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USD: Date Unknown

Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf


 

[Hibernation Sequence Interrupted]

...

[Assimilation Protocol: Condition Met]

...

[Persona Core: Activate]

...

‘Alex’

Alex woke with a scream or would have if she had a voice. Nothing but blackness and the absence of touch greeted her senses, and a deep primal terror started to take hold before a sudden kaleidoscope of color battered her senses.

She had nothing to compare the sensation of slipping into a new skin to, and the sudden onslaught of feeling across her body only worsened as she jerked and rolled off a hard surface to slam into the floor.

[Warning: Continued movement risks Avatar damage.]

[Suggestion: Cease motor operation until stimuli calibration is complete.]

She didn’t need the voice in her head to know she needed to wait for the world to stop spinning. Unfortunately, that revealed a new problem.

The metallic floor was cold against her bare skin. Every new breath of air felt like it was freezing her lungs.

[Warning: Life-support system is operating at marginal capacity.]

[Suggestion: Make repairs to life-support system immediately.]

Alex pushed herself off the floor and onto her feet, fighting the vertigo and dizziness that assailed her until she managed to balance herself with a hand against the wall.

That was an improvement; now, only her hand and feet were going to end up with metallic frostbite.

The dizziness took another moment to pass, and that seemed to help clear up her blurry vision as well. A quick glance confirmed that the entire room was a matte white, with not a single reflective surface to be found.

That felt like a problem to her as she touched her face because something was off. Actually, everything felt wrong, like her body wasn’t her own. Long strands of sky-blue hair had slipped forward to cover one side of her face, and she brushed the strands back behind an ear.

[Informative: Avatar sensory irregularities are expected and will rectify over time.]

[Suggestion: Proceed to repair life-support system.]

Alex looked at the metal slab that she had fallen from. It was the same matte white color as the rest of the room, and the question of just how she had managed to lay on it while unconscious bothered her. Why didn’t she freeze to death while she had been unconscious, and what the hell was going on?

Where was she?

A sudden gust of colder air assaulted her nether regions and killed the question. A hole in the wall had suddenly appeared, powered door sliding silently into the wall and disappearing. The air from the other side was even colder.

How could she fix life support? She needed some clothes—a skinsuit.

‘Skinsuit’

She played with the word in her head. It felt familiar.

[Informative: Skinsuit located in Airlock H-1.]

[Warning: Operational time of unprotected Avatar estimated at 4:56 echo.]

‘Thanks, nameless voice in my head.'

[Suggestion: Proceed immediately to Airlock H-1.]

“Wilco.”

 


 

The nameless voice in her head obviously had schematics for the ship, or a manifest list, as the direction given was spot on. And she was growing more and more certain it was a ship.

A small one, but a ship. That confirmed she was probably in space and getting life-support operational was a priority if she didn’t want to try and live in the Skinsuit for the rest of her theoretically short life.

The fabric was thick but with a texture not unlike neoprene, making it resemble an ancient wet suit for swimming. It really did resemble a ‘steamer,’ not that Alex could pull out any reason she'd be familiar with that nomenclature.

It stretched slightly as she slid her feet into the back, no holes for feet or hands. Instead, the suit molded itself to her, adapting its shape to fit her perfectly, even between the toes. Likewise, it flowed between her fingers, at a thickness that allowed her to retain her normal dexterity and feeling in her extremities.

She didn’t have trouble zipping the suit either, as the back closed on its own and two long blue bars of light lit up on her forearms. Fully charged. Alex thanked the last user for being considerate enough to make sure it was recharged.

As it molded up her shoulders and reached her neck, she had to reach behind and free her hair. The skinsuit stopped just below the jaw, but a quick test of the rotation of her head showed there wasn’t any obstruction to her movements.

‘Great, it is one of the newer ones, no sore neck.’

‘Wait, how did I know that?’

Alex frowned and looked down, the question being filed for later answering as the nameplate just above her breast shimmered and read “ENS:” without a name, so the suit wasn’t hers. It was an officer’s suit.

[Warning: Life-support systems have gone offline.]

[Suggestion: Make repairs to life-support system immediately.]

Well, that was a problem. While the suit was doing a more than adequate job of keeping her body at a perfectly comfortable temperature, the helmet was missing. The little plumes of condensed breath were getting larger, too—just a visual reminder of her impending death by heat-loss.

Going through the other two lockers in the small Airlock didn’t turn up anything useful, either. There were two more suits, one even more robust than the one she was wearing, but both were missing the helmet as well.

‘What the fuck, who steals helmets?’

Almost as fast as the question formed, she had a theory. The air supply was usually in the helmets. Someone had been living in a suit before she arrived. Was someone else on board? Maybe they would have answers for her.

