B1 — 13. Blizzard
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Helena shivered as she opened her eyes. She quickly squeezed them shut as a blast of frigid air grazed past her face. Senses returning, she tried tensing the muscles in her thighs. So cold. She tried to lift her hands to her face, they felt stiff and took effort just to raise a little. Coughing, she inhaled a chilled breath of air, lungs convulsing as she rubbed her frost-covered goggles. The glass clearing, she tried to determine her surroundings.

Her body jerked sharply and she gasped, causing an expelling of air that left her wheezing. She was being forcefully pulled back as she found a veil of white cascading around her. I was drugged … a time release?

Trying to stretch her burning upper body, she choked. Her sluggish mind began to quicken as she stared at the monitor in front of her, only finding blurred lights in strange shapes. She constricted her throat, trying to wet her dry sponge of a tongue. She couldn’t get enough saliva to work down the lump.

Almost blindly, she tried to stop the Treader’s course, fumbling with the console. She felt the burden against her small body lessen as the machine slowed to a halted. She fumbled with the straps, dropping beside the Treader in a tangled heap. Snow was billowing around her as she sank into the powder.

Her torso was on fire, every time she moved a sharp pain struck her mind. Yet, at the same time, her lower body was completely numb, she couldn’t feel or move her legs. Her breath came out in short steamed puffs of carbon dioxide. How long have I been unconscious? I feel … I need to find a warm place to rest.

Fighting past the pain of her stiff back, Helena lifted her upper body and began massaging her legs. The snow creased across the elastic fabric as her hands moved. I need to get the blood pumping again. She tried to work around her tongue to start the saliva flowing without effect. All she tasted was her own rancid breath.

It took a few minutes to start feeling her legs, but it would be some time before she could walk efficiently. A sudden thought entered her mind. It might work … but it will drain my body even more. Though, it may allow me to limp.

Evening out her breaths she focused her mind and sent electrical stimulants down her leg. Her molars clamped together as the coursing pain flowed through her lower body. She’d never experienced electrical pain before and this was even with her legs numbed.

Breathing heavily with the flow of adrenaline and stimulation, she shakily tried to get to her feet. It took her a full minute to hoist herself back onto the Treader. Fumbling with the pack, she produced one of the zip-ties and pulled down her mask a little to suck on the rectangular end. Hopefully, it will help my salivary gland start functioning again.

Working around her muscles, she checked the Treader’s onboard display. I’ve been traveling for two hours and twelve minutes, much less than I thought. I can’t make it to the settlement like this. I need to regain my strength somewhere.

Extending her static field, she examined the surrounding area. From what little she could visibly see, the trees had become sparse. Snow flurried around her in sheets of reflecting light produced by the vehicle’s front glowing bulbs. Heavy winds threw billowing ice crystals about the foreign objects in its path.

Her environment shifted as she activated her reception and blotted out as her mind opened with her mental image, giving a clear three-dimensional grasp of her surroundings within a five-meter radius. The gray textures were flawless in her inner eye, showing her a full spectrum of her area in the limited field range. She couldn’t find a single yellow scratch in the space, the only electrical activity being her and the Snow Treader.

Some kind of enclave under a nearby tree showed shelter, most likely some animal’s den.  Releasing her active reception, Helena grimaced as she peered through the blinding snow at her heavy pack. I can’t leave it on the Treader, I need it. I need to send the Treader along its way too … it’s been stopped too long, they’ll think something’s up.

Sniffing, she felt frost shoot up her nostrils and coughed again, puffs of warm gas exiting her lips. Shivering and inhaling slowly, she got ahold of herself. She unstrapped the pack, letting it slide to the ground. The powder that had begun gathering slid off as it fell and the bag sank into the snow. Propping herself against the Treader, she began to program it to leave in forty-five seconds. After setting the countdown, she limped two meters away, dragging the pack inch by inch through the thick snow.

Stumbling, she fell into the chilling powder. It formed around her body as she struggled to turn herself, snow pelting her face. Shivering and breathing heavily, she watched the vehicle’s treads pick up and take off.

