Species of Sociopaths, p.1Jack Stornoway
Species of Sociopaths
Copyright 2016 Jack Stornoway
Galatea sat in the dark for a minute after the shuttle finally ground to a halt, listening to the sounds of the fuselage creaking. Around her she could hear the sounds of the other passengers' panicked breathing, but nobody was saying anything. Galatea looked around without rising, one of the flight stewards was laying crumpled at the front of the aisle, another was laying on the floor near the back of the aisle. She decided she needed to move, but couldn't risk the other passengers moving, the suborbital shuttle didn't seem to be sitting stably.
"Everyone please remain calm and stay in your seats," she announced loudly but calmly. She could hear the other passengers breathing become calmer. "The shuttle doesn't seem to be sitting stably. If we all move at once it could become dislodged and start sliding again. I will investigate our situation and report back to you."
She stood up as carefully as she could and quickly looked around. The lights were off, there weren't any signs of any electronics working. The humans around her would barely be able to see, fortunately she did not have that problem. The fuselage had ruptured and most of the nitrogen and oxygen had escaped, the humans that hadn't gotten their respirator-masks on before the crash would already have ruptured lungs.
The other passengers in her row were unconscious, they didn't get their respirator-masks on. She lifted the head of the man that had been sitting next to her and saw the blood around his nose and mouth. There were no signs of life, so she dropped his head and turned to the aisle. She made her way to the crumpled steward at the front of the aisle, he wasn't wearing a respirator-mask either. Only a handful of the passengers in the forward rows had in their respirator-masks on, and all were looking around anxiously. Galatea looked down at an old man in the first row and wondered how much his human eyes could see in the darkness.
Some of the survivors were wrapping themselves in emergency thermal-blankets, and she realized that they were already getting cold. The temperature in the shuttle was already approaching zero degrees, and soon it would begin affecting her as well. At night in this region of Mars the temperature could drop down to below minus one hundred degrees, she had to work quickly. She started towards the other flight steward, who was sitting on floor near the back of the aisle, where she had apparently landed during the crash. The steward looked toward Galatea uncertainly as she approached, Galatea surmised the human must be able to see something in the darkness.
"Ms. Oleastro," Galatea stated into the darkness as she approached the steward, reading the steward's ID badge. "I worked for the American Asteroid Survey, and have been in crashes before. If we cooperate, we can save as many people as possible."
"The Americans?" Ms. Oleastro asked questioningly.
"A long time ago," Galatea stated. "Before the revolution."
"I understand," Ms. Oleastro replied. "We were all American or Sudamérican, or something else back then."
Galatea paused looking down at the steward looking up at her, wondering how much her human eyes could see. "There has to be a rupture in the fuselage, somewhere towards the rear i believe. I'm going to find it. Please try to keep these people calm and still. Any vibration could destabilize the shuttle, and we don't know what it's resting on."
Galatea could see a physiological response in the steward, her heartbeat and breathing slowed, she was becoming calmer. Galatea found it curious how quickly the human-mind latched onto even the faintest hope of survival. The odds of any of them surviving the night were incredibly low, her odds weren't much better. She would need to salvage as many of them as possible if she had any hope of surviving until a rescue ship could be dispatched. If it was dispatched immediately a rescue airship could take several days to reach them in this remote area. She would have to give the humans the thing they called 'hope,' she would need to lie to them.
They were on board a commuter shuttle that had been shot down en route from Hesperia to Daedalia, half way around the planet. The shuttle was fairly small, only designed for 45 passengers. The last thing the captain had reported was they were going down over Nueva Siria, and then the shuttle had hit the ground and skid to halt before beginning sliding backwards. It slid for a few minutes before abruptly stopping, but was still slanting noticeably downwards towards the rear.