[Informative: Detected life forms within 0.1ls is 0.]

[Suggestion: Make repairs to life-support system immediately.]

That meant there wasn’t anyone else within 30,000km.

Well, that meant she wasn’t going to get any help unless the ship was mobile, which she seriously doubted considering the state of everything she had seen so far. Alex figured the ship was much smaller than 30k km, so it did at least indicate that some external sensors were operational.

[Suggestion: Make repairs to life-support system immediately.]

“Hey! Why don’t you be useful and point me in the right direction to fix the fucking life-support, instead of repeating yourself?”

Pain flared to life in her right eye in response to her outburst, and she cursed as she slammed her palm over her face to cover it. The neural trauma felt like it was radiating through her head—a blue display formed in her vision, despite her covering it.

[Shipcore: Alex]

[Neural-Optical Interface Integration: Complete]

[Initializing Self-Directed Repair Routines]

The sudden pain disappeared almost as quickly as it had started, the text now overlaying her vision while synchronizing with the voice in her head.

The overlay started highlighting all the objects in the Airlock, highlighting containers, tagging the lockers with suits still in them, and adding textual tooltips to just about everything she saw as her attention passed over them.

|Locker| |Skinsuit| |Composite Hull Panel| |Reinforced Airlock Frame| |Airlock Control Panel| |High-Efficiency Emergency Light| |Flight Suit| |Pressurization Vent|

‘That’s bothersome.’

The overlay cut off as soon as she had the thought, leaving a blinking arrow pointing her the way she came. Looking down the hall, it continued through the ship, blinking on the floor.

“That’s more useful, I assume it is pointing me toward Life-Support?”

[Confirmation: Self-Directed Repair Routine sub-navigational data corresponds to path required to reach Main Engineering and Primary Life-Support.]

“Can you… just say that in my head instead of printing it on my eyeball? Having text scroll by is irritating.”

[Confirmation: Adding User Preference for Neural-Audio Stimuli.]

“Uhh, Thanks.”

 


 

The threshold out of the small hallway containing Airlock H-1 and the bare room she had woke up in was jarring. The solid white coloring of the walls abruptly changed and turned into a metallic gun gray, with wall panels ajar and exposed conduits and wiring visible. A few pipes had burst, and bundles of cable hung down from the ceiling having been jolted out of place at some point.

There was no sign of spilled liquid or gases; the hallway was essentially inert. That told Alex that whatever violence had been done had occurred quite a while ago. Had she woken up from some type of suspended animation? Something pricked at a distant memory, and she had the feeling that cryo-sleep was a thing, but the fuzziness wouldn’t let her put a finger on anything solid.

The mess didn’t bode well for trying to fix whatever was wrong with Life-Support, though.

As she continued to follow the yellow arrows down the second hall, she started to get a feel for the ship's size. What appeared to be a galley was completely trashed; pots, pans, utensils, even a stand-up electric oven were all tossed about and covered in a thin layer of dust. There were two tables with benches, and somehow, that told her to estimate the crew size as somewhere between one and two dozen people.

Space on ships was always at a premium, and to have a dedicated galley like that meant she was probably on a frigate or small destroyer.

That was good and bad.

Good because she wasn’t going to have to travel a kilometer through the ruined, hazardous maze-like corridors of a trashed capital ship. Main Engineering was probably the room at the end of the hall.

Bad, because ships of this size were unlikely to have a sizeable assortment of spare parts, so whatever was wrong, and there looked to be a lot wrong, was going to have to be fixed with parts from things that were less important and still worked.

Her theory on the location of Engineering proved to be correct as the powered door slid open on its own with a pained groan.

Everything else was thrown off as Alex gaped at what had likely caused the problem with the Life-Support.

Half the room was missing, a massive rent in the hull opening out into space as if the pressure inside had been too much and forced its way out in an enormous explosion. A thin blue glistening field shimmered against the black, doing its best to contain the now freezing internal atmosphere that remained.

That wasn’t the awe-inspiring sight that shook her, though.

Through the massive wound, she was able to see a debris field that filled her view, hundreds, thousands of pieces of wreckage whirling and spinning in the bright white light of the sun. In the distance she could see the curvature of a shell of hollowed-out ships that had been fused in some titanic heat.

It was incredible and terrifying at the same time.

There was just one problem.

[Suggestion: Initiate Self-Directed Repair immediately.]

“How the fuck am I supposed to fix this?”

There was no response from the voice. Either it didn’t know, or it expected her to figure it out on her own now. Alex noted that the central control console seemed intact, its glowing screens casting a pale blue in the dim emergency lighting. The readouts might be helpful.

