Into the Dark: Fourteen

Co-authored by Ciarente and Silver Night


The stone of the bridge flashed past, so close Medic Atad Rorkulo could have reached out and touched it. If we so much as clip a wing at this speed ... She shuddered, remembering burnt and broken bodies pulled from shuttle wrecks, and looked back to the two women clinging to the end of the rope ladder, distracting herself from just how close Captain Night was cutting it by concentrating on her job. Even at this distance she could see injuries that would need medical attention. That graze on Commander Invelen's face looks deep .. better check for concussion ... the Intaki girl, Ciarente Roth, doesn't seem to be able to move her right arm ... a break? Dislocation?

Then they were in clear air, the shuttle lifting and slowing. Atad had an instant to see empty space below them, water cascading over the lip of the weir and crashing down a hundred feet to a wide lake, before the rope ladder snapped taut and the two women went over the edge.

Two screams, one shrill and terrified, the other sounding suspiciously like exhilaration. The shuttle climbed further, slowing to the edge of a stall, minimising the swing. Atad saw Ciarente Roth look up, face white, then down. Her voice drifted up, barely audible over the engines. "Oh no, oh no, oh no ..."

The shuttle banked gently, heading for the shore of the lake, and shedding altitude. As they dipped toward solid ground Commander Invelen released her grip on the ladder, stumbled backward one step and fell over. Ms Roth clung to the ladder until Captain Night lowered the shuttle enough for her feet to touch the ground, then she let go and thumped to the ground, as if her legs couldn't support her weight.

Captain Night brought the shuttle in to land a safe distance away.

He was out of the cockpit and brushing past her before Atad had grabbed her kit. She followed him as he nearly jogged down the ramp.

Commander Invelen was sitting up, arms wrapped around her knees, looking up at the open sky above them. Smiling. Colour's good, Atad noted. Grazes ... superficial head injury... that ankle's swollen...non-priority.

"Ami, Ms Roth, are you alright?" Captain Night asked, looking concerned.

"Not ... sure..." Ciarente Roth murmured faintly. She rolled over and sat up, wincing and clutching her right arm, then looked up at Captain Night. "Silver. How nice .. to see you?"

"Your arm okay?" Commander Invelen asked, her expression becoming one of concern.

"It ... hurts?" Pilot Roth said, sounding puzzled.

Captain Night waved Atad forward. She knelt beside the Intaki woman. Shoulder definitely dislocated. Shocky, too. Those medications Commander Invelen queried us on ... and Void knows what's been done to her head. "Do you know where you are, Pilot Roth?" she asked, tugging a silvery emergency blanket from her kit and wrapping it gently around the girl's shoulders. Colour's bad, need to get her fluids up.

A hovercraft landed nearby as Pilot Roth murmured a vague affirmative. Atad glanced away from her patient long enough to see Colonel Voutelen climbing out, turning to help a little girl down after her. The girl pointed towards them, and then hurried forward, breaking into a stumbling jog and then dropping back to a walk, the Colonel following.

"Cia! Ami!" the girl said, coming to a stop beside Captain Night.

Atad took a re-hydration kit from her bag and snapped the warming seal. "I'm just going to hook you up to this, Ms Roth," she said. "It'll make you feel a bit better. Then we're going to get you to a hospital, okay?"

Behind her, she could hear the others talking. "Hey, Cami, how was your flight?" Commander Invelen asked. "Make sure the medic takes a look at her and Sara too, Silver."

"Is Cia okay, Ami? Are you okay?" the little girl asked.

"I'm fine, Cami," the Commander reassured her. "Cia's going to be fine too. Little banged up is all. How about you?"

Pilot Roth pulled away as Atad flicked the hypodermic open. "No .. I ... no ..."

"You need some fluids, Ms Roth," Atad said, taking her arm.

"No, no needles ..." Pilot Roth jerked her arm away, harder, and Atad looked around for help, as Camille said fretfully:

"I want to go home. My head hurts."

She leaned forward and vomited on Captain Night's shoes. Void take me, rumor is he doesn't even like being touched Atad thought with fascinated horror, but the Captain's expression showed nothing but concern.

"Sorry," Camille said sadly, looking up at him. "I didn't know that was going to happen."

Captain Night frowned, and squatted down in front of her, scrutinizing her face. "Medic, can you take a look at Miss Roth here?"

"One moment, sir," Atad said. Get Pilot Roth stabilised first ... I don't like that pulse rate, not at all ...

"I want to go home," Camille said. "I'm tired!" She retched again.

"Now, I think," Captain Night said, and the note in his voice made Atad move.

A glance showed her what had alarmed him. The girl had a swollen lump on the right side of her head, mark of a serious impact, but far worse, her right pupil was three times the size of her left.

Atad looked over at Commander Invelen. "How long ago did she get this injury?"

The commander paused. "Ninety-seven minutes," she said, "Pistol-whipped. And she has been ... quiet. Not herself. With what she's been through .. I thought she was just worn out."

