Pain. Maria’s head was in intense, overwhelming pain. She hadn’t been aware she could still feel pain. She almost welcomed it. Almost. She groaned, and realized she couldn't hear it. Or anything else. Becoming slightly panicked, she activated her visual display, and it swiped into existence. She saw nothing. Just darkness. She activated her HUD, and tried to make sense of it.
<MAIN POWER: ACTIVE>
<MAIN POWER STATUS: YELLOW. LOW POWER MODE ACTIVE. ACTIVATE SECONDARY POWER TO ENTER FULL POWER MODE>
<SECONDARY POWER: INACTIVE>
<SECONDARY POWER STATUS: RED. UNABLE TO GENERATE CURRENT. MANUAL WIRE RECONNECTION REQUIRED>
<MAIN COGNITION: ACTIVE>
<MAIN COGNITION STATUS: GREEN>
<MOTILITY STATUS: YELLOW. WARNING. LOW POWER DETECTED. MOTILITY LIMITED>
<VISION STATUS: GREEN>
<AUDITORY SYSTEM: INACTIVE>
<AUDITORY SYSTEM STATUS: RED. END LOW POWER MODE TO ACTIVATE>
The list went on and on and Maria had limited or no understanding of most of it. She groaned again and tried to sit up. It was at that point she realized why she couldn’t see. She was pinned beneath something massive. She assumed it was the jagged metal debris that had knocked her out.
“Aagh, Mirideth, why does my head hurt?” It felt odd to speak without a mouth without being able to hear or feel it. She found it hard to tell if she’d spoken at all. There was no response. Or maybe there had been and she couldn’t hear it. She sighed.
Text appeared on her HUD, in teal.
<You cannot hear. How did you expect me to respond verbally?>
“Void take you, Mirideth, just tell me how to fix… myself.”
<I told you I was performing repairs, Maria. Give me time. If you want to make yourself useful, reach up with your left arm, to the right side of your throat. There will be loose wiring coming out of a cracked metal casing. Thread it back inside, please.>
“Fine.” She sighed again, despite lacking lungs, and reached up with her clawed metal hand. She could feel herself, vaguely. She touched something that felt unpleasant, like she was touching an internal organ, which, she supposed, she sort of was. How in the Void am I supposed to thread this anywhere with these things? She thought, and to her surprise, Mirideth
responded in text.
<Think, you dull brute, your hands are malleable. They can transform for the task at… well... hand. Simply think about what you need, and they will comply.>
“For someone who claims to love me, you’re really rude to me.”
<I say it with love, darling.>
“Whatever.” She thought about dexterous hands that would allow her to manipulate objects to the degree human hands could. She felt her hands shifting, parts sliding in and out, up and down, it felt similar to the pins and needles feeling one could get by sleeping on their arm. After a few seconds, she flexed her fingers, and found them to now be similar to human ones, rather than sharp metal claws. They were still rough, uneven things. No rounded edges and the fingers still ended in points, but it would do.
She reached up again and threaded the wires back inside her neck.
<Thank you. Hold still please.>
Her HUD updated a few minutes later.
<MAIN POWER STATUS: GREEN>
<SECONDARY POWER STATUS: GREEN>
<BOOTING AUDITORY PROCESSING SOFTWARE>
<MOTILITY STATUS: GREEN>
<AUDITORY SYSTEMS: GREEN>
As the last update came on screen, Maria could suddenly hear the world around her again. It was fairly quiet, but for the creaks and groans of stressed metal. More distantly, she could hear the rustling of tree branches in the wind.
<TOUCH SENSORS: ACTIVE>
<TOUCH SENSOR STATUS: GREEN>
<OLFACTORY SENSORS: INACTIVE>
<OLFACTORY SENSOR STATUS: RED. MODULE INOPERATIVE. REPLACEMENT REQUIRED FOR FUNCTIONALITY>
Maria could suddenly feel the immense weight of the debris atop her. Her right arm and both legs were pinned, but her left arm was not. She had a thought, and directed her hand to form into something she could use to cut metal. It quickly reformed into the slashing claws she’d had originally. I guess it’ll have to do. She started slicing her way through the metal. It didn’t give much at all. This would take time. She sighed again, able to hear it this time. Her voice sounded more distorted than usual.
It took hours, but she eventually managed to unpin her other arm. With both arms free, and simply shoved her claws through the metal, and lifted it off her legs. She carefully stood, her claws still embedded in the debris. She lifted it over her head, and carefully dropped it outside the hole in the side of the cockpit. For the first time, she saw what remained of it. It was black with soot, and many panels had been charred into nothingness. The front display was an unrecognizable mass of smashed metal and electronics. The door remained attached, though it was tilted slightly, and light was streaming in through the cracks. Most of the light came from the massive hole in the wall. The part that had fallen off was directly where Lolanene had been hanging on. Maria was suddenly thankful she’d grabbed her.
With that thought, she began to panic. Neither of the other two occupants of the cockpit were inside. She scanned the cockpit again, the pilot’s seat had been violently pulled backward, right out of the floor. The straps had been ripped out at the base, and lay on the remains of the main instrument panel. There was no sign of Niarith, or what had happened to her. The same was true for Lolanene.
“Well, at least they’re not still here, you know, as corpses.” Mirideth said.
“Shut it, Asazlaiyn. Your comments aren’t wanted right now.” Maria looked up at the massive jagged hole in the wall. She considered climbing through it, but instead turned to the door. And embedded her caws in it, and shoved downward as hard as she could, forcing it through the slot it would have entered to open normally. She heard it instead clang onto the ground. The view she had of the outside was shocking. The ship had crashed in an extremely dense forest. And it had flattened dozens of trees in doing so. Small fires burned in various places, and large and small bits of the Epsilon VI were scattered everywhere. The cockpit rested at the end of a many meter long furrow of upturned dirt and plant life.
Maria carefully climbed out of the cockpit, and felt her feet sink into the freshly turned earth. She looked around again, and felt… loss. The Epsilon VI was gone. All that was left was scattered debris. That ship had been her home. It had been her life. And it was gone. Beyond any hope of repair. She felt that if she’d still been capable, she’d have cried. Instead, she simply stood there, staring at what remained of her home, at a loss for what to do.
She heard a rustling noise to her left, and turned to look. Something was there, but she couldn’t tell what it was. It was hiding in the bushes… or maybe it was the bushes.. “Hello?” she called out.
No response. Maria felt something clamp down roughly on her neck, and reached up to swipe at it. Her claws cut through a green plant stem. On the ground was a tiny writhing… something. She transformed her hand and carefully picked it up. It looked like the head of some kind of eyeless animal. Where the stem ended was a beige colored, wet flap of what looked like a plant equivalent to skin. And noticed it had sharp protrusions, almost like teeth, poking out from the inside, and it seemed to continually try to open its ‘mouth’ for a few moments, until it presumably ran out of energy and died, going still. She looked back to the ‘bush’. It was gone.
She looked back at the thing in her hand, and her HUD suddenly highlighted it, and gave her information.
<ANALYSING XENO MATERIAL>
<MATERIAL: CARBON BASED PLANT LIFE FORM>
<EXOTIC FEATURES UNKNOWN TO FIC SCIENCE DISCOVERED. CONGRATULATIONS, STAR TRAVELER!>
Maria stared at the words on the screen for a long moment before saying “I have no idea what this means.”
“It means,” Mirideth began, “I have a good idea of what may have happened to our companions.”