Those of you that follow me on Legends Undying may have already seen this post or if you have followed my from the beginning this is going to seem like old news, but hear me out. Since I created Brautigan’s Girl six months ago Kodiak Rising has been through two rounds of revision, this means that the original post of Chapter One on this blog may no longer be accurate. The original post has been removed with the relaunch and thus this has been posted in its place.
“Good morning, class,” smiled a young teacher as she strode into the class room.
“Good morning, Miss Hamilton,” the class responded.
“How was your weekend?” she asked. Her class, made up primarily of children six and under all threw up their hands in excitement. All except one.
“Yes, Jason,” she pointed to a boy in the front row.
“My mommy took me and my brothers to the aquarium,” Jason reported.
“That’s great!” Miss Hamilton smiled. “Did you have fun?” Jason nodded his head up and down in excitement. “What about you, Alice?”
“My daddy took me to the markets,” Alice answered.
Miss Hamilton called on a few other students and each reported a different and exciting weekend activity.
“It sounds like all of you had a lovely weekend,” she smiled. “And did you all go to services on Sunday?”
All her students answered yes. Except one.
“Well, that’s very good because today we’re going to learn all about the Guardians,” she nodded. She wrote “Guardian” in big bold letters on the touch panel at the front of the classroom.
“Now, who can tell me who the Guardians are?”
A dozen hands shot up. She called on one, “Yes, Jessica?”
“The Guardians are our protectors,” she answered.
“Very good, what else an you tell me about the Guardians?” A dozen more hands shot up. “Robert?”
“The Guardians live in the District,” Robert answered.
“Yes they do,” Miss Hamilton nodded. “What else? Alyssa?”
“The Guardians came here from a planet far away.”
“That’s right!” Miss Hamilton beamed. “Can anyone tell me how long ago that was? Steven?”
“Three hundred years!” Steven answered proudly.
“Wow, you guys know a whole lot about the Guardians, don’t you?” Miss Hamilton feigned surprise. The class erupted in giggles. “Do any of you know why they came here?”
“To bring the Grace!” they replied.
“Yes, but why did they need to bring the Grace?” she asked.
For the first time since class began no hands shot up.
“A long time ago, before any of us were born, our people were not very nice,” she began her lesson. “There were wars and famine and sickness.”
“Miss Hamilton?” it was a Alyssa, a young girl with jet black hair. “What’s a warandfamine?”
Miss Hamilton chuckled a little bit and wrote the words on the touch panel as she spoke them, “War and famine. War is a really big fight between two different kinds of people. It’s very violent and lots of people on both sides die.”
“Why?” Alyssa cocked her head to the side in confusion.
“That’s a very good question,” Miss Hamilton answered. “There were all kinds of wars here on Earth before the Guardians came. Some of them were over land, others over ways of thinking, some where even over different religious beliefs. When the Guardian’s looked down on our planet and saw these wars it made them very sad. So they came here to stop the wars. And when they came they brought The Grace, so that all of us would know the one true religion. They united us and saved us from killing each other. But there was one other thing they were looking for. Do you know what that thing is?”
The class shook their heads back and forth.
“An Ceann,” she said writing the words on the touch panel. “Does anyone know what that means?”
“The one,” it was the one boy in the back of the class who never raise his hand. Miss Hamilton looked pleasantly surprised by this.
“Very good, Jake,” she nodded. “The One is correct. What can you tell he class about The One?”
This was why he never spoke up. Even at six years old, he was no friend of the Guardians. “An Ceann is the person who will unite Human and Guardian.”
“Very good, Jake,” she applauded. “An Ceann has never been found yet, they’ve been searching for An Ceann for hundreds of years and some think that An Ceann will never be found.”
“What do you think, Miss Hamilton?” asked Robert.
“I think,” she answered, “that An Ceann is all of us. That we are all responsible for uniting Humanity and Guardian. And we can only do that if we open our hearts to them and allow them to guide us.”