Intracranial hemorrhage - likely subdural, then, with that time gap. Atad pulled a neck-brace from her kit and fitted it to Camille. "We need to get her to a hospital fast, sir," she said to Captain Night.

Camille closed her eyes and mumbled "Can you wake me up when we get there?"

Not good. Atad squeezed her shoulder. "Wake up, dear. Come on."

"I don't know," Captain Night said, "That there is time. The intercranial pressure is clearly dangerously high. It needs immediate decompression."

Atad glanced at the Captain. I hope he knows what he is doing, he's a research scientist, not a field medic. Brains though, he does know brains better than most.

Camille opened her eyes drowsily, then closed them again, going limp. Atad caught her.

Captain Night touched the girl's head, above her right ear. "Prep here for surgery as best you can."

"For surgery? I don't have - " Her voice died away. Captain Night was already running back to the shuttle.

Commander Invelen put her hand on Atad's arm. "Give her to me. I'll hold her steady." She sat cross-legged and gently lowered Camille so the girl's head rested in her lap.

"Ami?" Pilot Roth asked from behind Atad. "What's wrong with her?"

"Silver said pressure. There must be bleeding," Commander Invelen said with a glance at Atad. Atad nodded confirmation, opening her kit. She spread out a sheet of sterile gauze, and Commander Invelen lifted Camille a little to let Atad spread the gauze beneath her head. Not the best sterile field I've ever managed, Atad thought. Not the worst, either. And infection's the least of the kid's worries right now.

She wiped the spot Captain Night had indicated with a disinfectant wipe and unrolled the field kit's portable instrument tray.

"Oh, fortune," Pilot Roth said, trying to get up and then crawling toward Camille.

Colonel Voutelen stopped her. "Give them room, Ms Roth."

Atad looked up as Captain Night returned, holding ... That's from the maintenance locker, she thought. That's a gods damned tie-down drill.

Commander Invelen carefully fitted her hands around Camille's head, her metal fingers gentle but immovable.

"Are you sure there isn't time?" Pilot Roth asked shakily. "To get her to a hospital?"

"Yes," Captain Night said. He handed Atad a squeeze bottle of sterile saline, wiped the drill bit with a disinfectant wipe and carefully laid it on the instrument tray, then picked up a scalpel.

"Don't - don't cut her - no - " Pilot Roth said, her voice rising. "No knives, no - "

"It'll be all right, Ms Roth," Colonel Voutelen said. I wish I were as confident of that as she sounds, Atad thought.

Captain Night ignored Pilot Roth's incoherent protests and made a quick, precise incision above Camille's ear, exposing the bone.

"Sir," Atad murmured. "Have you done this before?"

"Yes," Captain Night said. "Although under slightly more controlled conditions."

He set the scalpel aside, picked up the drill, and positioned it against the girl's skull without hesitation.

The drill whirred to life. Atad watched as it bit through the bone. The Captain stopped and backed the drill out carefully, she irrigated with the squeeze bottle, and he resumed. I guess that means it is going well?

Captain Night stopped the drill a second time. Carefully lifted it away. A trickle of blood followed it, more, Atad thought, than could be accounted for by the incision. She washed away the new blood, the flecks of bone. All the way through.

She craned to see the child's face as Captain Night set the drill down on the instrument tray with a clatter, hands starting to shake.

"Cami?" Pilot Roth said tremulously. "Cami?”

The little girl’s eyelids fluttered.

Now,” Captain Night said, his voice tired, “We need to get to a hospital.”

Camille opened her eyes. “Ami? What happened?”

“Oh, thank fortune,” Pilot Roth said, and began to cry.

He just.. Loki! and it actually worked.

“You hit your head, honey,” Commander Invelen said. “It made you go to sleep, but Silver fixed it.”

“Oh,” Camille said. “How?”

“There was pressure in your head making you sleepy," Invelen said, her voice matter-of-fact, "So he made a little hole.”

“A hole? Cool!" Camille said. "I wish I hadn’t been asleep. Can he do it again now I’m awake?”

“I don’t think that would be wise, Miss Roth,” Captain Night said with a questioning glance at his XO. Commander Invelen shrugged.

“ We are going to take you to hospital now, okay?” she said to Camille. “You get to fly there in an assault shuttle even.”

Camille, who had been looking disappointed, cheered up immediately at the mention of an assault shuttle. "Can I fly it?"

"Perhaps not today, honey," Commander Invelen said as Atad fetched the stretcher.

She and Colonel Sarakai lifted Camille onto it. Commander Invelen got to her feet and took one end of the stretcher with a nod to Colonel Sarakai, who picked up the other end.

As Sarakai and Invelen started towards the shuttle, Atad turned back to Pilot Roth, who still sat on the ground, sobbing helplessly. Past her limit, she thought. Well and truly.

She knelt down.

