Awake (Chapter 11)
It had been days since Geoffrey and his goons had dragged them out of the cave, but Siris’ head still hurt. He was sure that a doctor would say he had a concussion or something, but he had no idea how bad it was or what he should do for it. The first day he’d felt dizzy when he stood, but that was going away. Now, he just had a stubborn headache.
He and Cato had explored a little of the inside of the Samara, but he hadn’t wanted the dog to exert himself too much. The wounds on his shoulder were severe, and he hadn’t stayed still when Siris had tried to stitch them up so they remained wide gashes that he hoped would heal closed.
Despite all of his worries for Cato, the dog had seemed more energetic than he was. The bandages that Siris had tried to keep around the wound would get pulled and loosened with Cato’s constant movement as he hunted ahead and behind Siris while they walked through the dark interior. He had found some ancient grease spilling from a split gasket in one of the ship’s massive coupling rings on the outside of the ship. They were originally intended for dry-dock tethering at the construction port, New Plymouth where the Samsara was constructed but the colonial engineers had planned to pull the giant clamps off the ship in phase-one of the colony’s long seven-phase establishment policy.
During his study, he’d learned that they had planned on using the giant ringed clamps as foundation structures for multi-storeyed buildings and he had to admit, they would be perfect.
He’d scooped the end of a two-foot branch that he’d wrapped with some of Cato’s old bandages into the grease and stirred it around until the end was a big glob of the stuff and repeated it with three more of his prepared branches. He was proud of how well they worked. A silly thing to be proud of, he supposed, but on this planet, he accepted every win he could get with glee.
The big bat-like things that called the Samsara home seemed to be afraid of the fire and stay far away from the duo as they passed through the ship. Today, he felt good enough to go deeper in. His goal was the computer. He wanted to learn as much as he could while it still had power. If it had power. They took their time, and when they reached the helm there was the faint light where the active console was.
He worked on the computer for hours, trying to piece together where the back half of the ship was. He ran simulations based off of the data that the computer had on the topic and finally had an eighty-five-percent probability that the back half was somewhere in an nineteen square mile section of rugged terrain approximately twenty miles to the south.
He smiled, because twenty miles was close, at least by the standards he’d set for himself. He had been afraid that it had landed in another hemisphere or burned up, but the computer was fairly confident in its analysis, and Siris had no choice but to trust it. He was about to get up and leave when he spotted a rectangular object fastened to the side of the console. He reached for it.
It was a computer tablet. This one was better than one he’d ever had. It had a rugged case with small solar panels built in. He noticed the light blinking on the top and hit the button, and to his surprise the tablet lit up. He examined the mount it had been cradled in and noticed that it had been connected to the computer and was probably synced. He smiled broadly. He did a little dance of excitement. He couldn’t help it, and Cato came over in a rush. He looked up at Siris, then around the room. He was clearly wondering what was going on, but as he saw Siris smile and laugh at his confusion, the dog’s stubby tail began to wag.
Siris scratched behind Cato’s ear then shifted his pack off his shoulder and put the tablet inside. There was a bounce in his step as he walked back to their temporary camp near the entrance to the Samsara. Things were looking up. He had a place to look for the other half of the ship and a device with all of the information he could ask for at his finger-tips.
He wanted to go off in search of the other half of the ship right then, but knew that that would be a mistake. The group of shareholders had barely made it a mile when they had been attacked by the dragons. Then there was the giant snake. He shuddered. Who knew what else could be in the path between them and their goal, waiting for easy prey to come sauntering by. As much as it frustrated him, he had to prepare for the trek first.
Back on earth he and his dad had trained for the mission. Being Yakka testers, they had to prove themselves worthy, not only mentally, but physically, and had to pass the rigorous endurance trials. If he wanted to, he knew that he could probably set off at a run and keep the pace for the full twenty-miles, but according to the Samsara’s scans, the terrain between there and here was extremely rugged. He’d be lucky if he could even make it there without doing some climbing.
