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Title: Planeta Colossorum
Author: jsblume
Style/Genre Prose / Fiction / Science Fiction
Description: A larger than life experience
Notes: I wrote this for a "This Sentence Starts the Story" contest. The first sentence had to be "The cell was eight feet wide."

The cell was eight feet wide. At least, it looked like a cell phone. Captain Samantha Reilly eyed it with idle curiosity. At the moment, she had more important matters requiring her attention.

"Barnes!" she called, turning to scan the wreckage of her bridge. "Porter! Anybody?"

A barrel-shaped figure stirred under a console. Reilly hurried over and pulled the equipment off of the man.

"Barnes!" She helped him to his feet. "Are you okay?"

Warren Barnes, her tactical officer, was a large man. He dwarfed the short, thin frame of his captain.

"I'm alright." He got to his feet and brushed debris from his uniform.

A low moan caught their attention. The two ran around a large section of damaged wall from the bridge and found Donald Porter, her first officer. He was tall and stocky, but lacked the girth of Barnes.

"I believe he has a concussion," Barnes said. "We have to find the doctor."

"Stay with him. I'll scout around for more survivors."

"Captain, it would make more sense for me to 'scout around'."

"I'll keep an open communications line."

Reilly walked back towards the large cell phone as she studied the surroundings more closely. The ground had the texture of a large weave which made it hard to walk. It was multi-colored in reds, oranges and yellows, but she could not make out a pattern.

The cell phone came up to mid-thigh. The keys were about six inches by three and were about a quarter inch high. On the other side of the phone she saw Dr. Lisbeth Garcia bent over two other forms. That would be her pilot and her navigator, Carlisle Mac and Karen Osborne. Beyond them was a large outcropping of rock, and farther to the right was a rather odd looking object. It looked like a sphere about three stories tall and covered with short lengths of densely packed rope jutting out of the surface.

There didn't appear to be plant life anywhere. She could smell salt in the air and hear what sounded like water hitting a beach. That would be their next order of business - water and food, in that order. The sky was clear and the sun low. She had no way of knowing whether it was morning or afternoon. Either way, they'd need to find shelter from either the heat or the night soon.

Reilly Jogged around the close end of the phone. "Dr. Garcia!"

"Oh, Captain!" Garcia stood and turned. Her uniform was missing sleeves and legs; she looked as if she were wearing a tank top and shorts. "Thank God!"

"How are Mac and Osborne?"

"Mac cracked a rib and Osborne broke a leg," she answered.

"Can they walk?"

"Not far. I was able to find a piece of metal in the wreckage to use as a splint for Mac's leg. I used most of my uniform to bandage Osborne. They're both sedated at the moment, but will be coming around shortly."

"Are they stable?"

Garcia nodded.

"Fine. I'll wait with them until they regain consciousness." Reilly half-turned and pointed to the two men on the other side of the phone. "Porter and Barnes are on the other side of this object. Porter needs medical aid."

"I see them," Garcia said, nodding. "You're bleeding. Your head is cut. Let me bandage that first."

"I'm fine. Go take care of Porter."

Garcia made as if to protest, but a stern look from Reilly changed her mind. Gathering the few medical supplies she had, Garcia hastened to check up on Porter.

* * *

Porter was up and about quickly. He, Garcia and Barnes joined Captain Reilly. Garcia immediately knelt down to check on Mac and Osborne.

"How are you?" Reilly asked Porter.

"I have a massive headache," he replied, touching the side if his head.

Reilly nodded and turned to Barnes. "What do you make of that sphere?"

Barnes turned and aimed his scanner. "The doctor might be better able to comment. My scans indicate it is organic."



Reilly frowned. "What about those rocks? We're going to need shelter."

Barnes turned again and scanned the rocks. "They appear to be safe. There is no sign of life."

"How far?"

"Roughly three miles."

"Roughly?" Reilly scratched her chin as she did a quick mental calculation. "About an hour for a healthy person." She looked at the two on the ground. "Doctor, how are they?"

"Oh, they'll be fine. They should be coming around any moment now."

"We need to make it to those rocks."

Garcia looked toward the rocks. "They'll need help. That's a bit far for their condition. I'd rather not move them, but if we can get them some water -"

"Barnes, see if you can find the emergency rations."

"Aye, Captain."

Osborne stirred and tried to sit up. Garcia reached around her back for support. Osborne's dark eyes drooped and she let out a snort.

"That must have been a hell of a party," she whispered in a hoarse voice.

"Deep breaths," Garcia said. "Captain, can you hold her up?"

Reilly knelt down and took over supporting Osborne. Garcia reached into the medical kit attached to her waist and pulled out a hypospray. Making a selection and setting a dosage, she injected Osborne's shoulder. The response was immediate; Osborne's eyes widened and she straightened up.

"Hair of the dog?" she asked, smiling. Her voice was clearing up. Taking a deep breath, she looked down at Mac lying beside her. "Is he okay?"

Garcia changed the dosage for the larger Carlisle Mac and injected his arm. He blinked his eyes a few times and frowned.

"I'm seeing stars in a sunlight sky," he said with a slur.

