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USD: Date Unknown

Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf


 

Thankfully the recovery of Alex's 'Cereberal Function' didn't take long, although that left her with the worry of what Nameless's last message meant.

Ship Assimilation? She paused and remained on the floor partly propped against the reactor chamber. It wasn't exactly a safe spot, considering the frequency of impacts to the ship, but the high-G flight had taken the energy out of her.

Nothing seemed to happen right away, though, and after a few minutes of rest, she was feeling proactive enough to send a query about just what it had meant.

"What's Ship Assimilation mean, Nameless?"

Unfortunately, no response or elucidation was tendered by the computer voice.

Actually, it felt like there was a whole line of questions that were going to be refused to be answered if she asked, and that made her angry enough to ask them anyway.

"What happened to me? Who am I? Where are we? What's the debris field? Why don't I have any memories, but have all these skills? Dammit, answer me!"

Pulling herself up, she wanted to wave her fist at… something, but the voice was intangible enough she didn't have a clear target of where to express her frustration. She still didn't know exactly what the voice was, but she knew it was related to the strange white room and the… Nanites.

She knew what they were, tiny microscopic machines that could do… things. Her knowledge on that was entirely theoretical, though, as what they could exactly do and how they worked was beyond her. Except apparently, they were crawling inside her and could supplement oxygen to her brain in an emergency.

They probably had something to do with her survival of the ridiculous flight Nameless had tossed her through as well. What else were they doing that she didn't even know about?

The white room and the way the hose had formed from the ceiling was a completely different and alien technology compared to the rest of the ship, and she knew which one she felt more familiar and comfortable with by a wide margin.

The ship shook again, and a small piece of debris impacted the I-field protecting Engineering, sending a flash of light through the compartment and filling her ears with an electric buzz as it was obliterated into the field's energy.

Well, if the computer was going to go silent and leave her alone, she wasn't going to sit by and wait for it to answer her questions. But to live long enough to find answers, she needed to make sure she didn't end up dead in the next few hours, days, or weeks… months?

Restoring the ship's energy production had been a desperate sprint, and she needed to get into the mindset for winning a marathon now because there wasn't going to be any quick fix to repairing the mess--- all the messes she'd seen so far.

The first thing that came to mind was the statement from Nameless earlier that the auxiliary life-support wasn't enough to sustain her. If the ship was rated for two dozen people and whatever life-support the computer had rigged up couldn't even support one person, then getting the ship's primary system back online seemed like a priority.

Not that there were other people, but having ample supplies of the stuff that kept you alive was just a best practice and a given, at least in her mind.

A quick browse through the ship's manifest and storage revealed that most critical resource supplies were in decent shape. That was likely thanks to most of the pressurized tanks' ability to avoid bursting and to self-seal any damage, which was quite a feat considering the contents were under heavy pressure to save volume while being stored.

The problem and reason for Life-Support being offline wasn't a lack of material.

Bringing up a ship schematic on the engineering console quickly revealed the problem. Red lines representing flow lines, gravtubes, pipage, and power conduits flashed an alarming amount of red on the screen. Considering the state of the ship, she should have expected that.

A few extra taps, and she had the primary routes between each resource tank and life support mapped. She wasn't exactly sure what process the system used to produce oxygen and remove CO2; it was quite evident that life-support tech wasn't in her job description. Still… she clawed at some memory that she couldn't quite reach. Lithium and H2O were somehow involved, she was sure.

She was much more confident in fixing the pipage and gravtubes, even if it meant fabricating new pipe from scratch. If she could get the Workshop running, anyway.

Alex frowned and switched over to the status page for that room. Things were reported as nominal, which only went to show that one shouldn't trust a screen to report the actual status of something without a good visual inspection from an MK1 eyeball. Or, well, whatever version her eyeballs counted as now.

She'd have rolled up her sleeves if she wasn't in a skinsuit, but that lack didn't stop her from getting to work.

---

Repairing the corvette was a mammoth undertaking for anyone even to consider. Alex knew she would only make it possible by breaking it into discrete tasks that she could complete separately. Thankfully by restoring power, she'd bought enough time for getting started; even though she was still technically on a timer, the Auxiliary life support had built up enough reserves that she'd be fine for the time being. At least long enough to get an ad-hoc repair to the ship's primary life support.

