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The space fold craft entered the New Brunswick system with a terrible lurch, sending equipment, personal items, and people tumbling over the decks of the Planetary Landing Craft attached to it. Alarm claxons went off as computers detected cargo shifts. The whole ship groaned and those close to the outside of the hull could hear debris bounce off. Emergency bulkheads slammed down over many sections the moment life support sensors became damaged and stopped sending information about oxygen levels. Making matter even worse, several power relays popped cutting main lighting and standard power to several decks further adding to the confusion.
Deep in the lower decks Robin tumbled out of his hammock, but was fortunate. His foot caught in the webbing. This prevented him from slamming into a wall. On the other hand he bit back a string of curse words as his portable holographic player launched out of his hand and smacked into the far bulkhead. Even through the thick door separating his tiny room from his mother's, he heard the sound of shattering glass and furniture breaking loose from the bolts holding it to the decks and walls.
As the red warning lights went off he shook his head and spotted his Holo-player. His hands grabbed his most prized possession. The long crack running up the housing almost caused a tear to run down his cheek.
Suddenly the speaker sounded, "All compartments report status and advise of injuries!"
Robin yanked his foot out of the webbing, ignoring the damaged machine. He floated over to the intercom and pressed the button. "Bridge this is Robin Lerrik, compartment Hotel Zero Five Niner. I'm alone, no one injured."
The response was almost instantaneous, "Roger. Hold for instructions."
"Wilco bridge." Robin sighed as he pushed off of the wall and opened the control pad of his beloved holo-player. He clicked the power button and breathed a giant sigh of relief as it instantly projected a perfect test image above the display crystal. Carefully he put it back in its storage box and locked it in his desk. He then took a few moments to float around the room and retrieve clothing tossed about from the either failed or extremely poor space folding attempt. This was not the first time he had been though what was commonly referred to as a miss-fold, but there was no question it was the worst by a very wide margin.
Robin pushed off the wall over his desk and grabbed his left shoe with one hand and a pair of sweat pants with his other hand. Normal zero G operations were no problem and even fun much of the time. However, dressing in zero gravity was still something he hated, even though he had spent a great deal of his almost 14 years traveling from planet to planet with his mother and the O'Connell Grenadiers mercenary unit.
Every movement required to pull on clothing caused him to move in an unwanted way. If he wasn't careful, he would bump into something and being careful while pulling on a shirt was not nearly as easy as one would think. Getting shoes on was the worst though, cause every time he pulled on the heel of his shoe it tended to put him into a bit of a spin. Finally he resorted to what he had done all his life. He maneuvered into a corner and used the bulkheads to assist him. He shook his head wondering for about the hundredth time how the men and women of the Grenadiers could do it in the middle of a room and make it look so easy. These thoughts were brought to an abrupt halt as the intercom crackled.
"Rob, this is Captain Tanner. Are you there and are you really unhurt?"
"Yes sir. The room is trashed and I heard some bolts pop and something shatter in the main room, but other than my holo-player everything here is OK."
There was a slight snicker before Captain Tanner responded. "We'll add your holo-player to a massive list of things to talk to our employer about. But right now we need you right were you are at. As you know we keep all the crew on battle stations during folds incase we enter a hot zone. Because of this, Hotel deck only had one guard assigned and all the other adults were at their posts.
"Private Suberov was on guard duty down there but is not answering. I need you to check on him and the younger dependants. While you're at it check out your level, advise of any structural damage or injuries. Almost none the sensors from Golf to Juliet are sending readings to the bridge. As far as the rest of the older kids go, I have heard from you, Jared, Glen, Luna, and Erin only at this point. Glen says he bumped his head pretty hard and is feeling sick and Luna says her wrist took a pounding and may be broken so don't expect them to be of much help. Jared's hand is cut and door is stuck, so you may want to just hook up with Erin and go door to door. Remember though, Erin's new to the unit and her dad lived on Quaker VII her whole life so she won't be much help in total zero G.
"The turbo lift is jammed again and the power to both the primary and secondary cargo elevators shorted out, so it will be a bit before we can get you any help. As of now, you are on point down there. Priority is serious injuries and any structural damage. Understood?"
"Yes sir." Robin responded with a bit of a gulp, "What happened?"
"Not sure yet. My bet is the fold craft lost one of its magnetic field generators during the fold. We are in New Brunswick, but way further out than we wanted. Other than that I can't tell you much more at the moment. We haven't even been able to establish contact with the fold craft or any of the other landing craft hitching a ride on her yet."
Robin took a long deep breath as he realized everyone was as much in the dark as he was. He wondered how things were going aboard the Space Fold Craft (SFC) especially since they were a great deal more fragile then the Planetary Landing Craft (PLC) that attached to them. Still there were far more important things for the 13 year old to concern himself with and the most important question he could come up with needed to be asked. "Sir, how is my mom?"
There was a brief pause which caused Robin's heart to speed up.
Finally the unit owner, Major O'Connell, responded. His voice was strong and stern without being mean. "To be honest son, she has not checked in yet. As a matter of fact we have only heard from about a third of our unit at this point. We know we have some structural damage and some serious communication problems. We also know many of our personnel are injured. As soon as we find out anything about your mom I will personally let you know, but right now I am counting on you down there. The only adult on Hotel level at the time of the fold was Suberov. Since we don't have contact with him I need someone in charge on Hotel deck.
"You are the best trained kid we have and I need you right now. You grew up with us and know the ship better than half of our unit. There is nothing you don't have some knowledge of and since you have both advanced first aid and ship repair certification, you are probably better suited to handle this then Suberov. Heck you can fight almost as good as some of my sergeants and most of us know it. As of now you are now in command of Hotel deck and even if I have to take it out of my own pocket I'll get you a paycheck as a senior private this month.
