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The corpse’s kill switch had been successfully destroyed by the electrostatic shield, so we spend a day carefully lowering everyone under the ship and bringing them back up. We’re really careful about it, taking our time and using a lot of tethers, but it still looks terrifying. I’m glad, selfishly, that I don’t have to go under.
So. That’s that little problem dealt with. Our situation is still a time bomb, escorting a bunch of sleeping colonists to a new home where ten per cent expect to lord over an eighty per cent who never wanted to be there, and figuring out how to disable their kill switches at our destination (what are we going to do, wake up four thousand people on the ship and drop them each through the shield?) is a future problem, but at least my crew can’t be murdered by some arsehole with the right codes. Which means we can safely wake up anyone we need to. Although if it is someone who expects to be in charge on a new world, they’ll probably be extra pissed about it.
“Okay,” I say, pacing through Greenhouse Ring 1 (the crew wanted a change of scenery) and addressing the crew. “Before we go making any more drastic revival decisions, let’s take stock of just what’s going on. So. About thirty five years ago, some, some group of people, or some rich bastard who wanted to be king of a planet or something, loaded this ship up with four thousand convicts and a thousand random civilians and cronies, and set off for Hylara.”
“Dor Delphin,” Adin says. “We were told that the guy in charge was Dor Delphin.”
“Delphin as in Delphin Synthetics?” I ask.
“Yeah, he’s like a third cousin to the heir or something.”
“Right. So he caught the Exodus bug and instead of living the comfortable life of a rich guy on Earth, he decided to on the far more dangerous route of colonising a planet and being king of his own domain or whatever. Five thousand people, including us, were chosen for the project, given our cranial ports, you guys were given those heart implants, and down we went.
“It’s supposed to be around a twenty year journey, with two crews each doing a ten year shift. But a bit over two years in, something goes wrong with the aft engine, and it loses a lot of thrust. It can’t be repaired. The crew decide not to abort mission, and not to turn the ship around and use the other engine – probably worried that if that one breaks too we’re dead in space forever – but continue on a journey approximately twice as long. They decide to wake the second crew up after twenty years, each doing twenty year shifts. This is how we understand things so far?”
“It’s two point one six years,” Tal says. “Before engine failure.”
“Right. Okay. At some point in their twenty year shift, they lose their secondary assistant engineer doing some kind of repair on the hull, but don’t wake a replacement – I guess there’s no need to, they still have two engineers. After twenty years, the crew switches over. Friend, Lina, did you check the viability of the crew 1 survivors?”
“Yes,” the Friend says. “One DIVR in the upper category, some non-DIVRs in the middle category, and several non-DIVRs in the lower category.”
“Okay, so neither viability drop is a factor of time. Meaning that something happened during the second shift – we don’t know what – that dropped everyone’s revival viability from the normal ninety per cent range, or eighty per cent for some, probably due to the time factor, down to fifty or sixty per cent, except that carriers of the DIVR-32 geneset weren’t affected. Also, something happened during the second shift that dropped the viability of some colonists near the front and back engines, whether or not they had the DIVR-32 geneset, down to a ten to fifteen per cent viability range. These two things may or may not have been the same event.”
“And they may or may not be related to the overactive synnerve growth from the cerebral stimulator,” Lina adds.
“Right, yes. Everyone has too many synnerves, which might be related to this event, or might be a function of time, or might be a third thing. We don’t know yet. But. After about twelve years as captain, Reimann suddenly shuts off the – ”
“Twelve point three four years.”
“Yes, thank you Tal, Reimann suddenly shuts off the AI’s vocal synth and voice recognition capabilities, restricting the crew to communicating with it via terminals only. Over the next week or so he locks several systems, the extent of which we’re still not sure of, and may have physically sabotaged some, too. We know that he attempted to physically sabotage something in the wall of Storage Ring 6, either the coolant system or the ventilation system, creating a leak in the process. His arm became irretrievably trapped and instead of calling for medical help – or perhaps unable to call for medical help – he amputated it with an axe, replaced the wall panel to hide the sabotage, and then went to Chronostasis Ring 1 – the one nearest to his current position – and started slaughtering colonists. Something he did in there caused an atmospheric problem that had the emergency systems lock all the airlocks, and he perished a few days later due to infection from his amputation. Tal, do we know which colonists he was killing?”
