028: TIME

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The next day, I spend the morning working the greenhouse rings and meet up with the crew in Rec Ring 2 for lunch. Adin had made stew, and turned out to be a pretty decent cook with the limited ingredients we had available. When I ask him about it, he just shrugs. “When you’ve got nothing else, you learn just how far you can push sugar and salt,” he says. “We woke up some yeast yesterday, so provided it’s still viable, there’ll be fresh bread tomorrow.”

“Fresh bread?” Tinera gasps. “You’re shitting me!”

“Well, fresh bread made with thirty five year old flour, and being very inventive with the lack of butter and oils. We have a lot of honey, though.”

“Can we make butter?” Tal asks.

I shake my head. “We could get one of the artificial wombs working and make ourselves a cow, but it’d be about two years before we could get milk, and our greenhouses just can’t support feeding a living cow. There’s probably a food scientist in chronostasis who can get us a moss oil production line going or something, but again… time.”

“How are the greenhouses?” the doctor asks.

“Good.” I eat a bite of stew. “I need to look into what we have available, and the viability of hydroponics, once we’ve dealt with the actual engineering problems. If we’ve got some Arborean agricultural strains on board then that will help us with a balanced diet, although I know you land people find them to be less palatable.”

“They cannot be less palatable than three and a half decade old dried food,” Tinera says. “Although you’re a fucking genius, Adin, for somehow making this taste like real food.”

“I’m telling you. Salt. God’s miracle spice.”

Tinera opens her mouth, but before a debate on whether salt counts as a spice can start, I cut her off. “How’d this morning’s revival go?” I ask the doctor.

“A couple of false starts, but we have a qualified doctor recuperating in the medbay. Lina Chisolm. She’s a cancer specialist, but should have the skills needed for this job, too.”

“Fantastic. Denish, do we have estimates on how many people we can support?”

“Yes, but you will not like.”


“I run the tests and do math, and I think, sixteen people.”

I put my fork down. “You mean, sixteen extra people? On top of the crew?”

“No. Sixteen people total.”

“But… it’s built for a crew of twenty one! And should have a safety margin! How is that possible?”

He shrugs. “It was built with new equipment. We are asking a twenty year ship, built for thirty years maybe for time to get colony ready, to last for forty years. Big problem is oxygen system. These things wear out, work less good, now is sixteen people. Also, things broken and left for two and a half years – this breaks things! Vents frozen open, computer cannot regulate the… the… the water in air properly. Gets in, things get wet, things rust. Then mould in air gets in things; we sterilise as best we can, but what about before we woke up? I check all terminals in engineering rings; nearly half do not work! Not a problem, can replace, but what about other systems? Temperature, life support, even just power generation, these things get less effective. Also, news is worse – ship can support sixteen now, but in five years? More things are broken then. If we wake up sixteen now, what do we do then?”

“How many?” I ask. “How many will it be able to support by the time we reach Hylara?”

He shrugs again. “How can estimate? I think, probably nine to twelve. But that is a guess.”


“Is a guess. Big ship, complicated systems.”

“Can you fix them?”

“Some, maybe. Others, not sure. Will try to learn.”

“What are the chances you can – ?”

“Who do you think I am? Spaceship scientist?” Denish throws his hands up. “I can break an airlock, yes! I can clean a coolant line, yes! I cannot fix oxygen maker! Can I learn to fix oxygen maker? Maybe! I not know! I not know enough to know what I not know! I make guess, based on oxygen output, but maybe is wrong. Maybe limit is bigger and I do math wrong; maybe limit is smaller, because there is some machine I not know to check. This is best guess. Sixteen people now, nine to twelve in five years, might be wrong; do not know if I can increase it.”

“We need someone to help you who’s got training, and preferably experience, in long-range spaceship design and maintenance,” I say. “We’ll have to comb through the colonist data.”

“Good luck finding someone with a lot of long-range spaceship experience among the colonists, given the age restrictions for chronostasis,” Tinera says, inspecting her fingernails.

“What about the first crew’s engineer?” Tal asks.

We all turn to stare at kem. Taproot and stars, of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Why hadn’t I revived members of the first crew immediately? They wouldn’t be happy about doing an extra five years, but they’d signed up for it more than the rest of us had – and they’d know a lot more about what was going on. “Yes!” I say. “Perfect!”

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Adin says hurriedly.

“Yeah, they’ve earned their rest,” Tinera points out. “Won’t they be pissed?”

“They’ll be more pissed if they all die because we keep guessing,” I point out.

“Technically,” Tal says, “they’d be dead in that scenario, so they can’t be more – ”

“Tal, please go and find the crew 1 senior engineer’s chronostasis pod for me.”

“Yes, captain.” Ke marches off for the nearest terminal, in the medbay.

“Actually,” I say after a moment, “I’ll go, too. I want to meet our new doctor.”

Our new doctor is, anticlimatically, sleeping. She looks to have done worse out of chronostasis than the rest of us (except the comatose woman next to her, I suppose); her arms and legs are withered under papery skin. I suppose the muscle maintaining drugs weren’t as effective for her as the rest of us. Even I can tell she’s going to need a lot of physiotherapy before she’s able to handle a full medbay by herself.

“He’s dead,” Tal announces, derailing my train of thought.


