When last we left the situation, the dirigible Gasbag – flagship of Spark CEO Bob Busby – had gone down in a storm with about three dozen people aboard. Busby was located in a pod, but apparently swept out to sea by rough surf. The storm has begun to abate, just a few hours later, allowing those at the spaceport to survey damage and start search and rescue operations.
Jensen keeps an eye on the weather radar, noticing the storm beginning to break up. Getting to a terminal, he taps in his access code to get a look at the exterior cameras, assuming any survived the onslaught. “Looks like that damn storm is finally starting to disperse…” he mutters. “Now to see if we’re still neck deep in water..”
Sheena’s PDA screen is full of notes and updates on the storm from the NOAA and others, but no matter how much information she has on the storm, it won’t show her how this place has held up. She walks up behind Jensen to look at whatever camera feeds he’s getting. “Better should.” There’s not much to see on the feeds–so she turns to moving furniture out of the path to the door. “Have your men been able to start searching for the blimp again?”
About that time, a report comes in from one of the scrambled fighters the general ordered into action: “We’ve got wreckage, sir. Woods about sixty three miles northwest of Canaveral. Positive transponder signal for the Gasbag.”
Jensen looks down to his commlink. “Acknowledged, launch chopper squadron, search and rescue on crash site, locate any survivors and get them to the spaceport.” An acknowledgement comes from the commlink before he returns his view to the monitor screen, switching channels between the various feeds to find any still working. “If there is any water outside the external doors opening them is going to be a no go…” he mutters. “We’ll need some choppers for ourselves to get out and start local search operations.”
Sheena knows they’ve cleared as much space in this area as they’ll be able to, and located most of the medical supplies–the lab’s floor is still mainly cleaar for anyone who needs help, at least in here. “If you need searchers, people to help outside, I’ll help. I’ve got no medical training but at least a good pair of eyes.”
Some holocams provide feeds of static, probably ripped loose by the storm. Some appear to be dangling from their anchor struts, swaying slowly, giving shaky images of wet pavement. But a few remain securely in place and functional, showing overturned vehicles, scattered crates, and a couple of collapsed storage buildings. The storm surge appears to have receded. The pilot reports to Jensen: “No survivors on sensors at the crash site, but we’re picking up pings from some of the pods that landed in the vicinity. I can see at least three dead near the dirigible wreckage. Probably crew that tried to keep her aloft.”
Jensen frowns at the damage outside. “I’ve seen some wild storms in my lifetime but I’ll be damned if this one doesn’t take the cake.” he says, switching the monitor off. Frowning at his commlink, he grabs it. “Acknowledged, check all pods you can find, and collect any bodies. We’ll.. have to identify them and notify their families.” he says with a sigh, clicking it off and looking back to Sheena. “Looks like the water’s receded, with luck the motorpool near the runways should still have some operational vehicles. It would have been secured when we went into lockdown.” He grabs his commlink, “Medical personnel, set up triage and treatment stations in any available room in the spaceport, search and rescue operations are to start immediately. Any able bodied personnel are to gear up and report to the motor pool in 15 minutes. Disengage lockdown and enact security plan Alpha.” He then returns his gaze to Sheena. “Keen eyes are probably our best bet. Let’s get out and get to the motorpool and hope there’s still something with wheels that works.”
Frowning deeply, Sheena slides her PDA away. The cameras give a better view of the situation, anyway. “After you, General.”
As Jensen and Sheena proceed outside beneath clearing skies, another pilot reports in: “General, we think we have a signal for Mr. Busby’s pod. It’s at the bottom of the Atlantic, about a mile and a half off the coast.”
Jensen looks at his commlink and raises an eyebrow. “Just when I thought he couldn’t sink any lower…” he says, and he takes up his commlink. “Acknowledged… Jensen to Eisenhower, divert to the coordinates and prepare a DSV for rescue operations.” Another quick acknowledgement as he crosses the debris strewn tarmac to the motorpool. “The doors look secure…” he says, tapping in his access code as several squads of Vanguard personnel begin to filter out of the spaceport and head towards the motor pool.”
