The next morning they rose slowly; they had little choice in the matter. They were still terribly weak, and sleeping on the floor in a cryo-chamber after the exertions of the previous day hadn’t helped. Jackson rose slowly and painfully and immediately began stretching the ache out of her body. Dann felt a strange sympathetic pain just looking at her.
“How can you even think about moving like that?” he asked, digging among their rations for something appealing as breakfast.
“It sucks now, but it’ll hurt a lot less as soon as I’m done. You should give it a try. You must’ve done it in basic?”
“Maybe after I eat. I’m starving.”
Jackson shrugged and kept stretching. Dann grabbed a sealed plastic packet of cereal and struggled with it for a good half a minute, but couldn’t move well enough to get it open; he gave up in disgust, muscles screaming at him. “Okay, so maybe I should stretch it out a bit.”
They worked out for several minutes, Jackson falling into a sort of trainer role, sharply correcting his mistakes as they worked out the stiffness in their bodies. To Dann’s relief, the pain faded pretty quickly. His mind felt sharper, quicker. They returned to the task of breakfast; Dann attacked the stubborn plastic pouch with the blade of his knife and they quickly finished eating.
“Rose? What direction should we be headed in?”
“Rose and Lt. Cobb are approximately two kilometers north of your location.”
They packed up their supplies, used the facilities, and, with a look back at the lone green cryo-pod light, returned to the securely closed door. “Think they’re still out there?”
“They’re around somewhere. Hopefully nowhere near here though,” Jackson said.
“I don’t suppose you know if those … things … are still around, Rose?”
“I’m afraid not, Dann. I can’t track specific animals with that kind of accuracy without the help of the autonomous platform.”
“Was worth a shot,” he said. “I guess we open up and hope for the best.”
“I’m ready,” Jackson said, weapon already raised. Dann cracked the door open with a long, loud metallic creak of protest, and backed out of the way to ensure Jackson had a clear shot.
She paused inside the open door, eyes alert, the sub-machine gun ready. Outside there was dead silence; she frowned. “Hear that?” Her voice was pitched low.
“I don’t hear anything,” Dann replied in a hushed tone.
“I used to go hunting a lot as a kid. Silence meant something predatory was in the area.”
“Does that mean they’re still here?” A trickle of sweat appeared on his back.
“I don’t know. Could’ve been a reaction to the door opening. It was awfully loud.”
When nothing materialized to attack them, she moved out smoothly, checking in front, to each side, and turning quickly to look to the hilltop above the door. Dann followed her out, closing and securing the door as he left.
She lead him up to the top of the hill and they carefully checked the area, but aside from tree branches moving in the wind, there was no sign of motion.
“Okay,” Dan said. “Rose said a couple of clicks north.” They took a moment to get their bearings by the artificial sun; the cardinal directions were defined by the path of the light, just as it was back on Earth. They’d been headed in a roughly west-north-westerly direction the previous day.
Together they set off north, making far better progress than they had the previous day. Dann felt stronger, and though it was hard to tell on the move, he felt like he was beginning to regain some of the muscle mass he’d lost on the trip. Jackson was looking a lot less gaunt, too, he noticed. She was fairly tall, with the kind of wirey muscles that didn’t need a lot of mass to be strong. There was a rough beauty to her features that was a bit unconventional, but could still turn heads when she wasn’t contorting them in a scowl. Right now she looked resolute as they pressed on to their destination.