Across The Universe

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Chapter 16 (v.1) - 16

Submitted: June 21, 2018

Reads: 69

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Submitted: June 21, 2018



The day was long, but there had been no sign from the rest of the crew that they were even searching in the right direction.  When blessed night fell, all that it brought was the relief from the heat.  The light of the moon gave them enough light to see by, but it didn't sate their ancestral need for fire to keep the monsters at bay.


The water, thankfully, seemed harmless, and they hoped that the microbes in it were harmless as well, or at least treatable.  It sat in their helmets, propped up by a few rocks, and they drank heavily, waiting out the day first, then the night.  They slept in shifts, though neither admitted that they didn't know what would happen if more of those saiga-esque creatures came back for them.  They had no weapons, nothing to protect themselves with, not even strikers to start a fire.


They were unmolested, and when the dawn came they decided that they'd set off in the general direction of the others.  Waiting was pointless as well as dangerous.  Once they entered within a mile of the others, they would be able to re-establish contact.  Undoubtedly the rovers were unpacked now, and they were scanning for life amongst other things.  With their value to the group, they were certain that the rovers be in use for their search and rescue.


Wearing the suits to help protect themselves from the heat, they wrapped pieces of the parachute around themselves to become more eye-catching.  Then, with Daisy carrying both helmets full of water, they set off.  Max carried the radio, and with the piece in his ear, he listened for any sign that they were being searched for.


That was it, that was all they had, so they, all things considered, were being insanely hopeful that they were going to survive the next three days.


"What's Italy like?"  Max asked after about two hours of straight walking.  His arm burned and itched, his breath sticking in his throat.


"Now's when you ask?"  Daisy asked, squinting at him in the sunlight.  He shrugged.


"It's something to talk about."


Daisy watched the horizon swim.  "It's a desert," she said.  "Where I come from, it's a desert with scrubland, and the winters were harsh and bitter cold."  She looked at him wryly.


"How different-"


"Very," Daisy said, taking a deep breath.  "I think this place is more comparable to Death Valley."


Max swept the vista with his gaze.  "I don't know why, but I wish you went with a different place," he muttered.


Daisy turned in a circle, thinking how easy it would be for them to get lost.  She only had their shadows to go by, and she had to constantly look back to see where their shadows sat so that she could calculate the time and the placement of Solas.  "The Gobi, if you rather," she said easily.  "Though, there's more people in the Gobi."


For some reason, Max didn't like to talk about deserts while walking through one that literally had no end.  Trying to distract himself from the sick feeling that was moving from his arm to his stomach, he struggled to think of something common they had that didn't have to do with this planet.  "What was your childhood like?"  He glanced at her, but she stared straight ahead.


"I prefer to leave the past where it lies," she told him.  "It's too easy to continuously go over things that should be left dead.  Though, if you'd like to talk about your life before, I wouldn't mind.  It's always nicer to know about people than to listen to yourself speak, at least in my opinion."


Max's step faltered to the side, and he stumbled slightly, righting himself before he fell.  He felt sweat running freely now, soaking his body and face.  "I think it was all pretty typical," he mumbled, looking back as he heard something fall.  Daisy had dropped one of the helmets in the sand, and a little sloshed over the edge.  She caught his wrist and stopped him, getting him to sit down.  Pulling his arm out of the sleeve, Daisy unwrapped the injured site.  Max looked, and swallowed hard as he turned, trying not to throw up.  It was slimy with green and yellow, the visible flesh looked rotted and angry.


"This isn't going to feel good," Daisy informed him, taking out the radio and snapping the back panel off of it.  Gritting his teeth, Max squeezed her arm as she dragged the piece of polysilien over the injury, removing some of the infection.  She chose the helmet with the least water and bathed the wound until it was as clean as it was going to get.


"Is it gangrene?"  Max asked, breathing hard, and she tipped his head to the side and looked in his eyes.  They seemed slightly unfocused.  It was getting bad, she didn't need to be a medical doctor to know that.  Daisy was unsure whether it would be better to leave it uncovered now or not.


"Not yet," she told him.  "But it's getting worse."  She slipped her arm under his and levered him up.  "Are you still listening to the radio?"




"Good, focus on that," she advised, holding him tight.  She glanced at him and kissed his cheek.  "Thank you for saving my life.  I would have died stuck to the shuttle if it wasn't for you."


"It was a bad design," he said bitterly, and she agreed.  "Why couldn't they have used something like parachutes?"


"It was in case the system failed.  They used to do that, but sometimes the chutes wouldn't open," she answered.  "If you have over sixty people, and only one or two fail out of that, it's a lot better risk-wise, isn't it?"


"It still sucks," he insisted, and again she agreed.


They walked until Max lost his feet beneath him, and they sat heavily, Max barely able to do more than pant.  The sky was turning orange, showing that it would soon be night again.  Max's arm wasn't trying to heal, it seemed, instead it was weeping, the fluid fusing her hand to his side.


"You're doing good," she encouraged, resting the water container on her lap so they could both drink.  She had refilled it before, and yet it was almost empty.


Max handed her the radio.  "Here, I don't think I'll hear them even if they come on line with us," he said dismally, and Daisy did not argue.  The fact that he was still conscious was better than she could hope for.  If he survived the night, he would not survive the next day.