The General’s black humour gets a withering look out of Sheena, but there are more important things to worry about at the momeent. She looks around at the damage as she waits for Jensen to open the doors. She glances back as other personnel begin to approach. “Just hope everything else is as secure inside.”
“We’ve got eyeballs on at least two dozen survivors from the Gasbag, scattered around northeastern Florida,” comes a report. “One of the pods crashed through the roof of a suburban house – lots of damage, might be some casualties there. Another pod’s down in a swamp. And two got shot down by automated defenses over the Jacksonville Air Station.”
The outer hangar doors begin to rise up as the General listens to his commlink once again. “Acknowledged… get all the survivors picked up and back to the spaceport ASAP.” As the door opens, the inner lights flicker on and show about a dozen Mark XII HMMWVs and four large personnel carriers, seemingly intact. “Looks like the seals held…” he says as he heads over to the nearest HMMWV and climbs into the drivers seat as the rest of the Vanguard personnel begin to hop into the other vehicles and check them out.
Still on his heels, Sheena looks over the vehicles and nods. The area is filling with people, Vanguard and civilian. She climbs in with the General. “Least we have plenty of hands. The survivors from the Gasbag came down in a pretty wide area and they won’t be the only ones in trouble.”
“General, we’ve deployed the DSV per your orders,” comes a report from the Eisenhower. “It should reach Mr. Busby’s pod within the next few minutes. Do you want us to forward holovid imagery to your location? If so, we’ll just need the digital address for your vehicle’s array.”
Jensen gets the engine started with a rumble, and as the car’s computer system boots up he switches on the video display and brings up the vehicle’s MAC address. “Acknowledged, dial in to F0.8B.45.27.19.ED.20.91.” He then looks over to Sheena. “No doubt, and sixty five miles would normally not be an issue but there’s no telling how the roads are between here and there.” Giving it gas they pull out and start the journey, as the other vehicles spread out and begin to move outward from the spaceport in a search and rescue pattern.
Most of Sheena’s attention is focused on the windows and the aftermath of the storm sliding past them. “Thought maybe I’d got away from this sort of storm when I left home,” she says into the silence between thereports the General is receiving. “Too much to hope for, I guess.” She watches him give the address of the car and then looks back at the display, waiting for the images to come in.
“Good news, sir,” the Eisenhower reports. “We’re picking up a life sign in the pod and oxygen levels, although dropping, are still within tolerances.” The holovid array in Jensen’s vehicle flickers to life, showing the growing bulb of the pod at the bottom of the ocean as the DSV gets closer. “Huh,” the comm officer from the ship says. “We’re picking up ambient audio through the pod’s hull. Amplifying.” A man’s voice can be heard singing: “When you’ll find that once again you long to take your heart back and be free, if you’ll ever find a moment, spare a thought for me. We never said our love was evergreen or as unchanging as the sea, but if you can still remember, stop and think of me.”
Jensen shakes his head. “Well, gotta give him credit, he’s chipper for someone in a pod at the bottom of the ocean.” He says as he swerves now and then to avoid debris and blown down trees on the roadway. “So where is home?” he inquires as they drive.
Sheena smiles a little. “I guess there’s not a lot else you can be, if you want to come up again with your brain all together. “He hardly seems to take life seriously at the best of times, anyway.” She seems pretty sure of herself for someone who can have only seen Busby second-hand. She shakes her head and says over the man’s singing, “I lived out in the midwest, most of my life till I came here. Like I said, traded one sort of bad weather for another. What about you?” She looks aside at him as he drives, then back to the video display, although the tilt of her head says she’s still paying him attention. “Where’d you start off?”