"We're headed to the hospital, Ms Roth," she said gently. "That shoulder needs to be looked at, it's dislocated, and all the other... you'll need a check up too. Routine."

Pilot Roth nodded, and tried to get to her feet. Commander Invelen gave Captain Night what the crew called a Look and he hurried over, awkwardly assisting Pilot Roth to her feet on her left as Atad steadied her on the right, careful to stabilise her right arm.

They ushered her toward the lowered ramp of the LAS.

“I’m sorry,” Pilot Roth wept as they helped her into the shuttle. “I - can’t – stop!”

“It’s okay, Cia,” Commander Invelen said. “Been through a lot. Everything will be okay now.”

Captain Night glanced toward the cockpit. “I have to – ”

Commander Invelen nodded, and said with what almost sounded to Atad to be permission, “Sir.”

Captain Night hurried forward, and a moment later the engines began to hum.

Atad steered Pilot Roth to sit beside the stretcher. The Intaki woman looked down at her sister. “I can’t – believe – he just ... He saved - her life!”

Commander Invelen snorted. “Well, he is supposed to be a doctor. Still, it is nice he’s good for something.”

The trip to the hospital was short, and far less eventful than their earlier flight. Medical staff were waiting, and Atad saw on their shocked faces her own earlier reaction to the sight of the bedraggled four.

As they clambered off, Captain Night yelled from the cockpit, "I have to clear the pad. I'll be back soon as I can, alright Ami?!"

Commander Invelen nodded, and a moment later the shuttle was disappearing into the distance again.

Atad hesitated as the medtechs surrounded them.

“Go with Camille,” Commander Invelen ordered, and Atad nodded.

As she turned away she heard Ciarente sob: “Can - we - never - ever do that - again? Please?”

“I sure as hell hope not, hun,” the XO said.

“I – do you think – she saw?”

The doors closed behind Atad, cutting off Commander Invelen’s reply.

She gathered her thoughts and gave a medical history as Camille was wheeled down the hall, watched the girl whisked away to be scanned and stabilised.

Atad scrubbed in, sticking to the XO's order, and watched as the surgical team stopped the hemorrhaging and patched the hole in Camille's skull. Scans confirmed that the child was out of danger, 'good as new' as one of the doctors put it.

When Camille was resting comfortably, Atad went back out into the hall. She saw Commander Invelen talking a group of ten or twelve doctors. As she approached she heard one of them say something about TCMC, another use the word barbaric. The XO looked up and spotted Atad, a warning shake of her head telling Atad to keep her distance. Brief snatches of the following conversation were audible: something about damage, burns and implants.

With an order to Colonel Voutelen about ‘clean-up’, Commander Invelen disappeared into a nearby room. Curious, Atad drifted closer, but all she could make out through the closed door was the occasional word, Pilot Roth's voice rising shrilly as she talked about Papa and about needles and knives and questions. Commander Invelen telling her It’s okay, Cia, you’re safe now. Stick with me here. It’s okay now. Silver and some people are going to take a look, and we need to figure out what to do.

Atad stepped back to a more discreet distance as the door opened.

“Rorkulo,” the XO said. “The docs have been convinced to let us out of here. Make sure the medical records are transmitted to our people aboard – scans, tests, the lot.”

Atad nodded. “Sir,” she said.

Invelen turned to Pilot Roth. “Look, Cia, there’s Sara and Cami.”

Colonel Voutelen was waiting by the exit with the little girl, who was in a wheelchair, swinging her feet. As Commander Invelen and Pilot Roth neared them, the Commander limping slightly, Camille bounced excitedly in her seat.

“Cia! Ami! They said we can go home! And see Pierre and Mathilde and I bet Mathilde made pear cake, it’s not as good as yours of course Cia but Mathilde’s pear cake is still pretty good! Ami, you’ll love it!”

“I’m sure I will,” Commander Invelen said with a grin. “I’m starved!”

“They said I had to stay in the chair but I don’t know how it’ll go up the stairs and it’s boring anyhow!”

“How about I carry you, Cami?” the XO said. “That better?”

Camille nodded and held up her arms. Commander Invelen picked her up easily. "There we go," she said, her arms tightening around the little girl. "I've got you now."

“ Can we go now?” Camille asked, wrapping her own arms around the Commander's neck. “Can we?”

“Yes, Cami,” Pilot Roth said, her voice breaking a little. “We can go home.”

Atad watched as the four of them made their way to the exit.

The doors hissed back, opening on the glorious summer’s day, the sounds of the local festival drifting in on a warm, fresh breeze. For a moment the four of them were silhouetted, Camille cradled in Commander Invelen's arms, Pilot Roth beside them with her hand resting half on Camille's back, half on the Commander's arm, and Colonel Sarakai flanking the Commander on the other side, a step ahead. The little girl said something that made Pilot Roth and Commander Invelen laugh, and even won a smile from Colonel Sarakai, and then as Atad watched, they were through the door and the figures dissolved into the light.

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