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A Scrap of Hope
November 14th, 2014 by Coral

The planet’s surface reflected light at odd angles, causing Jim to squint, trying to get a good measure of the terrain. The heat from the sun was intense, and the atmosphere looked rusty.  Jim climbed off of the exit ramp of the starship, the sound of scraping metal coming from beneath his feet.

Jim exhaled slowly. It was not what he had expected, but he couldn’t yet tell if it was worse.  Glancing back at the ships, a sad, battered remnant of their original Refugee Fleet, he knew it would have to do.  He had managed to get those ships off the ground once, but it would be foolhardy to try again, if only for the fact that every adult they had needed serious medical attention that they couldn’t give while manning a ship hurdling through space.

The planet they had landed on had been the only one available. The only other planets near enough that they could have made the trip were allied with the StelTer Alliance that had driven Jim’s people, the Litore, to flight in the first place.  This small, inconsequential planet had been a dumping ground for the Industrials for years. Jim wasn’t sure how many years, but wagered if he dug deep enough, he could figure it out by dating the pieces of tech that made up the landscape.

Jim shook his head, focusing on his most pressing task. He climbed underneath the ship, wriggling carefully to avoid the sharp edges beneath him, and quickly assessed the terrains stability.  He banged on the hull and heard Amy respond from the ship’s ramp.

“We’re good.” Jim called.

“Will this place work?”

Jim sighed. “It’ll have to, get to work on the injured.”

He heard Amy head back into the ship and frowned, neither of them were really prepared to be in charge of anything. They were only fourteen, for pity’s sake! It would be a miracle if they could hold the group together long enough to get the adults mobile. Another miracle would be if they could improvise decent enough medical services that the adults could actually get mobile again.

Jim extricated himself from beneath the ship and went back inside. There were too many things that needed doing, he thought, as his head buzzed with them.  Someone should be scouting for livable places on the surface, someone should be scouting for places to plant food for the future, someone should be organizing where to send the little kids that now found themselves parentless, there were too many of them, too. But there was one thing that took first on Jim’s personal priority list.

He hesitated in the doorway, dreading entering one of the many makeshift sickbays. Too many wounded, too few medics.  The smell of stale blood permeated the air, slightly muted by the chemical antiseptic smell, but the combination wasn’t much better in Jim’s book.   Hector was situated near the back of the overcrowded room, granted room to lie down due to a possible concussion, probably serious, too. It was impossible to check for sure, what with their limited medical expertise, limited equipment, and the fact that Hector’s eyes were covered by thick bandages. Checking his pupils was not an option.

“Hey, Hector,” Jim said, setting himself on the floor next to his friend. “You doing alright?”

Hector’s only response was a groan.

Jim considered it. “Sounds like you’re at least feeling better than last time I checked, so that’s a bonus.”

“Where’ve we landed?” Hector replied. Jim thought he had almost elicited a smile.

“Junk planet, dumping ground for the Industrials. But I think we can make it work.”

“Well, that’s your motto, isn’t it?” Hector teased.

“Yeah, well, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.” Jim confessed, “It’s pretty covered in the dumped metal, ship parts and all that. The first trick will be getting everyone out of sick bay, after that, well…figuring out how to live here. The Refugee Fleet won’t be leaving for a while, man.”

Hector sighed, discouraged, “I wish I could help…I just…”

“Hey, no man, you stay here,” Jim put a hand on Hector’s shoulder, partly to keep him from trying to get up and help even with his bandaged eyes. “I’m sure you’ll be up and at it again in no time, just not quite yet.”

Hector’s fists clenched at his sides, his jaw set in a frustrated line. Jim struggled for words, but none would come.  Hector was the closest thing Jim had left to family, they were closer than brothers, and he couldn’t bear to see Hector like this. But he couldn’t change it either. Jim was a mechanic, he fixed machines, not people.