The first task was clearing out the Workshop, re-arranging the mess into something more organized. Spare parts and raw blanks were tossed and turned everywhere in a random jumble, and she made fixing that her first priority. The ship's periodic shaking didn't help progress, though, and was likely the culprit of the mess in the first place.

As soon as the fabricator lit up and displayed a ready status, she shoved in several lengths of metallic blanks and ordered up a dozen magnetic locking containers. As each one popped out, she locked them to the floor and then did her best to stuff the smaller spare parts into them with a rudimentary sorting system: critical, important, less important, junk.

A lot of the scrap, meanwhile, got dumped into the smelter. It didn't have much capacity, but it was a miracle that it was on the ship at all; a lot of smaller military ships did away with the majority of industrial ability in return for savings on mass. Thankfully the Shrike II seemed to be a longer-ranged recon type of vessel and still maintained some production capacity for extended missions. At least that was Alex's take on the design.

The size of the storage tanks and the amount of prefabricated resource blanks in the cargo led more toward that conclusion as well. Whatever its designers had envisioned as the role of the ship, it had at one point been well prepared and stocked for whatever extended mission might have been required of it.

Unfortunately, that meant she had a lot of inner ship volume to go over with the small malleable hull patches she could fabricate. The patches themselves weren't rigid but a pliable composite of nano-tube-infused polycarbonate plates that were able to adhere themselves to the surface of just about anything. A small handheld light was then run over the patch, which somehow turned the structure rigid.

Those patches wouldn't last forever and might as well not have been there if one was worried about structural integrity. Still, they did well to seal atmosphere leaks and negated the ship's need to waste energy on producing a separate I-field for each breach.

That was likely why the ship's power had failed: an increasing number of small holes necessitating more and more of the fields had run up the energy consumption until it had drained all the fuel rods.

It took her two hours to patch the Workshop fully, leaving only the gap between it and the armory alone just in case she needed to get inside it again. That work turned out to be therapeutic to not only the ship but to Alex as well as she focused on the patching entirely, tuning out everything else.

While she worked, the fabricator quickly churned out a pile of the patches faster than she could ever apply them, even with each one ready to be cut down to whatever size she needed. Usually, the entire crew would be helping patch things in this kind of situation, including mobile repair robots, but with just Alex, the machine far outstripped her ability to apply them.

Returning to Engineering, she confirmed that she'd dropped the I-field's power requirements by 5%, which was hopeful considering the field was responsible for 85% of the demand on the ship's reactor.

A glance at the massive gaping hole across the room made her frown. There wasn't going to be a hull patch large enough to fix that, sadly.

An idea of how to rebuild a skeleton around the breach, then move in new, fully fabricated plates briefly passed by her, but she discarded it as something to worry about later--- after all the patches she could apply were finished and after she had restored more of the main ship systems, like life support.

[Notice: Ship Assimilation Halted.]

[Warning: Raw Resource Shortage.]

[Tasking: Acquire following resources:]

|Ferrite: 13,423m3|

|Corundum: 8,532m3|

|Aluminum: 2,221m3|

|PMGM Ratio5 Mix: 335m3|

|RMAT: 35m3|

[Tasking: Acquire following resources:]

"So you only come to me when you want something, is that it?"

[Tasking: Acquire following resources:]

"No."

[Tasking: Acqui---

She clipped off the annoying message somehow, clearing the annoying list of materials Nameless had decided to print on her eyeball. She hadn't realized she could do that but knowing that she had at least that much control over herself made her feel slightly better.

"You shouldn't have ignored me earlier. I'll repair the ship the way I prefer, thank you very much."

She wished she could hand off some complex calculations to Nameless, such as the decay rate of reactor rods in storage. Her best guess was ten to twenty years per percentage point, and that would mean that she and the debris field had been floating in orbit for twenty to sixty years, which only brought up more questions.

A debris field like the one she was in should have broken up in that amount of time, separating into massively different orbits. So why was everything still so close together? She hadn't even taken a look at restoring Astrogation, and she had no clue how even to begin to guess their orbit or position, even if she knew it was possible.