Jake opened his eyes to a total chaos. Fire had erupted all around him; smoke so thick he could barely breathe and sparks fell from above where electrical components hung severed. The screeching noise of metal on metal combined with small explosions both near and far only dampened the groaning of the ship. For a moment he couldn’t focus on his surroundings. The flashing light of a red alert was disorienting, confusion all around. Where am I?
Slowly his surroundings came into focus: The blue-gray walls of The Alaskan Aerospace Military Vessel The Kodiak, from the purple line along the walls Jake deduced he was in the Cargo Bay.
The cargo bay! He thought surprised, what am I doing down here?
“Hello?” he called out.
He could barely hear his own voice. No response, just the noise and the shaking, violent movement of the ship. He tried to move and realized he was trapped. His body was covered by debris that had enclosed his lower torso. Pulling himself up slowly his head began to spin, feeling pain shooting through his brain like electricity. Very slowly he began to toss the bits of metal aside. The pain was agonizing. He was unable to focus clearly on the pieces of the ship he was tossing away. Piece by piece he uncovered what was left of him. Wiggling his toes he nodded and pulled himself up. Coughing and sputtering he took stock of his place in the world. The entrance was on the other side of the room with no clear egress.
Clutching a pillar to steady himself, Jake fanned the air in front of him attempting to clear the smoke from his vision. It was impossible. The smoke from the fire was pouring out around him, churning the air and creating a thick layer of poisonous carbon at the ceiling. Fortunately the ceiling was so high Jake knew without a doubt that he would die from falling debris before asphyxiation.
He opened his com, “Morris to the bridge: Captain, can you hear me?”
“Morris to Engineering?”
“This is Jake Morris. Anyone, please respond!”
The idea that he could be the only one left was not lost to him. Briefly, he envisioned walking onto the Bridge only to find charred corpses where his friends once stood. There was a pit in his stomach and the nauseating movement of his ship was not helping. If only the shaking would subside long enough for him to make it out the door. He was dizzy and half blind from the smoke, not to mention the throbbing in his head. As much as he wanted to lie back down and wait for help, there was no way of knowing if help would ever arrive.
With great effort, he pushed himself forward, stumbling over debris and grabbing onto anything he could to pull himself forward. His hands were totally covered in blood and left prints on anything he touched. A piece of shrapnel grabbed his pant leg and tore a long gash in the fabric leaving his flesh exposed to the broken shards of his ship.
He stumbled towards the door almost afraid of what he would find on the other side. The door that should have opened when he came near only stood shut. He dug his nails into the slit between the sliding doors and threw his entire weight into prying them apart. It took all the strength he had left. The doors have an automatic locking mechanism in case of hull breech. This system was very effective, but right now totally inconvenient! Apparently the idea of someone being trapped behind one of these doors had never occurred to the ships designer. He took a mental note to discuss this with Dexter, if Dex was still alive. He was able to slip his hand between the doors and pull them open. He could only open enough to slip through; thankfully his thin frame needed little space.
“Hello?” he called again down the corridor. Nothing. Not a soul in sight. The corridor ran along the edge of the ship and curved away on either side making it impossible to see from one end to the other. A strip of surveillance tape ran the length of the corridor on either side. It would detect body heat and could read the identification chip each soldier was given upon enlisting. A portion of the strip has been ripped from the wall and lay dangling along the floor, sparks occasionally flying off the broken end. What happened here?
He tried to remember the events leading up to this moment. He could remember boarding the vessel from the Alaskan Aerospace Base in orbit over Anchorage. He and a crew of over 500 souls, young and old, had boarded with the intent to . . . he couldn’t remember! He could see clearly boarding the spaceship in full military fatigues with his colleagues, but the intent behind it was lost. What else had he forgotten? Could the pain in his head have anything to do with his loss of memory?
No time to think about that now, he told himself. I have to get to sick bay.
He began making his way down the corridor, pressing his back against the wall, just barley crawling. The ship continued to convulse violently. It was so intense Jake began to fear she would be ripped apart. His mind began to race with visions of various deaths. The wall blows out from behind him and he is sucked into the vacuum of space! The floor caves in and he plunges into the warp core! The roof caves in crushing him instantly! A small puncture in the hull and he is sucked slowly and painfully through it!
