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Okay. I can deal with this.

The Courageous was designed for a twenty year trip into deep space, with no chance of resupply or any external human contact, and expected to get to its destination with enough systems and supplies to colonise a planet. Settling 65 lightyears away from Earth, it was understood that future communication with Earth would be incredibly unlikely, and any future trade or population drift almost impossible. Once the Courageous launched, it, and the people inside it, was on its own, forever.

So, it has a lot of redundancy. Two copies of every ring, at the absolute minimum. More often, three or four. Five whole chronostasis rings packed with colonists. Each engine designed to make the whole trip by itself if necessary, with triple the fuel requirements needed to do so; if the aft engines weren’t already badly damaged, the ship wouldn’t have needed to wake me to eject CR1 and turn on the fore engines. It would simply have turned the entire ship around and used the aft engines to decelerate.

This is also why the spread of rings throughout the ship appears nonsensical, with chronostasis and storage rings interspersed between engineering, greenhouse, and basic living rings. This is so that if damage occurs at any one part of the ship, it doesn’t destroy all of one type of a ring. Nothing hitting CR1 will also take out CR5 without wiping out most of the ship in between.

I learn all of this from the basic information attached to the map. It’s not important for my immediate mission. I’m just procrastinating. I really, really don’t want to do what I have to do next.

For redundancy, there are three pod launch rings on the ship. These rings are where the transport pods are, designed to take colonists and supplies to the surface of the planet. I had been expecting to wake up and get into one of these to head to a partly established geontal base (the scientists and engineers and soforth probably having been woken up months before), ready to live my new life planetside.

But now I’m here, doing this instead. So. Life is full of surprises I guess.


I’m currently travelling through space extremely fast. (In relation to the galaxy at large, I mean. From my reference frame I… look, I’m not a physicist, okay?) I’m travelling in a long metal tube made of rings, and I needed to move through those rings to get to the front of the ship and turn the engine on to start slowing down. I’m already being slowed down a little by the ‘wind resistance’ of space, just random particles out there that the ship was running into, but space, as even a non-physicist like me knows, is notorious for having vast distances with extremely little matter. If I don’t turn that engine on, we are going to massively overshoot our destination.

I had asked the computer a bit more about the timeline, and learned that it was possible to turn the engine on later, at higher power. The ship should take another five years or so to slow to orbital velocity, so we have a pretty big margin of error, but the engines aren’t designed to work at high capacity for that length of time either, so waiting too long would still be dangerous. Still, I have more time than the flight plan suggests. Days or even weeks more, if I want to get dangerous.

And I have a timeline for my own journey. Around five years to reach our destination, maybe a couple more to compensate for navigation errors (expecting a flight plan calculated from Earth to hit an exoplanet 65 lightyears away without needing any correction would be ridiculous). So… five to seven years, let’s say. In this spaceship.

I can think about that later. For the moment, I have a plan. If you need to get from the middle of a tube to the front of a tube, and the tube is blocked partway, you don’t necessarily need to go through the blockage, or remove it, especially if removing it costs nearly nine hundred lives. You can go around it.

By exiting the tube.

The interstellar medium (all that space dust and stuff hitting the hull) is a serious concern to a ship travelling as close to the speed of light as we are. Because of this, and radiation, and heat dispersal issues that I won’t pretend to understand, the Courageous is shielded. At the front of the ship, where the fore engines and various complicated sensors that might need repair during the trip are, the shielding is bulky, and solid, and built with the expectation that engineers will need to move around out there occasionally. On the sides of the ship, where the only real action expected to take place is the possible ejection of damaged rings, the shield is a weak electrostatic field held up by a light metal grid about two metres away from the surface of the ship.

Well, I say a ‘weak’ field. It’s still strong enough to, for example, completely scramble the instruments of a space suit, if somebody were stupid enough to get out of the ship midway and try to crawl along the hull underneath it.

Anyway, I need to get outside the ship to crawl along the hull underneath the electrostatic shield, which means exiting the ship. And the exits to the ship are in the aforementioned three pod launch rings. Two of them are in my accessible part of the ship, and Pod Launch Ring 1 is right up near the front of the ship, conveniently placed where engineers can get at the sensors and engine. Right next to where I need to be.

PLR3 is in the same position at the back end of the ship, right above the aft engine, and PLR2 is in the dead middle. Meaning I need to exit at PLR2 and crawl up half of the ship.

It’s a long crawl. I have no training whatsoever on working in space, and only minimal safety training on using a civilian transport suit from that year I lived on Luna. And I’d barely left the hub during that time.

This is such a bad idea.

I have the suit. All systems are functional.

– This is a plan with multiple points of failure. –

It’s fine. Am I missing anything?