"Take deep breaths," Garcia said. "Your brain isn't getting enough oxygen."

"Oh, so is that his problem?" Osborne asked.

Mac grinned, coughing as he tried to breathe deeply. Bringing a hand up to his mouth, he coughed again. When he pulled his hand away, there were few drops of blood on his fingers. Pressing his hand against his chest, he let out a moan of pain as his breathing became short and rapid.

"Oh my God!" Osborne shouted in alarm.

Garcia put away her hypospray and pulled out her scanner again. She ran it the length of his body.

"What is it, Doctor?" Reilly asked.

"It's a pulmonary embolism. It wasn't there a few minutes ago." She put down her scanner, grabbed her hypospray and injected Mac with a dose of another medication. "It seems to have come from the deep vein in his right leg. It didn't show up on the scanner earlier."

A pained look crossed Mac's face, and he fell back to the ground.

"Mac!" Osborne cried out.

"Oh, I am so sorry," Garcia whispered. "I swear it wasn't there on the first scan."

"It's not your fault, Doctor," Reilly said, placing a hand on the doctor's shoulder. "You did everything you could."

"Mac..." Osborne said with tears forming in her eyes.

Reilly reached down and passed a hand over Mac's lifeless eyes, closing them.

* * *

Warren Barnes returned, his arms laden with equipment. He laid it out on the ground a short distance from the group as he glanced over at Osborne mourning over Mac.

"I was able to retrieve another medical kit, several ration packs, some blankets and a few hand weapons."

"Good work," Reilly replied. "Any sign of other survivors?"

"No, sir. The wreckage appears to be from the bridge only."

"Damn." Reilly turned away and stared into the distance. "Half a dozen crew and more than fifty passengers."

Barnes waited quietly, giving his captain time to resolve her inner turmoil. Presently she turned back to address him.

"Can you carry..." She pointed to the body. "Mac?" She couldn't bring herself to say 'the body of Mac.' He was tangible evidence of the probable fate suffered by the crew and passengers as a result of the inexplicable accident that destroyed her ship.

"Yes," Barnes replied.

Reilly strode back to what remained of her crew. "Porter, Osborne. Can you both walk unassisted to that outcropping? It's about three miles." Both nodded. "Barnes has found some supplies. Osborne, you have some first aid training, so I want you to take the other med kit. Everyone take a weapon. Barnes will carry Mac and I'll carry the ration packs. Garcia, you stick close to Porter and Osborne." She looked up into the sky. "The sun appears to be setting. We need to get to the shelter of those rocks and find a source of water before it gets dark. Let's move out!"

Barnes knelt down, pulled Mac into a sitting position, and in one smooth motion stood and slung the body over his shoulders. Everyone else picked up their assigned equipment. Reilly led the group. Barnes followed with Osborne keeping close. Porter and Garcia took up the rear.

Reilly came to a halt after a few minutes and raised her hand.

"What do you make of this, Barnes?" she asked.

Barnes ran an eye over the ground ahead. The surface they were on ended abruptly in a curb-like manner. The ground beyond was about a half foot lower and consisted of rough-edged beige rocks about an inch in diameter.

"I don't know."


Garcia came forward and ran her medical scanner of the rocks.

"They aren't organic. They seem to be mostly silicates."


Garcia nodded. "These are really large for grains of sand."

"I will not be able to carry Mac over this terrain," Barnes said.

"We'll need to fashion a sling out of the blankets and pull him along the ground," Reilly said. She unpacked one of the blankets and laid it out on the sand. Barnes placed Mac on it and Reilly unpacked a second one to cover him. Together, she and Barnes made a cocoon and secured Mac inside.

Reilly again took the lead, and the group fell in behind. She paused after a few minutes to look back. The group was struggling to walk through the rocks. Porter slipped and fell to his knees. Garcia rushed over and helped him up.

"Swivel your leg out as you push back!" Reilly called. "Like this..." She walked with exaggerated slowness, swaying slowly from side to side as she took each step. "You need to disperse the force; these rocks give way under direct pressure."

The crew continued on with mixed success. Porter was unsteady due to his concussion, and Garcia had to support him. Barnes struggled pulling the blankets carrying Mac because he had to push harder against the ground in order to pull the weight.

After an hour, Reilly halted the group.

"Five minutes!" she called. "Barnes!"

"Yes, Captain?" He let the blanket rest on the ground and he walked over to Reilly.

"What does that look like to you?"

She was pointing to the large sphere on their right. There was a vertical line where the densely packed rope ended and a smooth, tan colored surface began. The surface was broken by a stream of red liquid dripping out from a point midway up.

"I will investigate," Barnes said.

"What is it?" Garcia asked, approaching the captain as Barnes jogged towards the sphere.

"I don't know," Reilly replied. "But I think you should join him."

The doctor nodded and followed after Barnes. She watched as he came to a stop and stooped to touch the ground. He stood up, wiped a hand on his pants, and started to circle the sphere. After a few dozen yards, he turned back and met Garcia. She had stopped at the point where Barnes had first stopped. The rocks were covered in the red liquid coming from the sphere.

