027: PAST

<<First ………. <Prev ………. [Archive] ………. [Map] ………. Next> ………. Last>>

“I want to talk about what happens after we have enough doctors,” I say to the Friend once we’re alone.

“Yes, captain?”

I hesitate. There’s not really any delicate way to broach the topic, but it needs to be broached. “Back when we were breaching the Chronostasis Ring 1 airlocks, you volunteered, claiming that your life was less valuable and you’d need to die to free up a space for another colonist when we reached capacity. As I hope I’ve made clear, I don’t want that to happen. I intend to get every member of this crew to Hylara safely, including you.”

“Yes, you made that clear with the lengths you went to to save Denish.”

The barb is an obvious attempt to change the subject. I ignore it. “I know that there’s no real danger of you making any unwise decisions about your health right now. We both know that, currently, you’re needed. Half of the crew are still on the outer fronds of chronostasis recovery, you’ve got a comatose woman in the medbay and I know you’re still worried about any potential aftereffects of that knock to the head that Tal took in the airlock. We need a doctor. My concern is this – what happens tomorrow, after we revive a new doctor? Be honest. Am I going to need to worry about you?”

“Of course not. The problem here is that one doctor isn’t enough. This friend is only physically capable of seeing to so many patients; we need at least one proper doctor per medbay. A trained doctor and a trained assistant per medbay would be ideal, assuming we intend to fill the whole ship with colonists.”

“And when we reach capacity? When we’ve revived as many as we can, so there’s no longer such a demand for medical services, but we have more chronostatic colonists than space for them?”

“That will depend on the circumstances, captain. The ship wasn’t designed for this, and we don’t know the long term effects of chronostasis on patients this unlikely to survive it. This friend can’t predict what the situation will be like.”

“Hmm.” I suppose that’s as good as I’m likely to get. “Well, as captain, I order you not to throw your life away in some stupid way.”

A ghost of a smile flits across the Friend’s lips. “Understood, captain.”

“That means you’ll comply?”

“It means this friend understands the order. Is that all?”

“Yeah. That’s all.” I watch the Friend head for the medbay. So, no immediate need to worry. But I was going to have to figure something out before we hit capacity.

I head for NAER 2, the ring with all the computer terminals, to maybe read a book off a terminal or something before bed, but I’m intercepted by Denish in the greenhouse. “Captain?”

“What’s up, Denish?”

“You said that you not want to be captain, after the Chronostasis Ring 1 incident?”

Oh. Maybe Tinera was right and I was the wrong pick for psychologist. I’d been so caught up in my own feelings over that that I’d completely failed to address Denish’s very high potential for suffering survivor’s guilt. I should check in with Tal, too – ke was the only survivor of that ring, after all.

“No, Denish, I didn’t. There are a lot of factors that – ”

“I want to say sorry,” he cuts me off. “I know, I kill a lot of people. I make mistake and many die. I cannot bring back. But I – ”

“Denish, none of that was your fault. You were trapped; you didn’t do anything. I’m the one who made the call to – ”

“It my plan! I see that ring, we cannot access, and I think I am so smart, I make plan for getting through. Colonists were safe and sleeping but I decide is fine, I know how to wake them and get ring out of the way. Do I take time to check all of the safety protocols? No! Do I take time to check air properly, not just assume? No! When Chronostasis Ring 1 is full of air and not vacuum, do I realise this is bad thought through, and say we should stop? No! And then problem happens, and I am not fast enough to get to airlock, and you have to do hard thing to save me. And you do. You could let me die and find better engineer, one who does not put so much danger to all of those people. But you save me even though I make big mistake, and if blame for that, it is mine.”

I shake my head. “Denish, you had the brains, but I made the call. I gave the go-ahead on the plan. I decided to keep going when it turned out that CR1 was pressurised. I ditched CR1 without even telling you, or anyone, what I was doing. I’m the – ”

“You know what I think?” Tinera drops out of the lemon tree next to us, landing neatly on her feet. “I think you’re both fucking idiots.”

