Richard, страница 1
written by Aelius Blythe
idea by Travis McCrea
First Smashwords Edition
"Bandages! We–we can just get some fresh one–"
"–and–and some... disinfectant or–"
"–or whatever. Something like that. Can't be that hard to find, right? "
Richard shook his head. "No, it can't be." He tapped one dirty finger on the useless keyboard, then tried to wipe away the bloody print it left there. His head wagged back and forth absently. "No, it can't be too hard to find some.... stuff. It can't be. Whatever we need. I'll make a list an–"
"It is." Grimm blew a sigh out from between clenched teeth. "It really is."
"It's a planet of... of... some–I–don't–know–billion! They have to have medical supplies."
"They do. Just not for us."
"Why the fuck not?"
Grimm shrugged. "It's expensive."
"It really is, Rich. Just... just don't worry about it."
"But how can–shit!" Richard jerked his hand off of his knee as his mind registered the warm pool spreading over it and the drips starting to tickle his shin. He looked down. The blood was completely soaked into his jeans. "Dammit." Just made these too...
"Sorry," said Grimm, his voice muffled against his hand pressed over his mouth.
Richard shook his head, moving his fist, with Grimm's blood now oozing out from between his fingers, over the table. He opened his hand and let go of the bloody rag. Then he wiped his hand on his already-ruined jeans.
"Don't be sorry," he said. "It's okay."
"Really, dude... sor–"
"Shut up, it's not your fault. I'll just make some more. Later." Really not the most pressing issue now... He shook his head in frustration. "Dammit."
"Shut up," Richard said again, and forced his lips to curl into something resembling a smile. "It's not important. We need to get you patched up. Let me just find a place an–"
"No. Really. There's nothing on this planet. Not for us anyway."
Richard shook his head.
He looked at his friend and the knee-to-ankle gash that was still oozing blood. The t-shirt Grimm was now attempting to wrap around the wound was already spotted red, and the bruise under his coarse blond–and–blood–streaked leg hair looked bigger than it had a second ago.
Grimm looked up and met Richard's stare. He abandoned the t-shirt and grabbed the ice pack laying on the table by the bloody rag. Pressed over the wound, the calming blue pack hid the worst of it.
Fucking idiot! The epithets swirling in Richard's head were only directed at himself. You need to fix this. "We'll just... " he started but trailed off. We'll just what? "We'll–we'll just have to find another way."
"Don't worry about it–sorry!" Grimm had waved a hand, flicking blood around the room. "Sorry. But don't. I'll be fine."
Richard looked away. It couldn't be that hard to get the supplies they needed. Just a few clean bandages and some antiseptic. Pain killers... he added silently to the list watching Grimm grit his teeth and clench his fist around the calming blue cold pack, now also streaked red. Sleep aids maybe... But just the basics would do. At the very least. There had to be somewhere around here that could get them just the basics. Any planet with a population this size had those, or something close.
Finally, Richard just shrugged. "Okay," he said.
Grimm didn't look up.
Richard nodded anyway. "Okay," he said. "I'm going to, um... go get some air. You'll be okay?"
Grimm wasn't paying attention. The ice pack had slid down to the floor, and Grimm was now leaning over his hands that were cupped like a bowl in front of his mouth, his face turning green. His eyes were carefully focused on the table leg, like he was trying to avoid the sight of his own mangled one.
Richard wiped his hands again on his already bloody clothes, made his way through the mess of the crash and stepped out onto the primitive planet.
To be fair, it wasn't that primitive. Richard had seen worse.
He'd made for the nearest blob of lights when the ride'd started to get too rough for comfort. Now, even as he walked through open fields with short, hard stalks stabbing his shoes, the night was not dark. Light bubbled up here and there from lamps on his right that shone on a road and a long wire strung above it. And in the distance the light was denser, brighter. But even without the light bubble of the city, he'd have known they were parked next to civilization. Pieces of plastic dotted the fields; paper rustled between the dried leaves; here and there a rusted something clinked under Richard's shoes.
Litter always marked civilization.
Richard walked – trudged, more like it, plodding along without plan, without strategy, almost randomly – in the general direction of the light for a few minutes. But after a little while, his head cleared from the walk, he paused and squatted down at the corner of the field. He dug around in his pocket and pulled out his guide. The screen lit up in the shadowy field like a beacon and he hurriedly poked it a few times before it dimmed.
Please be close enough...
The networks on this planet were weak, barely reaching over its own surface. He'd heard of stranded travelers before – stuck out in Earth's nowhere, out of the reach of the Home signal and the Earth's networks. The little planet's signal had flickered in and out as they flew in...
But he wasn't that lost.
After some more poking and prodding, he had piggybacked onto the Earth's net and set to looking around for something that could help Grimm. He jabbed the keys of the guide in increasing frustration. Page after page flipped by. Link after link after link led him in circles.
