Immediately, the laughs stopped, and the civilians began to scream. Up, however, knew action needed to be taken. Instead of struggling to unclip himself, he simply used the shaking of the starship to help him rip apart his seatbelts, then he turned to me and freed me as well, standing up, I began to free others, not sure why. But it was soon impossible to stand, with the shaking and rolling of the starship growing as it sailed back to the planet below.
The chaos was suffocating, as some people screamed for help, and others just ran haywire. Someone made the effort to order everyone to go to a drop pod, or an impact chamber, but that only added to the disaster, as people were scrambling to be the first to get to the safety of a drop pod.
"Private Lopez!" I turned, and saw Lieutenant Piper coming towards me, with other Starship Rangers. Up and Marx were busy freeing colonists who were too weak or scared to free themselves. "Help the civilians, thin get yourself to an impact chamber!"
I nodded at the order, but had no time to act on it. The Starship entered a new state of free fall, in which there was no orientation to the way it was tumbling though the air. I was thrown against the wall, or maybe it was the ceiling, or maybe it was the floor. There was no way of knowing. Even the emergency lights began to flicker, each flash of red showing a new disastrous scene.
After a few seconds of smashing against the walls and trying to stand back up, I collided with a person. I clung onto whoever it was, and, when at last I could see his face, I was relieved that it was Up.
"Impact… Chamber!" he struggled to yell over the chaos. He tried to point down the hallway, and I could just make out a thin door with a green light shining out of it. Together, we half climbed, half walked, half flew to it, helping civilians we found along the way. When we reached it, miraculous as it was, we helped as many people inside as we could.
"Get inside, Taz!" he ordered, shouting over the screams from inside the crowded impact chamber.
"What about you?" I called back.
"I've got to make sure everyone's safe."
He couldn't be serious. It was life and death now, only someone particularly foolish would still take honor over instinct. Or someone particularly brave. Or someone like Up.
"Wait for me, Taz. I'll be right back!" Then he was gone. I couldn't even protest, or beg him to come to safety. He was just gone. Off to try to save others, probably knowing it was futile anyways. I called out to him, but he either didn't hear me, or simply ignored it. Then the Starship shook once more and I was thrown back into the Impact Chamber and into pure darkness.
I blinked my eyes open to a red light, and, for a moment, I thought I was in the crashing starship. But, looking around, I found myself in a sick bay. The walls were brown and dirty, and there were no windows, so I assumed it to be some sort of underground room.
"She's awake," I heard a voice said. The lights blurred around me, and I shut my eyes, as several people came towards my bed where I lay.
"Tasia?" another voice said.
I gritted my teeth, instantly annoyed for some reason, and huffed, "What?"
Someone laughed. "Just like her to wake up in a bad mood." My heart beat quickened, because I thought it was Up, but, when I opened my eyes, he wasn't there. Instead, it was Lars. The scars on his arms had new friends, it seemed; his face was burned and battered anew.
The two others at my bedside were a doctor and his assistant. The doctor said, "You've been out for a few days. Do you remember?" His voice was gentle, and I really hated that.
"You fell from the outer layers of the atmosphere inside a burning Ship, completely unprotected for most of it. When we found you, you were outside of the impact chamber for some reason. We thought you were dead. Even most of those in the impact chambers. They're only good for a certain height. Somehow, though, you didn't burn up in the sky or bleed out upon impact. And you stabilized right as we got you into the hospital. Yup, Tasia, I'd say you're lucky to be alive. Luckiest girl I've ever met." Only then did I notice that I was actually in pain. All over, I was noticing new parts where I was injured or hurting.
"So tell me what's happened." It didn't seem like a good time to show weakness.
"The Starship you were on crashed," the assistant said.
"No duh, idiota," I spat at her, "I mean why am I here. This isn't exactly an ordinary hospital."
"Nothing gets by you, Taz" Lars commented. I was angry that he was saying that, instead of Up. It should have been Up. Why was Up not there?
But the doctor continued, cutting through my thoughts with a real explanation. "The crashed starship was only part of a bigger plan by the robot confederacy. The entire country's fallen into chaos. Most bases are either destroyed or in a state of siege, so we've had to create new underground ones, to keep everyone safe."
I let the new sink in, and picked my words carefully. "So it's a war, then? A second Robot War?"
"I'm afraid so, Miss Tasia," the doctor confirmed, using the name that was on his clipboard, my legal name. The name reminded me to ask.
"Where's Up?" Please don't say he died… He wasn't in the Impact Chamber at all.
The doctor looked at the assistant, who looked at Lars who looked at me. He backed on his feet a little, cleared his throat, and looked expectantly at the doctor. He sighed, and said sickeningly gently, "Captain Up is missing. No one could find him after the crash."
Even though I could hear the words perfectly clear, they seemed to bounce around in my head before clicking into reality. And I don't remember what happened after that, only that I managed to successfully block out everything that the three were saying to me, because, after a few more moments, they all left, and I was alone to lie and heal and think about Up, who was missing. Even though "missing" was almost always code for "dead." But I wouldn't allow myself to believe that. I kept that vacant truth on the very edge of my mind. Up was not dead, I told myself. He was out there. I just had to find him.
Okay, so I've decided to split this story up into chunks. This marks the end of Book One. Book Two will come shortly, and there'll be a link on this once it's up. Thanks for your support! :)