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.
Unfortunately, two female students were startled near the top of the waterfall and fell into the churning water below. Two Marines searched frantically and brought both girls to the shore. Carla was underwater longer than Barb and the Marines were having difficulty resuscitating her ashore.
It is taking longer to bring Carla around, but, eventually, the medic’s efforts pay off. As she regains her breath, the helo arrives and hovers above the jungle canopy. Fortunately, there is a break in the canopy large enough to allow them to lower a harnessed air and sea rescue Marine to the bank near the girls. Dupont gives the pilot instructions to send down the rescue specialist immediately. It takes ten long minutes to lower him, harness each girl, lift her to the helo, and repeat the procedure. Once the girls are secured, the helo heads back to base camp.
The rest of the group is escorted out of the jungle and into the vehicles that brought them. From there, it is a short ride back to camp. Tanya and Dupont stay with the students at Hodge House, while Pinto makes his way to the temporary medical building. Director Hodge meets the anxious teacher at the entrance and takes him to a row of chairs set up outside the area that serves as the ER. Marine doctors examine the girls beyond the curtain. Noting Pinto’s anxiety, Hodge speaks quietly and firmly.
“Mr. Pinto, don’t blame yourself for this accident.” The teacher starts to respond, but the Director holds up his hands and stops him. “Look, I know you’re responsible for the well-being of your students. As Director of this site, I share that responsibility. I spoke to Dupont by comm, and I’m satisfied, from his report, that there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent this. It was a fluke accident. Reports tell me that you assisted, as well as you could, and allowed the professionals to do their jobs…”
A doctor emerges from the curtained examination area and cuts off the Director in mid-sentence. “We got lucky here today. The one, Barb DeBrooke, is a feisty one. She tells me she will be walking out of here and rejoining her classmates.” Pinto smiles for the first time since he heard Carla’s scream.
“That’s Barb, alright! So she’s okay, doctor?
“I don’t know. Both girls went through a lot, and I’m not ruling out concussions or internal injuries. We don’t know if their brains were deprived of air for any significant amount of time. I can tell you that their vitals are strong and stable. I’m ordering them transported directly to the sickbay, on Scepter, by medical shuttle. I don’t have the equipment down here for proper tests and scans to be run.”
Pinto nods his head in acknowledgment. Hodge responds, “Thanks, Doc, I’ll contact the ship and see if they can get the parents to meet their daughters there.” The teacher adds his thanks, and the doctor escorts both men, inside the curtain, to speak to the girls. The girls are lying on gurneys, side by side. Pinto steps between them and takes one of their hands in each of his. They apologize profusely, but he shushes them, gently, into silence. The teacher squeezes their hands and smiles at them, and both girls calm down. They nod in submission when he explains how they will transport them to sickbay. The students trust Giorgio Pinto and know that he cares about their welfare. There are no feisty arguments, just acceptance.
He and Director Hodge stay with the girls until they are safe aboard the medical shuttle. After it takes off, the two men return to Headquarters. There, the other students are inside the dining hall, where they begin to eat a hot meal, in silence. Director Hodge addresses the group, once more, to update them about their classmates’ condition. Soon after, they embark on the shuttle for their return trip to Scepter. It was a somber group aboard the shuttle – the squeals of excitement and good-natured banter that had characterized the flight to the planet earlier, are notably absent.
“Sir, can I ask you a question?” Pinto looks over at Joey Stillman, who seems concerned.
“Sure, Joey. Ask away.” Other students cut off their quiet conversations and turn in their seats to see what Joey is going to say.
Stillman notes the expectancy of his classmates and the stillness in the cabin. Only the muted sounds of the shuttle are audible. Undaunted, he continues. “Well, Sir, are we in trouble? Will this accident cost you your job?”
Pinto considers his questions for a moment. “I don’t know about my job. The Principal will investigate and gather all the facts before she decides anything. She is not only a great educator, but she’s very fair. None of you has anything to worry about – your behavior was exemplary. The High Chancellor may well ban school field trips, but my concern is for Carla and Barb. Let’s take a few moments to pray for them and their families, or, if you’re not religious, to send positive thoughts their way.”