The Speed’s Virtues (Survival) came down in an arid and apparently mostly-empty area that had been home to a range of long-standing human settlements before the rearrangement of Earth. It still seemed to be inhabited – the transmissions they’d managed to intercept had referred to it as New Mexico – but the original habitats had been supplanted by more recent human migrations. Still, it was reasonably uninhabited.
The final approach was a blur, a discordant mess of last-minute data inputs and findings that had come too late to really change the outcome. They decelerated hard, shedding pieces of ship across a wide area, and barely managed to miss a couple of tiny homesteads and farms before hammering into the ground. Their last-ditch attempt at dumping velocity and achieving a safe distance from the wreck before impact resulted in Predericon and Lelhmak hurtling from the ship’s disintegrating heat shield a few hundred metres above the surface, while Gyden braced for impact using the last of their supplies. Predericon lost sight of Lelhmak and the ship, although she heard what must have been the Speed’s final impact over the roaring of the wind.
Predericon flung herself aloft with an interior plating segment battering at both her and the air, and was almost sure she managed to slow her descent a little further before the plate was ripped from all four hands. Then she spread her arms and legs and caught as much air as she could with the material she’d redistributed from her clothing, before it too came apart at the seams.
She landed hard, bones flexing and cracking, brain jolting in her skull, and rolled and bounced across the ground as limply as she could. It wasn’t the vertical impact that would kill her, she reflected quite clearly as she flailed, it was the lateral motion she should have expected. Then she lost consciousness.
She woke to the piping sound of single-toned human voices shouting and jabbering, with machinery audible in the background. It took her a moment to even identify the language, although they’d grown accustomed to English and German and Chinese and a couple of other languages from the planet’s radio broadcasts, and had learned as much of each as the incomplete signals had permitted. Latin had practically vanished from this new Earth. Xidh had utterly vanished.
It was almost perverse, in fact – the more widespread and universal the language, the more thoroughly it seemed to have been wiped from the human linguistic map. The researchers had been intrigued, although admittedly it had been a long and uneventful trip, to pick out the occasional Xidh concept or term in this emergent human language or that … but for the most part, it was gone. At least Latin had lingered on as a foundation for some of the nations and empires that had appeared after the apparent collapse of Rome.
These humans were speaking English, she realised as she began to carefully move her limbs and body, testing for injuries. That wasn’t unexpected, since it was one of the main languages spoken in their projected landing area. It sounded quite different in person, almost a tonal dialect of the more formal version spoken in broadcasts, and filled with exclamations and vernacular she’d never heard before. For a time, furthermore, she was simply too rattled to understand what they were saying.
“There’s another one,” one voice said, and she heard running footsteps over gravel and the low, tough bushes she’d tumbled through. “Bring the […], quick, quick. It’s alive. […] it’s alive.”
She was alive, she realised, although she had some severely torn musculature, widespread fractures and dislocations, and a lot of skin had been taken off by her final slide across the landscape. Her teeth were broken on one side of her jaw and she could only see – and cloudily at that – out of one eye. Her ear-ribs were broken in numerous places despite her having folded them tightly, the webbing torn although still functional. She could probably hear no better than a human at that moment. She was wet with blood and caked with mud that had formed from blood and dust, although she didn’t think she was still bleeding from anywhere. It had stopped while she was still unconscious.
Her limbs and torso were stiffening, thickening against the shredded and dusty remains of her clothes, as her body went even further into damage control.
“Here’s one more,” she heard another human voice say from some distance away, and the unforgivingly hot, bright blue vault of the sky was obscured by blurred humanoid shapes leaning over her. She groaned lightly as several of them jostled her from either side, and there were more shouts of general, nonsense-word-filled panic. Some of the even blurrier shapes standing further away raised what might have been weapons.
“[…] it,” one said. Something cold and damp and reeking of some kind of chemical was put over her face. A sedative, she suspected from the context. Her bloodstream filtered it out, leaving her with nothing but a sore throat and sinus folds to add to her list of woes, but she let herself settle back and close her eyes. It was the sensible, if slightly counter-intuitive thing to do when surrounded by frightened humans, and in any case it was what her body was demanding of her.
She relaxed, and let the healing swelling and numbness run its course.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the bus.