"Take a moment and set some priorities in you head. There are over 2 dozen young ones and another almost dozen or so your age down there. Most of them will have some injuries and all of them will need to see a friendly face. You may have some structural damage and we know of at least two of your peers who have been injured badly enough to where they should be in medical, but it will be quite a while before we can get to them. I know I'm giving you a shit load to handle, but I trust you Robin. I'll get you help as soon as possible, but to be totally honest it might be a couple of hours if not more."
Robin cringed and clutched his fist knowing if something was wrong with his mom, the Major would not tell him until there was time for grieving. On the other hand, the man may very well have no clue. Robin realized all he could do was deal with the situation on Hotel level and let the rest sort itself out over time, "Understood commander. There is one thing you could do right now, though."
"Name it son."
"Kill the flashing alarm lights on the whole level. I'm sure once things become a bit more normal some of the fear will go away and the younger dependants will start reporting in as they have been taught. At the very least they will tell you they don't have regular lights or power which will still get you the information you need and want. I'm going to take my hand held. What freq do you want me on?"
Before Major O'Connell responded the flashing lights stopped and emergency power light stations switched on. "Now you're thinking son. Stay on seven. I will keep it open strictly for you. Just take it slow kiddo. Everyone up here is counting on you to take care of the dependants and trusts you to do so."
"Wilco Commander." Robin managed to respond with a nervous sigh. He switched off the intercom and pulled his hand held out of his desk along with an extra battery. He turned it on and switched to 7 then hit the switch for his door. When nothing happened he had a burst of fear but shook it off just as quickly. Shaking his head he muttered to himself, "It takes main power to open the doors electronically silly."
With another deep breath he opened up the emergency door release and cranked the lever to manually force open the door. Looking at his mom's small room he shuttered as he saw almost all her belongings floating throughout the room. He backed into his own room again and grabbed a backpack and emptied it realizing he may need something to carry equipment in. Once certain he had whatever he would need with him Robin took a moment to get his baring and push off for the door out to the main hall. At the last second he managed to stop himself as he noticed more than a few very sharp objects floating around including pieces of a glass mirror.
He gulped and decided to forgo the fast way across the room. Deciding it was safer sticking to the wall and using his hand to push away any dangerous items gently, he used one hand to slide along the wall and the other he wrapped in a shirt and pushed the broken glass and other sharp items away from him slowly so they didn't become instant projectiles.
Once again he used manual controls to open the door, only this time he closed the door behind him to prevent any extra debris from making the main passage more dangerous than it probably already was. He then glanced both directions and saw it was pretty empty, although he did spot a fire extinguishing unit floating in the hall to his left.
He shook his head, knowing full well how old the unit's Planetary Landing Craft was. In some ways it was nice the unit had its own PLC, many merc units didn't, but the down side was it took a great deal of money to keep it up. Making matters worse, when money was tight the place where the unit tended to skimp was on repairs to the PLC, and right now money was pretty tight.
On the other hand, this accident may be a blessing in disguise, and Robin knew it. One of the first things Major O'Connell built into every contract was transport guarantees for the safety of the PLC. Since the safe passage of the craft had not happened it would be up to Kipper Limited to repair all damage to the ship and all the possessions in it. Robin grinned as he wondered if he just might get a new holo-player to replace his old one.
He put these thoughts aside as he started thinking about what needed to be done right away. His first goal, at least as far as he could tell, was to get a first aid kit. He made another quick inspection of the area he could see before making his way down to the first emergency locker. He chewed on his lip as he noticed the force of the bad fold had caused the metal brackets to bend slightly on the locker. He shrugged, suddenly realizing many of the doors aboard the PLC may have been similarly damaged and would be extremely hard to open. He pulled the kit out and tucked it into his backpack. He also grabbed the crowbar and secured the fire extinguisher figuring those items would be extremely important.
Robin then made a quick inspection of the emergency sensor unit a few doors down to see how well the life support system was running. This was the first good news as all systems were well into the green and according to the readout the life support for the entire lower third of the ship was still running off of primary power.
He then checked a system terminal and got a readout of the entire deck. This time the news was not all roses. He keyed his radio, "Bridge, this is Robin."
"Robin, this is Sergeant Akem, go."
"Sergeant, I show emergency bulkheads have closed over the primary and secondary cargo shafts and a third bulkhead has dropped over Hotel One Six Three which is Neil's room. I also can't get any reading from the other side of Hotel One Six Three, but I am showing extremely low oxygen and very low temps in both cargo shafts. We must have a breach somewhere."
"Hold a sec." A very worried voice responded.
Less than a minute later Captain Tanner's voice come over his small hand held, "Rob, are you there?"
"OK, we don't have good readouts from the lower decks and this is the first report I am getting of a possible breach. How is the rest of your life support?"
"Everything is in the green and on primary power sir. As a matter of fact it is the only thing on primary power on this whole deck. I also have a reading on Golf, India and Juliet decks. All have primary power on life support but Juliet is not giving me oxygen or temp readings."
"OK, that is a good report. I need you to get to the cargo shaft and put your hand up against the bulkhead."
"Which one sir?"
"Doesn't matter. Since you are getting similar readings from both the primary and the secondary shafts just get to the closer one."
"It will be a couple of minutes sir."
"Your report is holding priority Rob. As soon as you can, get back to me."
Robin made his way around the curved passage and stopped short as the main cargo lift doors came into view. "Sir?" his voice betrayed some panic.
"Take a breath Rob." Captain Tanner responded, "What do you feel?"
"I don't have to feel anything sir, I can see condensation is freezing to the emergency bulkhead on primary cargo!" As he spoke Robin could feel his throat tighten up in fear.
Captain Tanner obviously heard the squeaking in the voice and replied with a very calm and reassuring voice. "Is the bulkhead totally sealed?"
"Yea, it has a green light on it and I don't see any sign of leaking." Robin spoke way to fast.
"Rob, relax and think. You are the only kid in the unit to get a passing mark on emergency ship repair and you got your ship repair certification on Quaker. What did you learn this summer about ship damage and hull breaches?"
