USD: ~Three weeks after awakening
Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf, L4 Lagrange Point
“Integrity Check – Plate 36, Junction B.”
[Notice: Plate 36, Junction B, Analysis: Weld Quality Marginal, Integrity Check Nominal.]
Alex hissed at the comment on the quality of her work but looked at the junction point again herself. It was true that the weld wasn’t going to win any medals for aesthetics. She was fairly certain that it’d hold together well enough, though.
It really wasn’t her fault, she’d had to salvage and jury rig a comm antenna and turn it into a makeshift laser welder when a search of the ship had turned up nadda.
“You try using this thing, it ain’t easy.”
[Notice: No judgement was ascribed to Avatar ability. Any ascription of such is further evidence of Avatar irrationality.]
“Haha, very funny. What’s the window for the next debris shower? Is there time to put up another plate?”
[Warning: Next Debris Shower ETA: 6:56. A small burst of debris will envelope the area 0:55 prior to main shower arrival. Shower Duration: 16 hours, 36 minutes. Average time for plate placement and welding: 16:56.]
[Recommendation: Return to Inner Ship Immediately.]
“Right. Time to pack it up.”
There had been no further attempts by the AI to coerce her into doing what it wanted, only a continued stream of helpful or not so helpful notices and warnings. She had decided to leave it like that for now.
Alex attached the bulky box of the makeshift welder to her front and slotted the laser head into its slot, before shooting off to the side to come around to the inside of the plate.
The bare metal had a chrome shine to it instead of the matte black of the rest of the hull, but the advanced matte alloy was in short supply, and worse: hard to work with in the field.
Steel on the other hand, was everywhere in large amounts.
A yellow box with long arms and magnet feet was attached to the back of the plate and she flared some breaking thrust to curve her around to it. A heavy thump with the bottom of her fist on the box caused it to release the plate that was now welded to the outer hull and beep in confusion.
“Wake up, beeper. Back to base.”
The lights on the drone lit up at the command, and a trill of electronic noises played on Alex’s ears before the cargobot gyroed itself into a proper orientation then lit off its small thruster.
She might have been alone, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t automate and take advantage of robotics to help her with her mission to fix the Shrike wherever she could.
Rather than follow the bot right away she spun back around to look at her handiwork. Where once gaping holes had been a rough skeleton had started to take shape around the gashes. Ribbing had already been welded into place, and now she was in the process of plating those ribs to give them extra strength.
The missing front third of the Shrike’s hull was still a massive problem, but she had a plan to fix that, too. It just couldn’t be tried until she was confident in firing the ship’s main maneuvering thrusters to change locations to another section of the debris cloud where she’d located some choice ship wreckage.
The whole debris cloud was much, much larger than she had first envisioned. They were located in the L4 Lagrange point of a massive gas giant orbiting a distant yellow star. That point had at some point captured the debris field and kept it orbiting a relatively small area, at least in stellar terms.
The locale of the Shrike was a dense pocket, with multiple smaller ship shells hurling themselves in a kidney bean shaped orbit together. There were a few larger ships that were in a similar orbit a few hundred thousand kilometers away. The biggest issue was the cloud of tiny mico-debris that formed miniature clouds of deadly shrapnel that plowed through the entire area at irregular intervals.
Thankfully Nameless was able to act as a sort of quasi-space weatherman and predict the worst parts of those debris storms, but it meant long periods where only internal work was possible. It also threatened to do further damage to the ship.
Except they’d figured out a solution by repairing and utilizing the ship’s D-Field.
Normally the D-Field operated only on the ship’s bow, and deflected anything traveling at a sufficiently high speed safely away from the ship. Without it ships moving at fractional light speeds would impale, or worse, explode themselves on something as small as space dust.
She’d had no idea how the D-field was going to help, but Nameless was insistent it could modify the system to protect the ship. Despite her misgivings, she’d made the repairs needed to restore the D-field module to operational status.
The result was effectively a massive I-Field that covered the entire ship. It had some major limitations though. First, it couldn’t be used while under acceleration. That wasn’t a problem at the moment, but it meant if they wanted to move anywhere, relying on the field to protect them instead of an outer hull was a big fat NOPE.
Second, it burned the ship’s power at an alarming rate. She’d been forced to fabricate new ship capacitors to store and supply the energy needed because the draw was higher than the single ship reactor could supply without redlining. That meant running the reactor at maximum power long after the field shut down to recharge the capacitors, which was terrible on fuel consumption.
She spun and cut away toward Engineering, not wanting to bother with the motions or delay of cycling an airlock. Halfway back she punched a short query.
[Informative: Displaying Fuel Status.]
||| FUEL RODS NOMINAL |||
||| R1: 59.3 | R2: 0 | R3:0 |||
It hadn’t even been a month, and the hungry D-field had burned through nearly forty percent of a fuel rod even when only used during the debris storms.