Mist birthed in front of her with every lung convulsion. Trying to stand again, she collapsed, coughing. Her heart beat in rapid fits against her chest as she tried to catch her breath. The stimulation had helped heat her lower body, but she still needed to rest in a warm place to regain her body temperature.

Tilting her head, she stared at the hole through the strafing blizzard that flowed around her in frigid gusts. She brought her eyes to focus on the pack. I can’t drag it any further without electro-stimulation, my muscles are screaming. I have to use it through my whole body and keep the current below twenty milliamps.

Gulping, she found her mouth starting to produce saliva again. The ball of liquid seemed to halt at her throat as it slowly moved down and her stomach groaned, showing it had already started feasting upon itself. She continued to suck on the zip-tie as she went over the different calculations in her mind to produce a more efficient stimulus. Finally coming up with an appropriate formula, she sent the surge of electricity through her body.

Helena winced as the surging twinge shot through her nerve-system. She felt cold sweat running along the insides of her suit. Fear running along her body, she could almost taste the terror. Will this storm kill me?

Lifting herself off the ground, she struggled through the powder to her pack and grasped a handle. She dragged it the two and a half meters to the hole, her legs feeling like they’d give out with every concussive blow against the compact ice. She left a wide trail as she tried to get the pack to the burrow.

Digging away at the snow that encased the hole, she felt her consciousness slip and she was lying at its entrance, her vision blurred. The zip-tie had dropped from her mouth and lay in front of her, buried in frost. A millimeter of snow clung to the suit and her vision glazed again. How long was I out?

Her body was numb and her lungs quivered as she sent another stimulant through her exhausted body. She shakily crawled into the small enclave, barely managing to drag the pack after her. As she entered the dugout, she found it only slightly warmer than outside, but relief filled her thoughts. At least I made it into some kind of shelter.

She barely got the pack into the hole before her muscles gave out and she collapsed against the floor in a daze, partially hearing the bristle of dead leaves. Unsteadily she fumbled at the pack, hand slipping several times in trying to unzip it. Pulling out the blanket, she slid it over herself, she quaked against the fabric, jaw throbbing. It took her only moments to fall back into oblivion.

* * *

Helena jerked awake. It’s warm, am I still alive? I have to be, there shouldn’t be any feeling if I’m dead. Shifting her weight, she realized there was bioelectric activity near her. It’s right next to me; I didn’t even sense it approach!

Her body was extremely sore and her muscles cried out with just the twitch she sent them. Consolidating her senses she found a single body of electrical impulses. The shape wasn’t human and she realized just how warm the hole had become. She wasn’t shivering at all, in fact, it was too warm. The creature was lying next to her, curled up into a ball against her blanket.

She didn’t know how long she’d been out, but she needed to get some more rest. Her tiny body wouldn’t allow travel in this blizzard. Creating a visual view of the interior, she forced her muscles to move. The creature stirred next to her, it was in the shape of some kind of dog. Reaching for her pack, she extracted a water canteen. Fumbling with the lid, she brought it up to her lips and found it blocked. Realizing she hadn’t taken off her mask, she giggled, wincing as her tender muscles constricted.

I’m in such a sorry state. I didn’t expect such a short ride to have this much effect on my body, but with my size, I should have expected it. Unclasping her mask, she let it drop to her side and finished her earlier action. The water trickled down her dry throat, burning as it coursed over her soars and chapped lips. Sliding a bit of liquid around her mouth, she swallowed it and screwed the lid back on. She dropped it at her side with the mask and goggles. Since this creature hasn’t eaten me … yet, I can assume it enjoys my warmth … at least for the moment.

Taking a more comfortable position next to the animal, she grasped at her backpack again. Pulling out a few pieces of dried food, she tried to unwrap it but found it difficult with her gloves on. Removing them, she stretched her numb fingers out for a moment. With great effort, she bit down on the rapper and peeled it back with her fingers. Taking a bite, she savored the horrible taste as it passed into her stomach, which growled with the sudden thought of food. It only took her a minute to eat two bars before letting her eyes close and letting her consciousness faded again.