"Um," Robin answered, "Priority is sealing the breach and then life support."
"Good. Now where do we stand on the main cargo lift?"
The solid calm voice helped a great deal as Robin thought it out. "The emergency bulkhead has the breach contained and the life support is fine."
"Right." The Capt. Tanner spoke slowly, "So the two first line priorities are handled. What next Rob?"
"Establish need to properly repair or quick patch."
"OK, you are there and we are not, but using your judgment, what would you think is the right answer and why?"
Robin looked at the thick bulkhead with a frown as he thought it over. After almost a minute he answered, "Sir neither cargo lift is absolutely needed since we still have the turbo lift. I would say this is a quick patch for now."
"I concur. However, you have another potential breach to worry about first. I want you to check out the secondary cargo lift door and make sure it is holding as well as the one you are in front of. If so, I want you to get a mask and gloves on and laser weld those doors in place. Whatever one has the most ice on it gets priority then the other. If there is some other kind of problem with the secondary, then call me."
"What about Hotel Six Three?"
"That is an internal room with other rooms surrounding it. If there was a problem the other rooms would give you warning readings. The life support sensor must have been damaged or knocked off line. As soon as the sensor fails to send a report the bulkhead door drops as a precaution. Master Sergeant Lockley's kids will just have to sit and wait for us to get main power back or some heavy equipment in there to lift the door."
"Neil should be able to handle his bother and sister if he is OK sir."
"As soon as you are done with the doors, use one of the plug in handsets and see if you can contact him. Keep us apprised Rob."
"Will do sir."
Robin turned to continue around to the far side to check the secondary cargo lift just as Erin floated into view. She gave a relieved sigh and a smile. "Robin, you OK?"
"Yea. But I need to get over to the secondary cargo door. Did you see anyone else?"
"Kind of. Jared's door only opens about 10 centimeters, but I talked to him. His hand had a cut on it but he said it wasn't bad. I didn't get an answer at Luna's door." She looked over at the emergency bulkhead with a flash of panic, "Do we have a breach?"
"Somewhere in the ship we do, but not here."
"What are we going to do?" her shrill voice caused a weird echo effect as she showed her fear.
Robin responded with annoyance. "Look, I have been talking to Captain Tanner. He put me in charge of this level until we find private Suberov or get another adult down here. I am fully trained on emergency repairs as well. We'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
Robin forced a smile, "Yea. Do you know where the repair kits are?"
"Not right off, but I can find one."
"Good. Bring one back here and drop off this crowbar with Jared while I go around to the starboard side and check the secondary lift. If you see anyone else have them go to their rooms and tell them to contact the bridge so they can get a head count."
She looked up into Robin's pale green eyes, "How can you be so calm?"
"The Grey Stallion has been my home since I was born. I know this ship and her crew. We'll be fine."
Robin's response helped a great deal. "Any word on my dad?"
"Yea, I spoke to him briefly. Sergeant Akem is on the bridge."
Erin let out a huge relieved sigh. "What about your mom?"
"She hasn't checked in yet." Robin looked away but continued to speak. "Right now I really need to get to the far side of the ship and you need to get Jared this crowbar and bring a repair kit with a laser welder back here. Everything, including our families needs to take second place."
Even as Robin spoke he felt a knot in his stomach. He had already lost his father and older sister in an ambush over three years ago. His mom was the only family he had left. He moved away from Erin to prevent showing the tears he could feel starting to form. As he did so he could almost feel the stare he knew he was getting from the newest dependent of O'Connell's Grenadiers.
As he moved around Hotel section he stopped a couple of times to tell kids pounding on their doors to calm down and report in. It finally occurred to him why the passageways were so empty. The younger ones either didn't have the know how or the strength required to manually open their doors. On the other hand, simply talking to them calmed many down as all of them knew who he was.
As he got around to the secondary lift door he found Caleb and Zane looking at the ice forming on the door. He moved over to them. "You guys OK?"
"Yea, but we must have some sort of breach." Zane responded with a whisper.
Caleb, the youngest of what was commonly referred to as the "older kids", looked totally pale as he spoke. "And the new guard is dead." The 11 year old's hand shook horribly as he pointed down the passage.
Robin forced himself not to puke as he saw Private Suberov's body floating in the passage. Even with the poor emergency lights and the distance he could see the left side of the man's head was totally crushed and there were droplets of blood suspended all around the man's body. The upper bulkhead also had a great deal of blood on it.
He moved down the passageway to verify the man was dead as he keyed his radio. "Bridge." Robin choked out.
Captain Tanner answered, "Go Rob."
"Sir" Robin once again forced down some bile, "Private Suberov is dead sir."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes sir. There is blood everywhere and his whole head well it's caved in."
"Rob, I know this is about the worst thing anyone could see, but you have seen blood and death many times before. Just look at it as a combat loss and take a breath. Once you have your wits back, I want you to go over and retrieve his side arm. You are one of only 7 kids who really knows how to handle a weapon and I don't want it falling into the hands of any of the younger kids by accident."
"Understood sir." As Robin moved closer he realized some of the blood drops were getting on him. He could no longer prevent it. He puked. Still he forged on and with trembling hands he unclasped the laser pistol from the dead man's holster and secured it as best he could in his belt. He then backed off and puked again.
He took a few seconds to back away from the blood drops before he spoke into the radio, "I got his pistol sir."
"Good work Rob. Now what about the other lift door?"
"The door to the secondary only has a little bit of ice on it. Also, Zane and Caleb are out here and appear unhurt."
"Why didn't" Captain Tanner's voice stopped, "It really doesn't matter. The only thing important is they are OK. Go ahead and weld the primary first. Can the other two hear me?"
