USD: Date Unknown
Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf
The time left before the batteries went dry and everything was rendered dead and inert had approached rapidly. There was a whole checklist of things Alex had to do. Any spacewalk without a pressure-sealed helmet was going to be noticeably short, and the AI voice in her head hadn’t been able to locate one for her.
Putting the helmet issue on hold for a moment, she checked the reactor while still in Engineering. The dead fuel rods needed to be pulled to make sure the feed assembly was still operating. That had been an entirely technical procedure, complete with an order of operations she’d somehow been fully experienced with, including the emergency protocol that cut the time down from thirty minutes to three by bypassing the standard safety checks.
And this definitely qualified as an emergency; an automated medi-doc would cure a small or even moderate radiation exposure; permanent power loss would be inevitably fatal.
She didn’t spot any leakage, though, which was lucky. Typically, engineers would replace fuel rods once they were down to 5-10% of their remaining life as there was a much greater danger of malfunction to their shielding when used to total depletion… and these had gone beyond that mark all the way to zero.
The ship was an older model, as newer ones had a fully automated system for what she was doing, even if the manual methods were still available. She was thankful for that because bypassing the automated system and getting it out of the way would have cost her precious time.
The reactor was ready and able to accept new input now; she just needed a rod.
“Are you sure there aren’t any EVA class helmets on the ship?”
[Informative: A visual inspection conducted against the ship’s manifest reveals that all twenty-four EVA class helmets are not in their designated storage locations. One location cannot receive routine visual inspection; however, with a high degree of certainty, this storage room has been destroyed.]
“And you don’t see any helmets in locations that are out of place? I don’t need a helmet that is correctly stored, I just need a helmet.”
[Confirmation: No EVA helmets can currently be visually detected.]
“What about a ship locker, or marine armory? Do you have visual on one of those?”
[Negatory: Ship class indicates this ship has a Marine Armory/Complement Four. Ship Schematics are corrupted, and there is no visual ship sensor showing such room.]
“Try locating any marine lockers via weapon power cells.”
[Informative: Detected 2858 power cell signatures consistent with Fleet Marine PFC220 Automatic Carbine Ammunition.]
Her entire field of vision turned into a dizzying cloud of yellow blips, half of which were not stationary. That figured, the ammunition was made so it was nearly indestructible, so a foxhole full of grunts wouldn’t detonate in a chain reaction if a cell was punctured. Closing her eyes didn’t help remove the sudden display of HUD markers, and she tssked in annoyance.
“Turn off the highlights of any signatures not on board this ship.”
The moving cloud disappeared from view, allowing her to look for closer blips. There were four. Each one probably represented a container with a half dozen magazines. It wasn’t the ammo she was after, though.
She backtracked through the ship's main hallway much faster this time, a light jog made possible by the artificial gravity. She’d considered turning that off to buy more time before the power failed but ultimately decided not to. Not only would it hinder her movements through the ship, but she also had no clue as to how much damage all the floating debris inside the ship would do if it began to move freely.
Especially if there was another---
As if summoned by her thought, the entire ship shook. Not as bad as earlier while she had been strapped into the engineering console seat, but enough that she had to catch herself on the corridor wall.
“Fuck, Nameless, what was that?”
[Informative: Sensors Indicate a small piece of debris impacted the ship between dorsal plates 15E and 15F. No further structural damage has been recorded. Logs indicate that there have been 51,334 collision incidents since the last hull inspection. There have been---]
“Stop. That’s not important right now, we need to get a reactor rod. We can worry about holes later.”
Almost halfway back to the room where she had woken up, there was a small heavy-looking bulkhead door to the side. It was nestled right between the mess and another door, and according to the blips, had to be the armory. Unless someone had squirreled away all the ammo into a different room, but she doubted that.
Unfortunately, the door was sealed tight. Alex tried to pull the door open manually, but that was quickly proved to be futile.
“Where am I going to find a prybar? Cutting-torch? Fuck!”
[Recommendation: Access to ship armory can be gained via adjoining room.]
That wasn’t normal; somehow, she knew that ship armories were supposed to have a single entry and egress point for security. Accessible only to officers and the ship’s security detail. That was standard across all fleet vessels.
The other door opened without protest, but she was forced to slide under a tipped-over shelf that was precariously propped against the entrance. It was a miracle the earlier shakes hadn’t toppled it over. Or, more likely, they were the reason it was knocked over in the first place.
It was quickly apparent to her what the room was as she took in the nature of the debris strewn throughout the room. Power tools, part blanks, and wiring was scattered across the floor in a jumbled mess. An industrial furnace and a hull plate press were bolted down and still in position, but their input/output doors had been ripped free. A fabricator took up the far corner of the room, but she couldn’t tell what type of shape it was in, because the mess blocked her view.
[Informative: Fabricator and Machine room is OFFLINE.]
“Yeah, I read the readout, too. I was more wondering if it was in a repairable state.”
[Deductive: Required parts and skills are present to make repairs to Ship Workshop and Machining.]
Alex guessed that was a stamp of approval from Nameless, but she wasn’t so sure. It was going to be a tall order, and first she needed---
She had been right; there was only supposed to be a single entry to the armory. Something had punched a circular hole through the ship at an angle, cutting through the workshop ceiling and into the adjoining wall, before punching through the armory's floor and into a lower bulkhead and out of the ship.
