019: PLAN

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“I have plan for Chronostasis Ring 1,” Denish announces, apropos of nothing. The three new crewmates have been awake for less than twenty four hours, and while the doctor doesn’t want them to move too far (‘sudden respiratory or heart failure are possible side effects for high-risk post-chronostasis cases, they shouldn’t be alone,’) it has noted that exercise and general moving about are important to recovery, so we’re all gathered in Recreation and Medical Ring 2, within sight of the medbay. Denish chews the back of his pencil and frowns at his sketch-covered notebook while we all gather round.

“A plan?” I prompt.

He nods. “Chronostasis Ring 1 is problem. Locked doors, here, here; prevent movement to front of ship. Worse, broken… computer wires, AI cannot see front of ship. AI cannot see navigation or engines. This is bad. Ejecting ring solve problem, but kill 877 colonists. This is correct?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much the situation.”

“But we need front of ship. Colonists dying anyway, if they stay asleep. Access to front means forty two bedrooms, more storage, can get to coolant systems and repair coolant and air systems. If we want to wake maximum colonists, we need front of ship.”

“You think we should eject CR1 because it’ll help us save more people in the long term,” Tinera says.

He shakes his head. “No. We get into Chronostasis Ring 1. We wake colonists. Then we eject ring, have full systems to support colonists. See?”

“We definitely don’t have the ability to support nearly nine hundred revived colonists,” Adin points out.

“We don’t need to,” I say. “Because most of them are going to die.”

“Yes! Captain is right. I check computer; 862 of these are in ten per cent survival range. 13 are in fifty per cent range, 2 in ninety per cent range. So we expect less than one hundred revived colonists, probably.”

“That’s still a lot of colonists,” Adin says.

“I’m sorry,” I say, “how many of our low viability group are in there?”

“862 in CR1,” the doctor chimes in, “and 244 in CR5. It’s definitely an environmental effect.”

I chew my lip. “We do need access to the front of the ship to have the greatest capacity possible,” I agree. “So if we’re waking people, it might as well be from CR1, in the hopes that we can empty and eject it. But this doesn’t solve the actual problem, which is that we can’t access the people in CR1. All the airlocks are locked; we can’t get in.”

“Oh, I have solution,” Denish says.

“Do tell.”

“You will not like.”

“It’ll fit in just perfect with everything else that’s happened since I woke up, then.”

“I look at ship, it is built like this.” Denish flips to a blank page in his sketchbook and starts to draw. “Many rings, make long donut. Long tube. Tube spin, floor is sides of tube. Can eject any broken ring and have rings on either side join up again, except engine rings on the ends, which are critical. Yes?”


“Right, so. Airlocks between rings, how are attached?” He starts drawing another diagram. “Each ring has four airlocks attached to back of ring. They attach to airlock port in next ring. So, most front part we can reach in our part of the ship is Recreation and Medical Ring 1. In front of that, Chronostasis Ring 1 airlocks, which are locked. Then CR1, then Storage Ring 2 airlocks, which are also locked because attached to CR1. So, when we eject CR1, those airlocks detach from Rec Ring 1’s port and go away. Storage Ring 2’s airlocks attach to Rec Ring 1’s port. Understand?”

“I think so.”

“So, airlocks leading from our side to Chronostasis Ring 1 are part of CR1. Does not matter what we do to them. Are getting ejected. CR1 is breached somehow, atmosphere is compromised. No pressure in there. Correct?”


“Then we do this. We get spacesuits. We go to Recreation and Medical Ring 1, right behind CR1. We put vacuum in Rec Ring 1. Now, we have airlocks behind us, protecting rest of ship, Rec Ring 1 is vacuum, CR1 is vacuum. We use controlled demolition to break through CR1 airlock. We bring oxygen tanks, revive colonists one at a time, take through airlock behind Rec Ring 1 to safe part of ship. When all colonists through, we eject CR1, it go with broken airlocks, then we repressurise Rec Ring 1. Now whole ship is pressurised, no emergency to keep airlocks behind Storage Ring 2 closed. We can open, we have access to whole ship.”

“Huh,” I say. “That would probably work.”

Tinera shakes her head. “You’re reviving colonists in a vaccuum if you do that,” she says. “You can provide them with oxygen, sure, but they’re still in zero atmospheres of pressure while we get them into the rest of the ship. Isn’t that really dangerous?”

“It’s far from ideal,” the doctor says, “but there are ways around it. This is a spaceship; it should have emergency pressure tent systems that we can use. This friend will check the inventory and see what we have. The more worrying thing is this whole controlled demolition part. Explosions on a spaceship don’t sound like a great idea.”

Denish shrugs. “Explosions, power tools, does not matter. Whatever can break the airlock.”

“If we do it wrong, we could compromise the integrity of Recreation and Medical Ring 1,” the doctor points out. “We only have two of those rings. We’d be cutting our medical capacity in half on a spaceship that we intend to overcrowd as much as possible.”

“Is risk. But, small risk to medical capacity, for big gain of all front rings of ship.”

“And we can move anything mobile from the medbay up there first,” I add. “The big scanners and terminals and stuff can’t be moved, but the supplies and smaller equipment can. We have plenty of space to set up another second, much less sophisticated, medbay.”

“I think we should do it,” Tinera says. “I mean, we need to get access to that ring to rouse those colonists sometime. Sooner is better, for them, and getting access to the front of the ship is best for everyone.”

“What do you think?” I ask Adin.

“Um. I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

“Okay then.” I clap my hands together. “Today’s order of business: move anything that can be carried out of Recreation and Medical Ring 1. Post-chronostasis patients, don’t overdo it. Rest as much as you want and let the Public Universal Friend and I handle anything heavy.”