Clipping the radio to her shirt, she gave another all call, hoping that while they might be out of range for the radios, they would be able to at least be picked up on one of the scanners.  Waiting for an answer she knew wasn't coming, she refilled the helmets again in a nearby shallow, and bathed his arm again.


"We should get going," Max said, his voice faint.


Daisy looked at his pale, clammy face.  "No, we've gone miles, and it's getting dark now," she said softly, knowing she was dooming him, but also knowing that if they continued, there was a good chance he'd die on the way to nowhere.  "We should set up camp."


Max studied her a moment, and reached out, touching her arm to regain that connection that was somewhere between mind and body.  In it, she felt his determination and will to survive.  He felt like he was slowing her down, but likewise, she could feel that he knew her worries about him.  His fingers wrapped around her arm, and he gave a small pull, encouraging her to help him up.  Leaning heavily on her shoulders, Max apologized for being a burden.


"You're not a burden," she assured him, shifting the grip on the water.  "If you were, I'd leave you."


"No," Max breathed, looking blurrily to the horizon.  "You're not that kind of person."


Daisy set the call over the radio again, ignoring the shaking in her muscles.  She may not have been that sort of person, but she was never as strong as she wanted to be.  While she was physically stronger than she used to be, they had walked for miles since that morning, Max leaning on her more and more without realizing it, and at that point she was practically dragging him.  Even if she had been built like a bodybuilder, she wouldn't have been able to keep going for much longer.


Just one more step, she lied to herself after each new footfall.  One more step, and we'll stop.  It seemed that as the orange sky turned red and the horizon was narrowing.  She looked behind them, but they were following their shadows now, and in her exhaustion, she didn't know if she was putting them off course or not.  it didn't matter; in less than an hour they'd have to stop.  She didn't know these stars, they had been hard to chart from the station in a way that would be read the same as on land.  They had no map, no compass, and no guiding light.


Swallowing, Daisy steeled her spine and forced herself to go on, even as her sight began to blur from the strain.  "Tell me about your brother," she panted, trying to remember Max's file.  she believed that it had said he had a brother.


"Hm?"  Max grunted distantly, his feet dragging.  The infection was going to his brain through his bloodstream, the heat speeding his heart.  She glanced around for a pool to drop him in, but it was only going to be stalling at that point.  If she didn't get contact within the next hour, he was as good as dead.


"Your brother, Max!  What's his name?"  She demanded, feeling him shift under her guidance as he struggled towards consciousness.


"Erm. . . Viktor," he slurred, his foot catching on something in the sand.  They stumbled together, but Daisy managed to keep them both upright.


"Viktor," she panted, and he nodded clumsily.  "What's Viktor's favourite colour?"




"Are you sure?  What does he do?  Max!  What does he do?"  Daisy snapped, noticing a pool not far from them, only about forty yards and some change away.  It felt like miles.


His breathing, which had been deafening, was now little more than a murmur, the occasional wheeze passing his lips as his lungs became swollen and filled with fluid from the infection that was taking over his body.  "He's, uh, he's a lawyer," he mumbled, quieter than ever.


"Just stay with me, Max," she groaned, pushing past the pain and scrabbling to move faster.  "Just a couple more yards. . ."  They weren't even halfway there.  "What kind of lawyer?"  She asked, knocking the side of her head into his so that he'd wake up.


"Mm. . . people," he told her.


Gasping, Daisy's fingers flexed, and she felt a thrill of dread lace through her.  She didn't drop the helmet, she didn't have it.  Somewhere back along the line, she had dropped it, and she was going to have to keep going through the desert continuously going from one leap of faith to the next, hoping that she didn't get caught out too far without water somewhere along the track.  Focusing on the vein of green in a field of yellow, she continued to talk to Max, vaguely aware of the fact that his answers were becoming more muddled and less audible.


Less that a few feet from the pool, Daisy's legs gave out, and she wasn't able to get back up.  Crawling, she dragged Max after her, ignoring the warnings her body was giving her.  She wasn't going to let him die.  No, she was going to fight it with all of her might.


Dizzy, feeling like she was going to faint, once again Daisy wrestled him out of the suit and removed the radio, then continued on her way backwards, falling into the pool with Max tight in her arms.


The suit was heavy and ungainly to begin with on her, but wet it felt like she was wrapped in hardening cement.  She could feel the water trickling in through the neck hole, and she believed that if it filled it up too far, she would sink like a bottle in water.  Numbly, she turned them around and fumbled behind her, clawing her way out of the pool, leaving Max half beached on the edge.


Breathing hard, Daisy stared up at the darkening sky, her body shaking and her mind threatening to blink out of consciousness.  turning her head, she saw the radio not to far out of reach, and she slapped for it, refusing to let go of Max's shirt so that he would remain anchored no mater what.  She caught hold of the device and didn't bother to plug the transmitter into her ear.


She clicked it on.  There were no landmarks, nothing to set the by, the only thing there was the radio signal they could track if it was strong enough.


"This is Mercutio," she panted, licking chapped and parched lips.  "I am with Max, he needs help.  He has a severe infection.  We are unable to find our way in the dark.  Base, come find us.  Base. . . please. . ."  Her head fell back on the loose sand, her exhaustion catching up to her and pulling her under, her grip loosening on Max's shirt.

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