He decided that a day or two more searching this half of the ship for something he could use as a weapon would be worth it. He doubted that a broken tree-branch would do much to hinder many of the animals on this planet. He wondered if some of the officers had weapons? He racked his brain trying to recall the ship's schematics for an armory and then he remembered the tablet.
He laughed because it just felt good, and retrieved the device from his pack. Siris sat down at his spot by the fire. He’d resolved to always keep it going and was glad to see bright coals there. He leaned over and threw a piece of branch onto it from his small pile by the door. It wasn’t really a door of course, but an abrupt end to the corridor from which dense vines hung like a thick curtain. He smiled as the fire crackled to life.
His eyes went back to his tablet and he hit the power button. It brightened instantly with a flashing text.
“Emergency override of security protocols.”
Siris tapped the screen and it opened into the main desktop. He quickly navigated to the Samsara’s schematics, the CSM’s file directories had been standardized long ago and the data was right where it was supposed to be. He smiled as he located a small room close to where he had rescued Cato marked “Weapons Bay”.
He was tempted to stand back up and make for the room, but knew that it was getting late even though the sun was in exactly the same location. “Tidally locked” was what they called it, Siris remembered, and the sun never moved from its twilight vigil over Ross 128b. He knew that his body was tired from recovery and the day’s exploration of the ship even though his mind was excited.
Cato had laid down and almost instantly fell asleep, reassured by the fire's ability to protect them from the creatures in the dark interior of the ship. Siris sighed and pulled another of the tasteless packs of food from his pack. They really needed to find something better than this stuff.
He wasn’t sure if it even had any nutrients left in it, and although he was hungry, it was becoming more and more difficult to convince himself to consume the stuff. Cato chuffed and laid his head back down when he was offered his portion. He clearly had the same feelings about the stuff.
Siris smiled at his companion and settled down for the…night? He might have to figure out a different name for ‘sleeping time’, or maybe just accept that his conception of ‘night’ and ‘day’ would never be the same as it had been.
The next…day? Wakeful period?
Siris and Cato set out immediately after consuming their breakfast. He was glad to see the dog lower his standards enough to eat his portion this time being as he needed his strength as his body recovered. The tears on Cato’s shoulder had already closed and they looked good. Well, as good as such things could. They had scabbed over and there didn’t seem to be any infection. Cato was tough and never seemed to let the wound keep him from being his happily protective self.
They made their way directly to the weapons bay with the help of the schematic. The door was sealed shut by centuries of corrosion and grime that had built up around the edge, but the lock itself was disengaged like all of the rest of the doors on the Samsara, so once he picked away enough of the built-up crud, he was able to force it open.
Siris paused when he came in and tried to make sense of the flickering shadows cast by his torchlight. As he moved into the room his eyes finally made sense of the myriad shapes flashing against the walls.
It was a small room, but housed a large array of weaponry. Siris walked down a row of viscous looking rifles and realized he knew nothing about them. Besides the vids and movies he’d seen, he had no real experience with guns.
Yakkas were necessarily outlawed from owning guns, after all, someone had to be the security personnel, but there were countless laws designed to make it nearly impossible for the poorer caste to purchase them. He supposed that the elite shareholders were too afraid of an armed uprising to make a weapon a reasonable purchase.
He saw one that he recognized as a type of short-barrelled shotgun, but his hand hesitated before touching it. Were they loaded? Would the CSM keep them ready to fire? He had no idea how to even check.
He lifted the tablet from his pack and searched for the weapon stores information on the Samsara Security directory. He perused the list until he reached the shotguns. There were three types even though only one appeared in this room. He tapped on the first and quickly backed out, dismissing it as more of hunting type from the picture.
The second was called a “UTAS UTS 15”. As he did with everything that he didn’t readily understand, Siris read about it. He read the technical aspects of the gun several times over, and then tapped the videos at the end. They instructed how the gun was loaded, cleaned, and even had a short video of a man firing the weapon over and over into a target.
