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Purify - Chapter 19 Rescue

The String Slider Tony Robinson emerged back into the normal three dimensions in the Telubi region of space. It took Lisa some time to get a fix on their co-ordinates.

“I’ve never done a directed slide before,” said Tibor, “It feels kinda weird.”

“That will be the time displacement,” said Lisa, “you feel it most when you are directing and it is worse when the destination is ages ago, as the photon flies.”

Tibor got up from the Slide Guide chair and immediately wished he hadn’t.

“Take it easy!” said Lisa but it was too late and Tibor was already chucking up into the nearby equipment cabinet. “Don’t worry about me, I can get by with the boots that I’ve already got on but one of you is going to need the contents of that cabinet.”

Tibor and Danno looked down and it was Danno that had performed the slide in his slippers.

“Ill clean it up,” said Tibor, “just as soon as I stop feeling this ill.”

“You’re the doc, Doc.” Said Danno, “Now, Tony, where abouts are we?”

“We’re just about to set foot in the Telubi Region. Years before the Romans ever did,” said Tony.

“Or anyone else for that matter,” said Lisa, “Honestly, Captain, I don’t know why we have to put up with this personality imprint.”

“I like it.” said Danno, “and besides, the Romans haven’t been here.”

“No but Cathy has, I can feel her despair – stronger now.”

“Are you sure that’s not just another upchuck brewing?” asked Lisa.

Tibor rose from where he had been kneeling next to the shoe cabinet and stared out of the main viewer. Lisa had put the ship into a slow flat spin so that their surroundings lazily drifted past the window of the Tony Robinson. The screen did have heads-up capability and Lisa had arranged for the known idents to be displayed next to the stars as they drifted by.

“Can you get the heads-up to only show the Earth-like planetary systems, Lisa” Tibor asked at last. He had been staring silently for almost three revolutions. Immediately the display dimmed as nine tenths of the idents disappeared.

“We’ll leave you to it,” said Lisa as she signalled to Danno to join her in the mess.

“What’s going to happen to me?” Lisa asked Danno as they each pored themselves a coffee.

“I suppose you mean the Guger Crown Jewels?” Danno asked, “Well, the chances are that you will be disciplined through loss of pay for the Guger trip. Though the bravery on the planet surface will be taken into account. The hardship of being a deck-hand to achieve your mission objectives and all that. Oh, and don’t worry about your little stash, as far as Time Control is concerned, this was your only offence. I didn’t see the point in mentioning the past incidents since, as you say, their owners were in no fit state to object.”

“Thanks Captain.”

“But it has to stop,” said Danno, “Carrie is right; you are destroying the archaeological record for future historians. It makes you no better than the grave robbers that ruined the ancient Egyptian records back on Earth.”

“I realise that now,” said Lisa just as Tibor came into the mess.

“I think I’ve got something,” he said, “every time the Telubi three system drifts past I get this deadening ache in the back of my head. I think she is there.”

“That will be the b-Link doing its stuff,” said Lisa, “Let’s go there anyway and see if we can pick up any life signs.”

Lisa finished her coffee and left Tibor and Danno in the mess.

“Have a coffee,” offered Danno. Tibor accepted gratefully as the captain poured him a mug of hot, steaming java.

“I hope she is OK,” said Tibor, “she is OK isn’t she?”

“I don’t know much about those blink thingies but what I do know is that you’d know if she was in trouble or…” although Danno didn’t finish what he was going to say, Tibor knew what it was.

“Or if she had died.” He finished.

“You’d better come up here!” shouted Lisa into the direction of the mess. Tibor and Danno rushed upstairs to the bridge to see what Lisa was on about. She had got them to the Telubi three system’s most inhabitable planet but the planet didn’t look like one that should have human life on its surface. As the planet slowly turned beneath them they could make out only violent storm clouds. Not an inch of the planet’s surface was visible.

“What’s going on?” asked Danno. Tibor just stood there with his mouth agape.

“Looks like the planet has an active disinfection atmosphere,” said Lisa, “I’ve seen it before in the Gretchen five system. We don’t know who is doing it but someone out there is finding these inhabitable planetary systems and, by way of claiming them as their own, they leave behind nanites in the air that energise the atmospheric system if they detect an alien, or aliens, on the surface. Sort of like a planetary immune system. We need to rescue your Cathy pretty quickly if she is to survive. The only thing is – where is she?”

“Can you get a surface radar land profile? And superimpose it onto the main viewer.” Tibor had no sooner asked for this than it appeared.

He examined the coastlines that he could see and then asked for relief emphasis to be overlaid too so that he could see where the mountains were.