“We – ”

“Those people were as good as dead, alright? Neither of you are to blame because nothing was done wrong. We tried to save them, we failed. They were already dead.”

“No, they weren’t,” I say. “Nearly all of them were alive, and nearly a hundred of them could be expected to survive revi – ”

“Revival under normal circumstances, yes. In a proper atmosphere, yes. But that’s not what happened, is it? They weren’t going to get that chance. Tell me, if Denish hadn’t proposed the plan, and if the doctor hadn’t agreed to it, and if you, Captain, hadn’t trusted their expertise, what was going to happen to those people, hmm? Can you think of any other possible way that we could’ve gotten in there and tried to save them?”

“The airlocks – ”

“Were locked! Behind Reimann’s passcode, which we don’t have! Tal can’t get around it, which doesn’t even matter because if we hadn’t tried this we also wouldn’t have Tal. All that would’ve happened, Captain, is that we would’ve kept dithering and putting things off until we reached Hylara, and then we would’ve had to do this anyway. And we’d be working with less of a ship, the coolant system still contaminated and unfixable, and no access to the front engine or navigation equipment or pulling into orbit around Hylara. That alone would’ve forced your hand eventually, and this would still have happened, except Tal might have died if ke woke up because it’d be five years in the future. There’s no sense on anyone blaming anyone for the plan because it was the only option. Those people were doomed from the moment Reimann busted in and went ham with an axe. Both of your choices in this stunt gave them a chance, and you saved Tal. This ‘ooh, we killed so many people’ shit is idiotic.”

“Even then, I am too slow to get to airlock. I was trapped, which made Captain – ”

“We were watching on the feeds, Nish! You fucking threw the doctor onto Tal’s stretcher and saved both of them! There’s no way you could’ve made it without leaving someone else behind. Would that have been better? To leave the doc or Tal behind? When they weren’t wearing space suits? Don’t be ridiculous. And don’t pull the whole ‘ooh, they sacrificed hundreds of lives for mine’ bullshit either, because even at that point, those people were already dead.”

“They weren’t, actually,” I point out. “At that point, the only airlocks separating us were ones that Tal ended up being able to reset. CR1 and Rec 1 were contaminated with whatever was in CR1’s air, but with space suits and pressure tents, we could have – ”

“Revived people from CR1, yeah, maybe. But we’d still be cut off from the front of the ship, and with a dead engineer, and you’re forgetting – we only have space to revive so many colonists. This ship was designed for 21, and we have space for 42 because of duplicate rooms, and let’s say that Denish – sorry, Denish’s replacement, Denish is dead in this scenario – managed to pull some complete fucking miracle with the oxygen systems and stuff and we could support twice that. 84 people, quadruple what the ship’s designed for, and not that much less than we’d expect to get out of CR1 alive, so let’s imagine that miracle scenario where we got every possible survivor out of CR1. Now we have no room for anyone else, we still have four thousand colonists in stasis, and their chances of successful revival are going down by the day. So the million dollar question is: are those four thousand colonists losing more viability than the nearly 80 we manged to revive? In this unrealistic scenario where we magically have ridiculous capacity? Because if they’re not, it makes no difference whether we revive from CR1 and have the others dying, or revive from other rings and eject CR1. We just have too many colonists and too small capacity. All ejecting the ring did was shift around which ones get a chance at revival – well, that and give us access to the rest of the ship and the ability to repair things and actually house more colonists, which is, you know, kind of important.”

I shake my head. “We can’t be sure about that without knowing how fast people’s chances are falling, and we don’t know that. We worked so hard to save those people; I should have found another way to save – ”

“My girlfriend died in a mining tunnel collapse,” Tinera says.

Denish and I are silent for a moment. “I’m… sorry to hear that,” I say.

