Curiosity Kills Part 4
Mission: To The Rescue
Banks could see the sunlight beginning to break through the darkness and Millie was still not back. With gritted teeth began to shift, intent on getting to her feet.
Outside of the shuttle, the trees began to rustle.
Banks picked up one of the flashlights, ready to use it for her defense.
"If you've moved one inch from where I left you, I'll have to unleash a Russian hailstorm on you." Millie stepped into the opening at the rear of the shuttle. She was soaked, muddy, and carried a long, dead snake across her shoulders. Her shoulder was bruised, her chin scraped up, and her pants torn at the one. She let the half-dozen branches drop to the deck before holding up the head-end of the snake. "Assuming I can find anything dry enough to light on fire, I brought breakfast."
"Where the hell have you been? It's been hours!"
"Backtracked the rut we left in the mud when we , trying to find supplies. All this rain and all the trees that we took out on the way made it hard to move in the dark." Millie heaved the snake off her shoulders and let it drop to the deck.
Banks looked from the snake to her. "Did you get hurt out there? Did you find any water source? Were you able to find anything that used to be part of the shuttle?"
"First things first." Millie pushed the soaked hair out of her face. "Your leg." She picked up two branches of the same size as knelt next to Banks.
Banks' eyes went back to the snake. "Did you find it or did you kill it?"
"Thought it was a tree branch, at first." Millie set the branches on either side of the leg, standing again to retrieve the remnants of seatbelt. "You said I would need to go hunting. Saved myself the trip." Millie managed an exhausted smile as she began on the splint.
"I'm impressed," and by her tone she meant it. "You need to rest. If only one of us can be up and about we can't have you getting exhausted."
Millie nodded. "Fire first. Then I'll rest." She gave a pull on the seatbelt, tightening the splint around the thigh.
Banks grimaced but settled. "Thanks. We might be able to use seat fabric to help the fire."
Another nod from Millie as she tied the split on Patricia's lower leg. "It's the only dry thing we'll be able to use for kindling." She looked from the leg to the face of her friend, concern etched on her weary face. "There are a few dead trees I can break the branches off of. I'll bring in enough to keep the fire going while I rest."
"I can start cutting up dinner."
Millie grimaced through a laugh, pushing herself upright. "Deal. I will admit that I'm likely to fall asleep as soon as that fire is going and I can get out of these wet clothes." Grabbing the snake by the tail end, she deposited the six- foot long beast next to Banks.
Banks held her out her hand for the knife then begin cutting into the animal. The most important thing was removing any venom sacs. After that she began filleting it. When done correctly she'd found reptiles were as tasty as anything else.
Millie took a half-dozen trips in and out of the shuttle, depositing branches and twigs, and it appeared the rain had slowed to a steady drizzle--though it changed little in Millie's rain-soaked attire. Once logs were deposited, she went to the chair she'd been strapped into, and began yanking the stuffing out of the upholstery.
Banks laid the thin cut snake steaks on a long piece of skin she'd cut off first to use as a tray. "Won't be able to tell until I see what we're dealing with but some trees have a sap which is flammable, like napalm. If we find trees like that we can use sunlight filtered through something clear to create a heat source for lighting fires. You're going to want to find a nice sturdy branch, maybe three feet long and begin carving it into a pike to help stab prey or even go fishing."
Millie held out her hand. "Give me the knife." She gestured up to the fractured side of the viewscreen glass. "I think I can pry that broken corner off, and that will give somewhere for all of the smoke to go."
Banks handed it over catching sight of her friend. "You don't look right. What pains and symptoms do you feel?"
Millie lifted her hand as if to dismiss how she felt, but paused, realizing she should probably be honest. "My whole chest hurts, and breathing takes some extra effort...which wasn't helped by the tumble I took in the mud where I introduced my chin to a fallen tree and cut my shin." She touched her fingers to the slightly-sticky wound on her forehead. "And if past memory holds true, I have a concussion."
"Then you shouldn't sleep. We need to treat your wounds so they don't develop any infections too." Banks shifted into a better sitting position and pulled over a branch over, putting several slices of snake on it to be used like a marshmallow roaster.
"No worries," Millie said, climbing carefully onto the console. "I have enough mud crammed in all the nooks and crannies that I already have a healthy dose of whatever microbes this planet has to offer." She squatted, wedging the knife in the crack of the viewscreen.
Banks almost commented that Millie was going to be fine, that she'd shown great survival skills already but she left it unsaid, a conversation for another time.
A grunt, and the glass from the viewscreen wiggled free, letting in a stream of daylight. Millie climbed down, a palm-sized piece of glass in her hand. "Okay, so talk me through how to make fire." She gave a shiver, hoping the fire worked so she could get out of her wet clothes.
"You need to focus the light through the glass and aim it at what you want to ignite. Not sure how long it'll take."
Millie managed a smile as she arranged the upholstery fluff in a small pile in the beam of light. "Please don't tell anyone from Engineering that I'm lighting a fire inside their shuttle."
When the fire began to catch Banks let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and moved their dinner into cooking position. "I'll cook, you rest."
Millie placed several small kindling pieces onto the smoldering flames, and moved the small and medium branches to within Banks' reach. She sat down on the deck of the shuttle and began to peel off her boots and soggy clothes. She set her boots close enough to the fire that they could dry out, and draped her pants and socks across the darkened consoles. As she peeled off her undershirt, it revealed the deep bruises left behind from the crash, as well as several scrapes from her tumble in the forest.
Shivering and barefoot, she wrapped the extra blanket around her shoulders and curled herself up next to the fire.
Once a few pieces of snake were ready Banks put them in front of Millie. "You need your strength. Don't overchew it or you may get nauseous."
Millie nodded, shifting so she could sit with the fire warming her feet. "I'm already feeling nauseous...but I'll do my best to puke outside of the shuttle."
Banks kept watch on the fire and the food while she thought of their situation. Their situation because she had brought her friend into it. Her hubris had put them both in this situation and if those cannibals didn't find them she was pretty sure something else would.
Millie ate quickly. She wasn't wrong that she felt nauseous, whether from the head injury or the fact that her whole body hurt. She leaned back against the bulkhead behind her, pulling the blanket close. As she stared into the flames, she felt the exhaustion take over, and she allowed her eyes to slip closed.
Lieutenant JG Aemilia "Millie" Stepanova
Chief Counselor, USS Mercutio
Chief Intelligence Officer, USS Mercutio