Castaway Planet – Chapter 08
Despite the sledgehammer impacts, the cabin of LS-5 remained cheerfully, invariably lit as the world spun, and now, as the ship quivered to stillness, they stayed on, as though nothing had happened.
Laura could see that Sakura, at least, was unharmed; her seat had locked properly and the girl’s one arm was visible, white-knuckled with tension. Hitomi’s sobs of terror, though heartrending to hear, were paradoxically comforting; those were cries of a frightened little girl, not one badly injured.
The local net was readjusting, and Laura could access the biosignals. “Is everyone all right?”
“I seem uninjured, love,” answered Akira.
“I’m fine, Mom.” That was Caroline, the shakiness in her voice belying the casual words.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I screwed it up, I –“
“Sakura!” Her daughter’s name came out much more sharply than she intended, and Laura took a deep breath, let it out. She had to stay calm. “Sakura, honey, don’t apologize. Are you all right?”
“I… I think so.”
“Good.” She turned her seat to face the others. That felt very odd, because with the way LS-5 was sitting, she was now looking down, held in her seat by the restraints.
“You were right, Mom,” Melody said. “I did need those straps that tight.” The twelve-year-old’s face was white as a sheet, and tears were starting from her eyes, even though she was rigidly controlling her expression.
Laura chuckled a little at that, and Melody gave a tearful but sheepish smile. “There’s a reason for what we tell you. I’m glad you listened.” She looked over to the next seat. “Hitomi, come on, little girl, just tell Mommy if you’re all right.”
The sobs slowed, and Hitomi lowered Skyfang from her face; the hazel eyes were wide and frightened, but her head nodded, and a mumbled “Okay,” managed to make it through the winged wolf’s fur.
“I’m… a little battered, Dr. Kimei,” Whips volunteered, “But I think everything’s okay.”
“Good. Now everyone just stay still for a few minutes; I’ll check your vitals to make sure that we really are all okay.”
It was almost quiet inside the crashed shuttle except for the howling fury of the wind outside, which managed to penetrate faintly even through the soundproofing. LS-5 occasionally quivered under what Laura guessed were either waves or extremely strong gusts of wind. She carefully examined all of the readings and, finally, relaxed.
“All right, everyone. We’ve landed, and we’re all fine. Sakura –“
“Young lady,” Akira said mildly, “your mother told you not to apologize. I think what she — what we both — wanted to say is ‘well done’, actually.” Her husband turned so the others could see him. “You already knew there were no automatics. But when we were on final approach, we went into a small storm… and even so, Sakura kept us up and flying until the very end, all by herself. I think there are plenty of professional pilots who might have had trouble when the wind hit during the conversion.”
Melody grinned — a very shaky grin, but with much of her spirit and returning, and Laura felt herself relax again. “That old saying you told me, right, Sakura?”
Sakura sniffed, obviously trying not to cry, but there was a tiny chuckle there too. “Any landing you walk away from… is a good landing.”
“Exactly!” Whips said. “By the Beyond, Sakura, you kept us flying right to the end, and I think if that wind gust hadn’t hit at just the wrong time, you’d have brought us down perfect.”
Hitomi sat straighter and clapped. “Hurray for Saki!”
Laura laughed and suddenly they were all clapping. Sakura turned her chair around and they could see she was blushing, but smiling, tears finally drying. “Okay, I did awesome then. And we’re really all okay, Mom?”
“Really. Sitting like this is going to be a little uncomfortable, but that storm won’t last forever, and once it’s over I hope we can get out. What’s the condition of LS-5?”
“I have to pee,” Hitomi said suddenly.
Laura shook her head. “All right, hold on.” A thought struck her. “Um… will the toilet work in this position?”
“I think so, Dr. Kimei,” Whips said after a moment. “It works in microgravity and when we were attached to Outward Initiative, and in the position we’re sitting… yes, if we keep it in the microgravity mode I think it will.”
“Good. Then since you’re farthest back and the biggest can you help –“
As the big Bemmie assisted Hitomi to get out of her harness and move to the rear of the cabin, Sakura spoke up. “Well, the bad news is that we’re not flying LS-5 again, not any time soon anyway. We skidded along on most of her exterior and ruined most of the thrust nozzles, ripped off her wings, crushed her tail. Took off most of our exterior sensors, too, so right now I can’t get much from outside.
“But that’s most of the bad news. All that stuff getting ripped off and crunched… well, it took a lot of the crash energy, let our harnesses do their work, which is why we’re all in good shape. Internal systems all seem pretty good, and the starboard lock shows all green so we shouldn’t have any trouble getting out. Cargo looks like it all stayed secure.” She looked troubled. “Getting the cargo out, though.. we’ll have to move LS-5 until we can open the rear loading doors. Right now we’re sitting on them. And this thing weighs tons. Lots of tons, actually.”
“Worry about that later. Are we close enough to land to be able to get out?” Laura was particularly concerned about Hitomi, who still needed help swimming.
“I’m pretty sure we’re in that little lagoon that’s a few hundred meters short of the end of the continent; that was my target, I wanted to set us down near the edge. If we’d come down farther along we’d have been in trouble, but we’re not bobbing up and down, just twitching a little, so we’re sitting on something solid. And the recordings of our path tell me that we were running on solid ground right up to the end when we fell.”
“We can’t get any information from outside?”
Sakura shook her head. “The cameras all got wrecked in our cartwheeling across the ground. Radar’s out, too. There’s one working external microphone, but that’s just hearing a lot of wind and rain, and a little thunder once in a while.”
“Well, that’s all right,” Akira said. “I’m sure we will be able to get LS-5 out of the lagoon with a little work and some of the smaller equipment on board, and once we get into the cargo we should be much better off. I believe we have everything, really, that we could want for this emergency on board, right?”
As was often true, Melody answered. “We have a Dust-Storm Tech Nanofacturer VII 3D manufacturing system in the cargo, Dad; that was meant for the whole colony. With raw materials and power that’ll make anything we can spec out well enough. Whips can probably run it, and LS-5‘s reactor has enough power according to the datasheet.”
A full manufacturing system! Laura found herself grinning. “We’ll be able to make our own little colony easily, then.”
“Especially since we’ve got you and Dad’s stuff, too,” Sakura said, excitedly. “You’ve got the full medical equipment list, and Dad’s bio research stuff is perfect for this — I mean, really, he was supposed to be doing research on Tantalus, but we’ll have to do the same kind of research here, right?”
Akira laughed. “You’re exactly right, Sakura. Same kind of research — what’s safe, what isn’t, how all the species interact, that kind of thing.”
Laura noticed that Melody, oddly, seemed somewhat let down. “What is it, Mel?”
The black-haired little girl flushed. “Oh… Just being stupid. Never mind.”
She caught a flash of data from Melody’s omni and realized that the girl had been reviewing old books like Robinson Crusoe and some of the outdoor survival shows that had been popular a century or so back, and couldn’t quite keep from smiling. The laziest of her children was still hoping for a big adventure. Thank goodness she wouldn’t get it.
“So… we’re really going to be okay?” Hitomi said, as Whips lifted her back to her seat.
“Really,” Laura assured her. “Oh, it’ll be a rough few days or even weeks getting everything ready,” she saw Melody make a face, “but we’ll be just fine.” She smiled around at the others. “So let’s sit back, relax, and let this storm blow itself out.”