The visual continues to close in on the pod, angling around to provide a glimpse through a porthole of naked Bob Busby. Well, naked except for a white plastic Phantom mask that obscures part of his face as he dances and twirls, singing, “Flowers fade, the fruits of summer fade, they have their seasons, so do we, but please promise me that sometimes,” he stops and makes a Da Vinci pose with arms and legs stretched outward, “YOU WILL THINK OF ME!” And closes with a pelvic thrust before he finally seems to notice the DSV outside his window. “About time, man. About damn time.” He turns and starts rummaging around for clothing. He bends over to pick up his shirt, mooning the camera.
“Me? Southern California… small town outside LA.” the General replies. “Naturally our main worry was earthquakes, never knew when the earth should start to sh-” He cuts off as he sees the feed coming from the video display and both eyes go wide. “Speaking of earthquakes, that just shook my brain to the core…” he says, turning his eyes to the road and focusing on his driving.
“Well, does he have faith in you people or no?” Sheena says while her eyebrows threaten to disappear into her bangs. “That’s not what I’d be doing if I thought I was gonna die at the bottom of the sea.” She takes her eyes off the visual of Busby’s clothes hunt and looks back out the front windscreen, at blown branches and detritus, and frowns. “If everybody up here had it as easy as he does, we’d be golden.”
The holovid feed cuts off. “Sorry about that, General,” the Eisenhower comm officer says. “Mr. Busby tells us that he always wanted to perform every part in ‘Phantom’ in the buff before he died. It didn’t seem to faze him that all that singing and dancing and gyrating used up more oxygen than, y’know, just sitting and waiting for help. He’s asking for a lift back to New York. Orders, sir?”
Jensen frowns a little. “Doesn’t seem to have much care for his people that went down, does he?” he says before flipping the commlink. “He’ll get his lift… after he gets back here and deals with the survivors from his airship.” the General growls into the commlink. “Jensen out.” Meanwhile they turn onto a rough road towards the wooded area where the ship went down. Choppers flying overhead show they’re getting close as he heads towards the nearest escape pod location.
“Doesn’t seem to have much care for *anything*.” Sheena shakes her head. She looks out the front window, waiting to spot the downed pod in the distance past the broken, stripped trees. “Maybe some of them’ll have got a little of his good luck.”
Jensen steers through a small grove where some branches above appear to have been shredded by something coming down from above. “We’re getting close.” he says, steering towards where the tree carnage seems to be leading.
However much of a distraction Busby was, Sheena has shaken him off now in favour of eyeing the damaged wood. “Least we don’t have to worry about losing them,” she offers.
Jensen slows as the vehicle approaches a freshly dug ditch of dirt, at the end of which is a battered but still mostly intact escape pod from the Gasbag. Bringing the vehicle to a quick halt, he slaps it in park and hops out to run over the pod to check if anyone is inside.
Glancing around at the evidence of the pod’s hard landing, Sheena follows Jensen out of the car and over. She comes up behind his left shoulder and wipes mud from the window with her sleeve so they can get a good look inside.
From inside the pod, a man and a woman, still strapped into their seats, rouse themselves slowly as they hear the squeak of Sheena’s sleeve against the pod window. Jensen gets a look inside, and starts looking for the control panel. “Now to crack this egg..”
Sheena isn’t immediately familiar with this sort of pod, but at least the controls are fairly accessible. She points it out and moves over to it to check it for damage that would cause them problems. It’s as dirty and battered as the rest of the pod, but looks like it’s in working order. She presses the controls to open the thing and hopes there aren’t code locks. “Count your lucky stars,” she says to Jensen. “At least there isn’t too much water in the innards or we’d have a hard time.”
The door pops open with a soft hiss, then jams before opening all the way. “Damn it…” the General snarls, running back to the truck to get a crowbar to force the thing open further.
The opening of the door is still too small for Sheena to fit through, but she puts her head through while Jensen hunts for the crowbar. The two survivors in the pod don’t look too badly hurt–at least there isn’t a lot of visible blood–but she knows better than to assume. Neither of them look very awake. This definitely isn’t her field. “You two, can you hear me? Can you tell me your names?” While they answer, she glances back at the car to see if Jensen’s found the crowbar yet.
