First Chapter of Book 3

I crawled out of the mangled and twisted metal that used to be my emergency egress pod into blinding morning light. A huge spider web of fractures laced my helmet, and with the inner screen bleating alarms and flashing red and yellow lights, I knew the integrity of my suit was compromised.

My left leg had no feeling. I didn’t want to look down. I grimaced and dragged my leg behind me, scanning the rocky landscape for some place to hunker down while I assessed my injuries. I spied a cave in an outcrop of orange and black rocks.

Planting one glove in front of the other, I made my way to the hollow in the rock. I could feel the gravel through my nano-sensors. I might be breathing toxic fumes, but at least the crushed stones and sharp rocks weren’t cutting my palms. Ha.

A few feet from the entrance, I gathered a handful of pebbles and tossed them into the opening. I heard them scatter on hard rock, but nothing else. “Let this one thing go right,” I mumbled to myself and crawled inside. My helmet light didn’t work, so I grabbed my utility torch from a pants pocket. I shone it inside. It wasn’t much of a cave, but that was fine. I needed seclusion and a defensible position while I figured out what in the ever-living-hell I was going to do now.

With a final cry, I entered the cave, taking care not to bump my injured leg over the rubble at the entrance. The cave was about four feet deep and five feet high. I wouldn’t be able to stand, but something told me my standing days might be over. I made my way to an inner wall where I could still see my broken ship, but my body was obscured by the rock formation.

Smoke billowed out from one of the engines and sparks rained from where the nosecone used to be. That worried me. I shifted on the ground, took a deep breath, and lowered my eyes to my leg. I hissed at the sight. A twisted piece of black metal jutted out from my thigh. That explained the warmth. Two inches farther and I would be bleeding from my femoral artery. Good night, Amity.

“Computer, what’s my location?”

“Your suit’s integrity is compromised. Please return to the EEP for possible emergency treatment.”

“The EEP is busted,” I said. “What’s my location?”

“Unable to comply.”

“What about the nanosatellite array?”

“Unable to comply.”

Dammit. “Computer, where is your hard drive located?”

“I have redundant hard drives located in the nosecone and the insulated buffer trap.”

I craned my neck to see the crumpled pod. The smoke cloud had lessened to a gray ribbon. Well, the nosecone was out. “Where is the insulated buffer trap?”

“Access panel to the insulated buffer trap is located on the flight computer’s side panel.”

The flight computer comprised a set of monitors facing the single occupant’s chair. Said chair was inside the pod, and I recalled climbing straight out from the chair into daylight. Through the flight computer panel, to be exact. The non-existent computer panel. I tracked the scar on the hill where black metal shards peppered the rocks. If my leg wasn’t skewered, it might be worth scavenging, in case the hard drive was salvageable.

“What are your capabilities right now?”

“I am able to assess suit integrity and monitor life support systems. I can also access a large downloaded file found in your helmet’s computer memory. Would you like me to access the file?”

I blew out a breath. “Not yet. My IntraVisor screen is busted. Can you read my vitals out loud to me?”

“Blood pressure is 120 over 80. Your pulse is 87 bpm and your temperature is 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. I have monitored your vitals for thirteen hours and seventeen minutes, since you landed.”

“Great, great,” I murmured while inspecting the metal shrapnel in my leg. “I don’t know that I’d call that a landing, but whatever. Can you tell me how to safely remove a metal shard from my thigh?”

“Scanning suit, please stand by.”

So far, I wasn’t feeling woozy. Once I removed the impaled shard, there were no guarantees. Adrenalin from the crash flowed through my veins, and I noticed my vision acuity was amazing. Every detail jumped out at me, from the grain of the rocks, to the particulate swirling in the air from my smoking vessel.

“Puncture located two point five inches from your femoral artery. Femoral pressure bladder activated. Please wait.”

I felt a squeeze build in my leg, exactly like a blood pressure cuff would feel.

“Do you have access to your MDPak?” the computer asked.

“Yes,” I said. Tingling began to burn below the wound. I noticed my hands shake when I unzipped the pocket with the MDPak.

“Locate the green blister packet.”

“Okay, I have it,” I said. My breathing escalated. I examined the inch-square pouch with a small bio-absorbable nozzle.

“That is the blood clotting agent. When you have removed the object, you will place it in the wound.”

“Okay,” I said. “What do I do first?”

“Use the alcohol wipes to sterilize your gloves or hands, and wipe around the puncture.” The computer’s voice soothed my fraying nerves. The adrenalin must be wearing off.

I cleaned everything twice. “Okay, computer.”

“Can you shorten the object?”

I looked at my multi-tool. “I don’t have anything that will cut this metal,” I said. “Do I have to shorten it?”

“No. Prepare the blister packet and the wound dressing.”

With heart racing, I forced my shaky hands to unscrew the lid of the nozzle of the blister packet and to cut a length of sterile polymer-infused dressing.

“Administering a small dose of analgesic. Please be still,” the computer said. I felt a tiny pinch in my arm. “Grasp the object. If the object is straight, pull out in a smooth motion. If the object is bent, you must work it carefully in each direction. Immediately apply blister packet and wind dressing around your thigh.”

“Dios mio,” I moaned as I grasped the metal piece. I had no idea how deep this thing was in my leg, or if it was twisted inside. “Three, two, GAAAHHHH!” My vision swam for a second, but the shard was out. I fumbled the packet but stuffed it into my wound with the nozzle side-down. Then I wept as I wound the gauze around and around and secured it. I looked up toward my broken smoking pod, and then fell back onto the hard cave floor. “Computer, I believe I just fainted.”

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