A note from XombieHamster

Squick factor: Moderately-accurate representation of treating a major injury within this chapter, but not excessive gore.

The dock is still two floors down from the location of the crew that intend to actually complete the repairs upon it. Vasko leads the way down the shaft, with his experience of getting around the ring gate’s many alternative methods of accessing its many various hidden locations and less public areas as a guide.

Amina trails close behind, struggling with her bandaged and gloved hands to keep a hold on the poorly designed rails. While Vasko athletically hops from rail to rail, she hobbles, still trying to brace her back to the narrow wall and slide down while using her elbows and wrists to brace her weight as much as possible. It makes for slow going.

Adah is the last in line, dripping sweat from the effort of clinging to the rails onto the wall as the spin catches the liquid freed from her absorbent clothing.

The close air is hot and miserable as they climb down. They suffer in silence, not expelling hot breath unnecessarily. Amina carefully breathes through her mouth so as not to smell the unwashed sweaty body of the man climbing easily beneath her. He catches the occasional drip from her still damp socks on his head as he descends.

Vasko reaches the bottom of the shaft and exits onto the docks before either of the two women following behind. Amina struggles slowly enough that Adah steps out of the shaft a floor above to give her some time without the pressure of having someone following too close behind. That helps some, making it easier for Amina to move at her sluggish pace without putting more pressure on her badly abused palms.

Once Amina is safely standing on her own two feet again, she calls up the wire to Adah to go ahead and continue downward.

Adah hops onto the ladder, forgetting briefly just how poorly secured the rungs truly are. The ladder really was designed for use in a zero gravity environment. It was not designed to hold weight for so long. And on top of that, it has not been used or maintained regularly for several decades.

It should come as no surprise to anyone on this crew that Adah falls down the emergency access shaft, catching a foot on a ladder rung below on her way. The bones of her leg snap with the force of her fall, thrusting their sharply shattered edge through her skin. This damage does not end her fall, but it rotates her around so that her hard landing on the floor below is directly onto her shoulder. She crashes hard into the very bottom of the shaft, where Amina and Vasko stand to wait patiently.

Amina looks at the mangled wreck of her supervisor with a sense of vague panic. Emesis is not the solution to this problem, but it certainly is a tempting thing right about now. Amina successfully avoids making the scene any worse.

Vasko moves into action first, very carefully rotating Adah so that she can lie flat on the floor.

“How’s your back? Can you move your arm? Did you hit your head?” he rapid fires several questions at the injured woman while checking the strength of her pulse like he’s seen in movies. He isn’t really sure what to look for.

“Back’s fine,” Adah answers through gritted teeth, flexing the fingers on both hands experimentally. “Head’s fine. Leg’s not fine.” She very carefully steals one quick look at her leg before gluing her eyes to the shaft above her.

Far upward in toward the gate she can see Tiphanie’s tiny form, still making her way up ever so slowly.

“Stay off the wire,” Adah commands Amina through tightly clenched jaws.

Amina nods acknowledgment. She fumbles with the emergency first aid kit on her belt, hindered by the thick leather gloves. She’s able to get the tourniquet out, but realizes quickly that she will not be able to apply it with her bandaged and gloved hands.

Thinking fast, Amina jams her elbow into Adah’s thigh, putting pressure on the artery to prevent further blood loss.

“Vasko, I need your help here please.” Amina steadies her voice, as it will do no good to anyone for her to allow the panic to escape her firm hold on it. With her one free hand, she passes the folded strap to the man on Adah’s other side.

“What is this?” he whispers quietly across Adah’s leg, trying not to let her hear the fear he cannot hide.

“Tourniquet,” Amina answers in an equally low volume. “We need to secure it as high and as tight as possible on her leg.” She indicates Adah’s groin with her nose as best as she can. She has no free hands to gesture with anymore. “Unclip the end.”

Vasko follows directions well, wriggling the strap around the woman’s thigh, as high as possible on her leg. He feeds the free end back through the clip and cinches it as tight as he possibly can.

Adah does not watch, she fades briefly from consciousness and returns again to stare in confusion into the emergency access shaft overhead. Is that Tiphanie still climbing? She seems so far away.

