Wake Up Call
Disclaimer: Nope, I don't own Earth 2. I get nothing from this but personal satisfaction. But I do claim invention of Zeke, whom I have grown to love.
Julia VO: Day 173. Julia Heller, medical log. I have synthesized the necessary components for an altered serum which should deactivate the terraforming particles that are causing Devon's illness. Her situation is more precarious, however, due to the advanced state of her deterioration and the added complication of awakening from cold sleep. Her system must respond immediately and dramatically to the serum for her to stand any chance of survival. To that end, I have experimented further with DNA samples harvested from Uly. I believe their ability to enhance metabolism and speed recovery could be her best hope of surviving long enough to complete the treatment. I only hope the Terrians have no objection to this course of action.
Julia waited anxiously a few steps behind Alonzo as he spoke/Dreamed with the Terrian who'd been their most constant liaison with the local tribe. Out of all the metabolism enhancers and system boosters she'd worked with, the one she'd concocted from Uly's DNA seemed to have the best chance of helping his mother. There would be side effects of the treatment, she felt certain, but those side effects would be acceptable if the treatment bought Devon the time she needed to heal.
Finally, Alonzo nodded to the Terrian and turned back to her as the Terrian slipped away again into the earth.
"He says the tribe has agreed," Alonzo breathed in relief. "They understand the necessity of bringing some of their healing to Devon, even if it isn't the way they'd do it. They trust you to handle it well." He gave her a little smile.
She permitted herself a smile of relief. "I will be so glad when all this is behind us and I can just practice regular medicine," she sighed.
"You'll never practice regular medicine again," Alonzo teased as he led her back across the grounds. "You've gone way past regular. I'd say you were up to extraordinary."
"If the guys can get the rover ready, we'll get the chance to see just how extraordinary G889 medicine can be," Julia responded, then looked up at Alonzo with hope and relief in her eyes. "We're ready to go revive Devon."
Roll opening credits.
Next to the workshop area, the dunerail circled and stopped next to the large, heavy transrover. John Danziger extracted himself from the smaller buggy and bent down to peer into the dark shadows underneath the rover where Walman and Zeke, the reclaimed ZED, were busily reassembling the
mining vehicle's transmission.
"How's it going there, guys?" he asked brightly.
"We're nearly there," Walman grunted.
"Got room for me to crawl under and see what you've got?" Danziger asked.
"Sure, come ahead," Walman replied, scooting slightly to one side to make room.
Danziger crawled beneath the large vehicle, the smell of various oils and lubricants scenting the air with their comfortable chemical odor. Whatever else was going on in his life, the world of the mechanical was stable, predictable. Certainly it was complex at times and offered challenges and creative opportunities one wouldn't normally expect, but it was a familiar challenge, an old friend in time of trouble.
Danziger scanned the underside of the rover, noting the modifications Zeke and Walman had made. "This is looking good, guys," he stated. "I wish everything could be fixed this way."
"I know what you mean," Zeke offered from the other side. "If all our problems could be solved with the right size driver bit, the world would be a better place."
"I gave you a number two," Walman interjected. "Didn't it work?"
"No, there's too much play in it," Zeke responded evenly. "Do you have a three?"
"Our three went missing somewhere between the crash site and the biodome," Danziger tried to keep his cool about it, but the missing number three driver still haunted him. He knew it had been safely stowed in the small toolbox when he used it to fix the dunerail's charge modulator after he and Devon returned from their ill-fated hunt for water. After that, it was anybody's guess when it disappeared.
Walman, Baines, and True, his three prime suspects, all sincerely declared their innocence. Nobody else in the group even knew the difference between a number three driver and a box end wrench. Well, probably Alonzo, but he couldn't get the pilot to so much as look at a repair issue.
He'd just back away with his hands up, declaring ignorance and clumsiness. "I just fly 'em. I don't fix 'em," he'd say. Danziger suspected that he just didn't want to cross the contract line between technicians and operators. Even on planet G889, far outside station influence, old boundaries proved harder to cross than anybody thought.
On the stations, an operator caught working on a piece of equipment could have his contract pulled for clause violation. In the long run, it was probably better for Alonzo to be completely ignorant of the workings of the ship he flew than risk losing a lucrative pay contract for being so bold as to tighten a loose bolt.
Meanwhile, the technician could understand in theory how the machine was to work to aid in its repair, but absolutely was not allowed to operate it for the same fear of contract breach. This mindset made for some hellish red tape at times and delayed many a project, causing Danziger no end of frustration. He tried his best to seek out contract situations that allowed him to do both—fix it and operate it.
Now, underneath the rover, he was in the best of all possible worlds, fixing with an eye to operating—and even better, they were modifying for increased performance. Now that was worth working on.