Tal shakes kes head. “I checked the Friend’s video and found out which pods they were, no problem. But Amy won’t tell me about the colonists that were in those pods. The ring’s ejected so she says she can’t check them, even though that info should definitely be in her records still.”
“The record retrieval problem, right. Well, keep at it.”
“Send me the footage,” the Friend says. “This friend will see if it can pick anything out. You never know.”
“So after this,” I continue, “the ship’s cut into two sections. The psychologist, janitor, and two scientists are in the larger section in the back. The other sixteen crew members are in front. The captain is dead. The sixteen in front have no access to the AI – Reimann’s rampage damaged something in CR1 to cut it off – and no access to any chronostasis rings to fill out their ranks, nor do they have amenities like greenhouses, medbays, or more than a couple of computer terminals. But they have enough supplies to survive for a good long while, and they do, until they start dying off one by one, for unknown reasons. The last one, so far as we can determine, died about a month before I was revived.”
“And they never repaired the coolant leak into the air supply even though they had all three engineers,” Tinera points out. “Isn’t that weird?”
“It is weird, now that you point it out,” I say. “Perhaps the leak didn’t become obvious, and the fungus didn’t develop until much later? They had no AI to warn them about problems, so if the filters didn’t look weird being changed…”
“Engineers still should check system regularly,” Denish grumbles. “Lazy.”
“Maybe. Anyway, the four in the back half of the ship decide not to fill out their crew again with reserve colonists, even though they have ample opportunity to do so. They all last about nine or ten months before a laboratory accident occurs in Laboratory Ring 1, killing both scientists and the janitor. The psychologist, who’s now the captain, presumably because she’s the only crew member left that the ship can detect, ejects LR 1, then survives another year or so, still not reviving any help from chronostasis, until she’s accidentally pinned under a crate in Storage Ring 6 and elects to die painlessly via nitrogen asphyxiation instead of via dehydration. So far as we’re aware, there doesn’t seem to have been any communication or movement between the two separated crews.”
“Even though you later proved it was possible to go outside the ship, when you turned the engine on,” Adin says.
“Yes. So, about two and a half years after captain Reimann dies, a year after captain Kinoshita dies and a month after our last survivor in the front of the ship, presumably Leilea Arc Hess, dies, the computer wakes me up to turn on the fore engines. I do so, wake our Public Universal Friend a few days later, and soon after we wake Adin, Tinera and Denish. We attempt to save colonists from CR1, Tal is woken via emergency procedure and joins us, but we’re forced to eject the ring. We deal with various engineering problems, wake Lina, use the ship’s shield to disable the implants in everyone’s hearts… and here we are, about five-ish years from our destination. Does this timeline sound right to everyone?”
There’s general nodding and murmurs of agreement.
“Right,” I say. “So, our current questions are…?”
“Why Reimann went nuts, and whether his sabotage and slaughter was random or targeted,” Tinera says.
“The unusually vigorous synnerve growth that’s consistent across all successfully revived subjects regardless of revival viability,” Lina adds.
“And the subjects who didn’t survive revival…?”
“No way to tell. The radioactive tracer needs to be metabolised for the synnerves to show up in a scan. Unless you’ve got a barrel of nerve-preserving acid on hand, I can’t see what the synnerves in a dead body look like.”
“The weak bone around the cranial ports on some colonists,” the Friend says. “What’s causing it, and whether there’s a way we can deal with it and successfully revive them.”
“Figuring out specifically how Reimann fucked Amy up and whether I can fix it,” Tal adds. “And his password for the locked systems, if possible. Then we can get the ventilation system fully under AI control again at least.”
