Part of USS Altai: The Other Side of Us

Fall From Grace – Part III

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, Earth
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Astrid woke shivering. The fire had died down to coals. Crawling over to her fire she fed small twigs into the coals and blew softy into the coals and after a few minutes flames sprouted and slowly grew. She rubbed her hands together to bring the circulation back into them.

Sitting back she pulled up her up her pant leg and her ankle had swollen to twice its normal size and it was impossible to move. With considerable pain she pulled her woolen sock. She collapsed breathing hard and tears in her eyes she stared up at the green ceiling of her makeshift shelter.

The sun had dipped behind Mount Elbert, and in the growing dark the realization the she would be very likely spending the night here. She didn’t have enough wood to make the night. Groaning in pain she crawled out of her hole and crawled on hands and knees around the deadfall and used her laser knife to saw off chunks of wood.

She spent the next hour crawling back and forth from the tree to her hole. By the time she had built a considerable pile of wood she returned to her shelter shivering uncontrollably. Astrid added more wood to the fire, and curled up into the a ball as close as she could comfortably could fell back into a broken sleep.

The next morning clouds hung low and heavy in the sky, and was still snowing adding to the foot that had already accumulated. Her mouth was sticky. She hadn’t drank anything since the day before. She pulled on her now dry turtleneck and jacket. Adding wood to her fire she crawled out of the shelter and to the edge of the river.

She hesitated at the edge. She had no way of boiling the water or purifying it from parasites. Intestinal diseases like giardia, were a real threat, but so was dehydration, and that was far more immediate.

She dipped her hand into the water and brought it to her mouth. The water was ice cold, glass clear, and tasted wonderful. She drank her fill and crawled back to her shelter and tried to get comfortable.

Lying there considered her options. The Jeep was five miles away. Not that far of a walk, but under current circumstances it felt like a thousand miles away. She figured she had two options.

The first was to wait for rescue. There was something in the rocks that prevented accurate sensor readings complicating finding her. Compound that with the fresh snow covering up her tracks she had no real hope of being found.

The second option would be get out of there on her own. It was a daunting prospect on one foot. She figured using an improvised crutch she might average half a mile and hour, and that meant ten hours of excruciating pain.

After only a few minutes of consideration she made her decision. She cut strips of cloth from her long john leggings and used them with a pair of dried sticks to splint her foot. There was no way so was going to fit back into her boot so she pulled her other sock on to the foot as well.

She covered her fire in snow to put it out and after finding a heavy stick with a y-shaped crook she trimmed the length and used her turtleneck as padding for her makeshift crutch.

Despite the cold she was quickly sweating as she fought her way up the hill. She thought when she finally made the trail that the going would be easier, but the steep ascent was exhausting and she was forced to rest every fifteen minutes or so.

Peeling off her gloves she stared at her sore hands. They both had blistered and now the blisters had split and were bleeding. Her right hand was the worst, but there just wasn’t anything she could do about it.

Just then a shuttle flew slowly overhead. “Park Ranger” was painted on the underside in bold green letters over the white hull. Astrid was elated, Rescue had finally come. She shouted with glee and waved her arms. Then her joy came crashing down as the shuttle kept flying away.

She sat there for fifteen minutes unbelieving hoping for that shuttle to turn around and come back, but it didn’t. Resigned she crawled to her one good foot and resumed her trek.

It was almost dark when she reached her Jeep. She was mentally and physically spent. She had hoped that there was a team of searchers set up at the trailhead as base camp, but it was deserted. Logically it made sense she supposed. She hadn’t told he parents exactly where she was going, only to the park, and the park was huge. Air rescue would have been the fastest way to locate her, and ironically that failed.

She fumbled with the keys to the door lock before pushing the key inside and unlocking the door. Using the last of her reserves she half fell, half crawled into the front seat and fired it up.
She pressed a few buttons and her mother’s face appeared in the tiny screen embedded into the dash. She looked like she hadn’t slept and her eyes showed signs of recent and repeated crying.

“Honey where are you? Are you okay.”

Astrid was spent but smiled weakly, “Fern Lake Trailhead, and no I’m not okay, but I’m alive. I broke my ankle and my toes turned purple last night and they hurt really bad, but other than that I’m just tired.”

“What happened?”

“I fell in the river. I’ll tell you the rest later. I’m going to drive to the hospital in Estes Park.”

“Just wait there and we’ll get someone to you.”

“”I’ll be fine. I’m miserable, hungry and thirsty. I don’t want to wait.” She put the Jeep in reverse and backed out of the parking spot and started the thirteen mile journey to Estes Park.