Danziger watched and listened as Zeke and Walman explained their modifications, making mental notes and occasionally asking questions for clarification just in case he had to do any repairs to their work later on. He was impressed.
"How fast do you think she'll run now?" he asked as they all crawled free of the rover's underbelly.
"She'll keep up with the rail, I feel sure," Walman answered.
"And that's under a heavier load than we'll probably ever put her to," Zeke added as he wiped his hands on a free towel. "Those things are built to haul massive loads under low speeds. We just tweaked it in the other direction," the former ZED said with a grin. "Did you know that on Callisto what we just did was completely illegal?"
"It's probably illegal anywhere that Hummer has a corporate presence," Walman grimaced. "When they set up their G889 office, we'll all go to jail."
"I'll be happy to go to jail then, just as long as we can make faster time to New Pacifica now," Danziger responded, clapping Walman on the shoulder. "I can't wait to tell Devon we're going to be able to turn her 20 klicks a day into more like 100 or better."
"Martin will be glad to hear there'll be more riding and less walking," Walman laughed.
"Hell, so am I," Danziger responded with a grin as they all went in for lunch.
Over lunch, the group discussed the plans for the next day.
"Julia and her team will take the rover and go back to the Council ship," Danziger was saying.
"What if there's a problem with the sleep chamber?" Julia asked. "Those things were very unreliable before. I mean, we lost six of eight."
Unconsciously, everyone looked at Morgan. "Hey, don't blame me, guys," he immediately jumped to his own defense. "I just did what Bennett told me."
"Bennett or Riley?" Magus asked suspiciously.
"Whoever it was, I just followed orders," Morgan replied.
"At any rate, we lost those six on revival and Bennett and Elizabeth both died of revival complications," Julia continued in concern.
"Did they?" Yale interjected. "We don't know that the particle itself didn't play a significant role in their demise."
"But not of the other six," Julia replied. "I hope to be able to input better revival commands than before, but still it's a risk. Those chambers make me nervous. I'd like to have someone there who can work on it if need be."
"Well, Alonzo's got the most sleep jumping experience," Magus suggested, giving the dark haired pilot a questioning look.
"I just sleep in 'em, I don't fix 'em," he responded with a wry grin. At Danziger's immediate look of suspicion, Alonzo continued more seriously, "I mean it. I don't know the first thing about the insides."
Unconsciously, everybody looked at Danziger. "Okay, so I'll go in case there's something that needs to be worked on. But I'll need a reference manual. Yale, how's your database on cold sleep systems?" he asked.
Yale did a quick internal reference check, then nodded. "I do have data available," he began, "but I have no idea if it will be what's needed."
"At least we have something to work with," Julia concluded. "So, John, Yale, and I will be going?" she suggested.
"There's not room for four in the cab of the rover," Baines interjected solemnly. "It's a squeeze for three. Someone could ride in the back, but with those animals out there I don't think you'll want to risk it without some kind of protective screen rigged up."
The room went quiet as everyone considered his words. The strange predators that had attacked Uly and True still roamed the grasslands outside the perimeter. Everyone by now had seen them circling the compound or stalking buffalo. They were savagely efficient in their attacks and deadly fast.
The Terrian word for them, according to their Terrian dreamers, sounded like brraku. Yale informed them that the original colonists had named them barracuda after a ferocious earth fish that the brraku resembled in an odd way with their reflective scale-like skins and tapering heads with no visible ears and rows of sharp teeth. Barracuda had caught on with the Eden group as well, having a more pronounceable feel for most of them, even though Uly and True interchanged the two words freely.
Danziger considered the logistics of creating a defensive enclosure for the back of the rover for a moment. They didn't have much by way of proper raw materials for something like that—at least that wouldn't take several days of fabrication.
But enclosing the bed would make it possible to take Uly and True along—he knew Devon would want to see Uly and he didn't want to leave True behind himself. Unfortunately, that would leave one or both kids exposed to what he considered to be excessive danger.
He realized that the members of the group had stopped conversing and were looking at him for a decision. He took a deep breath. He didn't like it, but he didn't have to like something to know it was the right thing to do.
"Julia and I will take the rover and go get Devon in the morning. That way everyone can ride in the safety of the cab. Everyone else will stay at camp where it's safe," he darted a sharp look in the direction of the kids to forestall the protest he knew was coming—especially from Uly.
Then Danziger reached out to squeeze Uly on the shoulder and continued, "We'll carry plenty of gearsets with us so you can talk to your mom, Uly, just as soon as she's awake enough to talk to you. I can also consult with Yale if need be about any work that needs to be done to the cold sleep capsule."
"I agree," Yale added. "The colonists' records on indigenous wildlife discuss these barracuda in clear terms. Until the herds of buffalo move on, they are a real threat to anyone who passes into their territory. Anyone leaving the safety of the compound should be securely enclosed in the rover."
