Aremis burned, and with it burned uncounted thousands, both on the ground and in the black, boiling away in the vacuum and scorching in the bombed habitats. The tragedy unfolded before a reeling galaxy as if in slow motion. Bombs falling on civilian centers. The military slow to respond. The government cutting communication into and out of Vega. So, outside, a stunned populace watched and waited.
On the edge of New Corvo, just beyond the choking smoke and burning buildings, lay New Corvo South Trauma Center and Medical Facility. It was designated Evacuation Point C-8, and was taking in refugees from the city. Those fleeing the immediate danger of the bayside city’s destruction took their chances on the outskirts of the most heavily targeted zones. While most fled away from the city, the professional staff of New Corvo South went inexorably towards the danger. Emergency Medical Response Teams responded to the disaster with calm and caring demeanors, and helped save many lives.
This was what the news reports said. This is what the official reports said, as well. What really happened was far, far different.
“Building clear! Move on!”
Mari adjusted the rebreather mask over her mouth, pulling the straps until her ash-covered blonde hair scrunched up against her scalp uncomfortably. She ignored the pain, though, knowing that the dust in the air was filled with nasty chemicals that could hinder her ability to work. At that moment, the ability to work was her most valuable asset. She moved away from the burned-out building and towards the next square structure on the street, trying her best to ignore the distant explosive concussions that made her heart skip a beat with every heavy rumble. A small group of people rounded the corner; staggering and stunned, shell-shocked and confused. Their injuries were evident—hastily applied bandages stained with red from beneath. Mari halted with the team, turning to Len, the team leader.
Len held up a large hand in greeting and wiped the long black hair out of his eyes. “Hey! We’re EMRT’s! Do you need any help, or know anybody that needs medical assistance?”
The seven people stopped in their tracks, almost recoiling at first as they spotted the response team, but their shock transformed rapidly into relief. A woman spoke up, “We’ve got a few hurt people, but we think we can make it out. There’s people that are worse-off a few blocks down. A bomb hit nearby, and it took half a building with it.”
Len nodded, hefting his medical bag over his shoulder once more. “Thank you! Follow this road to Connery, take a left there, and head out of the city. Our evac point is right there. They’ll have a place for you to rest and get some medical attention, and it’s only about an hour away.”
“Thank you. Please, I’m sure there are people that need help in that building.”
Len and the team moved on down the street, heading in the indicated direction. The smoke hung heavy around the area, and dust stuck to their faces and clothes. Through the haze, a decimated building appeared, fire licking out of a few windows and smoke pouring from the top of the structure. One face of the structure was simply gone, reduced to rubble that piled into the street, leaving exposed empty half-rooms filled with the remains of people’s lives and livelihood. There were a few people on the ground, tending to a collection of battered and bleeding ex-occupants that lay on the ground. Len motioned to the group, rushing ahead, “Let’s go!”
The team moved with coordination, doctors and nurses tearing open trauma kits and going to work at once. Mari reached into her bag and began setting up lights around the area, illuminating the victims and revealing the extent of their injuries. Broken and crushed limbs, burns, and blood. Mari choked back a sob, focusing on getting the lights set up before rushing to the aid of a doctor. “I’m here, Doctor Arco. What do you need.”
Doctor Arco didn’t spare Mari a glance, focusing on his patient, a young man with dazed brown eyes and thin black hair. “Severe lacerations on both arms. I’ve got the bleeding stopped on those, put some painkillers into him, but we’ve got broken bones and possible internal injuries. Looks like something fell on top of him.”
Mari nodded, grabbing a scanner as the doctor worked on the exterior injuries. She passed the device over the young man’s torso, and frowned, lips growing tight. “Four broken ribs. Looks like some minor internal bleeding. We can handle it here with some coagulant, stabilize, and then move him back to the hospital for surgery.”
“Do it. I’ve got these wounds closed. I’m moving on,” Doctor Arco grabbed his kit and moved to the next unattended patient.
Mari worked quickly, using an injector to put a coagulating bio gel directly onto the spots where the scanner indicated there was bleeding. The man mumbled something, his eyes focusing on Mari suddenly. Mari stiffened up briefly, before speaking with calm certainty. “You’re going to be all right. Are you feeling any pain?”
The man mumbled something again, his bandaged arm lifting to gesture. Mari gently, yet firmly, placed his arm back at his side. “You need to lie still. You could aggravate your injuries.”
The man lay still, and Mari nodded. “Good. Stay still, we’ll be moving you to a hospital soon.”
Mari stood up, looking around the area for a doctor in need of assistance, her eyes traveling up to the destroyed face of the building out of morbid curiosity, and something caught her attention.
A ship’s fuselage half-buried in the rubble reflected the light of a burning fire. An intact, if badly cracked, cockpit was just visible. Mari pointed up towards the crashed ship. “We’ve got an intact ship up there. There might be survivors.”
Len was at her side a moment later, peering up at the rubble. “Well, I’ll be damned. Good eye, Mari. Let’s see if we can get up there.”
Mari and Len clambered over the rubble, climbing up the settling surface to arrive at the ship after several minutes. Len approached the cockpit of the ship and frowned. “The glass is scorched. I can’t see inside.”
“You could break the glass,” Mari suggested.