Jensen returns with a rather large crowbar, which he gets into one side of the opening and begins to apply force to get the door to open further. Grunting with the effort, his face contorts into a grimace as he puts all of his strength onto the bar. “Thing… feels like it’s… physically bent…”
Swearing under her breath, Sheena grimaces. “We only need a little more space,” she says. “I can just about get my shoulders through. I might be able to do something from inside, but if I can’t, I might at least be able to bring them back out. She adds her weight to Jensen’s effort–she isn’t weak, but can’t match Jensen’s trained strength, either. Still, anything helps at this point, she supposes.
The extra effort is just enough. With the shriek of metal against metal, the door finally overcomes the dent in the door’s track and opens another foot and half. The General leans back against the pod, catching his breath. It’s obvious that the effort has taken quite a lot out of him.
“Jesus.” Sheena isn’t exactly breathing easily either, and she did less of the work. Inside, the man and woman are getting their senses back, slowly; the woman is trying to undo her safety straps with fumbling, uncoordinated fingers. Breathing hard, Sheena steps carefully into the banged-up pod. The man is still barely moving so she goes to him first, searching for the name he’d given–David?–while she goes. He has blood in his eyes from a long cut across his brow and cheek as if he’d slammed into something. She starts to carefully undo his straps. “Look like you’ve been through a mower,” she mutters, which probably isn’t very comforting. She glances back to ascertain whether the General has followed her yet as she helps the man out of his chair, slowly in case he can’t stand.
Jensen slowly starts to recover, his breathing moving from gasping breaths to something a bit more regular. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he starts over to the door to help the man out as Sheena gets him unbelted. “Let’s… let’s get these two into the vehicle as soon as possible and back to the treatment center.”
Sheena nods at the General. She’s still breathing hard too, and helping to lift half-conscious bodies isn’t helping much. She carefully hands the man off to Jensen. “I’ll bring her,” she says, and jerks heer head at the woman. “She looks more awake.” Once she’s sure that Jensen has the man, she heads for the woman, who’s already unstrapped herself and is starting to stand. She’s bent at the waste, a hand against her ribs, but managing to move, which is good. Sheena slides under the woman’s arm to steady her and starts walking them both back out. Getting her into the car is a little harder: Crouching to slide into the seat makes the colour drain from her grimacing face, but once she’s settled, one arm still protectively across her chest, it’s relatively easy to belt her in. She looks over at the General as she slides into her own seat.
Jensen gets the man into a dead man lift as he carries him over to the car, and gets him situated in the back seat and belted as gently as possible. As he slides back into the driver’s seat, he wipes his brow as he is perspiring rather heavily. Getting the engine started, he waits for Sheena to get situated before starting the journey back to Cape Canaveral with their new passengers. “I’m getting too old for this…” he says between some soft huffs and puffs.
“Could’ve fooled me,” Sheena says, and smiles wanly. “Anyhow, I’d rather age in an emergency like this than some kid who doesn’t know his ass from his elbow.” She glances out the window again. “But at least now I know why I decided to spend all my time fixing ships. Much less risk.” She clearly isn’t entirely serious about this by the turn in her mouth, though.
Jensen chuckles as he gets on his commlink. “Jensen to Cape, incoming with two wounded civilians, have personnel standing by.” He gets back to focusing on his driving. “Time to see what this buggy can do.”
“Thought you’d know, if anybody did,” Sheena says, and leans back in her seat. She glances back once at their passengers; they’re both awake, but quiet. “Just so long as it gets us back, that’s all I care about.”
Jensen chuckles. “Been a while since I’ve driven these buggies, but those were the old Mark IX’s.” he says, shifting it into gear and putting the pedal to the metal to get some speed but at the same time watching for any obstacles that could be in his path.
The car’s turn of speed is better than Sheena expected, and she was expecting some power. “If you gotta save people from hurricanes you might as well do it in a good car,” she shrugs as they cruise down the road towards the spaceport.