It didn't matter.
No one here had what he needed.
No one here had much of anything.
Richard snorted in frustration as he scrolled through pages of stuff he didn't need. Books. Movies. Songs. Games. Fucking games! Nothing useful. He was starting to see why Grimm had told him not to bother.
The Earth's networks had been scrubbed.
Richard threw the guide onto the dried field where it glowed dully at him. He rested his head in his hands and took a breath.
So the Earth's networks didn't have what he needed. He'd find it himself.
The impoverished Earth networks still had some things that were useful, after all: they had maps. Of everything. And for now, that seemed like the best help Richard could hope for. So he picked up the guide and poked at it a few more times until a map glowed on the screen with a cheery "You are here!"
He studied the mess of streets and buildings for a few minutes, and then he got up and began to walk again in the direction of the city lights.
He didn't have far to go.
As the litter beneath his feet got thicker, civilization got nearer.
Richard glared at the blue sign with the white letter on it. It was the third he'd seen. But a second later his eyes focused on the space about a hundred yards beyond the "H" sign, to another sign, bigger and brighter:
Richard jogged towards it. In a minute, he was under the sign. Then a pair of glass doors parted in front of him and he walked into the hospital.
For a spot labeled "Emergency," it was weirdly calm. Long lights lined up on the ceiling cast a cheery glow around paisley couches and a close-cropped carpet. A lady read a magazine. A girl lay on her side, yawning, swinging one foot over the side of the couch. Behind a wide desk, a woman filed her nails. Beside the desk, to its right, some more cheery light spilled out from a hallwa
Richard walked towards the desk.
Then he caught himself.
Earth was an insular planet, not friendly to visitors. Or so Richard had heard.
He stood for a moment, just a few feet away from the desk, one foot hovering in a half-step for a indecisive moment. No one at the desk looked up. Nobody in the waiting room paid him any attention as he stood mutely in the middle of the room. A second later he twisted his course, headed passed the desk and made it to the hallway beyond. He looked over his shoulder.
The desk woman rubbed the edge of one nail against her thumb then went back to filing.
He'd find what he needed himself.
Richard turned his back on them and wandered down the hall.
His feet kept moving. It was a hospital – it had to have something. He kept moving, without a strategy, walking and walking and walking down the glowing hallways, past rooms with doctors, rooms with empty beds, rooms with bored looking nurses and tables and TVs. And he kept walking. There had to be something. Something useful...
Finally, finally, he saw it:
Department of Supplies
He'd just turned round a corner, and there it was. He smiled at the sign – giant black letters hanging above a second set of sliding glass doors. He tried not to trip over his own feet as he almost ran towards it.
He smiled and nodded to the two big men standing on either side of the doorway. The doors slid open, and the sound of a hundred printers churning away filled the hallway. Richard jogged gratefully towards the noise.
An arm from one of the big men shot out and barred his way.
"Can I..." Richard gestured to the warehouse-sized space beyond the glass doors.
"What d'you want?" the man with the outstretched arm asked. His voice was very deep.
"I need some bandages," Richard explained, craning his neck to look into the Department, trying to spot what he needed. "And some antiseptic. My friend got cut up when our sh– um, when–when we... we had a crash. I just need to get him som–"
"License?" The man cut off Richard's babbling.
Richard looked up at him. "What?"
"Um." What? "Um, I don't have–"
"No license, no supplies."
The other guard, the one who had stood still like a silent rock up until now, reached out and shoved against Richard's left shoulder.
"Out," he growled.
"Wait, I just–"
"Out," the rock-like guard growled again.
The other guard moved to plant himself right in front of the doorway, arms crossed.
"No license, no supplies."
"But I just–"
The rock-like guard grabbed Richard by his upper arms and spun him around to face the hallway, then pushed him hard between the shoulder blades.
"But I don't even need–" Richard turned back to the sliding doors.
With another shove, the silent guard pushed Richard away from the doors. Richard stumbled backwards. One hand on the wall, he steadied himself, straightened his t-shirt with the other hand and stared open-mouthed at the two men in front of them. They stared impassively back.
So Richard turned away from the guards and the supplies he needed.
"Fine," he said as he walked away, peeking over his shoulder until he was around the corner.
And he was back to wandering randomly through the cheerfully glowing hallways.
It's a hospital. There must be supplies laying around somewhere.
His feet moved over the spotless hallway floors, carrying him around corner after corner. More doctors and nurses sat in boring-looking rooms, sleeping and depressed looking patients lay in beds here and there and one green-shirted man mopped a floor.
There must be something...
And then there was.
At the end of the hall, just sitting there: a rolling cart, and on top of it a high pile of neatly curled bandages in sealed plastic. Underneath were little bottles, some with labels he couldn't understand, some with the labels he'd been hoping for: antiseptic.
Richard jogged towards it.
