Tcho catches up with Boze, narrowly avoiding getting clobbered himself. She is unconscious, so that situation is at least under control. The captain has begun wheezing, and it is probably not just from the dust in here. If they are losing atmosphere, hypoxia is not going to be their only problem, but it is at least one Tcho can address. The rest is up to JT. For now, Tcho digs around in some of the construction equipment, looking for breath masks. They should be part of the standard safety gear given how much duracrete work was intended here. Finding two, he puts one on and gives the other to the captain.
While JT deals with the ship itself, Tcho gets his first real experience of battlefield medicine, moving through the room’s disaster zone and checking all their downed opponents for life-threatening injuries that might need emergency triage. The Weequay he chased in here is nowhere to be found, but some of the others are scattered around overturned scaffolds. There are of course contusions and broken bones, not surprising considering how far some people fell or what fell on them. Tcho lays each patient out as carefully as possible, enlisting the captain’s aid for tasks that can be delegated to a person with little medical experience.
Once he has done his first round of examinations, it becomes clear that the biggest concern, based on the updates from JT, really is air. Figuring that people who carry gas grenades would be wise to also have breath masks, Tcho returns to each of the spacers to pat them down. He finds a few more breath masks. There are definitely not enough for everyone, but at least now he can cycle more than just his and the captain’s between patients.
JT, meanwhile, has located the breach. As she flies closer to it, she begins to feel the pull of the vacuum beyond and switches her suit to sealed mode. The Dame’s hull is thick of course, but this conference room is on the exterior of the ship, and the rend JT finds is directly open to space. She can even see the swirling reds and oranges of the Maelstrom outside. Dame Metropolis has some emergency shielding, but it is a weaker form of the kind used to retain the atmosphere of open hangers on starfighter carriers. It can only slow the loss of air, not stop it completely. And although the Maelstrom looks like mist from here, JT knows it is pelting the Dame. Going out there does not look like a good time. She needs to get the hyperdrive back online so they can get out of here. First though, this breach is the more immediate threat.
The conference room is in disarray, which in JT’s opinion is the perfect organizational scheme. It is so much easier to find things when they are scattered out in the open. She gets the duracrete mixer going to whip up a batch while she places neosteel pieces to act as a mesh to spread it over. In her mind, the vacuum will be an aid, pulling the duracrete into place for it to harden. In practice, though, the crack has widened too much by the time her materials are ready, and instead duracrete joins the swirling micro-meteors of the Maelstrom.
When the mechanical approach fails, JT turns inward instead. The Desert Rose nearly tore apart in Gesearil’s atmosphere, but JT managed to hold that freighter together with the Force until Draac got it to the ground. She cannot simply move the Dame away from the Maelstrom, but she can try to work on this one crack. She just needs to get the edges close enough together that she can weld the seam shut with her “fusion cutter.” Tcho and the captain are busy elsewhere in the room, so there are no witnesses. JT takes a deep, calming breath and pulls. And pulls. And pulls. But it is just not happening. The hull is not malleable clay that can just be reshaped. JT lets her arms drop, out of ideas.
“We have to abandon this part of the ship. It’s too far gone,” JT announces, flying up to where Tcho is splinting an arm. “We can’t hold the gala here,” she adds to lighten the news.
“We need to take these people with us,” Tcho tells her. It is clear from his tone that this is non-negotiable.
“The breach is only going to get worse. We need to work fast,” JT says. She and the captain can help Tcho move injured people, but he is the one who knows best how to do it safely, so he will be having to exert the most effort. And he has only been using his breath mask part-time, splitting it with whoever he is working on. The thinning air must be getting to him. Can I enhance someone else’s strength with the Force? JT wonders. She has been brainstorming ideas for inducing a Force vision in the moff, but maybe it would help to start with a technique she has already learned—infusing her own strength with the Force—and a non-antagonistic target like Tcho. She wonders if she unintentionally did this to Kerr-Lonn-Ny back in the passenger recuperation cells, given the timing of her own meditation and when the athlete snapped her bindings. This can’t be that different from putting feelings and ideas into people’s heads, right? JT puts a reassuring hand on her friend’s shoulder and concentrates. “We can do this,” she reassures him. “We can get these people out.” There is no ah-ha moment, no swelling sense of success. Maybe what she is trying to do is impossible, or maybe this is just not the time to experiment.
Tcho, however, seems buoyed in spirit, if not in physical stamina. Under his direction, they start gathering the patients together. Soon, though, further shuddering in the room renders the main entrance inaccessible, and collapsed scaffolds have already blocked easy access to the inter-room partition at floor level. “This isn’t going to work,” Tcho yells at JT over the rush of air and creaking of the Dame. “Can you construct something temporary? Block off part of the room for us to hunker down in? Trap us somewhere that is at least not losing what air it has?”
JT nods. “I’ll see what I can do with that accordion material by the main door.” As she turns away, the muscles along her flank twinge, and she puts a hand to them with a gasp. “I’ll stay on the outside so I can go get help.”
Tcho cannot see her grimace through her helmet, but he can read her body language. “How badly off are you? In terms of your injuries?” he asks. That side of her jumpsuit is scorched.
“Ah… I mean, it feels sort of bad,” JT allows. That whole side of her body feels burnt and raw. Tcho asks her some specific questions on what she feels and how she sustained those injuries and then preps a stim shot. Coolness spreads from the injection point, followed rapidly by relief from the pain.
“Thank you, citizen.”
Tcho smiles, but then points out practically, “If anything happens to you when you’re going to get help, we’re screwed.” JT knows she is not always the most punctual, particularly in Tcho’s experience, so she cannot fault him for that.