Previously, a senior high school Botany class embarked on a shuttle to the surface of planet Genesis from the colonizer ship, UNS Divine Scepter. As a precaution, teacher Giorgio Pinto’s class was accompanied by a security detail of twelve marines into the jungle adjacent to the construction site of Genesis City. Once there, the class of thirty students was given one hour to collect samples of flora to take back to class aboard Scepter for study. After that, they were to have a tour of the facilities at the capital city site and lunch with the Director of Building Operations, Jethro Hodge.
Pleased with his students’ performance since they left their home pod, aboard Scepter, Pinto’s stress levels had been in steady decline while foraging in the jungle. He had been assisting a small group beside the stream at the foot of a waterfall, who were collecting plant specimens in the shallow water. The teacher didn’t see the two girls climbing the grade beside the waterfall until Tanya Sablicksen called out to him. Pinto straightened up, turned toward the sound of Tanya’s voice and saw her pointing at the falls behind him. He turned in time to hear Carol’s scream, and the sharp report of a rifle. Helplessly, he watched as Carol pulled Barb over the waterfall with her.
Before Pinto or Sablicksen could reach the edge of the stream, at the foot of the falls, two Marines dropped their weapons and dove into the water from opposite banks. It wasn’t a high waterfall, but there was a fast-moving current that forced the girls underwater. There was no way of knowing the water’s depth at the foot of the falls, or if there were rocks under the surface that might cause serious injuries – or worse.
Captain Serge Dupont, the detail commander, searched the shrubbery, at the top of the falls, for the body of the animal he had fired upon. It didn’t take long. The animal had dropped where it had stood, killed instantly, by the well-aimed head shot. Dupont nudged it roughly with his rifle, then, satisfied it was dead; he rolled it over on its side. It was jet black and, in some ways, resembled a wolf, found back on Earth. Satisfied there was no more danger lurking about, he turned his attention to the action below.
Sergeant Harvey Ames and Private Cheryl-Lynn Soares encountered deep water directly under the falls. The turbulence made it difficult to find the two girls. Ames spotted Barb’s body rising slowly about eight feet below his position. He signaled Soares and swam down, quickly, to bring her to the surface, hoping she hadn’t drowned already. Soares surged downward, past Ames and Barb, searching for Carol.
The marine medic was waiting on the shore with Pinto and Sablicksen. Dupont, standing at the top of the falls, ordered two more marines into the water to join the search.
“They’ve got Barb!” Pinto shouted in relief. “But where’s Carol? The teacher strode a short distance into the stream to assist Ames, towing young Barb – who looked unconscious or lifeless. They carried her ashore where the medic checked her life signs and began lifesaving procedures. Wasting no time, Sergeant Ames dove back into the water, to assist in the search for Carol.
Tanya Sablicksen knelt beside Barb’s body, opposite the medic, ready to help if needed. Desperation was etched on her face as she watched the medic work to induce her breathing. Oh, Gods, if you exist, hear my prayer. Bring life and breath back into her body; she prayed silently. Sputtering and coughing up water, Barb returned to the land of the living. A cheer rose up from the students, who had gathered around them. Tanya grabbed Barb’s hand and spoke to her reassuringly.
The crisis continued underwater as precious seconds ticked on relentlessly. Finally, they located Carol, twelve feet down, entangled in weeds and vines. Frantically, two Marines hacked away at the vines while two other Marines took turns breathing air into her mouth and returning to the surface. At last, they freed her legs and towed her, unconscious, to the surface.
Pinto waited in the water, near the bank, watching the soldiers make trips to the surface and then back down. His anxiety mounted by the second. He wanted to dive beneath the surface and help find Carol, but he knew he’d just be in the way. Carol, Carol, don’t give up! His silent coaxing was interrupted when four Marines broke the surface towing Carol’s body. Realizing he was in the way, Pinto turned, with a silent prayer of thanks, and climbed out of the water.
Satisfied this his orders were being carried out, the commander at the top of the falls, took his comm unit off his belt and contacted base camp. “Dupont, here. Tell the Major we need the helo-evac bird immediately. Two students with unknown injuries need immediate medical attention. Sending our coordinates. Dupont out.” He descended the distance to the foot of the falls just in time to see the Marines carry the second student out of the water.