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I can’t get back up to block the pipes until I’m in better physical shape, but I can change all the air filters again so I’m not breathing mould and coolant while I wait to heal. I trudge (as well as one can trudge while favouring a sprained ankle) to Storage Ring 3 to retrieve some new filters.

They’re not there.


The contents of this ship were very well inventoried before launch, and the AI knows exactly where everything was stored. Sure, the crews have used some stuff without logging it, or moved some boxes to get to other boxes, but the spot where the filters go should have filters there. There’s no reason to move boxes of filters, and certainly no reason not to put them back. It’s not a big issue; I have access to three other storage rings and I know for a fact that SR 4 has some air filters (that’s where I’d gotten them from last time), but why are they missing from here? Have they all been used up? Maybe – it’s a long journey. But we were supplied with a lot of air filters. It’s unlikely that the crews before me changed them as often as I was; if the coolant leak had been this much of a problem while the second crew were still around, they would have repaired it themselves.

Well, whatever. I should have plenty. If I start waking the first crew up again in about five years to get us into orbit and do all the landing stuff, that gives me… hmm, mental maths isn’t my strong suit… 1750ish days where this is my problem. Well, okay, I rounded and got a low estimate. Plus the fifteen… 1825ish days. Plus one for the leap year.

That number feels wrong. Really wrong. Not sure why, it just… does. Maybe I did the maths wrong.

I go to grab some filters from the next storage ring, realise that the fairly light, manageable filters may as well be giant lead bricks to someone as injured as I am, and give up. I really shouldn’t be walking around so much on this ankle. I’m going to regret that when the drugs wear off. It’s weird, to be in a situation where a few broken bones count as a serious injury. Quite pathetic, really. Well, this is what I get for refusing to administer my own bone cement. Physical healing over weeks, like a fucking neanderthal.

I grab as many protein bars as it doesn’t hurt to carry and go back to the medbay. There are a couple of beds in there, and the usual amenities for a long-term patient, so I figure I’ll just confine myself to the medbay until I’m mobile again. Or until I get bored. Whichever comes first. I could go back to my own room, but there’s a chance I’ll need more medical care. Anyway, the rooms don’t have computer terminals in them, and the medbay does.

What’s 365×5?

– 1,825 –

Hmm. No. That still looks really wrong. Five years was a quarter of the length of the trip. Less than two thousand days seems like a really low number of days for that. But the calculation is right, right? I can’t possibly have fucked up how to calculate years.

Human minds are bad at big numbers. Maybe the 1,000 just looks small to me because numbers like that always do? No, that’s not it. I’ve just been kind of assuming that a quarter of the journey is longer than that, that…

Hmm. Wait a second.

On what day of the journey did I come out of chronostasis?

– Captain Aspen Greaves was successfully revived from chronostasis on Day 12770. –

Okay, I’m not great at maths. But three quarters of the journey being nearly thirteen thousand days? And one quarter being less than two thousand?

What’s 12770/365?

– 34.986 –

I take a sharp breath, causing the pain in my ribs to spike sharply even through the painkillers. Thirty five years. I was in chronostasis for thirty five years.

We’re thirty five years into a twenty year journey. That didn’t… what? How? What went wrong? Some navigation problem? Sabotage?

Taproot and stars, I’m lost in space. I’m lost in space. You can’t make navigation errors of this magnitude on journeys like this. This isn’t like taking a maglev to the wrong city; stars are lightyears apart, and the vast majority of them don’t have any remotely habitable planets. If we’re off course, and we’re definitely off course… we’re dead. What am I supposed to do about this?! The AI doesn’t have access to most of the navigation equipment! That’s up front of the ship! The ship is symmetrical; there’s probably a similar suite at the back, will it work facing backwards? It should, right? But I don’t know how to use it, I don’t know how to do anything, I don’t…

I just sit and panic for a while, until I run out of energy. Okay. This is really, really bad, but not panic-worthy. I mean, it’s definitely panic-worthy. But panic won’t help. It’s not like this is an issue that needs to be solved right now. It’s an issue that needed to be solved decades ago. A few days here or there will make no difference, at this point.

Okay. What do I know? Well, the AI woke me to turn the aft engines on, so it still has a course. It may not have access to all of the equipment to confirm the course, but it has one, and it’s not ‘surprised’ that it took this long.

