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Repairing the coolant lines takes longer than I’d expect, but finally Denish calls down, “Lines are sealed, now computer can purge!”

“You’re sure you’re alright?” I ask him as he hops off the side of the elevating platform, apparently not willing to wait for its slow descent.

“Fine! No worry!” he says brusquely. “Very small damage, all fixed. Anyway, no time to lie about in hospital; we have five tho – four thousand colonists to save! Ship must be in good condition.” He peels off his coolant-soaked gloves and tosses them into a plastic bag. “Anyway, good coolant system, easy to work with.”

Tinera scowls at the gloves. “You wanna be careful with those. They’re full of dangerous fungus.”

“Aww, only like three of the species there are dangerous, and even then you need a lot,” Adin says. “Y’know, for awhile, our cooling system at home used – ” He finishes the sentence with some Texan word I don’t know, and Denish gasps.

“That is cooling by boiling?”

“Evaporative cooling, yeah.”

“Ha, you are caveman? I only see in books! I not know they still make!”

“‘They’ probably don’t. A kid with some tools and fear of the approaching summer heatwave does.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?” I ask. “Weren’t the gases used in those systems toxic?”

“The question isn’t whether it was dangerous, the question was whether it was more dangerous than a Texan summer heatwave living above ground with limited water supplies. Besides, evaporative cooling was the main form of refrigeration for nearly three centuries before proper coolants were invented. It was fine.” He claps Tinera on the back. “But it makes this goop seem better, doesn’t it?”

This story loans credence to my theory that Adin was one of our resident convicts. I don’t know much about Texas, but I’m sure they have cooled public spaces. The only reason someone would monkey around with a homemade system using hydroflurocarbons was if they couldn’t be in those public spaces for some reason, surely.

Stars, it rots that I had to wake Adin. I know that the best chance any of the colonists have is to be woken as soon as possible, especially those with low chances of survival like Adin and Tinera, but he had even less choice than the rest of us in being here. We’d all been caught up in the power in the Exodus Phenomenon, and sure, we’d expected to wake up at a planet, but we’d at least chosen this journey. I doubted that the Texan prisoners were given much of a choice – or most likely, they were given a ‘choice’ that was heavily coerced.

Tinera, with her adventurous spirit, was an obvious candidate for a human exodus, and the Friend’s guiding principle was to best serve humanity, so they’re easy adaptors to these unexpected circumstances. Tal… seems like someone more comfortable working long hours in AI development with as little human interaction as possible, and I’m not really sure why ke had signed up for life in a developing colony, but if anything, being woken up early is a better fit. As for Denish, well; his skills have been the most useful so far, except perhaps the Friend’s. Though it occurs to me that he, too, is Texan; he might also be one of the convicts. He hasn’t said anything about it, but then, neither has Adin. I don’t know much about the Texan prison system, but surely, even skilled engineers must end up on the wrong side of the law occasionally, right? He might be as trapped as Adin.

And he’s already nearly died in a traumatic event under my watch. Taproot and stars, I need to be more careful. Watch out for these people better, until we get a new captain.

On that note…

Once everyone’s done enough work for the day that we all feel justified in sitting on our arses for the rest of the day without guilt, I gather everyone in Rec Ring 1 for a progress meeting.

“Alright everyone,” I say. “Where are we? Logistics?” (It made sense to start with logistics for this kind of thing, as the logistics officer was also the de facto second in command of a ship like this.)

“I checked up on the air filters you were worried about,” Tinera reports, “and yeah, our predecessors did go through a lot, but we should have enough for the next five years if we’re careful and keep an eye out for any more moisture or contamination problems in the system. In terms of food and clothes and soap and stuff, we’re good enough for us, but I can’t calculate properly until I know how many colonists we’ll be waking up. The ship was well equipped with food on the assumption that the colony wouldn’t be self-supporting for a few years; my main worry there isn’t the amount, it’s the expiry. We’re eating very expired food right now and I don’t know how safe that is.”

“Doctor?” I ask.