Captain Tanner's voice became extremely firm as he spoke. "Zane, Kay, this is Captain Tanner. I have heard from Zane's mom and dad and Kay's mom. They are all basically OK. I need you to follow Rob's instructions just as if it was from one of the adults. He is in charge down there OK?"
Robin responded for them. "They are both nodding sir."
"Good. Be advised we believe the cargo lifts both locked down just above you on Golf deck and are sealing off the beach there as we are not getting any sign of a hull beach on Alpha though Foxtrot. We have partial decompression on Golf though. So, until we reclaim, we will not be able to send the turbo lift down to you even if we get it running. You are on your own for several hours at the least and maybe a few days at the worst. Feel free to use any food you find in any room.
Private Suberov's body has the master key to all the rooms on Hotel level. One thing you must do, and believe me I know how unpleasant it will be, is find someone to clean up all the blood and wrap the body. The best method is to use a vacuum for the floating blood. Hotel One Niner Six is really close to the secondary lift and is empty if you want to store the body there. Set the temp to as cold as it will go."
"Understood sir." Robin shuttered, really wanting to yank the blood spotted clothing off. Instead he turned to Zane. "You heard the Captain. The two of you need to get a vacuum and get the body into Niner Six."
"What!?!" Caleb shouted showing a mixture of horror and disgust.
Zane swallowed hard but nudged Caleb. "He is in command of the whole deck and has other things to do." He then turned to Robin. "We'll get it done" he then managed a sly smile, "sir."
Robin rolled his eyes knowing he would be teased about this unmercifully once everything sorted itself out. Zane, being the joker of the "older kids" would probably be calling him "sir" on and off for months to come. He managed a smile back, "Keep it up and I'll find other stuff for you to do."
Zane, being Zane, simply winked, "It must be nice to be the boss huh?"
"I could get used to it." Robin snickered as he made his way back toward the primary lift door.
The next several hours moved by quickly for Robin. Welding the lift doors took almost an hour each. As he did this, he assigned the "older kids" duties as they became available. Once the final weld was in place, His attention switched to accounting for everyone on Hotel deck and doing what he could with his limited training for the injured. This, above all else proved to be the hardest for him as he found himself working on many of his friends. Luna's wrist was certainly broken and there was no doubt Glen had a concussion and was getting worse not better.
Several of the younger kids also had pretty nasty injuries including 7 year old Vinny who clearly had done something very nasty to his knee. The whole cap was pushed off to the side of his leg. On the plus side, Erin turned out to be even better at first aid then Robin, so between the two of them they were able to at least splint broken bones, pop back dislocated fingers, and glue deep cuts. She also took the lead with Vinny, getting instructions from one of the unit medics on how to inject the boy with enough painkillers to knock him out without overdosing him.
At last Robin tied a bandage on Jasmine, the youngest on the deck at age 6. Her cut was not really bad enough to require anything, but it was easier on everyone to give her a bandage to not only cover up the shallow cut, but to give her something to show off to everyone.
As Robin packed up the remaining first aid supplies, he was really glad that part of the unit's battle station plan was to put the really young ones next to the infirmary, looked after by the handful of parents not assigned other unit duties. No one aboard the Grey Stallion above the age of 15 was considered a non-combatant.
He looked over to the assembled kids, "OK, someone give me some updates on where we stand."
Jared, who had finally managed to pry his door open enough to squeeze out, responded. "Everyone is accounted for, but Neil is still stuck behind the emergency bulkhead and says something is wrong with his brother. He also says his room is not getting any heat and Glen is really out of it. I have several of the younger ones working on cleaning up the game and library rooms along with the central lounge and Valerie and Dante took a couple of the others and are going door to door to make sure there wasn't someone we didn't know was down here."
Luna took a deep breath, "I haven't been able to do much other than to keep in contact with the bridge and let them know where things stand down here. Kerri, Zane, and Caleb finished cleaning up, showered and are now gathering all the food they can find. I think everything is covered at the moment and you really should get a shower yourself."
Robin took a moment to look down at his clothing and nearly gagged. Not only did he have blood from Suberov on him, his clothing now had several other blood stains from many of the kids. He also noticed some of the puke from his retrieving of Suberov's pistol was now dried on his right sleeve. "Point taken. Jared you are in charge until I get cleaned up. I know you can use a laser drill. I want you to put a couple of holes in Neil's door so the hallway can get some life support into their room. I also want you to cut a couple of deep groves in the blast door covering his room so we can jack it up and get them out as soon as possible."
"I'll get right on it." Jared responded, "What else?"
Robin glanced around for a moment. "Get a couple of kids cleaning up all floating items no matter how big or small. Have em bag it and stick in with Suberov's body so it can be sorted though later. That includes a room by room sweep. All personal belongings in rooms that are not totally trashed should be bagged and left in those rooms. Erin, I want you to be lead on first aid. Once I get back you can get a shower."
"You need one more than I do." She agreed showing a bit of a sour face.
Robin ignored the look, "Luna, you are great with the young ones and have been a babysitter for almost all of them at one time or another. I know you are hurt, but"
She waved her good right arm. "I'll get em taken care of. How much water do we have?"
"Plenty." Jared responded. "We filled up the tanks before we left Quaker and we are still at 97%, why?"
"I want all of them who are not too badly hurt to get a vacuum shower. Do we have enough power?"
Robin nodded. "Yea, all water operations including the vacuum showers run off life support and it is on primary. Anyone who can't get a water shower should get a sonic one including the young ones. Jared and I will help the boys who need it. Valerie and Kerri will deal with the girls who need help. Also get fresh clothing and hammocks for every kid. We will stay as a group in the leisure rooms until they can get to us. We have cooking units and bathrooms in there and I can hook up the emergency fusion generator to power everything up. Besides, I'm sure the younger ones will want us older kids close by until all our parents can get to us."
