Things Fall Apart, Chapter 1, Part 2

In which we assess the gravity of the situation

Forward - Part 1

At the end of an routine evening, off-shift crew in the main recreation area of the starship Bellerophon find themselves suddenly without lights, power, or gravity. As they start to recover, they realize that the gravity had in fact, inverted itself, just as the disaster struck, leaving many of them concussed, and possibly others in worse shape. Just as they begin to assess their situation…

A thought occurred to Singer, and her aching head. “Alexander, if gravity comes back suddenly…”

“In theory, there’s supposed to be safety systems to make sure it comes back grad—“

Everybody slammed straight down.

Singer was pretty sure the only reason she wasn’t dead was that the gravity, while asserting itself suddenly, had not come back at a full 1G. Or maybe, it let up right before everyone hit bottom. And it was bottom, as she would usually reckon it, because her face came into contact with a table. Tables were bolted down, and chairs were magnetized in ways that didn’t require power, so the furniture hadn’t been floating.

Small mercies.

Still, she could hear that hitting the ground, and then gradually bouncing upward at what felt more like 0.1G, had not done anybody any favors. There was, if she could judge by the sounds of screaming, moaning, and swearing, at least three sets of broken bones and a lot of contusions.

And still no lights.

There was definitely some gravity, now, though. Not a lot, but some. Which meant they were all about to come down agai—-

Gravity reverted to something strong, only toward the ceiling, sending everyone crashing hard into its decorative, uneven surface. More bruises, more breaks.

This time, as the gravity relaxed itself, Singer reached out and managed a handhold.

And then, finally, dim lighting asserted itself. Still not the emergency lights, which should have been foolproof, and apparently weren’t; but the main panels, on low.

Lieutenant Alexander, she could now see, was still near her. Ze had also secured a hand-hold, and even managed to strap zirself there with zir tool belt. The other officer looked dazed. When ze spoke, zir voice was a bit slurred. “Sorry, Lieutenant. I have no idea what any of that was.”

“Could we have been attacked?” That was from a male PO, a medic. Singer thought it was the one who had spoken up, earlier, when the lights were out who had spoken up earlier.

Singer and Alexander looked at each other, and shrugged. Singer, the senior, responded, “At this point, it could be almost anything, PO. I know that’s not much comfort. If it was an attack, it was a complete surprise. Nobody remembers a call to general quarters, do they?”

There were a lot of negative mutters. Singer shook her head to try to clear her vision, and regretted it instantly. She settled instead for wincing, and then peering around as best she could.

There were several other people clinging, as she and Alexander were, to various handholds on the ceiling. A few had somehow managed to find purchase on the walls. Others—some conscious, some clearly not—were still gradually drifting downward in what looked like about one-tenth standard, almost peaceful, like snow. Except for the part where blood bubbles were trailing several of them.

Singer spied a ladder built into the wall. There was one on each wall, actually, used under more controlled low-gravity conditions by maintenance workers, who could ascend to the ceiling and then use grapples and handholds to traverse it, doing whatever it is they had to do.

Alexander saw where Singer was looking, and when Singer looked back at zir, ze nodded, carefully undid zir toolbelt, and began following Singer, handhold by handhold, carefully toward a ladder.

They made it all the way down. Gravity stayed steady—absurdly low, but steady.

She saw the medic eyeballing a similar traversal with distinct unease, but also seeing all the floating casualties he could do nothing about from aloft. Three white-knuckled minutes later, he was coming down another ladder.

To his credit, the minute his foot touched deck-sole, he moved to start assessing those nearest to him who were already down or nearly down.

Gradually, other relatively intact people started coming down off the ceiling and walls as well. Singer saw some walking very gingerly, and wondered how many of them would be able to walk at all at full gravity.

Two other medics, to judge from their stripes and badges, had begun to triage the people around them. The very junior female PO—Danica, Singer thought her first name was—who’d also piped up earlier, seemed to be doing the same, and Singer saw a first-aid badge on her shoulder. Not a medic, then, but enough to help assess for bones and bleeding and head trauma. To Singer’s eye, Danica…Luchny was it?…looked like she was a concussion patient, herself, despite her efforts to be useful.

However, Singer, much to her sudden consternation, had only the most rudimentary first-aid training, and anyway, she was definitely a concussion patient, right now. At least, she would be as soon as she could relinquish what currently passed for command in the room. As she’d suspected, she was the senior officer present.

Alexander had moved over to one of the doors, and reached out to touch it, gingerly, as if expecting it to bite zir. And in fact, ze withdrew zir hand as if it had.