“Hmm. Dehydrated and frozen food should be safe for a good long while after its expiry date, especially since it was designed to last for over twenty years anyway, so the moisture and oxygen seals should be near perfect. However, physical spoilage not related to contaminants is a concern, and the air itself has been pretty thick with microbes due to the air problem. Out of what we have, anything completely dry in a completely sealed packet is probably the safest. This friend will need to go through what we have to give a proper estimate of health dangers.”

“How long will that take?”

“Depends on how many patients we end up with over the next week and how complicated their conditions. This friend can probably have it done within a week, with Tinera’s help.”


“Our other supplies are looking good,” Tinera continues. “We have more fuel in storage than expected, for some reason – ”

“More fuel?” Denish cut in.

“Yeah. Any thoughts on that?”

“Yes, but I want to check with computer first. Is not big important.”

“Anything else, Tinera?” I ask.

“No, that’s it.”

“Okay. In terms of food, I’ll look into how much we can support ourselves with the ship’s greenhouses, they’ll take a year or so to get producing properly, but might be able to help fill in any nutritional gaps. Tinera, doctor, I’ll need to know whether we can expect vitamin breakdown in the food, and which ones are the biggest problems, to choose crops. Engineering?”

“Ship is functioning,” Denish reports. “We have full access to whole ship, coolant and air systems are purged. I run coolant pressure test now to find any more leaks, before we put in new filters. We are missing two ship rings – Chronostasis Ring 1 and Laboratory Ring 1. Engine is working at normal capacity, sensors are working for navigation. I must finish pressure tests and get coolant system working again within twelve hours or ship will become uncomfortably warm; is not hard, I finish before bed. Air pressure in all rings is normal but over the next week I run hull integrity checks and full checks on life support systems to see how good and how many people they can support. Is good?”

“Sounds great,” I say.

“Yes, good! Big problem is emergency systems. Tal says ke scrubbed the code for that strange airlock system and is rewriting proper emergency system, but what if other systems have problems? Do we know?”

“I’m looking into it,” Tals says. “So far I’ve found no problems with other emergency systems, but I’ve only had a quick look. I’ll keep looking and let everyone you know if I find anything.”

“Thanks, Tal,” I say. “Anything else with the AI?”

Tal shrugs. “It’s weird. Amy’s really weird. I’m… I don’t really have anything concrete yet, but I’m following up on the emergency system thing. Oh, and Reimann; no progress on his password by the way, it doesn’t look like he wrote it down anywhere.”

“Can you bypass it somehow? To unlock the systems he locked?”

“It’s not a fucking storage safe, there’s no way to just blow the doors off, or whatever. I’m looking for loopholes but I’m not optimistic. Honestly the fact that he could even set passwords like this is stupid; you don’t need that sort of system if you’ve got an AI and crew rank systems in place, Amy already knows where everyone is so why the pass – huh.” Ke goes silent for a second and glances at the doctor. Ke opens kes mouth, but closes it again quickly.

“What is it?” I prompt.

“Nothing, just a thought. I don’t have the sense of it yet, I need to think on it. Point is, the system is stupid and I’ll keep looking for a way around it, as well as check for any more stupid tampering like with the airlock security thing.”

“Great, thanks. Maintenance?”

Adin shrugs. “There’s air filters to replace and a lot of stuff to clean up in preparation for new arrivals. What are we doing with Habitation Ring 1? I can clear out the rooms, but… what about the paintings?”

We all share glances.

“We will need the space,” Tinera points out.

“Not right away,” Adin says. “We haven’t filled up Ring 2 yet. But, yeah, eventually…”

“The flowers are probably just going to be worn away over time,” I say. “But, the memorials on the doors… is there a way to preserve them?”

“Without making the new residents feel like they’re living in the tombs of dead astronauts?” Tinera scoffs.

“New doors,” Denish suggests. “Tinera, can you check stock? See if we have replacement doors? If not, something to cut into right shape. We replace all of the memorial doors, store the old ones nice and safe until we reach planet. Hold onto them and use them for, memorial or something, however we will honour the dead.”

“Oh!” I say. “Yeah, that… that’s perfect. Okay then. Medical?”

“Lilith’s still asleep. Again, it’s impossible to estimate if or when she’ll wake up. She’s already well into the danger zone of never waking, and if she’s asleep for another 2 days, her chances of ever waking drop to negligible. Tomorrow, this friend plans to administer whatever means are available to wake her artificially; it’s not safe, but it’s safer than letting her sleep.”