– You have recently woken from stasis and require medical assessment. –

I look down at my slightly trembling hands. It’s probably just fear and anticipation about the incredibly stupid thing I’m about to do, but the computer is right. There are all kinds of problems that can result from chronostasis, and I should know what condition my body is in before forcing it to do anything dangerous. I mean, I can still smell the rot in my sinuses, so. That alone is probably something I should check out.

That’s not procrastinating. That’s being sensible.

I’ve been through health checkups before, so most of the more basic diagnostic equipment in the medbay is familiar at least in passing. None of it is designed to be run by the patient, but the computer system has access to everything and should be able to run the scans. The IV ports from chronostasis are still in my body, which means I won’t have to actually stab myself with anything; under the computer’s direction and with the help of a couple of video tutorials, I flush the ports and draw blood for the machines. Three tubes, two with different dyes, each into a different scanning machine; it’s all very straightforward.

The body scans require radioactive tracers. I take four bottles from the freezer and, while I’m waiting for them to thaw, decide to do a dental scan, because why not? I slather the gel on, chomp my teeth into a special rubber bit, and have the computer X-ray my face.

No problems. Well, that’s anticlimactic.

When the tracers reach room temperature, I inject two and drink two, under the computer’s direction. Each contains a different tracer and each is tagged to a chemical that should gather in a different type of body tissue. Generally, these scans should be done one at a time, to minimise interference from other radioactive sources (they’re all going to interfere a little with each other like this), but it takes one hour for them to be absorbed and I’m not sitting around for four hours for routine medical scans. I had a full physical before going into chronostasis; I’m only looking for damage that the stasis may have caused.

I remove the IV ports from my body and run the other miscellaneous tests – blood pressure, breathing, eye tests, et cetera – while I’m waiting to properly integrate the tracers. Blood pressure is a little low (a normal post-chronostasis condition) but everything else comes up fine. Under the computer’s direction, I find and drink a complete nutrient broth designed for recent chronostasis patients; it doesn’t taste great but I don’t care. (Technically, I haven’t eaten in about fifteen years.)

Finally, it’s time to lie in the scanner. Perfectly still. For fifteen minutes.

The scanner is just a big metal tube with a gurney thing in it to lie on. It’s probably comfortable enough under normal circumstances, but my back is littered with tiny bruises and bedsores from chronostasis, so staying still while the gurney retracts and the tube lights up around me and makes horrible noises is a bit more of a chore than it should be.

“Right,” I mutter as I am released from my claustrophobic noise prison, “let’s see what we have.”

We have… a lot of data, which I have neither the context nor the training to understand. I look through the images; all of my bones are in the right place and there sure is blood in my veins. Yay. I pause at one image, showing a network of sharp white lines spreading throughout my body, originating from my neck and fanning down my torso and through my limbs. One might think it’s an image of my nervous system, except that most of the brain is clear and the lines don’t follow my spine.

I rub the small port at the base of my skull, where the cerebral stimulator had been attached during chronostasis. The graph I’m looking at shows the stimulator’s internal component, a series of synnerves grown by the computer during stasis. Their main job was to stimulate the mind during stasis so that we didn’t all wake up with brain damage, but they also had residual benefits in biomonitoring and providing some basic physical movement to alleviate minor immobility damage.

When I’d chosen to board a javelin, I’d known that these would be implanted in me. The process had been explained quite thoroughly.

I just hadn’t expected them to be quite so extensive.

I stare at the graph, noting how some of the synnerves have grown halfway down my arms and legs. One has reached the middle of my right hand. I rub the hand, seeing if I can feel it, but of course I can’t. The synthetic material, originally designed to permanently replace damaged nerves, is pliable and extremely thin. I have no more chance of feeling it than I do of feeling my own nerves. The only detectable evidence of this system in my body is the cerebral stimulator port in my neck.

And now that I’m detached, these synnerves don’t do anything. I don’t need to think about them any more. I don’t need to look at the graph any more.

I move on, try to make sense of the data, and give up almost immediately.

Summarise the medical assessment results, I tell the computer.

I stare at a smaller but equally incomprehensible amount of text for a second. Okay, let’s try being more direct.

What physical damage and risks did the medical assessment find?

– Multiple minor contusions and bruises were discovered: dressing large wounds and taking painkillers at patient discretion recommended. You are at a temporary slightly increased risk of blood clotting: no medical intervention recommended, continued monitoring recommended. You have some minor muscular atrophy: physiotherapy recommended. No current infections detected: continued monitoring recommended. Summary: very mild, temporary damage sustained from prolonged chronostasis, mostly self-correcting. Would you like me to design you a physiotherapy schedule, captain? –

Yes. I got off pretty lightly, huh?

