Taking stock of the situation had only served to increase the fear and gloom inside the Lady Gayle. Ariana had gathered the six surviving members of the crew around Ingram's console after further securing the door to the cockpit by pushing a table and several spare chairs up against it. There's been no more noise or activity outside the plane as far as they could tell, but being blind to the outside world deepened the anxiety inside.
Ariana had explained, as best she could, what had happened to the crew and Craight. To forestall further inquiry into things she couldn't explain, she'd had everyone do an inventory of the supplies inside the cabin.
There was some food in the galley, enough for perhaps a week if eaten sparingly. Water was more critical. They had enough for about four days if rationed. There were two fire axes. They had three first aid kits, one of which had been opened already to treat Hudson's legs. There were two pistols, Berretta 9mm’s. She took one, and gave the other to Mark Ingram.
She knew the most critical factor was the people. Some of them she knew quite well, but several were new. Mark Ingram was at her side and she felt comforted by his solid presence. They'd bandaged Mitch Hudson's legs and he was seated at a console, his face taut with pain despite the pills he'd been given. He was good with radios, one of the best, but outside of that she wasn’t sure about his capabilities.
The remaining four survivors were a mixed group: Mike Herrin was the senior geologist. In his mid-fifties he was a long-time Michelet employee but Ariana feared he would be the first to crack. He had been unusually quiet but he was constantly running his hands through his thinning gray hair. He was short and pudgy and in Ariana’s opinion he was too soft physically and emotionally to deal with the unexpected.
Daniel Daley was the junior geologist and new to the team. He was young, in his mid-twenties and a hulking presence standing behind the others. He had blond hair and looked fresh from the surf off LA, which indeed he was, having earned his PhD at UCLA. To Ariana, he appeared a little scared, but otherwise solid.
Lisa Carpenter was also new. She was the computer expert and electronic troubleshooter. A black woman in her early thirties, she had a bulky, athletic build, with hair cut tight against her skull. She was seated at her console just below Ariana's position, looking up, her face betraying nothing of what she felt, waiting on her next instructions.
The last member was Peter Mansor, the imaging specialist. He was the one who had bandaged Hudson's legs, using his experience from two tours of duty in the military where he had been a helicopter pilot. Mansor had been on several missions with Ariana and she knew he was steady if somewhat unimaginative.
“All right,” she said, feeling the focus of six sets of eyes on her. “What do we have in here other than the food, water and first aid kits?”
“A lot of computers, communications and imaging equipment,” Ingram said dryly.
“Which we can run only as long as we have power,” Lisa Carpenter added.
“What good does that do us?” Herrin asked irritably. “Computers aren't going to get us out of this.”
“Communications might,” Hudson said.
“Status of that?” Ariana asked him.
“I've got nothing right now,” Hudson said. “I've tried sending but we lost our HF antenna in the crash. It was on the roof of the cockpit. I can't access the SATCOM dish on the rotodome. Diagnostics tells me the cable from my radio to the dish has been cut.”
“Cut?” Ariana repeated.
“Probably severed in the crash.” Hudson looked up at the roof of the cabin. “Hell, the rotodome with the dish might not even be up there any more.”
“What else?” Ariana asked, not wanting to dwell on the external condition of the plane.
Hudson ran a hand over his wounded legs, grimacing. “FM is pretty worthless as it's limited by the horizon. If someone comes close, it might work. Our FM antenna still seems to be attached.”
“There are search teams looking for us,” Ariana said. “So keep the FM ready and broadcast every once in a while.”
“Maybe we should leave here and look for the search parties,” Daley suggested.
Ariana looked at Mansor who had been trained for such situations in the military.
The former pilot firmly shook his head. “No. We stay with the plane. That's a basic law of survival training. You always stay with the plane. It’s the best way to get found. It’s a lot easier to find a downed plane than a small group of people wandering around in the jungle.”
Herrin laughed, a manic edge to it. “I'm not going out there.” He jerked his head toward the cockpit. “We'll end up like Craight.”
“What exactly did happen to Craight?” Hudson asked.
Ariana glanced at Ingram but for once he had nothing to offer. “We don't know any more than we told you earlier.” Ariana had not wanted the conversation to go in that direction but she knew it wasn't something she could avoid forever. “Right now we worry about what is inside here. We seem to be safe for the moment.”
Ariana had no desire to open the door leading to the cockpit again. They had the regular door in the left front and the emergency hatches over both wings and one on the roof, but she didn't want to open any of those until they absolutely had to.
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