“Would be good to help preserve systems,” Denish agrees. “Must figure out if Reimann sabotaged anything else, and how to fix.”
“The amputated arm mystery,” Adin says.
“Right,” I nod. “So, we – wait, what amputated arm mystery?”
“You know. From the ventilation – oh. We never explained that one, did we?”
“It’s why I thought we might have to kill you instead of cutting your arm off,” Tinera puts in. “You know, if you tried to kill us.”
“When you thought I was cool with the whole ‘slave society’ thing and had access to the kill codes.”
“So there’s a mystery about amputating my arm?”
“Not yours,” the Friend says. “Reimann’s. Come on, we’ll show you.” It leads the way to the remaining laboratory ring. Everyone follows.
The Friend pulls a box out of a drawer and pushes it across a lab table towards me. It’s about the size of a shoe box, and something rattles inside as it’s moved. I open it. Bones. They’ve been cleaned, but the evidence of the fungus that once grew over them is clear in their cracked surfaces.
“Reimann’s arm and hand,” I say.
The Friend nods. “Note the hole in the radius.”
“This bone here.”
‘Hole’ is generous. One of the long arm bones has been sawed nearly in half, a large chunk missing. “He was already injured?”
“No. I cut that out. Extracting this.” A smaller box is slid over to me; this one’s about the size of a ring box and made of transparent plastic, so I don’t need to open it to see the tiny strip of what looks like reflective foil inside. “This is Captain Reimann’s ID chip. We verified it with the system scanners; it’s his. His name, his rank, his data. Not reading any of his biosigns, obviously; the system reads him as dead, but it’s his. This is undoubtedly Reimann’s arm.”
“Okay,” I say. “But that’s not a mystery. We already knew that; we saw that he was missing this arm in CR1.”
“Exactly,” Tal grins. “In CR1!”
I look around at the crew. They all look like this is a useful addition. They do not provide further clarification. “Okay…”
“Here’s the thing,” the Friend says. “The AI claims that Reimann sabotaged a bunch of stuff, removed his own arm, and died a few days later, right?”
“Only that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Doesn’t it? The timeline makes sense to me. I mean, impressive of him to survive that long without medical attention I guess, but – ”
“The situation makes sense. The AI’s report of it doesn’t. Sure, it makes sense that that’s what happened, but – how does the AI know that?”
“It could see – ah.” I rub my own forearm, where my ID chip is. I’d been woken up by the AI for the explicit purpose of replacing the crew; the AI knew who I was and why it had woken me. But it hadn’t turned on any of the ship’s lights or amenities for me until after it had updated my ID chip and could read my new status off that. That was how the systems worked; the AI had cameras, and it could deduce what was going on to some degree and report it, but even after centuries of development, AI ‘vision’ was easily fooled and very error-prone. So no matter what it could ‘see’, it tracked crew position and condition via the ID chip.
When I’d first heard about Reimann, I’d assumed that he’d received medical attention after his break, in which case the crew would have logged data about his progress into the system. But that hadn’t happened; he’d died alone. He had severed this arm, cutting his ID chip off from his own life signs and leaving it in the wall, and then gone without identification into CR1 and died in there a few days later. The AI had noticed this and logged it just the same as it would if he’d had his chip.
It wasn’t supposed to do that.
Meaning. Either one of the four crew members still in contact with the AI somehow knew what was going on in the isolated CR1 and had logged it, or Reimann had secretly messed with how the AI could track his crew (he was acting paranoid, that might be part of it), or… he had a second ID chip? For… sabotage reasons, perhaps, for some plan he never managed to properly enact? He was a sabateur from the start in some really sophisticated plan?
We don’t have enough information. We don’t even have a body to check – it was floating in space in Chronostasis Ring 1.
“Well,” I say. “That… sure is yet another thing. Isn’t it.”
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One thought on “040: RECAP”
broke: don’t eject CR1 because that’s killing a fraction of thousands of people
woke: don’t eject CR1 because it makes ALL OF THE MYSTERIES so much harder to solve