Len reached into the rubble, grabbing a sizeable chunk of concrete, and slammed it against one of the lower panels. The glass shuddered and held, but a few more hits caved it inward. Len reached inside the hole he’d made and pulled away the clinging glass, breaking it enough until a sizeable hole was created. He bent low and peered into the interior, and froze for a moment before stumbling back, nearly falling over. “Holy shit.”
“What?” Mari asked, crouching down to look inside even as Len reached out to stop her.
Inside was a hulking, dark-skinned creature with a blunt snout and massive fangs. It clutched at its chest, holding one massive clawed hand over what was no doubt a massive laceration, based on the dark liquid that dribbled from between its digits. The other arm clutched a wicked-looking knife, which it held against its forehead. Its eyes were closed, and it rumbled unintelligible sounds as it lay on the floor of the cockpit.
“A vanduul,” Len whispered.
Mari stared at the being, frozen, until Len’s hand reached out and gently pulled her away. Mari and Len moved a short distance away from the ship before speaking. “It’s still alive, by the looks of things,” Len said, shooting a glance at the unmoving cockpit of the ship.
“It’s injured, too. There was definitely blood… or whatever passes for blood in the vanduul,” Mari replied, running a hand over her brow to wipe away the cold sweat.
“Good. Let’s leave it to bleed out,” Len mumbled.
Mari stared at him for a moment, frowning. “What if it doesn’t bleed out? What if it gets up?”
“We find some MP’s and get them to shoot it, then.”
“If you haven’t noticed, Len, the military is a bit busy farther in the city,” Mari said, gesturing towards the city center. The staccato crack of automatic weapon fire rang through streets, echoing from a scant few kilometers away. “If anybody needs to take care of this thing, it’s us.”
“What’s your thought?” Len asked.
“Well, we have an oath. Do no harm, right?” Mari held up a hand as Len scowled incredulously at her. “Hear me out. We’re not going to kill this thing. That’s the military’s job. We have other options, though. We can put it under with anesthesia, keep it unconscious until the military arrives. They might want to capture it. How many vanduul do you think they take alive, Len? This thing could be valuable.”
Len considered Mari for a moment, looking between her and the downed spacecraft, and then nodded. “You make a good point. Okay, so… how do we get it under?”
Mari held up the med injector. “I just need to get close enough to stick it with this. I’ll hit it with a big dose of dimorphin, and that should keep it on its back and barely conscious. We can close up any serious injuries, then one of us stays and keeps it too doped up to move.”
Len sighed. “All right. Let’s just do this quickly.”
They both moved over to the cockpit of the ship, peering inside once more. The vanduul hadn’t moved. Mari stepped closer, bending inside the cockpit and nearly gagging at the musky smell of the creature. She reached up to the meat of the being’s thigh and jabbed the injector in, quickly depressing the trigger and sending a rush of drugs into the creature. The vanduul jerked at her touch and sat up, a fresh wash of ichor pouring from between its fingers, and raised its knife with a roar. Mari leapt back, gasping, as the thing swiped at her with the blade, barely missing her face. The vanduul struggled, flopping around on its side and crawling forward, it’s throaty howls growing quieter, until it finally slumped down, going limp. Mari and Len stood, tense and ready to run, for a long minute, before finally relaxing.
“That was insane. How much did you pump into it?” Len asked.
“I guessed the weight ratio and assumed a higher metabolism than average… but almost enough to kill a human,” Mari replied.
They stood in silence for a moment, before Mari knelt down next to the drowsy vanduul. It took a sluggish, weak swipe at her, and Mari pushed away the flailing limb effortlessly. She and Len worked together to get a restraint wrapped around the vanduul and pin its arms to its sides, before they rolled it over. Blood leaked from the massive cut across its chest, and Mari poured coagulant gel over the whole of the wound. The gel hardened and created a seal over the wound, stopping the bleeding in moments. Len nodded. “Good. That’ll keep it until the military arrive and decide what to do with the bastard.”
Mari sighed, standing up and leaning against the fuselage of the ship. “Okay. I can keep an eye on it. You should head back down, and get Kyle to radio the military, let them know we’ve got a live vanduul here.”
Len stared at the vanduul for a moment. “You sure you’ll be all right?”
Mari lifted the injector with a small smirk. “If he gives me any trouble, I’ll stick him with this again.”
Len nodded and began climbing back down out of the rubble, leaving Mari alone with the Vanduul. Mari stood quietly, watching the vanduul as it drifted in and out of consciousness, it’s head lolling as it dealt with the dimorphin. Slowly, she crouched down, reaching across the cockpit of the ship to pick up the knife the vanduul had tried to kill her with. She hefted the blade awkwardly, its handle far too large for her to grip properly. The blade was stained along one edge, dark liquid still slightly running down to pool near the grip.
Mari stared at the liquid, then the alien blood all over the cockpit, and frowned, looking to the vanduul’s chest wound with curiosity. She thought back to when she’d first seen the being, how it had held the knife to its forehead and had been speaking in its alien tongue. She glanced at the semi-conscious vanduul. “Sorry to ruin your plan, but you’re more valuable alive than dead. You know things, and I’m sure the military will love to pick your brains on the subject of this attack.”
The vanduul’s eyes roamed over her face for a moment before flickering away, staring at ghostly nothings, no doubt partially hallucinating from the massive dose of dimorphin. Mari tucked the massive knife into her medical bag and sat back, monitoring the monster and waiting patiently for the military to arrive.