“If she is following the Strandee’s code then she will be on the equator,” said Danno.

“If she can find the equator and could get to it in the time between being stranded and us getting here,” added Tibor, unhelpfully.

Meanwhile, Life for Cathy on the planet’s surface was getting very unpleasant indeed.

At first, after activating her b-Link, she had set off towards the equator like all the text books say you should. She made leisurely progress down the coastline of the continent she was on. She had an advantage over the early explorers of Earth in that she had seen a ‘map’ of the planet already by virtue of having seen it from orbit so she could remember its basic outline as well as her relative position on it as being in the northern hemisphere. She couldn’t remember it all, however, and, in particular whether to try to go round the sea that she had just come up to or whether it would be better to try to cross it. Deciding to cross it, she began construction of a boat and sail. She was glad that the pirates had chosen to strand her on such a seemingly benevolent planet.

Before long she had managed to construct a type three craft. Type one being a raft, type two being a hollowed-out log style and type three being one where the vessel is constructed from parts instead of hollowed out from one piece. In her case, her ship was made from woven long leaves layered with a rubbery tar tapped from nearby trees.

During the week it took to construct she had noticed the storm clouds gathering and thought it might just be the start of the rainy season. Then the lightning came and the warm sultry nights. It looked as though the atmosphere was getting charged with energy from somewhere. She remembered reading about this kind of weather effects somewhere before but couldn’t remember what the report had said caused it.

The storms had one positive effect though. A clear northerly wind had developed that would speed her down towards the equator. She was running out of time as the evening storms were getting steadily worse. She collected what she thought were enough provisions and water and launched right away. The wind bore her steadily southwards but, as the days went by and without any sign of land, she began to get even more concerned about the severity of the storms.

On morning, after being woken by a thunderbolt that couldn’t have been more than two hundred metres away, she finally spotted land. Just then, disaster. The storm had not finished and this time the lightning struck the ship’s mast. Cathy was thrown from the boat and into the churning sea. At first she tried to get back into the boat but, as the rain had doused the flames onboard, it was being thrown around in the water faster than she could catch up with it and so, reluctantly, she turned from pursuing the boat to heading for the land she had spotted through the cloud and the rain earlier. It was funny how things seem to get further away the more tired you feel. She felt as though she would never reach the coast. When she came to she was on the beach which would have been a beautiful sandy cove if it hadn’t been lashing it down with rain. She used her remaining strength to crawl up and out of the tide zone to a tree which provided some respite from the oppressively warm rain. She slept for the remainder of that day.

That night the rain got worse, the wind increased into gusts of over thirty kilometres per hour and, on this new continent, she had to worry in case there were larger creatures than she had encountered so far.

Back on the Tony Robinson they were debating how to penetrate the cloud cover to scan for Cathy’s life signs. They decided to take the ship, in atmospheric flight configuration, into the atmosphere and try to actually get below the cloud line. They would start scanning along the equator and then broaden out the scan by tilting the flighpath up and down by progressively greater and greater angles.

After the fifth fly by they found her. Danno jaunted to the surface with a spare jaunt belt. He found her still sheltering beneath the tree that she had managed to crawl to after being shipwrecked a week earlier. The food in the vicinity of the shelter had all been eaten and the bones of a dog-sized mammal lay nearby even though no fire had apparently been lit, it being too wet to start a fire.

Cathy and Danno jaunted back to the ship. Tibor met them in the jaunt room. He caught her and she collapsed from the jaunt and he carried her to his quarters. She was conscious enough to know she had been rescued by her b-Link buddy and, once in the folds of Tibor’s bunk she kissed him and fell into a deep sleep.

“Tony, take up out of this storm and lets have a leisurely orbit around this world to see if it will calm down now that the irritant has been lifted,” commanded Captain Danno.

“Who are you calling an irritant? I’ll have you know you are talking about the woman I love,” said Tibor, with a smile at last.

“Sorry Tibor, how is she doing?”

“She’s asleep for now.”

“I thought we might as well take some readings, while we are here, to see if we can learn anything more about this planet wide immune response.”

“That’s your call, Danno,” said Tibor, “but I’d just as soon get away from here.”

Captain Danno finished his measurements by the end of the third day. Cathy was eating and almost back to full strength and the planet had returned to its tranquil idyll almost as quickly as it had turned against her. Lisa set the String Slider on a course back to Earth and they all prepared for the slide.

“So I guess you’ll not be adding this to the New Worlds brochure then?” asked Danno.

“Arte you kidding?” she said, “This planet is going to make a great addition. Have you any idea how well survivalist adventure holidays sell back on Earth?”