The pyrex canister had been sealed up and was now ready for transport. The flight staff, two pilots, a medic and two nurses, stood by as they watched a crew of ten Ksithans haul the canister into the back of the nosomic shuttle.
“That is… most unusual…” Darik, the younger of the two pilots, muttered to Gianiis. Gianiis was much older than Darik and much, much more experienced when it came to flying. Gianiis had been flying rescue vehicles for over thirty years, and Darik was hopefully going to be his replacement in a few more years.
“I have seen more unusual scenes…” Gianiis muttered back. “Do not fret though. The good medic Tzua and his two assistances will deal with the patien-”
“There is a patient in there?”
“Yes.” Gianiis patted Darik on the back. “We do not need to worry about that though. Our job is just to get to Central Hospital, so they can take the patient back to Retha.”
Darik grunted, then decided to go and check the ship again. The canister of sludge and goo was beginning to bother him. As Darik left, Tzua approached, carrying a clipboard.
“The Ksithans are done. We need to go. And be quick. Faster than normal.”
“Oh?” Gianiis asked. “We are always quick.”
“The canister will not hold for long. There are staff waiting for us in Portalia City.”
Gianiss nodded, then helped Tzua and the nurses into the back of the shuttle. One nurse sat behind the pilots, Tzua and the other nurse would sit in the back, keeping an eye on the canister. Once the passengers were strapped in, Gianiis checked that everything was properly secured, then climbed into the front with Darik.
The Ksithans cleared the launch pad, giving them room to take off.
“We are in a hurry, so let me fly today.”
Darik grunted. “I am supposed to-”
“Just let me fly today.”
Darik grunted again, then deactivated his controls. “I would appreciate it if you would tell me up front if-”
“You are a good pilot, but we are in a hurry. More than normal.”
After some fiddling with his controls, Gianiis started the engines and got the shuttle into the air. The winds were rather strong today, but that didn’t bother the old pilot. In a rather brief amount of time, they were out of Palaestra and flying over Hertany, the Rethan territories of Portalia. These territories though consisted of either small military bases or smaller, rural farm areas. The main space port was in Portalia City, and all interplanetary and intersystemic traffic had to pass through there.
Gianiis though was going faster than normal, and that meant cutting across the forested peaks of northern Hertany. This area was always sparsely occupied, designated as clear spots for air travel. Today though, it was stormier than usual.
“There are pockets of low air pressure…”
“I know, Darik. I know.”
With a flick of a switch, Gianiis decreased the ship’s altitude. Low air pressure bubbles made for bumpy rides, and the medical staff would not appreciate that.
Weirdly though, there were still bumps. Gianiis glanced at Darik.
“The equipment says the pressure here should be fine. Anemometer though is showing us… hurricane winds?” Darik stared at the consoles. “This is not right at all!”
Another bump hit the shuttle, causing it to tip slightly to one side. Gianiis slowed the shuttle down and readjusted the flight path, before calling back to the medical staff.
“Apologies, we have a little rough weather here.”
A crack of thunder punctuated Gianiis’ words. Slowing down to standard speeds, he decided to concentrate on the flight rather than allow himself to be angered by the medical staff’s complaints. Unfortunately though, the ship began to hit more and more patches of turbulence.
“This is not normal…” Darik hissed.
“This is not normal at all!” Gianiis exclaimed. “This is tornado weather! None of this… it is as if it all appeared out of-”
Gianiis’s thoughts were interrupted by about twenty strikes of lightning, one of which hit the ship. Luckily, the lightning simply rolled off, leaving the ship unharmed.
“I have seen a lot, but I have not seen a storm like this…”
More lightning began to strike, some of which struck the ship. Darik and Gianiis both glanced at each other again, neither of them really sure what to do. This sort of storm was an impossibility in Portalia’s low atmosphere, but here they were, flying through a sudden flurry of wind and lightning.
Without warning, something echoed through the air. Something had exploded. Not on the ship, but below them. A fuelling station meant for vehicular transport had been struck by lightning, causing the fuel to ignite and fire chunks of shrapnel into the air. Shrapnel which had just cut through the ship’s engine.
“Well piss…” Gianiis sighed as he started emergency procedures. “Dropping speed. Where is the nearest pad?”
“Looks like we will just have to brace ourselves. Nothing but bloody bad luck.”
Darik activated his own set of controls, helping Gianiis steer the shuttle and slow it down. It was going to be a very harsh landing. They could hear the medical staff shouting behind them, but the pilots both ignores the shouts, concentrating on landing without destroying the ship. Trees scraped against the shuttle’s underbelly as they hung on. There was nowhere to land though, nothing but forest.
Suddenly, everything was… over?
Darik rubbed his eyes, trying to work out what had happened. There was a weird gap in his memory. They had crashed, but Darik couldn’t actually remember the crash.
The ship had landed, wedged between several trees, but at ground level. But it was strangely not too badly damaged, all things considered. The strange thing though was how everything was… wet.
“PILOTS, WHAT HAPPENED?”
Tzua had already unstrapped himself and tended to the two nurses. He turned to Darik, who was still rubbing his eyes.
“An explosion…” Darik hesitated. “An explosion blew our engines.”
“Are you hurt?”
“No…” Darik looked up and down himself. “I do smell… blood though. Not my own.”
Tzua sighed loudly. “Yes, not your own blood. None of the staff’s blood. And none of us remember the crash either, judging by the expression on your face.”
Darik undid his seatbelts. Gianiis had already left the cockpit and was outside inspecting the damage to the ship in person, as well as calling emergency services, notifying them of what happened.
“Do you know what happened?” Darik asked the medic.
“I have… an idea…” Tzua seemed uncertain in his answer. Leaping out of the cockpit, Darik followed Tzua round to the back of the ship. A strange yet familiar red, gloopy liquid was resting on the rear door to the hold.
Inside the hold itself, everything seemed normal, except for a stronger scent of blood. The only thing that was missing was…
“The canister is… empty?” Darik gasped.
“Yes.” Tzua sighed. “Our patient is missing and we have no idea where he went…”