“Ovlo Astur, senior engineer of the first crew of the Courageous. He was in Chronostasis Ring 1.”

I put my head in my hands. “Of course he was. What about the primary assistant engineer?”

Tal types a bit. “Ro Da-bin. CR 5.”

“A Martian?”

“Looks like.”

“Great, let’s – ”

“Her chances of survival are nine per cent.”

“… Oh. Well, we have to try. And since we want to revive the people with the lowest chances anyway… two birds, right?” I glance at the doctor, but it’s looking at Tal with interest.

“To confirm, this is the first crew’s primary assistant engineer?”


“Nine per cent survival rate?”


The doctor rushes over to the terminal and starts tapping at keys.

“What is it?” I ask.

“This is very weird.”

“What, how bad our luck is?”

“No. It seemed strange when you woke me up, but… hmm. Captain, come and look at this.”

I go and look. It’s a list of names and priority rankings for ship jobs. It’s familiar. “This is the list I took you from?”

“Yes. The three highest ranking for medical, engineering and IT positions, out of the top two hundred most likely to survive chronostasis revival. Notice anything weird about it?”

“Why aren’t I on it?” Tal asks.

“You were from CR 1, which was chock full of very high risk patients,” I point out. “You definitely weren’t in the top two hundred most likely to survive. I see a high amount of Arborean names, but we already know about DIVR-32 so that’s not – ”

“Where’s the first crew of the ship?” the doctor asks. “This friend was the highest ranking doctor on the list at number nine. Where’s number one? Or their assistant, who would surely be number two? Why aren’t the first crew’s doctors, engineers or IT specialists in this list?”

I shrug. “Should they be? I mean, why would they be more likely to surv – oh.” I put my face in my hands. “The time factor.”

The doctor nods. “The time factor. Tal, how long have the first crew been in chronostasis?”

Tal types. “They went down 5,504 days ago.”

“In years, Tal.”

“Oh. 15.08 years.”

“So the first crew were aware of the extended timeline, the journey taking 40 years instead of 20,” I say, “and they adjusted shifts accordingly. They’ve only been down for 15 years, unlike the rest of the colonists, who’ve been down for 35. But they’re not more viable for revival.”

“Even though,” the doctor adds, “this entire project is predicated on 20 years being safe. 30, for some of the longer range javelins. 20 years is supposed to be safe, but these people have been down for 15 and aren’t doing better than those down for 35. Do you see what this means?”

“Time isn’t the factor,” I say. “The difference in viability is because of something else. Something else happened to this ship, something that the DIVR-32 geneset provides immunity, or at least extreme resistance, for. It hit Chronostasis Rings 1 and 5 the hardest, at the back and front of the ship; that’s where all of our low viability colonists are. And it happened after the first crew went into chronostasis and before we woke up.”

“During Reimann’s shift,” Tal says.

“You think it’s something he did?” I ask.

Tal shrugs. “I dunno. All I know is, guy locks Amy out of half of her normal senses, messes with her memory and emergency protocols, freezes open her ventilation shafts, tries to physically sabotage the ventilation or cooling systems and loses an arm in the process, then goes ham on a bunch of sleeping colonists with an axe. I figure, anything really weird happening during his shift is probably related to him somehow.”

“Yes, probably,” the doctor says. “There was some kind of contaminant in the CR1 atmosphere, and he clearly tried to set things up so that the computer couldn’t prevent air moving between the rings. Perhaps he tried to poison the colonists with some substance at each end of the ship, was only partly successful, and resorted to an axe instead. But why?”

“Anti-expansionist sabateur,” I shrug. “Didn’t want the colony to succeed and gave his life for it. It’s not complicated.”

“There’s no way they would have let a – ”

“Friend. They let me aboard. The vetting process sucks.”

“Well, yes, but they didn’t intend to make you captain, unlike Reimann.”

“And yet we ended up here anyway. Tal, did you say Reimann did something to the AI’s memory?”

“Well… probably not directly. I think Amy still has all the files, but she’s very obstinate when it comes to telling me things. She’s really vague. I think Reimann locked a bunch of past records somehow.”

“Behind his password?”

“No. It’s more subtle than that. Detailed records on the ship’s history are just… really hard to find. Kind of like if you don’t want anyone to find your porn, so you bury it in a subfolder with an obscure date inside a folder called ‘tax receipts’. I’ll keep poking around.”

“Let me know if you find anything,” I say. “Unless it actually is Captain Reimann’s porn, in which case I don’t want to know about it.”

“You got it, Captain.”

“In the meantime…” I look at the doctor. “Should we go revive ourselves an engineer?”

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5 thoughts on “028: TIME

  1. OH. That’s. Uhhhh. Okay, that’s definitely concerning. So it really WAS sabotage afterall, that’s causing everyone to be so unlikely to survive. That, uhh, kinda sucks, majorly? And is extremely concerning for numerous reasons.


    1. Wow thats stark… even if they make it, right, can’t restart a population with 9 or 16 people, and by that time so many people would probably be failed from chronostasis that that DEFINITELY wouldn’t help…
      This is bleak, I love this series!
      They can’t really afford to wake many more folks…


  2. Unless it actually is Captain Reimann’s porn, in which case I don’t want to know about it.” this made me lol. also omggg. the mystery deepens. i am on the edge of my seat. i love ur writing so much.


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