I nod. “You’re the expert.”

“Not in comas. This sort of medicine is far outside of this friend’s field.”

“What is your field?”

“Trauma response. Which, yes, technically can be a field that involves coma patients, but this friend has always been more the ‘broken bones and bleeding’ type. Given the high chance that Lilith won’t wake, it would be best to fill another bed with another doctor tomorrow. If we’re going to wake people at a reasonable rate, we need at least two doctors up and able to work in the two medbays.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” I say. “You have three available beds, right?”

“Yes. We can fill the third with another high risk patient if you like.”

“Actually, I think you should rouse somebody high on the priority list for the role of captain.”

The entire crew stare at me. Even Tal looks at me for a second. All of them look shocked.

“You want us to replace you as captain?” Adin asks. “Why?”

“Because we need a proper captain. And a psychologist! I’ve thought about it, and I can’t be the captain and the psychologist – those roles just aren’t compatible. Being captain cripples my ability to assess and form trust with patients, and being in charge of psychological assessment cripples my ability to make decisions as captain. Both roles are vital, so we need someone else to fill one.”

“So why not get a new psychologist?” Adin asks.

“Because I’m better qualified to be the psychologist than the captain.”

“Bullshit,” Tinera says. “You were a sociologist, right? Do you even have any qualifications in psychology? Are you a certified psychiatrist or anything?”

“Well, no, but in terms of group behaviour on a ship, sociology is a relevant – ”

“A relevant backup, but I’m sure there are actual psychologists in stasis. If we’re going to be replacing one of those positions, it makes more sense for you to keep the captaincy.”

“No, it doesn’t. I was 179th in line to be the psychologist, and 1,467th for captain. I’m more qualified for being the psychologist.”

“No, that’s not how math works,” Tal says. “You’re assuming an equal distribution of competency for both roles, which we can’t be sure of. If, say, there’s a handful of really good psychologists in stasis, but all the surviving captains are only a little bit better than you, then it makes more sense to revive another psychologist. You can’t tell from just your place in line.”

“Well, it’s more likely that I’m better suited as a psychologist.”

“More likely, yeah,” Tal agrees.

“It is more likely that you are a better psychologist than a captain on a javelin ship under normal conditions,” the Friend cuts in. “These are not normal conditions. Given how things have been going so far, this friend thinks a change in leadership would be disruptive. We’re safer sticking with you than bringing an unknown quantity, who may react unpredictably, into the mix.”

“Even after Chronostasis Ring 1?”

“Yes. This friend doesn’t agree with your choice, but a circumstance in which that choice is comes up again is unlikely. This friend is thinking in terms of the future. Your current plan to fill up this ship is a good one – what if the next captain disagrees with it?”

“Why would they disagree with it? Our job is to save as many of these people as we can.”

“And we have plan for that!” Denish says, nodding. “Old captain is fine. New captain is complicated. Maybe later, if problem, but for now, why change what is working?”

“Tal?” I ask.

“Hmm? Oh, I don’t care.”

Fair enough. “Well,” I say, “if you all think it’ll be too disruptive, then I guess we can table the issue until we’ve got things a bit more settled down. But in that case, we will need a proper psychologist.”

“A professional gardener wouldn’t hurt either,” Tinera cuts in, “if we’re going to be relying on greenhouse produce in the future.”

“And at some point there will be the need for a real science officer,” the Friend adds. “Something weird is going to come up, at some point.”

I nod. “Alright. So, tomorrow, the Friend can revive another doctor. Then we’ll see about filling out other critical roles on the ship, and then we can start reviving as many high risk static colonists as the ship can hold. Anything else we need to get through tonight?”

Everyone shakes their heads.

“Great. Hey, doctor, can I talk to you a moment?”

“Of course, captain.” It looks wary.

Which is reasonable. After all, I want to talk about how to keep it alive.

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One thought on “026: PURIFY

  1. More fuel than expected on a journey twice as long as expected? Did they just – accelerate more slowly than they were scheduled for? I think that’s how space works. But why?


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