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USD: ~Four weeks after awakening

Location: Unknown Yellow Dwarf, L4 Lagrange Point


 

It had taken almost 48 hours to repair the storage tanks. Both days had simply blended, one into the other as Alex focused on the work of directing the only two working drones remaining on the ship. She'd taken to formally naming the cargo bots 'Beeper' and 'Booper' at some point by painting the names on their chassis while taking a break to eat a heated pouch of macaroni and chili.

She hadn't had a lack of meal options with all the plastic crates full of entire menus of the ready-to-eat rations, but something had steered her away from the veggie options and the Chicken a la King. A small pile of those had begun to form while she had determined her absolute favorite was the sausage with real syrup. She had no idea what 'real' syrup was, but in her opinion, it went well with the sausage. The crackers, cheese, and trail mix weren't half bad either.

Not that she had anyone to share her opinion on the food with.

A debris shower had moved in, limiting her to the ship's interior, and she'd spent several hours collecting trashed components inside the ship to feed the recyclers while keeping the fabricators producing basic spare parts to replace the broken bits she collected.

When she almost accidentally fed the fabricator a plastic blank when it was asking for a steel one, she realized she'd pressed herself beyond what was safe. If she'd filled the machine with plastic when it was asking for steel…

She shuddered; the picture of having to spend an entire day cleaning out the machine and then doing a software reset was almost as scary as having to clean the sludge filters in the life support module.

The little clock ticking on the inside of her eyeball indicated that for once, her day and the actual 'day' were coming to an end nearly at the same time. There hadn't been any need to keep a ship's clock since there wasn't anyone else to keep watch.

The Shrike's berths had been relatively unscathed, being at the very center of the ship. The bunkrooms had been turned into a mess of laundry that had the appearance of having escaped an out-of-control old-fashioned spin dryer.

The NCO and officer berths weren't quite as bad, but she'd only inspected them to appraise for damage, not because she'd considered staying in one. The captain's berth wasn't in bad shape at all, and she had taken the time to tidy it up. She wasn't sure of why she dressed the bed and righted everything that had gone askew. It left the captain's quarters as the single compartment in the entire ship that looked pristine as if nothing had ever happened. Alex didn't choose to sleep in it, though.

Instead, she'd made her nest in the only other singular berth on the ship, the Quartermaster's small bunkroom attached to the galley. It was half the size of the officer's quarters, but the small space felt comforting to her. She gave no consideration to just how undisciplined it might have looked as she filled the room with an overabundance of pillows and blankets, specifically raiding just about everything made of the soft satin material she was fond of.

With the rooms directly attached to the galley, she had easy access for preparing all her meals and was only a few steps away from the rec room and mess area. It wasn't a surprise that she had focused on cleaning those areas out first, and over the last month, it had more and more resembled a live-in apartment than a ship's common area. Things she thought might be important, equipment, and emergency supplies she'd been collecting had all formed into neat piles of boxes along the walls. She'd re-arranged the rec-room's furniture to make the 'entertainment' center more centralized while shoving all the other furniture in one corner.

Not that she had bothered to watch any holo-vids. Rather most of her time on the couch was either spent utilizing the big screen to study schematics of the ship or on the research of relevant topics. The large glass window in the room was fake, but it was a convincing display that let one see outside the ship. She'd swapped the video feed to one that showed the largest missing section of the outer hull.

That was the other thing she did in the rec-room; for some reason falling asleep while watching the stars on the screen made her feel better.

That was what she had ended up doing, watching the debris shower break up on the D-field. The ripples on the blue energy reminded her of rain on water. Not that she could call up the specific memory, but the hazy picture of watching as rain poured onto a lake with someone still came to her anyway.

The computer still wouldn't offer any answers about her past, about the computer's origin, or what had happened to her. They'd settled into the routine of repairing and trying to restore the ship—wreckage really, into a functioning, living machine. She hadn't dared bring up anything else, the worry that it would attack her again always in the back of her mind.

While it could read her thoughts, that was only when she purposefully tried to communicate with it, there had been no indication that it could read her inner or surface thoughts. But it was still purposefully ignoring her questions and choosing not to answer them, so what could she do? The idea of having her thoughts being searched and read constantly was oppressive—a trap set in her own mind. She’d have to operate under the assumption that it wasn’t omnipresent, or she’d go crazy.

There were weapons all over the ship, including a store of unspent missile warheads. It wouldn't be incredibly difficult to haul one to the white room, then detonate it. She doubted the computer, or the ship for that matter, would survive that. Doubtful she would, either.