– Please clarify the question. –

I mean, there are quite a few risks to chronostasis. I expected to come out in worse shape. I’m very lucky to suffer so little damage.

– Your DNA tests show you to be a homozygous carrier of the DIVR-32 geneset, known to confer a slight resistance to the negative effects of chronostasis. –

That geneset also makes me allergic to citrus, so pluses and minuses there I suppose.

Lucky I carry that geneset then.

– From your perspective, that is true. –

I swallow. I ask a question I already know the answer to, but I was so lucky the first time…

If I were to undergo chronostasis again, what would be the chances of a second successful revival?

– Please standby while I calculate. –

Huh, that’s new. It must be a question that requires serious data crunching. The process takes nearly a whole minute.

– Chances of successful revival from a second period of chronostasis for Captain Aspen Greaves are 11%. –

I will my heart not to sink. I knew the answer would be something like that – I had expected it to be quite a lot lower, actually. The chance of revival from chronostasis for a healthy adult is around ninety nine point eight per cent (although further complications are common), if it’s their first time under. The chance of revival from a second period is around five per cent, and the chances for further periods are negligible. Eleven per cent is actually really high.

It’s still too low for me to want to go back under, of course. Far too low. Now that I’m up, I’m up. I’m going to be on this ship, awake, until the end of its journey, years from now.

This isn’t new information. I already knew this. I shouldn’t be on the edge of tears, staring at that number.

What did you mean about me being lucky from my perspective?

– All probability calculations are a matter of perspective and information availability. From your perspective, you are very lucky. –

As opposed to what other perspective?

– I had several candidates available for revival. You were one of the least damaged and most likely to revive with few complications. This was one of many factors considered when making the decision. –

Yeah, that… sure is a topic I’m pretty confused about. Why was I awake? The chance that enough people had died to reach me on any of the crew replacement lists is low (although possible, I suppose – I still don’t know how the crew died). Even more confusing, why am I alone? Why not revive a whole crew, and why does the greenery suggest that the ship has been unmaintained for so long? And what does the computer mean, ‘making a decision’? There’s a list, right? A list of priority names for each crew position. No decisions to be made.

At least, that’s how it had been explained to me. But it’s possible that the process was more complicated, and there had just been no reason to get into details when explaining things to colonists.

I could clear all that up later with the computer, but I don’t want any unnecessary new revelations cluttering my mind right now. I need focus. I have a job to do. A stupid, dangerous, necessary job to do.

I could so, so easily die doing this.

As I leave the medbay, I glance at the locked airlock leading to Chronostasis Ring 1. I could eject that ring, and not have to go outside. I could save myself this stupidly dangerous mission, which could very easily kill me, and all I’d have to do was give the computer one command. A command to doom 879 people to dying in the depths of space.

I think, for a moment, about waking up in Chronostasis Ring 2. About that moment of panic when I’d wondered if, just maybe, my ring had been ejected from the ship, and my relief when the airlock had opened.

And I go to pick up my space suit.

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9 thoughts on “003: ASSESSMENT

  1. Computer is sus I like it, I want to pet and and say it did a good job.

    Same for Aspen btw, they are doing great for someone in their situation, and I’m really happy that after Kayden you decided that your new MC would actually read the basic stuff needed to read.

    “That’s not procrastinating. That’s being sensible.”
    – My new motto!

    “Finally, it’s time to lie in the scanner. Perfectly still. For fifteen minutes”
    – the “perfectly still” part was already bad before I knew it makes noises, this machine is a nightmare

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I knew it was like, a claustrophobic closed machine, and I knew I would have to be quiet it is bad but bearable, but noise? Does it make noises? Can I wear a noise canceling headphones while in it?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds like this except at the volume of a jackhammer (very close to your head) and you can’t bring in anything electronic because the magnets will tear them apart and possibly try to drive the pieces through your body.


  2. Oh joy of joys, we’ve confirmed that the computer is allowed to make independent decisions based on cold statistics and math. It hasn’t yet shown a capacity to countermand an order, but the fact that it has sass too? Did nobody on Earth watch 2001?

    PAL-10000 aside, at least it got Aspen to get a medical check, though I can’t say that’s the dental plan I was imagining. Derin protagonists are worryingly prone to damage, but at least this one was smart enough to get a baseline before the injuries roll in.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This AI seems 100% trustworthy and I’m sure it had nothing to do with the disappearance of the crew and everything is totally fine and Aspen is in no danger at all.


  4. Woo! We have at least a partial reson for why Aspen specificly was woken up! Poor guy though, cant eat lemons 😦 I like the AI! Might be mildly more sentient then anticipated, but they havnt seemed malicious so far!


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