NaNoWriMo – Installment II

OK, here is the next installment. As before, this is a first draft, very rough and not edited at all. That will come next month after I’ve got this finished. You have been warned.

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“Yes, Major,” she responded quickly moving to the hatchway to leave the bridge. The Corporal caught herself on the hatch frame and spun around to face her commander. “Sir, you do realize it usually takes four hours for full alertness coming out of hiber-sleep? The team might not be at their best for the meeting”, she stated fully expecting what the response would be.

Without hesitation Major Duran said, “If anyone does not seem to have fully come out before the meeting, you are authorized to use stims. I need them fully present. We have a lot to go over with little intel at this point. Keep monitoring them through out for any side effects. I have full trust in your abilities, Corporal Griegs”.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir”, she said and whirled her small form around and pushed off the hatch frame and propelled herself through the connecting tunnel. Stimulants were routinely used by the special operation teams usually due to the extremely long periods of time they needed to be awake and alert. Michelle was very aware of the side effects from stim use mostly coming from long term use or too large of a dose. After two years she had yet to see a case with her team and planned to keep it that way. Very shortly the team medic floated into the hiber-sleep section and centered herself on the medical console verifying the eleven sleeping soldiers were in no distress. Satisfied with the read-outs she quickly, but methodically, began entering the sequence of commands to awaken the rest of the crew.

The hiber-sleep pods are multi-functional. Not only do they administer the chemical that induce a form of suspended animation constantly monitoring vital signs and adjusting the drugs when and as necessary, they are also designed to be escape pods for the sleeping occupants should some catastrophe happen to the ship. Information relating to nearby habitable planets is constantly fed into its rudimentary navigational system which would then steer the small ion drive engine. The occupant of each pod could theoretically survive for up to ten years in hiber-sleep before the power cells were completely drained. This would be at least ninety years before the ion drives ran out of fuel. The pods are also equipped with a passive receiver to detect if any EGF ships appear in the vicinity and if detected turns active and sends a coded signal in order for the pod and its occupant to be recovered.

Michelle Griegs patiently waited the five minutes for the hiber-sleep process to reverse and the pods to open. Lieutenant Sergio Contreras was the first to show signs of animation and Michelle moved to his pod. “Lieutenant, don’t try to get up yet. Give it another minute for the paralysis to totally wear off. The commander ordered the team to be revived a day early so the sleep juice hasn’t had a chance to fully leave your system.” The chemicals used normally took an hour to fully wear off and would usually not be an issue as that time would be incorporated into the wake up cycle. However, this was not possible with Major Duran’s plan to have the team awake and ready for conference in two hours time. This was one of the main reasons she had indirectly asked permission to use stims.

Lieutenant Contreras tentatively grasped the sides of his pod and pulled himself upright. “A dios mio”, he croaked out. “I hate hiber-sleep. Makes my head feel like it’s full of cotton jammed in with a pitchfork.” He looked around and noted all the other pods were open and the other men were just beginning to stir with Corporal Griegs hovering over each momentarily checking on each person. He opened his mouth to ask a question but could only croak like a dying frog.

The floating medic handed a pouch of liquid to Contreras as she moved up to him having made a full circuit and satisfied that everyone seemed OK for the moment. “Here, take a couple of swigs of this before we have to put you out of your misery”, she said with a sly smile.

Taking the offered pouch, he took several long pulls through the attached straw feeling his head clear along with his throat soothed. After nearly  draining the pouch he asked, “Hey, Doc”, referring to the medic, “Major want us up early? Something going on?” He watched the smile on her face be replaced with an all too serious expression. Sergio loved her smile but had quickly learned that this small, compact woman was not to be trifled with. He learned this the hard way shortly after being assigned to the team. One day he took his teasing of her sex and stature a little too far for a little too long. Before he even realized anything, Sergio found himself on his back with a knee pressing very uncomfortably  into his groin. The look staring into his eyes was enough to convince him that Corporal Michelle Griegs was a very capable special operations team member.

“Yes, sir to both questions. The Major wants to teams assembled in the briefing room in two hours. He will fill us all in at that time.” Michelle deliberately answered to hopefully deflect further questions. What she had seen and heard while on the bridge had shaken her unlike anything else she had experienced. After two years in special operations the 10th SOT (Space) had found itself in some very dicey situations on more than one occasion and she had never felt any unease during or after any of those times. This was very different for some reason that she could not identify.

He watched her continue her rounds of the pods reaching the next one also handing the occupant a pouch of wake up juice to suck on. It really was not all that unusual for the team to be revived a little early. However, each time had meant trouble was not too far away. As the second in command and the designated intelligence officer Lieutenant Contreras recognized he needed to be up and finding out what new potential dangers the team might face. He began moving his limbs through a series of exercises to get the blood circulating as well as working out the inevitable stiffness six months of hiber-sleep brought. Despite continued low-level electrical stimulation the sleep pods provided to the muscles it did nothing to help the joints from becoming stiff.

Satisfied that everything seemed to working properly, Contreras pushed himself completely out of the pod a little too vigorously and found himself sailing to collide with the ceiling. With the hiber-sleep chemicals still flowing through his system his reflexes were too slow to fully react in time to stop his momentum and banged the side of his head on an overhead brace. Holding one hand on the nearest handhold he steadied his swaying and used the other to feel for any damage to his skull.

“I warned you to stay put for a bit, LT.” Griegs chided her superior. “Here, drink this. It will help with the grogginess and the pain you are sure to be feeling,” she said while at the same time flinging another pack of fluid in his direction. “It’s a good thing you hit where you did. Half a meter to the left and you would have damaged part of my biosensing equipment. That would have made me very upset and you wouldn’t like me upset,” she added with a wry smile before turning away to the nearest team member.

Contreras caught the liquid pack just before it hit him in the face despite still seeing stars from the bump to his head. All of the sudden movement and pain caused a wave of nausea to roll over him which he fought back with all his might. Vomiting in zero gravity was never a good thing to happen. Concentrating on a spot on the wall across the room helped to steady his senses and let the nausea subside. The worst was over in a minute and he proceeded to drain the new pouch Greigs had tossed him. Almost instantly he realized he almost felt normal. “Did that have a stim in it?” he asked of the medic.

“Just a mild one. I need you to be with it so you won’t damage any of my equipment. Besides, I figure you will want to go meet with Major Duran as soon as you can,” she said.

“I can’t believe you are more worried about your equipment than the second ranking member of this team”, he shot back feigning a hurt look on his face.

“With all due respect, Lieutenant, this equipment cannot be replaced out here in the black. You on the other hand,” she paused for a couple of beats, “Your head is too thick to be damaged by my delicate equipment. Now if you will excuse me, I have my other team members to see about.” Michelle gracefully slipped between two pods and stopped in position to check on the two soldiers who seemed to be fighting with the expected nausea of their own. She turned her head to eye the Lieutenant, “You’ll find the Major on the bridge.” She turned back to her patients but added loud enough for Contreras to hear, “And don’t worry, I won’t report you disobeying medical orders and trying to break my equipment in the process.”

“Geez, thanks for that. What would we ever do without you?” he said while floating past her out of the room. Sergio Contreras knew very well that several of his team mates would probably be dead had it not been for Michelle’s extraordinary skills as a combat medic. In his position it was necessary to know everything there was to know about each team member. When he had gotten to her record, he was impressed that she had graduated at the top of her combat medic class and then again at the special operations combat medical course. The participants at that course learned how to be combat and trauma surgeons in everything but name. Corporal Greigs had displayed her exceptional skill literally with grace under fire.

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