Robin left quickly before more questions could be asked. He had spent a great deal of time wondering what the proper action would be once all the major priorities had been dealt with. The truth of the matter was, the large break room and lounge on the family quarters level was the furthest away from the external hull and if there were other problems the emergency bulkheads could seal them in. He could even hook up the small emergency generator which had more than enough power to run life support until they could be rescued.
The rest of the stuff he had ordered done was more for busy work then anything else, but it would make the whole deck safer. It would also allow the crew to come back to quarters that were at least close to livable. With as many injuries as he had seen with the kids on Hotel deck, he was betting the adults were probably every bit as banged up. The last thing they would want or need is to have to deal with a totally trashed room when they finally got a chance to rest.
Robin once again entered his own quarters and made his way through the debris field which was normally an immaculately kept living quarters. As he did so, his thoughts once again turned to his mom. He had still not heard anything from or about her. On the other hand, he was not alone. Several kids had enquired about mom, dad, or both and had been given the "we'll let you know as soon as we find out" speech.
Robin entered his own room, gathered some clean clothing and packed a gym bag with two extra sets. The truth was, he really didn't want to have to make his way through the mess again until everything was more or les back to normal.
Robin quickly stripped and stuffed all the blood and puke stained clothing in a separate bag. He briefly considered sending the bag out the trash shoot, but knew all the men and women of the Grenadiers had take pay cuts over the last couple of months including his mom. Buying new clothing was really not in the budget. With a sigh he tied it off to one of the hooks normally used to hold his hammock in place.
Entering the tiny shower room, he quickly turned on the vacuum pumps which allowed for a more or less real water shower in zero G he then took full 2 two minutes to get wet then another 4 to lather up. Finally he used the last 3 minutes of the 5 allotted for a water shower to clean himself off. He then cheated, turning off the shower and reset it so he could use another two minutes to better rinse and re-lather before getting the last 3 minutes to get all the soap off. Normally he would not have been able to do this, but since there was no chance his mom would be able to get down to their room before 12 hours went by, taking a double shower would simply not be noticed by the computer.
Robin floated out then suddenly realized that without primary power the heat lamps which he normally used to dry off with were off line because they ran off of primary. He shivered as he looked around for something to dry off with. Finally he found a hand towel and did the best he could, saving his long black hair for last. He pulled a comb through his hair as he allowed the last water on his body to evaporate before dressing into one of the two cadet uniform the Grenadiers had bought for him so he could attend the Quaker Academy and learn starship repair and first aid in formal classes. As he waited with his teeth lightly chattering he thought back over the last few months.
The Quaker VII Academy had been a blast, For 19 months he attended hands on classes working on both Planetary Landing Craft (PLCs) and Space Fold Craft (SFC's). In addition, part of his training was spent at a star base military hospital helping to treat battlefield injuries from the system's civil war. Finally, and most fun of all, he was allowed to test his skills in unarmed combat, firearms, and even frame combat against other cadets form Quaker VII both on the ground and in space.
Unfortunately it all ended when Quaker VII's government tossed in the towel saying the cost of the war was too high. It decided to basically surrender to Quaker VI. This left the Grenadiers without anyone to pay the last part of their 3 year contract and the Quaker VI government demanding they leave immediately.
Partially because the unit was pretty badly beat up and partially because the Quaker VI officials chose to not allow the Grenadiers access to high-speed system to system communications, it took two months for Major O'Connell to find a new contract. When he finally did, it turned out to be a security contract to a company wanting to protect an experimental research station on New Brunswick IX.
Recently, at least according to the corporate official who hired them, there had been growing unrest and several terrorist type attacks against major factories. Kipper Limited didn't want its prized project to be defended by the poorly equipped and even more poorly trained planetary militia, so they decided to hire out. The contract was not ideal. It didn't pay much, it was only for 6 months, and it required rapid transit, but it did come with a full salvage clause, extra pay should combat become necessary, and the company pulled strings to allow military men and women who wanted to get off Quaker VII to join the Grenadiers. This allowed Major O'Connell to bring up the unit back to being just over 2 full combat teams. Kipper Limited also tossed in a shipment of spare parts for the unit's frames and armor which had originally been intended for Quaker VII and had been paid for.
This bonus shipment turned out to be all lower tech stuff, but it was brand new and after the heavy fighting both on Quaker VII and Quaker VI the parts were badly needed. Up until this last fold, Robin had spent much of his time digging though the parts and helping to fully repair all 119 frames the unit owned.
On his spare time, which was pretty limited, Robin along with Jared, Neil, Luna and Kerri were given time to work on 7 Blade class frames found stuck in the back of one of the large shipping crates. The low tech power armor frames were damaged and appeared to have been sent by mistake. By the looks of them and the layers of dust covering the crates they were in, the company probably had them stored in the very back of a shipping crate and had forgotten about them. Then, when it came time to off load a bunch of low tech parts and weapons to a planet needing war equipment quickly, no one bothered to pull them out.
Even though the 7 frames were very low tech they were still frames. Better yet, at lest for Robin, Blades were equipped with size adjustment technology which allowed smaller people to pilot them.
Since no one in the grenadiers wanted anything to do with the lightly armored, slow and limited firepower power armor, Major O'Connell figured they would be perfect frames for older kids in the unit. This would give those who wanted to learn something real to learn in, pull guard duty and even be able to deal with light combat.
With these goals in mind, he turned them over to Robin to see if the older kids could use all 7 frames to get a few up and running. Robin, with a great deal of help from Luna and Jared and limited help from Neil and Kerri, had far exceeded the Major's expectations. As it turned out, all 7 frames were basically intact. 3 of them had only armor and very minor internal damage while the other 4 had slightly worse off with damage to one or two major systems but nothing terrible, at least nothing terrible for a merc unit used to finding ways of fixing almost everything.
By the time it was all said and done, Robin and the others had managed to take the seven frames and turn out 5 fully operational frames and one that just needed a new computer which they were able to get with the help of Dante, who certainly was not one of the toughest kids in the unit, but had an almost unnatural ability to fix and build electronics and computer systems.
