Serial Saturday #2.18: Falling
For the first few seconds, Sarah was too shocked to comprehend what had just happened. Her arms pinwheeled wildly, her breath was ragged and frantic, and then she stiffened up and held her breath so that she wouldn’t be poisoned by the atmosphere.
I’m going to die.
I’m going to die.
Why did he-
I’m going to die.
Then, she saw what he had done. The silvery disc he had given her was a personal protective shield. It was rapidly spreading out across her body, surrounding her, giving her some minor protection, and- she let out a breath as it finally wrapped around her head- air to breathe.
How long do these things last?
The city was fading fast now, a dark bulk above her being rapidly obscured by clouds and mist. It was all gone. The walkway. The power converter. Annika’s body in her apartment. Running through the dark streets of New Toliara to the docks. The ambush at the Oasis. The storm they had flown through to get to Samundra City and now, with one shove, it was all for nothing. She’d be another casualty. The first civilian killed in the Great Corporate Takeover of Venus. She’d never see New Toliara again. She’d never find out the truth.
I’ll never know if Dad is really alive or not.
She kept going over her memories. The Consolidation Fleet landed on both coasts of Madagascar. They’d never been a rich country, they were lagging behind the rest of Africa even then. But they were proud people, fiercely independent and so when the government had issued a call for volunteers many had gone.
They had done their best. No one who had written histories of the war in the years since could say otherwise. The Consolidation forces had paid a bloody price for Madagascar. Step by step, mile by mile, the defenders had fought.
That black day at Moramanga. When the lines of exhausted defenders had broken and the road to the capital was finally opened.
It happened there.
Sarah could still see the official report they had received two months later at the refugee processing center in Comoros:
“Subject attempted to seize the enemy artillery position. Last seen charging enemy lines before artillery fire impacted the entire area. Multiple witnesses stated the explosion was so large no one could have survived.”
No one could have survived. She had grieved. Her mother had grieved. The wound scabbed over. Time passed. Her Dad was dead. Abe was right. They could have cloned him. They could have changed someone else’s face. But there was the cruel thing about it- one single image on a holo-projector and all the old wounds were bleeding again. Try as she might, that spark of impossible hope had returned.
He had to be. And yet… Mendrika was alive. If one ghost from her past could come back to life, why not another? Could holo-projectors be faked? But Abe had given her all the files. She could-
No, you can’t. You’re going to die.
The sentence kept running through her head dully over and over again. There was nothing she could do. Soon, she’d fall too far and be crushed. Or she’d hit a pocket of acid. Or the silver disk, however it was protecting her would short circuit and her body would be dissolved and tossed with the winds, primordial ooze vaporized into the atmosphere and blown ceaselessly across the planet.
You’re going to die. You’re going to die. You’re going to die. You’re going to die. You’re going to-
The white light was blinding. It came from underneath her and terror seized her. This was it. The light at the end of the tunnel. It had to be a stroke. Her skull was going to explode. Pop. Aneurysm. White light. Death. End of-
Her descent began to slow. There was a noise beneath her. A… a… a ship?
Impossible. The white light cradled her, held her close, drew her in, closer and closer and- flicker.
She was falling again and slammed into the hull of the ship with a sickening thud. The silvery sheen of the protective shield wavered and then vanished. She thrashed on the hull, holding her breath, closing her eyes, feeling the atmosphere surrounding her burn. A burning mist began creeping up her arm and it began burning and burning and burning and just as the pain reached incandescent levels and she began to blackout, Sarah felt a hand clamp on her arm and begin to pull her inside.
Consciousness returned slowly. Her head was fuzzy. Light. White light. A face appeared above her. Sister Adelaide. “Back with us, are we?”
Sarah could only nod.
“We got you just in time. That damned acid though.”
Memories rushed in. Sarah tried to sit up, but Sister Adelaide laid a gentle hand on her arm. “Easy now, easy now. Let me help.” She helped Sarah sit up and adjusted the med-bed to help her get into a more comfortable position. The med bay was white and smelled clean in the way only a med bay could. Along with Sister Adelaide, Abbess Hildegarde and Mendrika were there as well- the latter’s face full of concern and relief. “Thank God,” he sagged. “We thought we lost you.”
Sarah shook her head. “N-n-not this time,” she croaked.
“You need to rest,” Abbess Hildegarde said, reprovingly. “The healing will take time, especially with your arm.”
“I had a holo-projector.” It hurt to talk.
“Your possessions are here and undamaged,” Sister Adelaide replied. “It will be waiting when you wake up.”
“No,” Sarah insisted. She pointed at Mendrika. “Need it.”