He tried to push these thoughts into the back of his mind, but the fear so real and so intense fought back and was winning. This was definitely not a training exercise. In Academy the simulations used for training exercises started in a similar way, but those simulations were never this real. The Protectorate Military prided themselves on the “most realistic training programs in the galaxy” but Jake, along with his entire team agreed that that was a rather obtuse statement.
He rounded a corner, heading towards the maintenance tunnels. With the ship in this kind of chaos, he knew the lifts would be dangerous if they were running at all. Considering that the doors of the Cargo Bay could not open without force, he was certain the lifts would be inoperable. It was possible to use the maintenance ladders within the lift shafts, but that was highly unadvised by the Military in an emergency situation. Of course, Jake was never one for rules, but he figured that maybe the Military had a point, at least for right now, anyway.
Finding the small hatch to the maintenance tunnels, he unlatched it and stuck his head in. The large “28” greeted him, letting him know what deck he was on. Looking up to the level 22 and could see no fires. That was a good sign. No smoke, even better. He began to climb, leaving bloody hand prints on every rung.
Around Deck 25 he could feel his arms grow tired. His head was still spinning; his eyes still blurry and now his arms were growing weary. He could hear faint voices ahead of him. He began to climb faster hoping that the voices would get louder. His hypothesis was correct, just below deck 22 he could make out three distinct voices, one of them sounded like Madi. What he would give to see Madi’s ugly mug! Madi was not beautiful. She was rather plain and homely. Her straggly hair usually pulled back into a tight bun at the back of her neck and the fatigues gave her no figure. Even when she was practicing medical studies in the Academy, her uniform that normally made every woman a sexual deviant only accentuated her awkward frame.
The maintenance ladder came to an abrupt end at the top of deck 22. Jake pulled open the hatch and wiggled out the. The hatch opened to the floor, forcing Jake to wiggle out on his belly. Pure exhaustion kept him on the floor for a moment catching his breath. It was nice to not smell smoke.
Jake looked up to see Madison Sheppard staring at him in astonishment, her hair now a matted mess about her long face.
“Jake, is that you?” Madi asked.
“Yea, Madi,” he responded.
“Good Grace! What happened to you?” she took his hand and helped him up.
“I don’t know,” Jake shook his head. “I just woke up in the cargo bay to this.”
“We need to get you to sick bay!” she answered.
“What happened to me, Madi?” he asked.
She stared at him in wonder, “You don’t feel that?”
Is she serious? Jake laughed internally, of course I feel that!
“Jake, your head,” she gestured. “You were hit pretty badly. There is a huge laceration.”
“I’m a little rattled but I’ll be alright,” Jake answered looking passed her. There were at least a dozen people with her, most of them injured. From the look of it, most of them were in worse shape than he.
“Have you seen the captain?” Jake asked.
“No, sir,” Madi answered unhappily.
“We have to get these people to sick bay, Sheppard,” he ordered.
“Yes, sir,” she nodded. “We were on our way to Maintenance Tunnel 75 when we found you.”
“Very well,” he responded. “Let’s go.”
“It would be easier if this infernal shaking would stop,” a voice rasped from the back of the group.
As if a switch had been hit the shaking eased to a low rumble.
“Bennie must still be up there,” Jake said to no one in particular, his blue eyes scanning the corridor.
The small crew set off, needing to travel nearly half way across the ship before reaching the tunnel. It was often joked that the ships designer had been on a bender when The Kodiak was created. The maintenance tunnels were nothing more than glorified ventilation shafts with ladders. None of them ran the length or the width of the ship, only a few actually intersected, and often you found them in pieces. Maintenance Tunnel 75 was the closest one to get you almost anywhere in the ship from top to bottom, but with few intersecting tunnels it was a joke.