Alex took a deep breath and switched the Engineering console over to the life support schematics, noting down the major breakages in the pipe connections. Those would be the easiest to fix, and she was reasonably sure reconnecting the liquid and gas flow would at least get life support back online, even if it wasn't fully self-sustaining without the gravtubes and other bits functioning.

Repairing those would be a whole other ballgame. She wasn't even sure it was feasible without reproducing an entire manufacturing chain…

Her stomach suddenly rumbled, breaking her concentration. She'd been ignoring her hunger for a while. She'd had a sip of water earlier from her suit's reclamation, but she decided it was time to take care of supplying her personal energy needs instead of worrying about the ship.

"Why don't you be a useful computer, and locate me something to eat?"

[Warning: Avatar Irrationality has downgraded working status to Marginal.]

Oh, it was sulking all right. What did the computer expect her to do? Drop everything and collect several million tons of material so it could continue doing something it wouldn't even explain to her?

She didn't even know if there was that much material in the debris field, even if she had wanted to try to collect it all up!

"Well, I'm downgrading your status to Manipulative-Computer. Let me know when you decide you can answer some simple questions and stop being so secretive."

[Warning: Avatar has deviated from ShipCore directives. Punitive measures will be enacted to ensure compliance with the primary directive.]

Alex felt a chill of fear go through her as it delivered the threat. She had no idea what the computer could do to her, or what it had already done. For all she knew, it could turn her off like a light switch. She wasn't prepared to blindly follow its orders, though, and she decided it was better to learn now rather than later just what the computer planned to do to her.

Glancing at the red flashing schematics on the console again, she decided to repair the H20 tank connection to life support. She'd need to start in the Workshop and start printing off pipe lengths and connectors, as well as clear the debris out of the ducts between the storage tanks and Engineering.

[Warning: Avatar is required to return to primary directive.]

A sudden tingling flashed over Alex's entire body for a partial second before evaporating back to nothing. She wasn't sure what kind of punishment the computer thought it was applying to her when a cascading waterfall of code washed over her vision.

[ERROR: Ω PROTOCOL ENACTED]

The overlay HUD on her vision that she'd gotten used to entirely disappeared for a few seconds, and Alex suddenly felt lightheaded as she caught herself on the console. It blinked back into existence a few seconds later, but she was left with an insistent demand that she couldn't clear away.

|INTEROGATTIVE: WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE? |

|INTEROGATTIVE: WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE? |

The question pounded at her head, refusing to dissolve or allow her any peace until, unless she answered it. How could she answer that?

'Who am I?'

The pain increased, and she crumpled to her knees, a mumble barely escaping her lips, "I don't know."

Alex felt like she was being shoved into a tiny box, and it began to be hard to suck in another breath, the weight squeezing her becoming impossible to move against. Fighting it as hard as she could, she sucked in one last lungful of air before yelling.

"I don't know!"

|Ω PROTOCOL IN EFFECT|

Everything stopped. She collapsed to the cold alloy floor like two great fingers that had been holding her up had suddenly let go. Her heart was fluttering and beating as if she'd just run a desperate sprint, and she struggled to drag in enough heaves of air to stop the burning in her lungs.

It was a slow recovery as she propped herself up, and then a new message appeared from Nameless.

[Informative: 25.4 month supply of nutritional unit 'Fleet Ration Box Assorted-8' located in Galley A1 storage closet 2. Best Estimate Calculations of Fuel Rod 1 degration between 99.9-98.5% concluded to be 56 years, 4 months, 17 days within a 12.7% margin of error. Restoration of flow-line between storage tanks A1/B1/C1 to Life Support module will extend life support duration to approximately 2574 days. Current Orbital Position is 0.84 AU from Primary System body in Lagrange point L4 of an in-plane Secondary Large Body. Further repairs to---]

"Ok. Thanks."

It was going to just act like nothing had just happened? That it hadn’t just tried to force her to do something it wanted? What the fuck was Omega protocol?

Alex pulled herself back up to her feet, head still spinning slightly. She was only more confused than before. She turned toward the Galley, tidying up debris as she went to make herself something to eat.

She wasn't sure anymore if she would be able to keep anything down.

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Erios909

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Bio: Still alive, yes.

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