 

||| FUEL RODS NOMINAL |||

||| R1: 52.5 | R2: 0 | R3:0 |||

She'd been delayed from retrieving the gunship's fuel rods repeatedly. The Shrike was in better shape because of it, but as each new reason for not getting on with retrieval surfaced, Alex had become more and more frustrated.

[Concurrence: Further delays to reactor fuel rod could increase risks to current progress.]

[Recommendation: Retrieve fuel rods and other high-priority salvage from gunship before proceeding stabilization efforts on SHKII-H#2.]

Agreeing with Nameless irked her for no reason, and she even considered finding something else to do for the day before discarding that as petty. The way the gunship had embedded itself into the Shrike's outer hull was only semi-stable, and the perforation prevented that area from being protected by the D-field.

Not that it had mattered too much, the debris showers generally impacted the larger Shrike first, unless the smaller ship just so happened to be in a direct path of the debris. Damage was building up on the smaller ship, and she had noticed a few more scars marring its hull the few times she had visually inspected it, but it was nothing that major to worry about, at least not on the time scale she was dealing with now.

That had been bothering her. The gunship should have lost power long before the Shrike had, and yet it had been in much better shape and condition. Nameless had estimated the fuel rod age as over 56 years, and she'd then concluded that was how long she'd been in cryostasis. She'd have to rethink that.

Later.

"Wake Beeper and Booper up. We're going shopping."

[Confirmation: Sending activation signal to Drone #3132 and Drone #3133. Uploading pathfinding parameters.]

She'd already made access to the gunship easier by cutting a large gap in the hull sitting inside the Shrike. From there, it was a short microgravity flight to the smaller ship's innards. The space between the smaller ship's inner and outer hulls was much smaller than the corvette had, so once through the gap, Alex had to cut her speed and take a bit more care with her flight path.

Just how the gunship arrived in the system was another question. The Hound was just about the largest ship class that could still act as a parasite, but only for fleet carriers or a specialized battleship. She had checked the ship's database entry and confirmed that it didn't have any FTL capability itself, so being caught in a debris field in the orbit of what Alex had presumed to be a nearly empty dead system was odd, to say the least.

The atmosphere in the ship had already been vented in her mad escape with the first fuel rod. She'd used one of the main airlocks on the outer hull back then, so there was no retrieving all the trash that had blown out with the atmosphere. That wasn't much of a loss in her opinion; she had plenty of junk lying around the Shrike.

It did, unfortunately, mean that the inner ship airlocks had all thrown fits. They weren't used as often as the outer locks. They were mainly for maintenance or inspection of the space between the hulls. The Hound was so small it only had two.

There was a debris shower coming in a few hours, and she wanted to create an ingress and egress point that was on the inside rather than the outside; that way, she'd be able to keep hauling stuff from the Hound to the Shrike without having to wait for a storm to clear.

"Nameless, can you do something about this? The lock isn't accepting my override."

[Notice: Physical Safety Overrides from depressurization incident are preventing digital operation.]

[Recommendation: Begin Physical Dismantling of Obstacle.]

"Oh gee. Alright."

She had brought the laser cutter. She had intended to decouple the ship's fresh water and oxygen tanks and then have Booper carry them back to the Shrike. While she had repaired the larger ship's tanks, they were still relatively low on contents no matter what Nameless claimed about having a sustainable supply.

Tapping on the side of her helmet, ShipNet activated, and she called Booper herself.

"Booper, I need a battpack for the cutter. Bring me one from storage."

"Boop-Beep."

The drones were standard navy cargo bots, which meant they weren't completely dumb and more than capable of following her direction. She'd started relying on that more and more instead of having Nameless work as the go-between. Having the more advanced and sapient AI give the orders wasn't bad when there was a need for more complex tasks, but…

She didn't want to rely on the stupid thing more than she had to. It hadn't pestered her about bringing feedstock and resources to its white room in a while, but until it decided to answer all her questions, she was going to trust it as little as possible.

Alex pulled off the laser cutter on her chest rig and attached the power cord. Her skinsuit had enough power to run the thing for a while, so there wasn't any reason to wait for Booper to arrive. Twisting the laser head, she set the beam attenuation length to several inches then visualized her cut. It was probably going to be messy, but she decided to just cut around the entire door, right through the ship plating.

The question was, what was she going to do with an entire intact airlock assembly? Recycling it seemed like it would be a waste.

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Erios909

  • West Virginia, USA
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Bio: Still alive, yes.

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