The wounded slowed their pace substantially. On any other occasion Jake would find any reason to leave this group behind him and move on. Normally he was not one for socialization. Jake had a select few in a close circle but mostly kept to himself. Since joining the Military, his desire for solitude had been challenged. It was rather selfish to think one could be left to their own devices in such a place.
Since joining he found himself looked to more and more as a leader. At first he fought the idea at every turn, but slowly and without even realizing it he took to the role, finally leading a whole battalion. His own father recognized the change in him, smiling proudly at him as he boarded the Kodiak. The image put a smile on his face.
“Here it is,” Madi pointed, “Maintenance Tunnel 75.”
“Alright, crew,” Jake took the lead. “We need to work together. Those of you able bodied, need to assist the rest of us up the ladder. This will not be easy. Take your time. I will remain behind while you all go. Sheppard, you will go first.”
“Yes, sir,” Madi responded. She grabbed an injured crew member and began the long haul up the ladder.
Two by two, each crewman responsible for another, they climbed up the nine decks to sanctuary. If there was such a thing to be found there and Jake hoped there was.
Jake watched as each one climbed the ladder. It felt like hours had elapsed. An eternity! A lifetime of ladders. Finally it was his turn. He turned to the last crew member left with him: his burden.
“What’s your name, Lieutenant?” Jake asked.
“Harper, sir,” responded the young junior officer.
“Alright Harper,” Jake said gently. “Let’s get you to safety.”
Jake helped the young man to his feet. Harpers left leg was badly lacerated; he could put no weight on it.
“Harper, what’s your first name?” Jake asked.
“Alex,” he answered.
“Alright, Alex, can you put any weight on your good leg?” Jake asked.
“Yes, sir,” he answered.
“Very good. We’re going to take this nice and easy, Alex. I will be your left leg. As long as we work together, everything will be alright.”
“Yes, sir,” Harper answered.
“It’s Jake,” he said. “Right now; I am your friend Jake.”
They went up.
Madi took Jake’s burden at the top of the ladder.
The ship was now deathly still but the red flashing alert still continued. Throughout the ship the sounds of breaking metal could be heard, and the sporadic jolts electricity arching through torn wires sent chills down Jake’s spine.
The Boat’s falling apart, Jake thought.
In pairs the injured and the not so injured, made their way towards sickbay. The group moved in a stunned silence. From the aft of the ship where Jake first awoke, to sickbay was almost 152 meters. The agonizing crawl across the corridor was so that Jake could write a novel about the crossing alone.
He tried to think back to a simpler time, but few memories came floating to the top, as though his cumulative experiences to this point had been wiped clean. But if that were the case, why did he remember so much of his ship and crew? How could he forget his past and yet not forget it? The experience was daunting and difficult to explain. He wondered if anyone else was as lost as he was.
The door to sick bay came into view and immediately Jake could see the door had been pulled off its track. Voices echoed off the walls from within, but he could not make out the words. The intent was clear enough: panic and pain. Frightened crewmen wounded and tired from a battle Jake had no recollection of.
As he entered sickbay Jake noted that only a small handful of crewmen were there, and the doctor was oddly absent. Madi must have made the same observation. Without waiting for the command, she took control of sick bay, attending to the wounded. She quickly began assigning beds to the critical.
“You, what’s your name?” Madi asked a young woman.
“Lt. Whitney, Ma’am,” the young woman answered.
“Whitney, how are you at the sight of blood?” she asked.
“I can manage, Ma’am,” Whitney answered.
“Very well, you have now been promoted to field assistant. I’ll need you to follow me,” Madi whisked off with her new companion.
Dust still hung in the air and a taste of ozone was pungent. Jake looked around the sick bay, finding only a few of the senior officers. The old tired faces looked totally defeated and lost here among the rubble. Their beloved Boat was in pieces. Junior officers remained standing, giving up their beds and chairs to the Senior Officers. He noted this with pride, seeing his young men and women, some in worse condition, deferring to seniority. He was pleased he recommended these crewmen.