“See the little stick?” Amina speaks quietly, holding her head close to Vasko’s. “That’s the windlass. Twist it around until it doesn’t twist anymore.” Vasko complies with the directions. He doesn’t understand what he’s supposed to be doing until he notices the skin beneath his hands blanching white. They’ve successfully cut off the blood flow even more effectively than the plumber cut off the flow of water from the burst pipe on the tram level inward toward the gate above their heads.

“What next?” he asks quietly, trying to conceal his ignorance from the person with the highest stakes in the success or failure of this process.

“Push the end of the windlass into the clip.” Amina slowly lets up pressure from where her elbow jams into the space just above the back of her employer’s knee. She’s successfully prevented a fatal bleed using only her elbow. Now to see if the actual tourniquet holds.

They are in luck. With the windlass secured, the flow of blood from the horrible tear where Adah’s jagged snapped shin bone has jammed through her flesh ceases. Amina observes the horrible bruising on her own arm from where the strap effectively created a tourniquet incidentally during the horrifying pipe repair.

She needs to be evacuated.

Adah is the only one of them with the security permissions to be able to call for any kind of rescue vehicle. She’s also the only one of them with any kind of access to the external communications channels.

With trembling hands, Amina straightens the broken portion of Adah’s leg to the best of her ability. She unwinds sterile bandages from her emergency aid kit, and shoves them into the wound, packing it securely just in case the tourniquet should fail.

“Talk to her,” Amina whispers to Vasko, his face still held close to hers as he watches her work with a deep fear in his eyes. “Keep her present.”

“So uh, you lived here long?” Vasko does his best, but his best is just not very good. The awkward is palpable, but it beats falling into that good night. Amina continues her work, packing the wound with absorbent bandages to the best of her fumbling ability. Powder trapped in their woven strands clots the blood it touches immediately on contact. A thin wire through the center of the bandage provides an indicator so that the bandage cannot be missed on a scan of the patient’s injuries.

The basic training from Amina’s first aid certification course bubbles to the surface of her mind as the trainers had hoped it should.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Adah says quietly, struggling against the pain. “Or almost all.”

“Really now?” Vasko valiantly continues the conversation. “Always a spacer?”

“Went to school down on Venkyke-2’s larger moon.” Adah grits her teeth and lets out a slow breath, hissing through her teeth as Amina gently moves her leg to start wrapping bandages around its outside instead of shoving them into its inside. “Couldn’t cope with the horizon.”

“What’d you go to school for?” It’s a reasonable segue.

“Architecture.” Normally people like to talk about the things they studied, but with the pain in her leg and the spreading bruise on her shoulder, Adah is not really in a talkative mood at all.

“It’s as good as it will be,” Amina whispers, tucking the end of the bandage into the snugly wrapped bit around the very pale leg. Hundreds of little red ant bites poke up from its surface, each with an angry boil at their center.

“We need to get you to a hospital,” the carpenter says much more loudly, speaking directly to her project manager. “This will hold for a few minutes, but it’s just a temporary fix. You’ve lost too much blood.”

“Can’t,” Adah gets the single word out, but only just. She points down the hallway.

“Right.” Amina remembers. With their life support not operational, ships cannot dock.

“Markos, ETA?” the carpenter calls up the wire, staying calm, not letting her panic seep out.

“At a bottleneck until that vent sensor and control unit get fixed,” the certified computer technician answers, not sounding nearly as upset for the interruption as one normally expects. “Everything alright down there?”

Amina peers around Adah and up into the emergency access shaft. Tiphanie is still climbing. She’s so far away now that she’s not much more than a tiny blob moving vaguely overhead.

“No,” Adah answers the wire herself, “but it will be.” To the people in the room with her, she quietly states, “let’s get to work.”


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About the author


Bio: XombieHamster is an author of sci-fi and fantasy fiction that typically includes a narrow scope of personal consequences, soft magic systems, and a high likelihood of dead people being uncharacteristically chatty. Anticipate alliteration, puns, and satisfyingly happy-ish endings.

She works in healthcare IT by day and night, and plays tabletop roleplaying games by night and day.

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