Leilea had a homemade calendar in their room, counting down to the engine cutoff date. They also knew that we were on a course. And they were, presumably, perfectly aware of just how long the crew had been awake. So, this was all according to somebody’s plan. We’re not plunging off into the fast open vacuum of space; we’re headed somewhere. We are definitely headed somewhere.

Just not where I thought we were. For some reason.

We’re headed to a mysterious unknown location on a journey twice as long as I’d been promised it would be. With a ship full of static convicts. In a ship broken by a captain who woke up one morning and decided to pull off some kind of, of takeover or mutiny prevention or sabotage or something.

All of these sound, in isolation, extremely sinister. I cannot for the life of me see how they fit together. Why lie to us about where the ship is going? Did the Powers That Be think people would be queuing up for a twenty year shipment to a planet far from anything they’d ever known, but balk at a forty year one? Why send a bunch of convicts, who were presumably a very valuable resource back on Earth where they were, on a journey that people are clamouring to go on? And what was the deal with the axe-wielding captain? I need information.

Did any of the second crew keep journals or logs in the computer?

– I have private logs for several crew members stored. I am not at liberty to be more specific than this with people who do not have clearance to read them. –

I’m the captain and the ship psychologist.

– That is correct! –

Do I have any clearance or overrides to access them?

– No. To access private crew member logs, you will need the permission of the crew member. –

They’re dead!

– Then you will not be able to obtain permission to read private logs. –

Sassy little rootrot. Maybe knowing what was going through the captain’s head would help.

Did the previous ship psychologist keep digital records of her patient data?

– Doctor Kinoshita Keiko did not keep digital records. –

A psychologist couldn’t keep no records. She must have handwritten them. I’ll have to search her room once I’m in better shape. I know where it is; it’s a few doors down from mine.

Of course, any relevant records are probably in the front half of the ship, in her old room from before Reimann’s episode. But maybe she treated him after the incident too, before he died. I’ll give my ankle a few days, and then go and find out.

Or just ask.

Where is the Courageous headed?

– The destination of the Courageous is planet c of the HD 217017 system, designated ‘Hylara’. –

That was where we’d been told we were going. So they just lied to us about the length of the journey. Again, why?

Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe our new mysterious destination that took twice as long to reach had been renamed in the computer’s systems, given the old destination’s name to… trick people? But that seemed like a kind of complicated and unnecessary thing to do, and didn’t really answer anything. Also the crew had to know about the longer journey. They were living through it. And they were the only ones who were in a position to ask the computer. So what’s the point of – ?

The computer dings at me. I glance up.

– Species identification of microbial colonies complete. Please note that data on community population ratios and variation is unreliable, due to the small sample size and unavoidable replication inequalities in standard PCR. –

– Colonies on the part of the filter sampled are estimated to be (approximately) 72% fungal, 16% bacterial, 9% protozoan, 3% unidentified. One serious bacterial pathogen and three serious fungal pathogens have been identified. Status of air system cleansing and coolant line repair tasks have been upgraded to ‘critical’. Would you like further information on the identified pathogens, captain? –

Oh, that was… that was not great news. That was really not great news. I glanced down again at my broken arm. There was simply no way that I could manage to get back up and complete sealing off the vent, not in this state.

Do you know specifically where the damage to the cooling lines is? Is it reachable from the ground?

– The damage is in the primary access line next to the air and coolant pumps in the fore of the ship. This system is in Engine Ring 1. The system is in the ceiling, but accessible via a built-in elevating platform. –

Waaaay up the front of the ship. Engine Ring 1 houses the back of the fore engine, including fuel and stuff. I could easily use an elevating platform in my current condition, no problem; I could get up, walk to the front of the ship, let the platform lift me up, and solve the problem. Then I could take out all the air filters, flush out the whole system with the ship’s cleaning mechanisms, and put new filters in. Problem solved forever. I’d be slow at it, it’d be painful, but it’s well within my capabilities.

If Chronostasis Ring 1, with its locked airlocks, wasn’t in the way. The computer system, which is surely more capable of these kinds of decisions than I am, thinks I should eject that ring. And I do need to fix the air system. It’s a critical task, and I can’t do it in my current condition.

I can’t do it alone in my current condition. There’s the other option. The one that doesn’t involve ejecting over eight hundred living people into space.

Discounting those in CR1, list the two hundred colonists in chronostasis who have the highest chance of surviving revival.

I need a crew.

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2 thoughts on “014: COURSE

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