Recommended them for what, he asked himself. He remembered scouting out each of the crew members individually. Each one of them had a special reason for being here. It was so distant he could barely comprehend it.
“You,” Jake approached a young woman, “You are Lt. Ashley Colburn.”
“Yes sir,” she answered.
“Colburn, I need you to mount a search party,” Jake instructed, “Find three or four more officers to assist you. We need to begin combing the ship for any injured. If there are any crewmen too badly injured to move assign someone to stay with them until Sheppard can get there. Also, keep an eye open for Dr. Maughtai; we’ll need his care.”
“Yes, sir,” Colburn answered. She turned to perform her duties, grabbing a few crewmen on her way out.
“Sheppard,” Jake called.
“Yes, sir,” she responded from the back room.
“Are communications working,” he asked.
“No sir, I am unable to get in contact with anyone on the Boat,” she responded.
Damn, he thought. Of course it’s not that easy.
“Is there anyone from Ops here,” Jake asked.
“I am sir,” a voice answered
Jake turned to see a young man standing. His arm appeared to be broken.
“Lt. Andy Campbell, sir,” he continued.
“Campbell, what happened to your arm?” Jake asked.
“I’m not sure sir. I woke up on deck 13 and it was broken,” Andy answered. “I was pinned under a computer terminal.”
“Do you have any idea what happened to us?” Jake asked.
“No sir, I woke up to chaos,” Andy responded.
“Does anyone in this room have any answer as to what happened?” Jake looked around the room.
The confused faces said it all. It appeared that everyone’s story was similar.
“Very well,” Jake nodded. “We have to work together, all of us. Sheppard, you are now acting Doctor until Maughtai can be found. Lt. Colburn and her team are looking for more injured. They will need help and the injured will need a place to sit or lay when they come in here. Those of us who are able bodied will need to make room and assist. Campbell, assemble a crew, let’s find out how badly this Boat is broken. And everyone keep an eye open for Captain Morris. If you should find him, alert me immediately.”
“Lt. Morris,” Madi came round the corner.
“Yes, Doctor,” Jake answered.
“Sir, I need you to sit down,” she motioned to a seat.
“Doctor, I assure you I am fine.”
“Sir, that is an order,” she motioned again.
Jake relented. Madi began to clean the wound on his head.
“You must have hit yourself hard on something, sir,” she said.
“I wish I could remember what it was,” Jake laughed slightly.
“Your head really doesn’t hurt?” she asked confused.
“Of course it does,” he answered. “But they can’t know it.”
“You’re hurt pretty badly. You may have a scar,” Madi looked concerned.
“I’ll be fine, Madi,” Jake answered.
“The Old Man will be very upset with me if I don’t take care of you,” she said smiling. “He’ll never let me live it down.”
“That’s true,” Jake laughed.
There was a pause. Jake felt his stomach turning with worry. The Old Man should be here by now. The red alert lights had stopped some time ago and it appeared that The Kodiak was on a steady course. Perhaps the captain was alright and the bridge was unharmed.
“It seems unlikely that Dad would have not sent word by now,” Jake said thoughtfully.
“Don’t be worried, Jake,” she comforted, “It’s going to take more than this to take out the captain.”
“I’m not so sure,” he answered. “I have a very uneasy feeling. I need to go find out what happened up there.”
Jake stood up.
“Lt. Morris, I have not dismissed you, sir,” Madi scolded.
“I hope you’ll forgive me doctor, but there are other crew members in need of your attention,” Jake began to walk away.
“Sir, you have a concussion and have lost a lot of blood. I do not advise –”
“Madam Doctor,” Jake cut her off sternly. “I thank you for your concern, but I assure you I am fine. I am needed on the bridge.”
“Jake, please,” she pleaded.
“I have to find my father, Madi,” Jake answered gently; “I have to know what happened, where we are. I will send word when I know more.”
“Very well, sir,” she answered nodding.
Jake smiled and turned to exit.
Turning down the corridor, he felt an impending sense of doom on the horizon. Adrenaline pumping through his veins he began to walk.