startled by the giant K9 at the door. The person said something to the dog and it bounded forward, jumped and seized one of the creatures who had been too slow in abandoning a dark mound on the floor that Iris refused to look at.
The dog tore at the massive birdlike thing and it shrieked in pain. The rest of the animals fled through the gap above the head of the person in the doorway who swung at them with a large wrench. He connected with two and they fell to the floor. In apparent glee the dog pounced on them before they could come to their senses and ripped them apart.
He threw the glowing stick in his hand into the center of the room and took another from a pouch at his side and cracked it into life. With the added light, Iris saw that it was the Yakka boy, the one that Peter had been talking to before launch.
The boy came in, went to the dog and patted its giant head, then went to a still form on the ground, the one that she had not wanted to see, but as she glanced around there were others. Five in total. The one other older girl who had been brave enough to stand in front of the door with nothing but a short length of conduit was one of them. Iris recognized her long brown hair splayed out on the floor. Luckily her face was facing away from Iris, but the massive wound in her back could be clearly seen from where she stood.
Iris turned and vomited. It was more like retching since her stomach was completely empty, but her body had to do it.
Moans came from the wounded but the room was surprisingly quiet compared to how loud it had been moments ago. Children began to extricate themselves from hidden corners where they had sought refuge from the fury.
The young one’s sobbs started up once more, but this time they were quieter and seemed more sorrowful, less terrified.
“Does anyone here have any medical training?” The boy asked. Silence was their only response. There had been a few of the adult shareholders who had been doctors, but apprenticeships were a Yakka thing, so of course none of them would have any training.
Peter’s thudding fists vibrated the glass behind her back and she gasped, remembering her brother.
She turned and opened the pod.
Peter launched himself from the chamber and spilled to the floor, followed by the dried out husk that used to be a human shareholder by the name of Steven Lowry, according to the plaque. Peter fought off her hands at first until he realized who it was and his trauma ebbed slightly. He threw his arms around her neck and she flinched as her back flared.
“What was that?” He clearly referred to the entire situation, not knowing what exactly he wanted clarified. She just shrugged, not really wanting to speak.
“Where’s the closest med kit?” The boy said. Looking around the room at blank faces. He grunted and stood, obviously frustrated. “Come on people. You had training on this at pre-launch. Where is a kit?”
Iris’ memory flashed and she pointed a shaky finger at the corner. The boy walked over with his glow stick, revealing a large cabinet with a red cross on it. He glanced around and then began issuing orders to those who seemed whole enough to help.
A big sixteen year old named Geoffrey Ladderkin walked over to him. Iris knew Geoffrey from pre launch orientation. She had instantly hated him. She had made the grievous mistake of calling him Jeff and had been instantly corrected. It was Geoffrey, not Jeff. He had seemed legitimately put out.
“Who are you?” Geoffrey asked. His tone made it evident that he didn’t really care for an answer; he just wanted to assert himself as the self-proclaimed leader of this rag-tag group.
The boy ignored the question and started handing out gauze and antibiotic ointment to those he’d gotten to help. Geoffrey gripped the boy’s shoulder and spun him around.
The dog perked up and stalked over to the group, suddenly interested. If Geoffrey wasn’t careful, that giant would do to him what it did to the things on the floor, which she saw now, looked more like giant bats than birds. Geoffrey didn’t notice the dog's change in posture, however, and poked the boy in the chest to emphasize his next words.
“I said…who…are…you?” He said it slowly and loudly, as if he questioned the boy’s intelligence.
“His name’s Osiris.” Peter spoke up, running over. Iris followed. “And if it weren’t for him, you’d be dead.”
“I doubt that.” Geoffrey scoffed at the notion, though Iris could tell that it was all show. “We were just about to make a charge, weren’t we boys?” Geoffrey said, turning to his cadre of thick-browed, slack-jawed cronies, Devon and Tyrone. The two looked confused, but then Devon nodded excitedly.
“Yeah, Geoffrey. We were just getting our bearings.”
“Listen, we don’t have time for this right now. Let’s help the wounded, then we can introduce ourselves, okay?” Osiris nudged past the much taller Geoffrey and carried a handful of supplies to the nearest casualty.
“Hey. Yakka. Don’t walk away from me. What’s going on around here?” Iris stepped forward.
“Bloody hell, jeff. Just let him help. Look around. I think it is clear we have other priorities right now.” She went to the cabinet and grabbed some medical supplies. The cabinet had been sealed and depressurized to restrict decay and corrosion, that much she remembered from the orientation, but she was surprised that several bundles of gauze were no good and she had to toss them to the side in search of good rolls.
Iris went to Osiris and knelt. She did her best to help, but she had no clue what to do. The Yakka boy seemed capable enough, and he even sewed up several of the larger cuts in crying children, something that Iris struggled with. Instead of watching the needle pull the skin back together, she focused on comforting the kids who cried, heartbreakingly, for their mothers.
Luckily, it seemed that the rest of the kids would survive as long as the antibiotics worked against whatever bacteria was present on this world.
After the rest of the kids were taken care of, Iris turned to pick up some spare bundles of bandage and Osiris gasped.
“Hold on. You didn’t say you were wounded. We need to take care of that.”
“Oh. Yeah. I nearly forgot.” She lied. To be honest she was scared that he would need to stitch it up too. She hated needles. “Just put a bandage on it, Osiris. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“Call me Siris, please.” She felt his fingers probe her back gently. “This is pretty bad. You’re going to need stitches. Quite a few of them.”
An involuntary sigh escaped her at the news, but Peter held out his hand and she took it. He didn’t seem to want to leave his side since getting out of the pod.
“Okay.” She said, and pulled her shoulder out of her jumpsuit, holding up the front for decencies' sake.
ed as a cold spray spritzed her back.
“Sorry.” Siris apologized.
“It’s okay. It didn’t hurt. It’s just cold” She laughed an uncomfortable chuckle.
The stuff must have deadened the nerves as well as clean because she felt nothing but an occasional tugging as Siris quilted her skin back together.
“I’m done waiting for answers.” Geoffrey’s voice came from behind, and Iris turned her head to see the big meathead towering over Siris.
“What’s happened?” This time, Geoffrey’s command had more of a plea in it, and Siris relented.
He told what he knew while Iris closed her eyes against the tug of needle and thread and imagined what the world outside these metal walls looked like.