The Fae Worlds

The Twins

A Plan For Survival

The alarms were loud. It was how they were supposed to be, and yet, as I tried to work out what was going on, I couldn’t understand why they were loud. What was happening? Breathing deeply, I remembered where I was, which was all I managed to do before the stasis chamber was opened.
My brother looked down at me, holding one hand out to help me. Taking it, eyes meeting with his for a moment, I let him do most of the work, the alarm even louder as it echoed through the metal hallways. Like I expected he was already prepared, our emergency bags beside him, so we were ready to go.
I didn’t say anything as I grabbed mine with my free hand, Connor doing the same, the two of us moving together. Moving was the easier option. Thinking was only going to lead to questions I didn’t have answers for, and we needed to get off the ship before anything worse happened. There was no way of knowing why the alarms were going off, but during orientation we’d been told it was very unlikely for us to ever hear them. All the preparations were ‘just in case’.
Running for the drop pods I couldn’t keep myself from asking whether what they’d told us then was the truth. Were more of the ships lost than they were willing to admit? Not that it mattered. We’d made the decision to journey on the Paladin to another world, and there was nothing we could do to change it. No way of going back in time to tell ourselves what was coming.
Connor tightened his grip on my hand as we got closer. There was no sign of anyone else, so there was a chance they’d already gone, although I had a feeling it was going to be harder than most imagined to work through the after effects of being in stasis when everything was happening so fast. Had it not been for Connor I definitely wouldn’t have been able to move as fast, but he seemed to have come out of it much easier.
Getting to the pods, to find they were there, was more of a relief than I realised. Standing there, knowing we had a way off the ship, was a step in the right direction, even though it meant hoping for the best. If there was no planet… I shook myself mentally. Thinking about the worst case scenario wasn’t going to help.
“You go down first, Iris, and I’ll follow.”
Studying him, I nodded. With Connor there was no arguing when he’d made his mind up, even though I was the elder of the two of us, his focus on getting me to safety. He was the one who suggested it might be a worthwhile thing to do, when he saw the advert asking for those interested in building a new life. Guilt was natural, and I gently touched his arm.
“No one could have known this was going to happen.”
With a slight smile, he nodded. “Even if I did I’m not certain it would have changed things.” He ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “We needed something.”
He wasn’t wrong. Stepping closer to the drop pod, telling myself everything was going to be fine, I focused on my breathing once more. Connor watched as I entered it, the relief in his eyes obvious. The door closed when I pressed the button, tightening my grip on the emergency bag, and then I was going down.
Dropping like that is something I don’t think I can describe in words. For a few seconds it did feel almost as though I’d left bits of myself behind, but then, as I got more used to what was happening, everything settled back to where it was supposed to be. I have no idea how long it took for me to reach the ground, but eventually I did.
Opening the door to the drop pod I found myself looking at a small group of people. They all looked at me, while I glanced up, hoping it wouldn’t be too much longer before Connor reached us. He’d always been better with people than I was, and seeing the drop pod right there was exactly what I needed.
As he landed I turned my attention back to the other survivors, doing my best to seem nonthreatening, although we had all gone through a thorough background check before we were permitted on the Paladin. There was no reason for them to be worried I might do something to them. Only they didn’t know me. They had no reason to think I was safe.
Hearing the other pod open I glanced at Connor, who nodded. “I’m glad to see we aren’t alone.” He stepped over to join me, putting a hand on my shoulder. “I’m Connor, and this is my sister Iris.”
More comfortable with Connor there I took my time to study each one of the other four travellers. To one side were two about our age, man and woman, seeming to be having a conversation about something. From what I could see in her eyes she wasn’t best pleased about the situation she found herself in. I couldn’t tell if it was because of who she was with, or the fact we’d all ended up on an unknown planet with nothing. He seemed to be protective of her, looking at the two of us, more Connor than me, like we might be a problem.
Standing closer to a couple of other drop pods were a man and a woman who were older than the rest of us, and I was almost certain I recognised one of them as an engineer. Both of them looked about as uncertain as I felt, probably a sign this wasn’t someone any of us expected, even those who’d been working on the Paladin.