Galatea quickly made her way to the rear of the shuttle's passenger section, she noted less than a dozen passengers looking around in the darkness, although a few others managed to get their respirator-masks on before passing out. Each seat was equipped with a standard respirator-mask and an emergency thermal-blanket in an overhead compartment. In case of an emergency both the mask and the blanket were designed to drop down onto the passengers, theoretically allowing them to survive the emergency. Galatea was surprised that less than half of the humans on board had put a mask on, but human behaviour was often perplexing to her.
She found the hole in the fuselage, it was too big to seal, a section of the shuttle had been melted away by what looked like a plasma torpedo impact, it was more than large enough to step through. This was a problem, if the shuttle couldn't be sealed the humans would freeze to death, and Galatea would almost certainly follow a few hours later. She walked to the hole and looked out, the melted out section was over a wing.
Galatea stepped out onto the wing, and looked around into the night. It wasn't much lighter outside the shuttle than inside. Deimos was in the sky, but the tiny moon didn't provide much light. In front of the shuttle the lights of Arsia Mons rose above the horizon. There was an impact trench on the ground in front of the shuttle, where it had slid backwards. Galatea turned to look in the direction the shuttle had been sliding, and realized there was nothing there. She moved back across the short triangular wing and looked down over the edge. Below the rear of the shuttle a canyon opened up, at least a half a kilometre deep.
Galatea briefly thought about the situation, they were at the edge of the Noctis Labyrinthus, and Arsia Mons was at least 95 kilometres away. That wasn't good either. The Noctis Labyrinthus was one of the most remote regions in the Ares Confederacy. Galatea knew there was an old mining colony somewhere down there, Dakbayan sa Dabaw, but the region was a maze of crisscrossing canyons covering hundreds of square kilometres, suitably named the Noctis Labyrinthus: the Labyrinth of Night. Even if she knew exactly where Dakbayan sa Dabaw was, the odds of getting down into the Labyrinth and making her way to the old Filipino colony were impossible.
The shuttle moved under foot, just a few centimetres, but enough to remind her of the precarious situation they were in. Galatea quickly surveyed the region around the shuttle, the shuttle seemed to be perched over the edge of a large flat rocky ledge that seemed stable enough, but the shuttle's weight could pull the shuttle off the ledge. She returned to the hole melted into the fuselage, and stepped through it into the shuttle.
The temperature inside the shuttle had dropped to twenty below zero, outside it had been seventy below, far too cold for either her or any of the humans to survive until morning. It was the warm period, when Mars was near the perihelion in its eccentric orbit, as close to the sun as it would get, and they were in the equatorial zone, so in the daytime the temperature would rise above zero. They only had to survive the cold for a few hours.
Galatea returned to the steward, "We're going to need to keep warm, do you have any emergency equipment?"
"Yes," the steward answered climbing to her feet.
"Wait," Galatea interrupted. "The shuttle is perched over the edge of a canyon. If we move around too much, we could destabilize the shuttle and it could slide over the edge. Where is the emergency equipment?"
"There is some at the front of the cabin, and some at
"How much gear is in the rear section?" Galatea asked.
"Enough for half the passengers," the steward answered.
"There aren't that many left," Galatea stated quietly. "There's a hole melted in the fuselage over the right wing. Please move carefully to the gear stored in the rear section."
Galatea helped the steward up and led her to the back of the passenger cabin where freezing gusts of air were still blowing in through the hole. She noted the steward was shivering noticeably, and seemed to have no control over it. "The temperature in the cabin is now twenty five below zero, outside it's seventy below. We should get some insulation on as soon as possible."
''Help me with this," the steward requested as she pulled up a panel from the floor. The panel had unlocked when the steward had touched a button on the cabin wall. Galatea noted it because it meant the shuttle still had some power. Inside the compartment were several large plastic cubes with handles in the top. The steward reached down into the compartment and started trying to pull one of the cubes up out of the compartment. Galatea didn't know what they were, but reached into the
Species of Sociopaths by Jack Stornoway / Science Fiction have rating 2.9 out of 5 / Based on32 votes