"Would you mind scanning it with your medical equipment?" Barnes asked.

Garcia pulled out her scanner and ran it over the liquid. Her face turned ashen, and she gulped.

"I... I think it's... it's blood," she said. Her hands were shaking and she nearly dropped her scanner.

Barnes nodded. Putting a hand on her elbow, he turned her and guided her back to the captain.

"Well?" Reilly asked. "What did you find out?"

"Captain," Barnes said. "I believe that sphere is the head of a humanoid."


"When I circled the sphere, I saw features that were clearly eyes, nose and mouth. The rest of the body is also visible from that angle. The red liquid is blood from a head wound."

Reilly turned brusquely to face her crew. "We have to keep moving!"

* * *

Another hour and a half passed before they reached the rocks. It looked more like a pile of boulders. Barnes examined them while Reilly waited impatiently. After several minutes, he approached the captain with his report.

"There is a gap between the boulders thirty feet from here that is large enough for us to squeeze through. There is a spacious cavern inside that can contain and protect us to some extent."

"How stable is it?"

"It appears to be structurally sound, barring the unforeseeable."

"It's the unforeseeable that worries me." Reilly sighed and cocked her head. "Very well. It's all we've got for now. Let's get everyone inside."

The interior was more than spacious. The cavern was about twenty feet in diameter and ceiling about ten feet high. A cool breezed passed through the gaps between the boulders forming the cavern; they would need to build a fire before too long.

"Osborne," Reilly called to the navigator after everyone was settled. "Any ideas what happened? What were the navigational readings just before the ship was damaged."

Osborne looked up from Mac's body. Her eyes were red and puffy, still welled up with tears.

"Osborne," Reilly said in a softer voice. "I know you and Mac were close friends. You worked side by side for a very long time. But right now I need you to focus. We must figure out where we are and how to get home."

Osborne nodded and wiped her tear-stained face with the palm of her hand.

"I'm not sure," she said. "The readings went haywire. I couldn't get a fix on our location. It was like..." She hesitated, searching for words. "It was like we were nearing the event horizon of a black hole, or the opening of a wormhole."

"Hm. EarthSpace doesn't have the technology to create either. What about a natural phenomenon? Barnes, do you recall anything at tactical that would explain what happened?"

"Tactical readings were confused as well. Sensors briefly detected a shearing force approaching the ship."

"That would explain what happened to the ship." Reilly was thoughtful. "A shearing force could have buckled the ship. The emergency routings took over, isolating and ejecting the bridge."

"That is a plausible hypothesis."

"Well," Reilly said as she stood up. "We need water to drink and wood for a fire. Doctor, will you be alright for a while alone with Porter and Osborne?"

"I think so, Captain."

"Barnes," she called over her shoulder as she crawled out of the cavern.

Once outside, they circled the entire stack of boulders to get their bearings. Reilly stopped after partially completed and second circuit. Looking away from the boulders she pointed toward the horizon.

"I believe there is water in that direction," she said. "The breeze is coming from the same direction and it smells like salt water."

"I would advise caution, Captain."

Reilly's response was interrupted by a shrill siren piercing through the air. She and Barnes ran around to the other side of the mound and stopped dead in their tracks.

The scene that unfolded was a familiar one, despite it being about fifty times taller and twenty-five hundred times more massive. A titanic vehicle on giant tires rolled into view about a dozen miles away. Massive feet landed on the ground, and their owners tended to the stricken humanoid. Eventually, the humanoid was lifted up and the vehicle rolled away.

Reilly found her voice. "Either we are extremely small or the world has become extremely large."

"The evidence appears irrefutable."

"It looks like they've left something behind. Maybe it's something we can use."

"Doubtful. Additionally, we cannot make the trip before nightfall. I suggest we return to the shelter and get an early start."

Reilly sighed. "Sensible."

They returned to the cavern, where Reilly relayed in detail the events that had occurred.

"Barnes and I are hopeful we can salvage something of use from what these humanoids left behind," she finished.

Garcia shifted uneasily.

"Is there a problem, Doctor?"

"Well, I'm, um, sure you've already thought of it," she answered.

Reilly nodded. "I have. But we have no choice except to try."

"Thought of what?" Osborne asked.

"It's the size differential," Garcia said. "Food and water molecules will probably be too large for our bodies to process. We could starve to death."


"Also, if this is not Earth, then the food might not have the protein sequences we need to survive."

"No need to dwell on the negatives, Doctor," Reilly said. "Let's get some rest, and we'll worry about it in the morning."

* * *

"EarthSpace authorities have called off the search for the missing TransMars passenger ship Linoben. The ship, carrying sixty-five passengers and crew, mysteriously disappeared without a trace two weeks ago during its final approach to MoonPort. Martin Ashburn, founder of TransMars Cruises, is believed to have been on the ship, celebrating the 25 years of luxury cruises to Mars Colony and back. TransMars expects to continue the cruises, despite this tragic loss."

Copyright @2012 by jsblume. All rights reserved.
jsblume has granted JS Blume Publishing™ non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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