The other ship wasn’t exactly included in the safety of the D-field, but Alex decided it was time to collect the other reactor rods. She’d been on the smaller Gunship multiple times to strip needed parts or supplies. So she was well aware of just how hopelessly lodged in the Shrike’s side the Gunship was.
Alex was fairly certain the only way she was going to dislodge the ship was via explosives and then another painstaking patch job of the hull it had entangled itself in. Such thoughts were premature though, because even if the ship was smaller, stripping parts from it was much easier since she didn’t need to worry about putting its systems offline completely like she did for the Shrike.
It was time to facilitate moving things between the ships. That meant getting to try out a tool that she hadn’t had the chance to use much yet.
Alex flared her flight suit’s braking jets just as she crossed over through Engineering’s I-field. A-Grav pulled on her immediately and she landed feet first on the new landing pad she’d welded right up to the breach. The steel sagged and bounced slightly under her sudden weight, but it wasn’t enough to throw her off balance. She’d have to mate the end of the new floor to the skin via weld eventually, but for now the new ingress and egress point was working fine.
“What’s the priority list?”
[Notice: The current activities are awaiting user intervention:]
| Life Support Sludge Filter Replacement |
| Fabricator Feedstock Hopper is Empty |
| Flow Line 36 has become disconnected. |
“I fixed that already, what dislodged it?”
| Recycler 1-4 and Smelter 1 are idle. |
| Hydroponics Bay is reporting flow interruptions. |
Alex frowned, she had converted two crew bunkrooms into a makeshift plant room, just to start the process of growing her own food, but she’d used two flow-lines for the needed water. The plants would die pretty quickly if their nutrient rich base dried up, so the redundancy was pretty standard.
There was no reason for flow interruptions unless…
| Life Support Module - insufficient resources. |
“Stop. What’s our tank levels?”
The resource manifest popped up and Alex felt like someone had punched her in the gut.
|Tank – H20 – 0%|
|Tank – O2 – 3%|
Alex had taken the time to familiarize herself with the life-support system. It was a two-stage process that first ran air through filters to absorb CO2, then a second process reduced the resulting pure CO2 into carbon and oxygen, which then could be used for further processes.
There were a whole slew of different selections of byproduct that the Life Support module could produce, including water, which was what was currently selected.
And it was empty.
“Nameless, is there a breach or leak in the main storage tanks?”
[Notice: Monitoring of Primary Storage Tanks A-H is currently offline.]
“Why didn’t you tell me something was going on!”
[Notice: While Life Support is operating at reduced efficiency, Auxiliary life support is now capable of providing 178% of the requirement for Avatar function. Loss is deemed non-crit---
“We lost all our water and most of our oxygen! The plants are going to die! Don’t you dare tell me that’s non-critical!”
[Notice: Updating User Preference for Resource Loss Events.]
The storage tanks were located in a belt within the cavity between the inner and outer ship hulls. That was by necessity, they were much too bulky to be protected by the inner ship’s I-field. They did have impressive self-repair capabilities, sealing most punctures or ruptures on their own.
Alex needed to perform a visual inspection of the tanks she realized. She kicked herself back out of Engineering and burst into a trajectory to the opposite side of the ship, the evidence of something having gone majorly wrong quickly becoming apparent.
A cloud of gas was faintly visible in the space between the two ship hulls, but it was quickly dissipating into the vacuum. Much more visible were the millions of tiny crystals of frozen, crystalized water glittering in the dark.
Alex brought herself to a stop. The scene was almost beautiful in way, the sparkles swirling in a pattern that was impossible to fathom. It was the massive gaping rupture in the side of the primary storage tank that ruined it.
[Theoretical: Tank Integrity failed as tank storage volume increased due to numerous damage points.]
“So the tank was already damaged, but still working because it was nearly empty already, and cracked as we filled it up?”
[Affirmative: This is the most likely course of events as no damage incidents have been detected inside the outer hull after D-field usage has commenced.]
“Can we reroute H20 and O2 flow to any smaller, empty tanks?”
[Affirmative: Rerouting specified resources to empty tank F-J.]
[Notice: Capacity of Tanks is severely limited.]
|H20 Capacity 1,000,000L -> 200L|
|O2 Capacity 550,000L -> 550L|
“That’s nothing! I could use more in a single shower than that! It’s barely enough oxygen for a day!”
[Recommendation: Fabricate or repair storage tanks to increase capacity.]
Two steps forward, one step back. Alex took a deep breath and managed not to scream in frustration.
“Analysis for the ruptured tanks. Reset the fabricator to work on what we need to reseal them. Give me a list of feedstocks needed.”