In Fire and Ash
Chapter Five - A Long Night
The mighty C.W.S. Saratoga, an old but reliable
deep space Junker, now lay in ruin along the bank of a large
river of sulfur yellow water. Nearby trees lay strewn in smoldering
masses across the ground. Scattered fires belched smoke plumes
into the thick night air and the stench of charred bodies
stuck to the hot night wind. Inside the fallen behemoth the
true horror unfolded. Hallways were blocked by unidentifiable
remnants of human bodies. Red alert lights flashed across
the walls, glistening red with blood. Inside the ship was
a nightmare come to life, a haunting scene no person should
The hollow moans of those still living, better described
as those not yet dead, echoed into the bridge. The alert for
crash positions had gone out too late and only those on the
bridge had truly had time to prepare. Captain Serman breathed
with visible effort, his chest rising and falling in short
breaths. His head pounded to the point of nausea and his entire
body ached, muscles spasming in pain. Warm blood dripped into
his eyes as they searched the room for any signs of life.
Serman slowly turned his head to the right, where Lieutenant
Leline Aria should have been. He saw her crumpled chair nearly
imbedded into the control panel, with no sign of Aria. Serman
reached out with a numb hand to undo his safety restraints.
He attempted to stand as he pulled the thick, buckled straps
away from his body. Serman was surprised that he was able
to move at all, much less stand with only good effort.
As he stood and turned to look back his stomach churned violently.
His weapons officer's legs were still seated in his chair,
but the rest of him, eviscerated by the safety restraints,
lay across his control panel. The buckled inner hull had crushed
another man, the only visible sign was his arm protruding
from the wreckage. As for the rest, Serman could not match
a part to a person. But there was still no sign of Lieutenant
Aria, the one person Serman desperately wanted not to see
amongst all this.
Serman waded through the corpses to the open door that lead
off of the bridge. The warm air, laden with the stench of
death, stuck to the inside of Serman's nose. Water poured
through bent and twisted metal, washing blood down the off
canter halls. Serman walked for what felt like an eternity
until he came across a porthole that was just above the ground
outside. He looked out to see rain beating down to the muddy
ground where occasional surges of lighting would light up
trees and bushes outside.
Suddenly a hand fell to Captain Serman's shoulder. His body
twisted in pain and he rounded to see what startled him.
Lieutenant Aria stood with blood smeared on her face. The
blood did little to cover the purple and black bruises she
has sustained. Still, the injuries did little to diminish
her beauty in Serman's eyes. The two embraced, ignoring the
pain that enveloped them from numerous broken bones and bruised
"I can't believe you're alive!" Serman said. "Why
weren't you on the bridge?"
"You were barely breathing", Aria replied, "And
I had to try to get to Med Lab. To find something to help
Captain Serman nodded, but did not look up from the ground.
"Did anyone else live?" He asked, expecting the
answer before she even replied.
"Yes" Aria said. Serman looked up, hope filled
his eyes. "But I don't know how to get to them, the ship
is a mangled wreck."
Serman accompanied Aria to Med Lab 2 just down the hall.
Serman's brow relaxed with relief to see three crewmen and
a medical officer in the room. The crewmen were in bad shape,
but they would live. The medical staff member barely seemed
hurt as his quickly moved from one man to the next and back
to his supplies. He turned his head when the Captain walked
in and quickly moved to him. The medical officer supported
Captain Serman to a leaning bed in the corner. Serman waved
him off thankfully and looked to the man's featureless visage.
Too smooth skin covered a lean face, split by a smile that
did not touch the cold, solid black eyes of the GenKin. The
tall half man walked back to its supply cabinet and removed
clean gauze and bandages. Aria took them and thanked the medical
officer as it returned to its other patients.
GenKin were genetically mutated humans created to perform
tasks that were too dangerous or too lowly for normal men
to perform. Some were created as laborers and others as soldiers.
Since the war with the Sakkra had begun, Humans found out
that their long-standing rules in war no longer applied. Saurians
targeted medics before any other soldiers and slaughtered
them while they attended to the wounded. GenKin, Halfmen,
Morphs and whatever other names normal men called them, were
enlisted as medical officers due to their incredible physical
prowess and deep understanding of practical knowledge. These
creations were very good at all tasks that required a strong
logical thought, but could formulate very little independent
ideas. They had been outlawed in many places due to the high
instability of recent models. Obviously, the old Saratoga
still had at least one on board.
Serman shrugged uncomfortably under the weighty eyes of the
other men in the room. They acted as if they had not noticed
him walk in, but Serman believed they only wished he had not.
He stood slowly and walked to the console behind the med officer's
desk, calling up the current ship status. Every area of the
ship was highlighted in red, meaning there was no area the
crash had not completely destroyed. The ship, though still
in one piece, would not be able to leave this planet. The
good news remained that there were survivors in the lower
decks. The relays came back with three men alive in Hydroponics,
a small group still in Communications and the main concern,
five men still alive in Engineering on the bottom level. Engineering
held the supplies the crew would need to survive outside the
ship, that is where they would head first. The scattered blips
from crewmembers accessing consoles across the ship reflected
that some of the salvage crew had survived and were attempting
to contact one another. Main power was out, leaving little
lighting inside. The pale blue moonlight from outside illuminated
nothing beyond the bridge, as the Saratoga held no other portholes
beyond the main deck. Emergency power surged off and on, red
alert lights flashing for a while, before dimming to darkness.
Serman stood and walked to the other crewmembers. "Can
any of you walk?"
One man looked at the Captain, a bandage covering his left
eye. "Looks like we have to, sir."
All three men pushed themselves off the beds and walked over
to Captain Serman, all seemed hurt, but they looked ready
for anything. Serman looked them over from head to toe as
he ran down the synopsis.
"There are injured crewmen all over the ship. We're
not leaving without every one of them. We're going to search
one deck at a time starting with Engineering."
One of the crewmen, a skinny man covered in blood but with
no visible injuries, raised his hand while speaking. "Captain,
I believe there are sentry bots still located around the ship.
I can access them from the security station on Communications
deck. They might be of help, sir."
"Very well" Serman agreed, "Head to Comm deck,
the rest of us will move to Engineering, and when we've secured
the crew there we will meet you at the security station. We'll
move on from there."
The man nodded with pleased compliance. Serman motioned for
everyone to move out, there was no time to waste if men were
injured somewhere in the ship. Captain Serman had to separately
order the GenKin to follow them, which it did accordingly.
As the group entered the hallway, the security officer split
off to head to the station while the rest of the group moved
to the nearby emergency stairwell. This would be a long night.