As Robin finally dressed, he wondered how the frames handled the errant fold. All were firmly secured in place on Juliet deck, locked into frame transport slots with metal braces. However, even the lightweight Blades weighed over 150 kilograms each and with all the damage he had on Hotel deck, he couldn't help but wonder how many frames had broken loose and were floating around two decks below him.
As Robin finished dressing, he glanced over at Suberov's laser pistol and spare power packs. He briefly wondered what to do with the weapon, but after some consideration he slipped it into the shoulder holster Captain Tanner had given him as a gift for being the only kid who passed the ship repair certification test.
His mom had nearly flipped out. She basically confiscated the 10mm which had accompanied the holster and put it under lock and key in her safe. She only pulled it out when he went to the range saying she would not allow her son to carry a firearm until he was on the unit payroll or had turned 16 and was an adult.
Robin kind of snorted as he realized the laser pistol actually fit the holster pretty well but was slightly smaller then the 10mm. he spoke aloud to himself, "Well mom, the major says I'm getting a check this month as a senior private, so I guess you can't say much about me being armed for now."
He clipped his hand held radio to his belt and found the headset so he could talk to the bridge or other repair crews without using his hands. Glancing back at his desk, he briefly though about taking his holo-player, but decided against it. He was supposed to be in charge. Taking a holo-player for his games just didn't fit in with the image Major O'Connell would probably expect from someone he put in command of an entire deck.
He exited his quarters and made his way around to Neil's room. Jared had already drilled 5 holes and was hard at work trying to put a gouge in the door with the laser drill. Robin motioned him to back away from the door, "You'll take forever trying to cut a grove in the door like that."
"Yea, I noticed."
Robin tried to look through one of the holes but backed away as he felt the heat coming off the door. "Neil, are you OK?"
A muffled reply answered back, "I got something stuck in my shoulder but it doesn't hurt too bad any more. My brother is in bad shape though. He has not really stopped crying. He said his ribs and arms hurt real bad. But now he is just whimpering and not really responding much."
"OK, we'll get you out as soon as possible. How is Tracy?"
A young girl's voice next to screeched in reply, "My foot is stuck and he can't get it out! It hurts!"
Jared cringed at the sound, "OK, so how do we grove the door deeply enough to make a spot for the jack to stick into so we can get to them?"
Robin ignored Jared, "We will get all of you out of there soon. Is the inner door open?"
"About half way. My shoulder started hurting too much to force it all the way. I think it is partially stuck, but it might just be my shoulder."
"At least we can get you guys out without forcing the emergency bulkhead up past the manual door crank. Did the air holes help any?"
Neil responded, "I think heating up the door helped more than anything. It made it warmer in here. The holes at least gives us a little light."
"You have no power at all?"
"Nothing Rob, not even emergency."
What about flash lights?"
"I can't find any. The desk drawer they were in isn't in the desk anymore. I tried to feel around but stopped after I cut my hands a few times on whatever else is floating around in here, and believe me there is a lot."
"All the living quarters are trashed." Robin replied more to make small talk and give himself a little more time to figure out what to do than anything. He looked around, taking a quick inventory of everything he had to work on the door. "I'll get the door open, but you'll have to give me a minute or two to figure this out."
"It's not like I can go anywhere Robin." By his voice alone both Robin and Jared could hear their friend had long ago stopped panicking and was now more resigned to things not turning out so well.
Tracy's young voice screamed out again, "Hurry up Robbie!"
Robin clenched his fist as he heard the name Robbie. Of all the nick names he had in the unit, Neil's mom calling him Robbie was by far the worst. It was bad enough being called Rob but Robbie really annoyed him. "Chill out Trace." He yelled back knowing the 9 year old hated being called by anything but her full name. "I'm working on it."
Jared softened his voice so the three kids on the other side couldn't hear him. "I don't know Robin, with the cutting torch being damaged by the fold, the laser drill is all I could come up with."
Robin rubbed his head as he though it over. "I see the top access panel is open did you release the locking clamps?"
"First thing I did. I may not have passed ship repair, but one thing I did remember is to pull the locking claps off first so the door could be pushed back up. I didn't want to get the door so hot that I accidentally fused them in place while I was lasering the door."
Robin chewed on his lip as he examined the power jack and other tools. An idea suddenly hit him. "Jared, in my quarters the bolts around my mom's desk tore loose from the wall. Take the laser drill and use it to cut the desk all the way loose then bring the whole desk here."
Jared looked at Robin, "Why?"
Robin pushed the jack up to the door put his hand above it. "If I weld the frame of the desk to the door about where my hand is, we might be able to jack it up enough to jamb the crowbars underneath and hold it while one of the others pushes the jack under the gap. If we can just get the jack under the emergency door, then we can jack it up high enough to get them out."
Jared's eyes lit up, "Of course. Instead of making a grove in the door, we'll make a protrusion off it! Great idea!"
"I just hope it works."
"I'm sure it will. I'll grab Zane to help."
"Whatever, just get it done. It sounds like Tommy is not doing well at all."
As Jared pushed off the wall to more quickly move down the hall, Robin turned his attention back to those on the other side of the door. "Neil, where is Tommy?"
"He is right next to me, but I'm afraid to do more than keep him close since every time I touch his side or shoulders he shakes in pain. I don't know how much longer he will make it."
"We'll get to you soon. I've got a plan. It will be a few minutes till we get everything lined up though."
"Like I said, I'm not going anywhere. Have you heard from my mom or dad?"
"Only your dad. He took a crew outside to find and patch the hull."
"We have a breach?"
"From the sounds of it Juliet and Golf deck both do. We are fully secure as is Alpha though Foxtrot." The last thing Robin wanted to do was get Neil thinking about things he couldn't control and may make him worry even more. "So what is stuck in your shoulder?"
