At first, he heard ringing, and then there was nausea that wouldn't go away. James lay unmoving with his face buried in the soil. He was breathing rapidly and was still unsure whether or not it was safe to get up.
'James,' someone yelled. 'James!'
Stealing a glance, he sees hundreds of people running over to help him. Or to steal the rovers. He couldn't be sure of which.
Forcing himself onto quaking knees, he props himself up. Rubbing his eyes profusely, James is shocked when his vision snaps back into focus. His heart sinks. There were no hordes of people running at him at all. It was merely a trick of the mind.
Standing there was a mismatched group of fifty people at the most; families, mechanics, officers, scientists, builders. The list was unique.
The implications we're painfully clear though; hundreds of innocent people had perished this day, and this handful of people were all that was left.
'I'm fine, ' James said, waving away any assistance. 'Help Jensen. He's over there somewhere.' He added, pointing at the hills of scattered wreckage.
'We're on it.' Jason said, smiling sombrely.
So the Captain was alive, as was his second in command, Isabelle Sharpe. James smiled at the little boy who wouldn't leave her side; he was nursing a nasty bruise on his forehead, but managed to smile back, even if it was strained.
James tried to stand but couldn't. 'He might be buried!' He yelled.
Jason just nodded before getting back to the hunt. The rover had no roof, and the front was submerged under a dune of dried out soil. And inside was Jensen, miraculously unharmed.
'I'm fine. This rover, however, not so much. Just help me climb out, will you?' Jensen asked.
Two pairs of hands reach over to help him, and Jensen stares blankly at their faces. He does a double-take, shifting his gaze to look at the too few people scurrying about behind him. 'Is there no one else?' he asks.
Jason shakes his head. 'We were lucky that anyone survived an explosion like that Jensen.'
Jensen started walking towards the smouldering blast site. 'Aspire' was but a crater in the ground with broken equipment and human remains spread across the scorched soil. 'We could still look...'
'It's no use! There's no one left!' Jason yelled, his voice cracking. Those people had been his responsibility, and in his eyes, he'd failed them. 'Come on, we've still got work to do.' he added.
Stopping in his tracks, Jensen instead stood staring at the twisted wreckage of his vehicle.
Jason walked past him, strolling over to inspect the other rovers. 'Hello my old friends,' he said quietly. 'James, I can't believe that you managed to salvage one of them, let alone two... And a half.'
Jensen was wiping sweat away from his brow. 'I helped a little as well, you know.' Jensen replied.
Jason looked amused. 'So I see.'
'It wasn't easy!' Jensen rebuked. Shrugging his shoulders, he looked squarely into Jason's eyes. 'So what's the plan Captain?'
The plan was always going to be getting to this strange facility way up in the mountains. The journey there was going to be the hard part, though. Three rovers, each able to carry six people. No matter how they analysed it, most of them would be walking for what could be hundreds of miles.
'We choose the fifteen who are unable to walk very far, and select the three best drivers,' glancing at the wreck of Jensen's rover, Jason winced. 'You won't be driving this time Jensen, no offence.'
Jensen chuckled. 'That's probably for the best. I will be walking with my daughter anyway.'
It was taking a lot of organising in the end. They had to set up a lottery to decide who would be travelling in luxury. Then there was the salvaging of any discarded supplies. Jensen and James took the opportunity to run back to the ruined shuttle to pick up Grace, Connor, Jasper and Rose.
It didn't take them long to get there, and Jasper had even woke up. At least they wouldn't be hauling him around on a stretcher again.
'Daddy!' Rose screamed, jumping into Jensen's arms. Even Grace ran over to James, hugging him tightly. Not seeing his father with them, Connor feared the worst.
'Relax kid; your dad's okay. He's helping to get everyone ready for this big trek of ours.' James said.
Grace inhaled deeply. 'Speaking of that walk.'
'Don't worry honey; you're taking my seat. You know that I'd walk over hot coals for you, right?' James asked, kissing her on the head.
'You romantic devil you!' Grace replied, kissing him back. 'Speaking of which, we'd better get moving before we all end up having to walk.'
They were back with the others in no time. And the Captain was holding a map out, resting it on the bonnet of the first rover at the head of the convoy. 'The drivers will be me, Sharpe, and you, James.
James was surprised; he'd already given up his seat for his wife. Grace smiled at him; she hadn't seen him this happy in a long time. 'I won't let you down, Captain.' he said.
Jason grinned. 'I know James.'
'So which route are we taking Captain?' Jensen interrupted.
Tracing his finger across a swath of the map, the Captain highlights the long, rough road ahead. The journey would take them the better part of three days to make, and this was including the time required to charge the solar batteries.
'The lottery has decided who will ride in the rovers first, but to avoid further loss of life, we must alternate every two hours.' Jason said.
His announcement was met with sighs. Some people moaned, and others like little Rose were itching to get out there.
Sharpe slapped her hand off of the rover door. 'It's a good plan, Sir.'
'Thank you, I chose the straightest road there,' Jason replied, rubbing the back of his neck. 'Here's where we'll need to be careful though.' He pointed at an etched grouping of mountains.
'That's right, we need to get through these mountain paths first, and we don't know how well the rovers will cope with travelling across that kind of terrain.' Sharpe admitted.
'Only one way to find ou.' Jensen beamed, lifting Rose onto his shoulders.
Jason snorted. 'Let's go then people; it's going to be another warm day.'
It wouldn't only be this day; every day was going to be warm on this planet for the foreseeable future. They would have to adapt.