The blue shimmer of the ship’s I-field was present over each gap, managing to prevent any further atmosphere leakage. It was quickly becoming apparent that the entire ship was riddled with holes from whatever engagement it had been involved in.
It also meant there was a vacuum between the two rooms.
“Wait, you want me to jump through this?”
It wasn’t odd that there was space between the rooms, there was almost always an outer shell with a distance between it and the inner ship, and gaps between rooms were sometimes required according to the ship’s design.
Alex was much less sure about the survivability of having her head exposed to vacuum, even if it was just a few feet.
[Confirmation: Exposure to vacuum for less than 15 seconds is unlikely to result in unconsciousness or permanent injury. Gap between pressurized sections is approximately 60 centimeters.]
“Are you even sure the other side has atmosphere?”
[Confirmation: Ship I-field would not waste energy on containment for a depressurized room.]
“But is it breathable?”
A few seconds ticked by before she realized Nameless wasn’t going to answer. She didn’t have the luxury of sitting around and figuring something else out, either.
[Suggestion: Do not attempt to hold your breath. Severe trauma could occur.]
Alex frowned and tried to think of a solution that didn’t involve exposing herself to vacuum.
It wouldn’t be impossible to create some type of sensor to scout the other side of the room.
Or even jury rig and produce an airtight helmet. That was her reason for getting into the armory, though. Even if not EVA-Flight rated, one of the marine helmets would likely be easy to convert into something that would work for a one-off spacewalk.
The problem was, everything she could think of would burn more time than she had to spare. The quickest way would be to nab a marine helmet and add a liberal dosage of gray tape, which was thankfully in plentiful supply in the workshop.
“If I run out of time, I’m dead. So now or later, it doesn’t matter.”
Nothing but the pained whirl of stressed machinery answered her. Not that she had expected an answer.
Or maybe she had, but Nameless was silent.
“Fuck. Let’s go.”
The hole's diameter was about as wide as her arms when held out to the side, with the gap between I-Fields about 60 centimeters. One thing she hadn’t accounted for was the A-Grav field. She wasn’t sure what effect there would be, if any, when part of her body was in the other room’s gravity, part of it was in micro, and the rest in the initial room.
She did not have time to think about it either, so she grabbed a long metal pole and jammed it through the hole, wedging it tight over top of a shelf. When it didn't suddenly disintegrate or bend strangely from the multiple gravity forces, she nodded with satisfaction. It would give her a handhold as she slid through.
The decision to go feet first was easy; skinsuits were EVA capable after all, and with most of her body through, Alex figured it would be easier to pull herself the rest of the way through.
Things went according to plan, right up until the moment her head passed through the I-field.
There was no time to panic. She didn’t resist as the air in her lungs was forcefully sucked out. Doing her best to ignore the saliva boiling off her tongue, she got a firm footing and levered herself the rest of the way into the armory.
[Warning: Incidental damage detected to peripheral capillaries and temporary visual impairment.]
Collapsing in a heap on the floor, Alex started to sarcastically remark that she didn’t need the warning; she had no problem feeling the effects herself. Except nothing came out of her voice but a hoarse croak.
She wiped her face, and a thin sheen of frost came off. There was no way she could clear it all off; it was all going to melt and leave her hair a damp mess. That happened much faster than she had expected, only taking a few more seconds as her exposed skin began to tingle.
The air in the room was warmer than the rest of the ship.
As her vision started to clear, she rubbed the wetness out of her eyes and tried to get her bearings.
About two inches from her face was a skeleton in an EVA suit.
Terror gripped her stomach, and she shoved the corpse away while scooting backward, a hoarse shriek cutting through the otherwise silent compartment.
The room was cast in a dark shade of orange from a few emergency lights. That was the source of the heat, she realized; someone had deployed emergency heaters and lights that were still running.
The room wasn’t that large; it was just a narrow corridor with lockers on the sides with a single long bench in the middle. Just enough for four marines and their gear, as well as a few rifle lockers for the ship’s crew. The end had a single locker for something larger, but Alex wasn’t sure what.
More importantly, there were two dozen Eva helmets scattered throughout the room and in small piles.
Letting out a yawn, she stretched and got to her feet. That was a relief. She wasn’t going to need to jury rig anything anymore.
Whoever the corpse was in the suit, they’d somehow brought all the helmets into the armory and then locked themselves inside. She eyed the corpse again with a frown. Whoever they were, they had been locked inside for a long, long time. Nothing was left but a skeleton and decay in this environment was often---
Alex let out a second yawn while rubbing her eye. Jumping through the vacuum had made her a lot more tired than she imagined, and taking a nap was starting to seem like a good idea as she moved forward and picked up one of the EVA helmets.
It was the correct type for her skinsuit, and there wasn’t any need to find the one that matched her suit’s serial number. There weren’t any supply clerks to complain about unmated gear after all.
She sat down on the bench, her hand coming away with a thin sheet of dust on it. She must have been suspended for a very long time for something like that to attach itself to the metal. Especially with all the impacts and shakes the ship was receiving.
[Warning: Supplemental Nanite Oxygen levels rapidly depleting.]
A little icon in the bottom right of her eyeball HUD started to flash red.
|SNO2: 23% |
|SNO2: 22% |
|SNO2: 21% |
[Suggestion: Return to Oxygenated Atmosphere immediately.]