"That means we're here until the buffalo move on, maybe for weeks," Morgan stated in realization. As no one really wanted to pull up stakes from the comforts of civilization, Danziger's plan was readily accepted by everyone but Alonzo.
As the rest of the group exited the dining area, Alonzo pulled Danziger aside. "I don't know about this, John," he said quietly. "I'd feel better if you had someone else along for added protection. Those creatures are pretty bold. I've seen them testing the outer limits of the perimeter, like they're seeing how close they can get before they set off the alarm."
"I know what you mean," Danziger responded. "But it's just too exposed in the back. For that matter, I don't know if the cab could withstand a combined attack. I watched two of them take down a buffalo that had to outweigh them by better than a thousand pounds."
Both men suppressed a shiver. Danziger had feared for his physical safety before, usually in spacewalks, sometimes in bar fights, but had never had to face something like these animals. In vids, old earth animals were majestic and compelling; in reality, those big predators were terrifying. Unlike a drunk dock worker, those barracuda had no fear of the consequences of ripping a person's head off.
"While we're gone," Danziger continued seriously as they made their way down the hall to the med lab, "you keep an eye on things for me. I don't feel good about leaving True so soon after she was so sick."
"True is just fine, Danz," Alonzo assured him. "She's gotten nearly as good at Dreaming as Uly already."
"That's another thing," Danziger added. "It took Uly months to change that much. Why is she so different?"
"I don't know," Alonzo answered, shaking his head. "The Terrians still say that Uly is special, that they've done something for him that they've never done for any human child. But I'm stronger on the Dreamplane than he is and True is catching up quickly. I just hope he'll be able to deal with it."
"In that case," Danziger concluded, "I'll leave you to handle the sibling rivalry."
Alonzo gave him a sidelong glance. "So Uly and True are brother and sister now?" he asked pointedly, one eyebrow cocked suspiciously.
He was amused by Danziger's change of expression as the possible interpretation of his words crossed his friend's mind. To his credit, he didn't blush, but gruffly covered by saying, "You know what I meant, Solace."
"I just know what you said, John," Alonzo said, following the tall mechanic into the med lab. "Only you know what you meant."
The next morning found Danziger and Julia loading various supplies into the cab of the rover. He picked up a storage box and hefted it into the floor in front of the passenger's seat with a grunt. "What all have you got in this thing, doc?" he asked, rubbing his lower back.
"We don't know what we might run into in reviving Devon," Julia explained. "I'm just trying to be prepared for any eventuality."
He helped her into the seat, then wedged a box of tools beside her medical equipment, barely leaving her enough room to put her feet. "What is all this?" she asked.
"Preparations for any eventuality," he said with a grin, looking up at her, then backing away to make room for Alonzo to step onto the side rail for a farewell kiss.
Danziger walked around the front of the rover to find True and Uly waiting for him. "You guys be good for Yale, you hear?" he instructed gently, reaching down to give each a caress on the head. To his surprise, both kids threw their arms around him and he dropped to one knee to talk to them.
"Hey, don't worry," he began gently wrapping an arm around each of them. "We should be back in a couple of days with your mom safe and sound. You can both get me on gear any time." At True's immediate protest of disbelief, he added, "I promise to keep it on, okay?"
True and Uly both nodded, then True said, "Be careful, dad. The Terrians have warned us about the brraku. They say they are dangerous to humans."
"I can imagine," Danziger replied, keeping his tone light for the children's sake.
"Tell my mom that I love her," Uly said, tears welling up in his eyes.
"I'll do that," Danziger promised. "And you keep your gear on too. She's gonna want to talk to you just as soon as she wakes up. I bet your name is the first word out of her mouth."
Yale came up to take the youngsters in tow. "I'll take good care of them, John," he said gently. "You and Julia be careful and keep in touch with base."
"Here you go," Magus said as she stepped forward with a magpro and the pistol. "Fully charged and ready to go. I just hope you don't have to use 'em."
Danziger nodded, then stepped easily up into the tall vehicle, reaching down to take the weapons Magus extended to him. He stowed them carefully, then closed the door. Julia gave him a nod and Alonzo wished them a safe trip, then hopped down and closed the passenger door.
"Vehicle start," Danziger ordered, reassured by the quick response of the engine as it started. He carefully navigated the lumbering mining vehicle to the edge of the perimeter as everyone backed away to a safe distance. He was glad to see Walman with one of the other magpros at the ready, just in case the barracuda decided to take advantage of the breach in the perimeter as they passed through.
To everyone's relief, there were none of the animals in sight as they rumbled out of camp and back into the winding rocky pass that led to the Council ship—to Devon.