Emptying the ring is in fact a fairly easy task. Most of the important stuff is in the medbay, which is cleared out quickly. Tinera and Adin have a brief discussion on whether we should salvage the swing that a previous crew had strung in the tree, but decide to leave it in place, ‘for luck’. I brush my hands against the bark of the tree and give a silent apology – it’s survived thirty five years of random ship disasters, but its chances of surviving prolonged exposure to a vacuum are not high.

“Okay,” I say. “Denish, in your opinion, what’s the best way to break through this airlock?”

“Mmm.” He inspects the airlock for several minutes. “We have big, big drill?”

“Probably. We have a fair bit of construction equipment.”

“It work in vacuum?”

“Uh. I’m… not sure.”

He waves a hand dismissively. “I will make it work. Big drill and welder. Oxygen for welder. Weak points here, and here, then cut through this panel. Then cut the bolts inside and remove door. Removing other door inside the airlock will be harder.”

“But it can be done?”


“Okay,” I say. “You’re recovering from chronostasis, and the doctor needs to be around for you guys. If you fix up the tools we need and show me exactly what to do, I’ll rustle up a space suit and remove the doors.”

“Captain,” the doctor says, “this is a task that you should delegate.”

“To who? Half of our crew are in recovery, and it’s going to be dangerous. Do any of you even have experience working in a vacuum?”

“I do,” Tinera pipes up. “But you’re right, I think you should do it.”

“No, they shouldn’t,” the doctor says firmly.

“I mean, logically – ”

“This isn’t the time or the way, Tinera.”

Denish looks me up and down. “You are little writer made of toothpicks,” he says, flexing a massive bicep. “It will be cutting metal with big drill. I will do it.”

“You’re in recovery!”

He shrugs. “Then we wait until doctor says yes. Time is important, but a few more or less days is not big concern. Better to do it right.”

“This friend should do it,” the doctor cuts in. “The captain’s right, it’s a potentially dangerous job. That alone makes this friend the obvious choice. There are eight people in cryostasis whom the system determined to be better doctors than me; we wake one of them, and this friend will start working on the high-risk missions when its medical skills aren’t needed.”

“Now that doesn’t make any sense,” I say. “Why would we send in the doctor? Who has a ward full of patients?”

“Like it said, we get a better doctor,” it shrugs. “You will be replacing this doctor fairly soon anyway, so it makes sense not to risk anyone else on high risk jobs.”

“Replace you? What in saltmarsh are you talking about?”

The doctor looks at me like I’m an idiot. “We’re filling this ship to capacity,” it reminds me. “This friend is taking up a spot. Right now, that’s good because we’re not at capacity and its services are needed. But eventually, another colonist in chronostasis is going to need the resources that it’s consuming. If anybody’s putting themselves at risk, this friend is the logical choice.”

Oh. This was a cult thing.

“Nobody’s replacing you, Friend,” I say firmly. “We’re getting as many people to our new home alive, including you. So you can stop with that nonsense right now.”

“Yes, all stop with nonsense,” Denish says. “So much drama. Is not big risk. Just big drill, construction workers do all the time.”

“Have you ever used a big drill while wearing a space suit, Denish?” Tinera asks. “It makes things a lot more complicated to – ”

“Yes, many times. Is only big spaceship. When doctor says okay, I break.”

“… Oh. Really?”

“Yes, yes,” he says impatiently. “Is for me to do. I can do, captain?”

I fidget a bit. I still don’t want to wait, but I’m worried that if I don’t give Denish the all clear, I’ll have to talk the doctor down again. And the doctor only wants to deal with a few patients at a time anyway, so letting Denish recover first is ideal. “Alright. Once the doctor pronounces your coordination and strength good enough for heavy machinery, we’ll move onto the next phase, and you can do the doors.”

“Good, good. Need time to check what drills we have anyway, perhaps modify.”

“And I need to check the first response supplies,” the doctor adds. “Unless we have, or can build, something that’ll let us revive these patients within an atmosphere, all of this is pointless.”

In the end, it takes them almost a week to be ready, and for the doctor to declare Denish recovered enough to handle the equipment. The doctor also spends a lot of that time instructing Tinera (who’s currently the secondary medical officer for want of any more actual doctors) on chronostasis recovery, “just in case”. I spend a lot of the time obsessively checking the chronostasis recovery chances of random colonists in Chronostasis Ring 1, like I expect the percentages to visibly go down day by day (they don’t), and working in Greenhouse Ring 2 with Adin, who turns out to know nothing about gardening but takes to instruction pretty well.

Finally, it’s time. Denish and the doctor put their equipment in Recreation and Medical Ring 1, and go to suit up while we start the ninety minute ring depressurisation process.

“Okay,” I say, looking around at my small crew gathered in Greenhouse Ring 1 (directly behind the currently depressurising ring) while we wait for the ring to depressurise. “We all know what we’re doing?”

“Denish breaks through the door,” Adin says, “with the Friend acting as his assistant. Once they’re in, the Friend takes charge and Denish assists in setup and revival. Captain Greaves will be on comms through the Network and Engineering Ring 1, running things.” He points to the ring behind us, where we’ve set up all the movable parts of the medbay we’d had to take out of the ring we were depressurising. “Tiny and I will have helmets in here, for the comms, and we’ll be on standby for the first successfully revived patient, to take them to our temp medbay for Tiny to administer whatever first aid they need. If things are dire, we can pull the Friend in to help, but if the patient’s relatively stable then we can handle it while the Friend and Denish continue.”

“Great,” I say. I glance at the panel next to the nearest airlock. It reports that the environment outside the airlock is a vacuum. “Let’s do this.”

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