Siris had been right in that it was a shotgun, but it held fifteen shots and could be loaded with anything from ‘bird-shot’ to ‘explosive-rounds’. It was also short and compact, which he liked. He also thought it just looked cool.
Cato whined and Siris looked at him.
The dog was standing in the doorway to the weapons bay, looking out into the darkness. A screeching suddenly pierced the silence like a knife and Siris realized that he had let himself get captivated by the tablet and had let the torch peter out. The light from the tablet was all there was, and its electric glow was not enough to dissuade the bat-things from a meal.
“Cato, back.” But Cato launched forward at his words instead and intercepted the flapping wings before they made it to the door to the room and swarmed around him, perhaps recognizing him as the threat to overcome, or smelling the wound on his shoulder and targeting it.
Siris could hardly see the fight and so he reached into his pocket and pulled out his last glow stick, cracked it, and tossed it out into the corridor. The dog growled and yelped as the beasts darted in, but so far Cato had been able to keep them from doing any major damage.
Siris ran to the rack of guns and pulled a UTS 15 out of its slot. The tension made it nearly impossible to think through the steps that he saw in the vids, but after long seconds remembered how to check if it was loaded.
The gold of a round glistened in the faint light and Siris lifted the heavy gun to his shoulder and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. He swore and lowered it once more. He looked it over and remembered the safety switch and flipped it.
He pulled the gun back up to his shoulder and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He swore and thought that maybe there wasn’t a round in the spot to fire. He’d just seen that there were some loaded in the gun through the little holes on the side, but not if there was one ‘chambered’ as the guy on the vid had called it.
He pulled back hard on the handle with his left hand and then pushed it forward. The gun made a satisfying cha-chink sound. Siris pointed the end at the mass of bat-things that flew above Cato’s head and pulled the trigger.
The sound was like cupped hands slapping his ears and he nearly dropped the gun after it slammed into his shoulder. He put his finger in his left ear and wiggled it to try and relieve some of the ringing.
When he looked up, the bat-things were in full retreat, flapping their way back into the darkness. Cato barked at their tails like a conquering hero even though fresh blood ran from his shoulder and on his haunches. Siris ran to him and crouched. He set the gun on the ground and hugged Cato.
“Don’t do that,” he said, pulling away. He looked at the dog and used his sternest voice. “When I say ‘back’ you come”
Cato had the grace to look sullen and embarrassed, but Siris’ anger was overpowered by his relief that his friend was okay. He wiped at the tears that tickled his cheeks and stood.
Not far away, a giant bat-monster-thing flapped half-heartedly. Cato pounced on it and shook it in his teeth. Nearby, a little white lump lay. Siris picked it up. It looked like a little cloth tied at one end. It was filled with something, and when Siris opened it up with his multi-tool he realized it was a bean-bag.
He remembered a prison movie where the guards used the ‘non-lethal’ rounds to try to stop a prison riot, but since the protagonist of the plot was a prisoner, they failed. Siris thought that the rounds would definitely stop him if he were shot with one, though.
Siris went back into the weapons room with the glow-stick and began filling his pack with whatever he thought looked interesting, but not taking the time to really look since he was afraid that the things would come back. He did take the time to hook a sling to the shotgun and drape it over his head and one shoulder. The thing helped him hold the gun and the relief was instantaneous.
Although the gun seemed to be mostly made out of plastics, it was still heavy and Siris knew that it was probably all of the ammo inside the tubes either side and above the barrel that weighed it down. He hoped that some of the boxes of shells that he put in his pack were ‘slugs’ or ‘explosive rounds’ since he couldn’t see a bean-bag shot taking out a giant cobra. He stepped back out into the corridor and saw Cato chewing on the bat.
“Eww,” he said and stepped over to Cato. “Let’s at least cook it first,” he bent over and picked the thing up. Cato gave a little growl of protest but relinquished the corpse, and Siris carried it by a wing down the corridor.
Cato chuffed and followed.
“I hope the tablet has a vid on how to clean this thing,” he laughed.