"To be honest," Neil managed to put some humor in his voice, "It might be one of the pen flashlights I would love to find, but one thing I learned from first aid is to leave items in until they can be properly removed and this bastard is in there pretty deep. It hurts like hell to move it."
"Definitely leave it alone. Pulling it out would mean you would bleed a lot and it might be holding other stuff in place. Make sure to keep your shoulder as still as possible too."
"No problem there Rob. Any time I move it, it feels like someone is sticking a knife in me. It's weird though."
"It really never hurt much unless I move it."
"As hard as we jolted, it probably hit you like it was fired out of a gun." He turned as he heard Jared returning with the desk. "Alright. I'm going to start working on the door again. It might start getting pretty hot but it shouldn't take too long to get everything set."
"Not a problem! More warmth would not be a bad thing. It is still pretty cold in here."
Robin quickly turned his attention to directing Jared and Zane. Fortunately all three boys had spent a great deal of time in zero G. The fact the desk weighed basically nothing at the moment coupled with all their abilities to maneuver in a no gravity environment sped the process up a great deal. Within 5 minutes Robin was welding the desk in place.
Robin took his time, knowing the welds would have to be able to deal with the stress of forcing up a door designed not to be pushed back up once it had dropped into place. As the weld cooled he maneuvered into the access hatch and double checked the two locking blots were indeed pulled out so the door could be pushed back up at all. He then disconnected the primary motor. He muttered as he tired to reach the secondary motor but couldn't quite reach it.
He then turned to Zane. "Jared and I are stronger than you. As soon as we get the door open enough to slip the jack under it, we will try to hold it up while you lower the jack and get it directly under the door. I just hope the secondary gives us enough time get the jack in place.
Zane looked up, "What do you mean."
Robin took a deep breath. "The way emergency bulkhead doors work is there is a primary and secondary motor. They drop the door then two pins lock it in place so it stays down. However, if the pins fail the motors kick in to put pressure on the door to keep it in place. I disconnected the primary, but the secondary has been bent out of position. I can't reach it. It will kick in and try to force the door closed a few seconds after the primary does not kick on."
Jared raised an eyebrow, "Robin, you have a laser pistol. Shoot the damned thing!"
Robin glanced down at Suberov's pistol. "Yea. Good call."
As both boys giggled at his expression, Robin floated back to the access hatch, took aim and fired a trio of shots into the secondary motor just to make sure it was indeed dead. As he moved back to the welded on deck his radio activated. The worried voice of Captain Tanner spoke a single word. "Rob?"
"We just got a weapon fire warning on your deck!"
"You mean to tell me you can't get a reading on this deck from life support but you can on a weapon discharge?"
Captain Tanner's voice betrayed some of his own frustration. "As a matter of fact yes. So what is the deal?"
"It was me."
"So I gather. You best have a really good reason son."
"I shot the secondary motor so I could get Neil out. The brackets are bent so bad I couldn't reach it."
There was a long pause. "Well, then I guess you had a pretty good reason. Proceed."
"It's a bit late to give me the go head sir." Robin snickered.
Captain Tanner keyed the radio but all Robin could hear was laughter and it wasn't just Captain Tanner. Robin guessed at least 5 others were laughing somewhere behind him including a very deep chuckling sound that could have only been Major O'Connell. Finally Captain Tanner found part of his voice, but was still chuckling as he spoke. "Thanks Rob, we all needed that. Good work down there. I won't second guess you again."
Robin rolled his eyes but his voice continued to be full of humor, "Yes you will sir, and you know it. Robin out."
Jared looked over, "Are you in trouble?"
"No, but I will warn them before I fire the pistol again. It seems the weapon discharge sensors are the only things giving the bridge good information."
Robin paused and took a deep breath. OK, Zane activate the power jack but go slow. Jared you take the left side of the door I'll handle the right. The second we can get the crowbars underneath we will do what we can to help. This way even if the weld breaks the bars will be under the door and they will be getting extra life support."
Robin held his breath as the jack made contact to the welded on desk. It groaned and creaked for a moment as if threatening to break loose but after almost a minute the heavy door started to move up. It took another full minute to open enough to get the crowbars under it and an additional 2 minutes to open enough to be able to slip the jack under the door itself.
Robin took a deep breath. "Zane stop it there. Jared, brace your bar under it as best you can but only use the heel of your hand. Don't put your fingers under the bar. If this thing comes down you will loose whatever body part is pinned under the bar. If you feel it move let go and we'll try again."
Jared nodded as he put as much force as he could muster to keep the door wedged up.
Robin did the same on his side then glanced over to Zane. "Let it down and get it under the door as fast ay you can!"
Zane spun the controls making the power arm retract as quickly as it was capable of. The second it was down all the way he shoved the arm under the door and set the feet.
"Raise it up so it is at the bottom of the door then see if it will continue to lift it!" Robin grunted out through clenched teeth. There was a pause as once again the metal protested, but the jack was designed for power lifting far exceeding the door's resistance. The jack sank in slightly creating a bend in the blast door, but finally it relented, moving upwards in jerks complaining with the screech of metal on metal the whole way.
Robin waited till there was a space of half a meter before he pulled himself underneath. He pulled a pen light and quickly realized, of all the compartments he had been in, this one was the worst. There were items floating all over the place and part of the main dresser had completely ripped loose from the wall.
It was the leg of the dresser that had Tracy's foot pinned, and even from across the room there was no doubt her leg was broken and some of the bones in the foot possibly crushed. He also knew the pain would increase a great deal once her foot got loose.
Tracy stated yelling for help almost the second she saw the light go on, but Robin ignored her and made his way over to Neil and Tommy. "Trace settle down." Robin almost shouted so he knew Jared and Zane would hear, "The more you move the more it will hurt. Jared will get in with a crowbar to get you loose in a minute or so! Your little brother needs help more than you do."
Robin floated over to Neil while yelling out the door, "Zane, go get Erin and Dante, we are going to need some help getting everyone out of here safely."
