She gripped the lever firmly and pulled, but nothing moved. “Strange,” she said. She tried again, artificial body visibly straining against the metal of the handle until with a creak, the handle actually started to bend. She let go short of allowing it to break, frowning.
“All that time unattended didn’t do it any favors,” Cobb commented.
“Is there any other way in?” Dann asked.
“The cryo-bays are completely sealed off, at least from the biome environments. They are ventilated, but we can’t access the ventilation shafts from here. We would have to go to the maintenance access in the ship’s superstructure outside of biome containment.”
“Why didn’t we just do that to begin with?” Jackson said sourly, slapping at another of the incessant insects.
“The maintenance shafts weren’t designed as an alternative transit route. Cryo-bays are located within a kilometer of the edge of the biomes. Colonists and crew are expected to make their way to the nearest armories from the bays, under armed escort, and from the armories to intra-sectional trams to move about the ship proper.”
“You mean we could have avoided tramping around this jungle if we’d just taken the damned trams!?” Jackson glowered at Rose, shaking and scratching at the bites covering her exposed arms.
“We should get moving and I’ll explain on the way, but the short answer is no.”
“You heard her, let’s get moving, people.” Lt. Cobb started out, Rose easily keeping pace with him. The lieutenant looked a lot better physically, as though he thrived on the stress and exertion of their jungle crossing. Dann felt a little jealous; he mostly felt weak and exhausted, though looking at himself, he had regained a bit of his lost weight in water and muscle, he supposed. They all had, though they also all had a ways to go.
Rose picked up where she’d left off. “The long answer is, the trams would have been operational, had events gone as planned. As you’re aware, things didn’t go as planned.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” Jackson grunted, hauling herself over a slick cluster of tree roots.
“Pvt. Chambers was the first person aboard the ship to awaken from hibernation. His awakening was a preprogrammed schedule that was intended to awaken his entire maintenance team. Dann, you were to function as part of that team and begin checking and preparing ship systems for later activation. Other teams were to awaken about this time as well, including several security teams for escort and protection, but none of them survived.”
Dann had wondered at that, at why he alone of the group had awakened without any intervention from someone else. He couldn’t say it set his mind at ease any, but it was still good to know, at least.
“These early awakening teams would have inspected the ship’s systems, performed any maintenance necessary to ensure everything was in working order, and then returned to hibernation for the remainder of the journey. Since things have gone … awry, none of that initial preparation has been done. The tram systems are likely in good operating order, but the tram cars themselves are in storage for transit.”
“And I take it that it’d be too much for a small group like us to manage?” Cobb asked.
“Assuming the ship systems haven’t failed, it would be easy enough to bring out a few tram cars for our own use. I would recommend doing a proper diagnostic though, in light of the problem in this biome. We don’t know what other schedules or systems might have been compromised.”
The group fell silent. A few minutes later Rose stopped them in front of another wall of roots and vines, this one apparently an overgrown supply shed. As they moved on, some hooting and calling from the tall overhead branches chased after them; it sounded like some sort of primate species. Monkeys, most likely, Dann thought. With the luck they’d had with larger animals, he hoped it was monkeys rather than any of the great ape species.
The calls faded out with distance; whatever it was wasn’t interested in following them, at least. They followed the edge of the biome, and Dann quickly realized why they’d cut through the center. Not only had doing so cut the raw distance they had to travel down, the edges were very rough terrain in this particular section of the ship. The walls had been molded into surfaces very much like rough rocky cliffs, providing yet more habitat for plants and certain wildlife as well. The ‘rocky’ terrain at the base of these enormous false cliffs was challenging, but they had a far shorter way to go this time.
One way in which it made things slightly easier, he thought, was that the insects were thicker in the air toward the center of the biome, that being where most of the water was, except for the occasional artificial waterfall. They wouldn’t be passing any of those, but Cobb had told them about his team having installed a number of them around the cliffs.
Before too long, a change in the quality of the air became clear to the tired crew. The thick, earthy plant-scent of the jungle started to thin, mingling with just a hint of freshness with a salty tang. They clambered over a small mossy rock ridge jutting out from the base of the cliff only to see a broad, shallow bay cutting into the jungle biome from the entrance to the next, which, Dann thought, must have been the sea biome with the islands. He’d glimpsed it days before, from the temperate woodlands.
“Now this,” Lt. Cobb said with relief in his voice, “is more like it!” Even Jackson looked around with the hint of a smile on her face and a set to her shoulders that looked just a touch lighter.