“Pleasure to meet you, albeit under terrible circumstances.” The woman stepped over to us, holding out her hand, a normality I was grateful enough for I took it without stopping to think. “I’m Bonnie. The guy I was standing with is Alex, a fellow engineer on the Paladin, and then we have Blake and Lucien.” She gestured to them with her free hand, as Connor also shook her hand. “Being alone would have made this much more complicated. However we do still have to keep in mind we know nothing about this planet.”
“Have you got any idea where we are?”
Bonnie sighed, glancing at Alex, who nodded. “I wish I did, Connor, but all I can tell you is we’re decades away from where we were supposed to be, on a planet that happened to be right where we needed it to be.” She slowly looked around. “Everything we needed to build a settlement is still on the Paladin. Everyone up there is currently working to save it, but, having seen the situation, I honestly don’t believe it’s possible.
“Leaving us on our own to work out what the next steps are.” She raked a hand through her hair. “If, somehow, they manage to save the Paladin then we will continue on with our journey, but I believe it’s going to be better for all of us if we make a plan not thinking it’s going to happen.”
Glancing at Connor once more, seeing the mix of emotions in his eyes, I bit down on my bottom lip. I wasn’t surprised by what Bonnie said, but I had been hoping it might be better news. She nodded, probably feeling much the same way, having to put into words exactly what she knew we didn’t want to hear.
“What do you suggest?” Blake stepped toward us, looking like she’d been the most heavily affected of all of us by the stasis, Lucien close behind her. “I know we need to think about this logically, with the first two steps being water and then shelter.”
There was a flicker of relief in Bonnie’s eyes. “For now I think it would work best, although we do need to be careful, if we split up. Two of us stay here, to wait to see if anyone else makes it down, while the rest go looking for water. Until we find a consistent supply there’s no logical reason to settle anywhere.
“In the emergency bags we do have tents, which at least give us somewhere to sleep while we’re looking, if it takes longer than we want it to. From what I was able to see up from the Paladin there is water down here, but that doesn’t mean we’re in an area where it will be easy to find. We also have no way of knowing whether or not it’s safe, so we’d need to boil it, in the hope there’s nothing in it we can’t boil out.”
Alex nodded. “Before we got on the ship all the engineers were given some training for this kind of situation. Not a lot, but enough for us to be able to do something to help.” He looked up. “There are four groups of drop pods, in different areas of the ship, to make it a simpler process for everyone to make it down.
“Each area of the ship is set for the alarms to go off at slightly different times. There’s always one group of engineers awake at any point in time, to keep an eye on any issues. After a decade of work we go into stasis. When the first alarms go off it’s the engineers who are woken, in the belief we’d be able to stop whatever the problem is from getting worse, with the first of the groups to be left until last.
“From there different areas are woken one by one. Normally the alarms go off early enough it should be an easy process for everyone to get off easily. Unfortunately, considering what I know about the reason for this, I don’t think it’ll work out exactly the way it was meant to.”
Sharing a look with Connor, who shrugged, I ran a tongue over my dry lips. Did I want to ask questions? Knowing what happened wasn’t going to change anything. The two of them telling us about what happened was something I didn’t entirely understand, until I looked up at the Paladin once more. Each area of the ship had a different set of alarms. We were likely one of the first groups to be woken, apart from the engineers.
“What happens if the alarms don’t go off in time?”
“The ship crashes, with those people still on board.” Bonnie shook her head. “There wasn’t anything more we could do, which is why we came down here. Other engineers are still working to keep the ship from crashing, with Tom having sent a group around to make sure all the alarms are going off, to give the 250 colonists on board a chance of getting off.
“I honestly thought when we landed down here there were going to be more of you.” She looked over at Blake and Lucian. “Unfortunately it seems as though there have been issues with everyone being able to get off the ship. I’ve sent a message up to Tom, to let him know, but I don’t know how much he’s going to be able to do right now. He was sending a couple of us off to each set of drop pods, so those of us who do have some survival knowledge will be here, but each of those will come down in a slightly different place, in part due to the ship still moving.”
“Due to it slowly crashing?” I nibbled my bottom lip, trying to work it all out in my head, but I didn’t know anywhere near enough about the Paladin. “While the planet is also slowly moving?”
“Both those things, along with the fact we weren’t able to turn off the engines. That’s meant to be the first step in this kind of situation, but, due to the damage, that wasn’t something we could do.”