He then turned and took a quick look at his best friend's shoulder, "You're right about it being in there pretty deep. You may have that in you until a doc is able to operate on you."
"Yea I figured as much. Is it a pen or a pen light? I can't really see it."
"Actually I think you have a part of your brothers building set stuck in there. Interestingly enough, I'm pretty sure it is part of the shoulder of the robot. Maybe it's getting some revenge by showing you what it feels like to get taken apart and put back together again."
Neil ignored the light attempt at humor. "What about Tommy."
Robin played the beam of light over the 7 year old and cringed, "He has some deep bruises on his chest and it looks like one or two of his ribs are out of place. His left shoulder looks bad too. If I had a bet I'd say he has a busted collar bone."
Robin activated his radio again, "Bridge?"
"Go Rob." Captain Tanner responded almost instantly.
"Sir, I'm in the room with Neil, Tommy and Tracy. All three are hurt, but Tommy is real bad. He has several broken bones and is not fully conscious. At least two ribs and his collar bone are out of place. I'm not really sure where to start."
"Hold on Rob, I'm going to patch you in directly to sickbay."
A series of clicks followed by a brief burst of static forced Robin to pull his headset off his ear. Finally an unfamiliar voice came though but the connection was full of static. "This is medical technician Scallon. I understand you have a critical injury?"
"Yes sir. Tommy Jo"
Scallon cut him off, "Kid, I don't want to be rude but we have almost 100 injuries. Just give me facts. How old is the person, what you see, and what they feel. I really don't have time for names or much else at the moment."
Robin frowned deeply but complied, sticking only to the facts. Off to the side Tracy let out a loud yell and started crying as Jared pried the bent metal off her pinned foot.
Scallon paused as he heard the yell, "What in the hell was that?"
"The sister of the kid I'm trying to talk to you about sir." Robin snapped with a bit of frustration and anger. "His older brother is also hurt."
"We'll take them one at a time."
"The other two I can handle sir. I have advanced first aid as does one of the other kids on Hotel Deck. First aid ain't going to help much on Tommy though."
Scallon's voice seemed to soften slightly. "I understand, but first aid will help. It really will. How is he breathing?"
"Kind of shallow and a bit fast."
"OK, now move your hand over each bruise. Don't press down too hard, but firmly enough to tell me if any of them are hard to the touch."
Robin responded, "I already did that sir. I don't see any signs of internal injury other than the out of place ribs. I spent time in a military hospital to get my certification. I know how to do that."
"Great. Then the shallow breathing is probably because taking any deeper breaths hurts because to the rib injuries." Scallon responded. "I want you to bandage his chest completely. Make it firm but not tight."
"What about his collar bone? I'll have to move his arm to get the bandage on."
"The ribs are far more important the then collar bone. From what I hear, getting to you will take several hours if not longer. Keep the ribs in place then support his shoulder by putting the arm in a sling and secure it over the chest bandages. The kid will look like a mummy, but it's the best you can do with what you have."
"Alright." Robin responded, "What about the pain he is in?"
"How are you with IV's?"
"Our medic kit had 10 bags sir, we already used one on a kid with a busted up knee."
There was a pause, "Well, I guess that means you know how to put one in."
"Oh yea. Sorry sir. I misunderstood."
"No, I'm thrilled, I really am. So you know how to hook up the squeeze bags so the IV works in zero G?"
"Erin showed me. It is really easy."
"As long as you are comfortable that's fantastic. I want you to hook him up on a very slow drip. Do you have any class C liquid vials?"
"We only have two left, sir. Erin injected one straight into the other kid and put one in his IV per medic Lentz's instructions."
"Great" A long sigh followed before Scallon spoke again. "What about Class B?"
"We have 4 of them."
"OK, how much does he weigh?"
Robin looked over to Neil who held up two fingers on one hand and all five with his other. "About 25 kilos sir."
"Alright, I now this is strictly guess work, but I want you to put about a third of that vial in the IV bag and shake it up real well. Save the rest in the first vial for the next two. I don't want you to take him off of the IV's until we get to him. Do not let him eat any solids either. If he wakes up, he may be a bit goofy or ah…out of it. Don't let him move around much and have someone keep an eye on him all the time. If he needs to go to the bathroom, use a portable waste bottle."
"We can handle that sir. Thanks."
"What about the other two who are injured?"
"Broken leg and foot on Tracy and a part off a toy robot in Neil's shoulder. I'll tape the metal piece right to the shoulder and cut a hole in the bandage to put it around the metal rod. Erin and I can handle splinting the leg and foot in an air cast. I just needed to know what to do with Tommy."
Scallon's voice let Robin know how impressed the man was. "Kid, we have a slot in sickbay for you the second we can get you up here, we can probably even pay you."
Captain Tanner's voice broke into the conversation. "Rob, great work down there. You are the only deck with 100% accounted for and we are almost 4 hours into this mess."
"Well there was only 34 of us down here including Suberov, so there really wasn't much to account for." Robin replied with some embarrassment as he worked on Tommy.
Major O'Connell's voice came over the radio. "Nonsense son! You did great. Now for some news you have been waiting on. I just got word on your mom."
Robin took a deep breath. "How is she sir."
"She is on India Deck. She's hurt, but she'll make it."
"Can I talk to her sir?"
"She is unconscious, but the second she is awake I'll patch you in. Just keep up the good work down there Specialist."
"Specialist?" Scallon half choked out, "I thought he was like 13?"
"He is both as of now." Major O'Connell announced. "As long as you want it Robin."
"Absolutely sir!" Robin nearly shouted.
"I'm adding you to the roster now. You will still be expected to go to school like all the other kids, but you will have real unit duties as well. You are now the youngest Grenadier ever by about 9 months. Also Med Tech Scallon is correct. Your next assignment will be in med bay as soon as we can get you up there."