“No, I have a point to this. We’d found an aluminium deposit. Now, I don’t know if you know much about the moon, but we don’t exactly have natural plants and a water table and significant tectonics and stuff, so the crust is basically just a big blanket of regolith that you kind of have to chew through with power tools; monotonous, but very predictable, compared to Earth mines. So they don’t put a huge amount of money into surveys; they confirm the likely presence of the metal and off we go. It’s generally too expensive and too much of a big operation to just dig a big pit down, especially with how deep we were – deep is good, deeper is safer, it means you can properly press and oxo your environment – so we’re down there digging shafts, and we’ve been at work for a week and a half in this pit. It’s dusty, it’s annoying, and there’s some kind of magnetic interference fucking up our sensors – which is rare on Luna, by the way – so we’re digging blind a lot of the time, but we’ve scrounged up some aluminium and we’re trying to find the big deposit that our team leader is sure is there.

“And we do. Except. Rotten fucking luck, on top of everything else – the regolith around it, even way down here, is cracked all to hell. How? Not sure. Meteor impact, maybe. Geiger’s being unfriendly, so might have been a nearby uranium deposit that went crit awhile back. Either way, our payload is there, we’ve been chasing this fucker for nearly two weeks now, and it’s in the middle of a mass of collapsable powder and pointy chunks bigger than our transport. Team leader takes one look and nixes the operation, and of course, we’re all pissed. After everything we’ve put in, we’re going home empty-handed? Really? The TL is gonna call in a surface team for this, and we’ll get, what, a finder’s credit, after a week and a half of digging through poisonous dust and drinking thrice-cycled water? But the TL says it’s not worth our lives when an alternate extraction team can get to it safer, so we start to pack up.

“Except Sunny, she’s not putting up with this. She says we can do it. TL says he’s not risking the team; she says we’ve put in too much work to go home empty handed now. She insists we can make a stable mining tunnel using some of our spare support beams; she’s so insistent that the TL gives her the go-ahead provided she’s the point runner for putting the beams in place, which is what she wanted anyway. And she’s very careful, and she’s very thorough. And there’s a bit of unstable rock she didn’t see, and she got in the wrong place. And she died, trying to reach aluminium.

“She made a stupid mistake. She thought that it mattered that we’d been down there digging for nearly two weeks. She thought that was somehow relevant. She looked at that aluminium and thought, ‘we’ve come so far for this, we HAVE to bring it home’, and that made her think it was worth the extra risk. She couldn’t just take the loss and head home, she forgot the number one rule – sunk costs are already sunk. That’s what I think you’re doing, captain. You took such measures to ensure the survival of the CR1 colonists. You ended up crawling around outside the ship, fucking with the gravity, doing ad-hoc repairs and workarounds with the ventilation system and somehow breaking bones, so you think preserving CR1 matters more than it does. Yes, it sucks that those colonists are dead. Obviously, it would be better to keep everyone alive. But you’re too focused on the ideal of preserving that specific chronostasis ring that you won’t do the math. I asked Tal to do the math, and ke agrees – we have so many more colonists than even the best estimates of how many people we can fit on this ship, that if their chances of survival are going down at any concerning rate – and this whole ‘fill the ship with people’ plan is entirely based on the idea that they are – we would’ve lost more people than that anyway. All ejecting the ring does is mean we’ll save people from the other rings instead. And even if it didn’t – you both made the only choices you could in the circumstances. Sometimes people die even when you make the best choice. And even if you had made bad choices – what would you do about it now? Sit around and feel bad for the next five years? The CR1 ejection is a sunk cost. Move on. We have four thousand people in storage and we have to try to save as many as we can.”

“‘Move on?’” I ask. “It was yesterday!”

“And today is today,” she say firmly. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and play computer games.”

We stare after her.

“Captain,” Denish says, “promise me that nothing bad will happen to you.”

“What? Why?”

“Because logistics officer is your second in command, and I do not want orders from her. She scares me.”

<<First ………. <Prev ………. [Archive] ………. [Map] ………. Next> ………. Last>>

4 thoughts on “027: PAST

    And yeah Aspen, big balls to get annoyed at Friend about making decisions, and then try and find a replacement captain so you don’t have to make them!


  2. I love Tinera. Also Denish being Texan but sounding Russian in this accent. Love them all.

    And I love that your patrons list has gone critical! BOOM. You’re winning! Git dat logarithmic growth.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s