Just stepping past the bulkhead door was an act of bravery, artificial gravity having failed in the ruined room, while small bits of debris floated aimlessly through the air.

‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, with a few caveats.’

Another thing she wasn’t sure where or when she had heard, along with a strong feeling that she knew exactly how to maneuver in microgravity.

Always keep a firm hold on something; Always plan ahead of your next point of contact. The worst thing would be to get stuck out of reach of anything or introduce a wild, disorienting spin in a panic.

Luckily, like most of the ship, Engineering had plenty of bars mounted on the walls and ceilings meant for moments just like this. There was even a mostly unbroken line for her to use that led directly to the central console.

Alex took the direct route without issue, moving from handhold to handhold carefully, but with purpose. Arriving at the console, she quickly cleared away a few floating scraps before sliding onto the seat. Instinctively she pressed a button just under the cushion that activated a small magnetic link between her suit and the seat’s spine like she had done it a million times before.

The screens didn’t like her, however.

| Unknown User Detected |

| Authenticate User Access |

All the readouts suddenly blanked themselves, and she cursed as they turned into the picture of a handprint.

She hesitated at first, not sure what to do.

[Suggestion: Make repairs to life-support system immediately.]

“Fuck.”

Was she even a member of the ship’s crew? A warship’s computer wouldn’t be happy if an intruder tried to access the system. Something made her certain that this was a warship. Not that the ship seemed in very good shape, but if it kicked off the field covering the hull breach, she was going to have a very short trip out into space without a helmet.

Should she stop and look around the rest of the ship? She’d been directed to Engineering, but there were surely supplies she might find useful to mitigate the risks, although that would take more time…

Suddenly everything lurched, and the magnetic link to the seat was the only thing that kept her from flinging into the air. The hiss of air escaping for a second sent a chill down her spine; everything was falling apart.

That was the deciding factor for her, and Alex carefully placed her hand on the screen for verification.

For a single gut-wrenching second, all the screens turned an angry red, all her worst fears coming true, but then they turned blue, and a multitude of information began to flow across the screens and inside her head.

[Electronic Assimilation Routine: Success]

[Access Granted - Shipcore, Alex]

[Engineering Data: Processing]

[Data Readout, Begin.]

|Shrike II Class Corvette |

|Primary System Status Screen |

|Reactor: Marginal |

||| FUEL RODS DEPLETED |||

||| R1: 0 | R2: 0 | R3:0 |||

| Life-Support: OFFLINE |

|| Sub|Hydroponics: OFFLINE |

|| Sub|Medical: OFFLINE |

| Navigation: OFFLINE |

|| Sub|Astrogation: OFFLINE |

|| Sub|Aviation: OFFLINE |

| Communications: OFFLINE |

| Sensors: Marginal |

|| INT: OFFLINE|ARRY: Marginal |

| Supply: Marginal |

|| Sub|Workshop: OFFLINE |

| Administration: OFFLINE |

| EPOWER: Online |

|| BCAP|| 28%| 49:21 ||

| Weapons: OFFLINE |

| Damage Control: Marginal |

|| Sub| D-field: OFFLINE |

|| Sub| I-field: Marginal |

She didn’t have to bother to look at the screens; the readout was clearly readable on the HUD overlaying her vision. The state of things was depressing, but the critical information was hard to miss. The ship’s fuel rods were empty, and things were running on emergency power only, and that meant batteries that were draining rapidly… 49 minutes until everything shut off.

The Life-Support had probably kicked off as the batteries drained below a certain threshold in an attempt to extend the time until that fatal moment.

The ability to access ship records was available on the console, but the administrative system was dead, and even if she managed to bring it back to life, it was likely to be wiped.

She needed a list of things that might be useful… if the nameless voice in her head had an intact manifest…

“Are there any reactor rods on the ship?”

[Informative: There are no reactor rods currently present on the ship.]

Well, that was that. The reactor rods were the only form of energy dense enough to maintain the ship’s power. There was no chance in hell she would be able to rig some type of solar or thermoelectric system to keep even a fraction of the ship’s few remaining systems online. Not without a station-sized manufacturing facility and an asteroid’s worth of materials, anyway.

[Supplemental: 27 Transient Energy Signatures Detected. Possible Fuel Rod Locations, Highlighting.]

Hollow yellow squares filled Alex’s vision, size based on distance. One cluster was much larger than all the others, and she looked at the estimated distance in confusion.

| Signature Distance: 58m |

“I thought you said there were no reactor rods on the ship?”

[Informative: There are no reactor rods currently present on the ship. Nearest Transient Energy Signature is located outside the hull.]

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Erios909

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