He picked up a bandage from the top of the cart.
"What do you want?"
Richard jumped and dropped the bandage back onto the stack. "What?" He looked around.
A very annoyed-looking face was peaking around the doorway of what looked like an exam room.
Richard pointed at the bandage he'd dropped. "Can I see that?"
"I just want to see it. Can I–"
"You need a bandage, you see a doctor. You need to see a doctor, you wait your turn."
"You wait your turn. You don't just go grabbing supplies. Go on, back to the waiting room."
"I'm not taking it. I wasn't going to take it." He reached out for the shrink-wrapped package again. "I just need–"
"Put that down! Only a doctor's licensed to give you those. You get on now. Put that down and wait your turn."
"Why can't I just see this one?"
"It's not yours! Get on now, you need me to call security?"
"No, I just–
"Then see yourself out."
"But I just want to look at it."
"This is a hospital, not a playground. Get lost."
Dammit. Richard shook his head but he couldn't really think of anything else to say so he turned around and walked away.
He walked around a few corners, down a few hallways. He tried a few doors. Some were locked, some opened on empty conference rooms. Others opened on rooms full of clipboards and pens and other office supplies.
Finally, he found himself back in the waiting room.
He sank down into one of the paisley couches, rested his elbows on his knees and dropped his head into his hands. The room was quiet except for the buzzing lights and the flipping magazine pages of the woman on the other couch, and a pencil scratching on paper behind the desk. No one spoke.
There was nothing else to do here.
So Richard got up. He walked to the glass doors which slid open for him. Then he walked under the bright Emergency sign and away from the hospital. When he got on the curb at the edge of the hospital's driveway, he sat down, the Emergency sign still blinking behind him. He took out his guide again and punched furiously at the screen.
Why, why didn't Earth have anything more useful!
His hands shook, he was starting to worry about the mess back at the ship - particularly whether Grimm's cut had opened up again or what microbes might have moved in.
Still, maps looked like the most useful thing he could find, so Richard bent over the guide, squinting at the little lines. After a few minutes, he put the Guide back in his pocket, pushed himself up off the curb, turned north and walked down the street.
A bell tinkled over the door.
Richard stepped in to the shop and let the door clang shut behind him. He smiled at the rows and rows of medicine and bandages and hair products and snack foods that filled the 24-hour pharmacy.
Taking a few cautious steps into the store, he looked around. A grey-haired and tired-looking pharmacist stood behind a desk in one corner shuffling papers. He did not look up, so Richard moved further in. It only took a few seconds to find the aisle he needed. Bandages and antiseptic filled racks next to cough syrup and laxatives and pills for erectile dysfunction. At the end of the aisle was shampoo. Backing up a few paces, Richard looked over his shoulder and back to the door. He twisted his head, looking up and down the row. It was still empty. He tip-toed back to the supplies he needed and gently, quietly slid a shrink-wrapped package of bandages off the rack.
He dug around in his pockets for a minute and pulled out an unimpressive-looking, thumb-sized hunk of black plastic. The thumb of his left hand pressed down on it and a little light came on. His right hand held up the shrink-wrapped package and anothe
Richard glanced nervously over his shoulder. He tapped his foot anxiously and glanced back at the screen.
..........10% ..........40% ..........75%
"What the HELL are you doing?"
Richard jumped and the package and pocket scanner clattered to the floor. He squatted and scooped the scanner up.
"What the HELL are you doing?" The pharmacist pushed a pair of wire-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose under a messy mop of graying hair and glared through them. "WHAT are you–"
"Put that down!"
Richard dropped the bandage he'd been about to pick up. "Look, I just need to–"
"You can't have that!"
"My friend is hurt. I need these plans."
"That's not yours! You can't just take –"
"I wasn't going to!" Richard yelled back. He pushed himself up off the floor. He was taller than the graying pharmacist, and he glared down at him. Fatigue and frustration and the thought of Grimm bleeding back at the ship was finally boiling over. "I wasn't going to take it. I just need the plans, so I can make the stuff back at the ship." He ran an agitated hand through his hair and shook his head, totally, totally at a loss. "I just need the plans."
"Those aren't yours–"
"I know that, but–"
"You can't just take those!" the pharmacist sputtered and glanced over his shoulder towards the door of the shop.
Richard was still shaking his head. "I just need to scan it."
"Well you can't."
"Because it doesn't belong to you, kid. You want something here you buy it."
"But I don't need it. I. Just. Need. A. Copy. Of. The. Plans. " Richard explained slowly, emphatically, stopping at each word, so the man would finally, finally understand and let him get back to Grimm. "I just need the plans..."
"Can't sell you those."
"WHY–" Richard stopped himself. He closed his eyes for a moment, his fingers pressed into his forehead as if they could still his thoughts. He looked back at the pharmacist and tried again, softer. "Why not?"