Jim stood, briefly telling Hector to relax, he would take care of it, before returning to the real task of organizing the refugee population.   Amy met him in the hall.

“How is he?” The anxiety in her voice nearly sent Jim into a breakdown.  Instead he nodded, trying to sound comforting.

“Managing, like all of us.” Jim put a hand on her arm, “You alright, though?”

Amy sighed. Jim knew what she was thinking. Hector and she had always been partners in their ambitions. Amy and Hector were pilots, nothing gave them more satisfaction or thrill  than to fly a ship. Whether it be starship, planet hopper, surface glider, or simple craft, they loved to be behind the controls. Now, even with the recovery of his other head injuries, Hector would be blind.  How do you fly a ship when you can’t see?

“I’m…” Amy faltered. “Managing.”

Jim nodded. “Right. Let’s get to work, these people are counting on us.”

Amy nodded, a flicker of a smile making an appearance on her face as she attempted optimism. It had never been her strong suit though.

How sad a state were they in, Jim wondered, if their last hope was in the hands of fourteen to fifteen year old pilots and mechanics?

The next few days were somewhat of a blur to Jim. The Refugee Fleet, having originally consisted of twenty well stocked ships, now boasted only three. There were roughly fifty people on each ship.

Amy and Lola headed the medical pursuits, though they both had only rudimentary training. The two girls took care of the more serious injuries, relying heavily on the emergency medical booklets stored with their supplies. Jim took a group to get some of the planets surface ready for habitation.

His group consisted of two twelve year old boys, the only ones that Jim had scrounged up that had decent boots.

“Okay,” Jim rubbed his hands together, “This is the spot, boys.”

“You sure ‘bout this?” Will shifted the backpack with the food on his shoulders, “It looks kinda…”

“Like the rest of the planet?” Drake finished, setting the toolkit on the ground next to him.

“Well, yes,” Jim agreed, “But I’ve checked the stability, and this is a section where we can arrange these top layers of metal into shelters without having the ground collapse.”

“Oh.” Will frowned skeptically.

“Look, kid, it’s not ideal, I know that.” Jim said, putting on his oil stained gloves, “But we’ve got to make do. This is what we have and we’re going to work with it.”

“Right.” Drake replied. Jim could hear the discouragement in his voice.

He turned to face them, “Hey, it’s not so bad.” Jim began, “I mean, it’s rough, I’ll give you that. But we made it here, didn’t we? We can start fresh.”

“Fresh on the scrapheap of the galaxy?”

“Exactly.” Jim said, trying to be enthusiastic, “Uncharted territory, isn’t it? If we can manage it, it’ll be novel. Probably get tourists from all over.”

He wasn’t sure they believed him, but he could see hope creeping back into their eyes.

“Great, now,” Jim turned to a large, detached shuttle wing, “Will, help me move this wing, Drake, get the blowtorch ready, we’ll need to cut some of these pieces down.”

Weeks turned into months, the refugees were moved off of the ships into makeshift metal shelters.  Solar-emit panels were taken from the ships and gardens were erected.  The wounded began to mend, control was handed over to the adults.

The atmosphere was still rusty, the terrain was still jagged and reflected the sun at every angle, but they would survive.

“Well, ya’ done good, Jim.” Hector stood at the threshold of his families new dwelling. Jim had one a little farther down, though his was a one man home now.

“Thanks.” Jim smiled, folding his arms and taking in the surroundings. Most of the shelters were his handy work, with a few helpers like Will and Drake.

“So, I’ve been thinking.” Hector started, adjusting his dark lensed glasses. He couldn’t see, but his eyes had become extremely sensitive to light.

“What about?”

“I still want to fly, Jim.” Hector said, his jaw set stubbornly. “I’ve got to. We need all the pilots we can get, asset collecting and all, and I was one of the best.”

Jim looked at his friend, evaluating the statement. He decided Hector was sincere. “Alright. Well, let’s get to work on that, then, yeah?”

 

 


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