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Starship Bellerophon was minding its business, on a long return cruise from an exploration and mapping mission, when it suffered disaster. With power out, gravity went out, life support went out, and even emergency lights failed. Gravity came back spasmodically, slamming people against the floor, and then the ceiling, before finally settling on about 0.1g, along with dim lighting being restored.
The off-duty crew in Main Recreation managed to organize themselves enough to triage the wounded, and discovered by touch that three of the doors were now exposed to space, suggesting a hull breach. The fourth door led to the main corridor on the deck. Across the hall, the Main Dining compartment turned out to have fared much worse, with cutlery and close-set tables and chairs adding to the carnage. But there, also, the first sign of good news: Chef, one of the ship’s AIs, has survived and reported that at least some of the ship had been prepared when disaster struck. Now, Chef is trying to map out the fragmented ship’s network, while the human crew begin mapping out the physical ship’s status, and finding ways to get power and life support restored.
“I think your original idea was the right one, Chef. Map out what you can, see what other sensors you can get back on line based on what nodes survived. I just hope… well, this might sound paranoid, but I really hope it’s not a trail of candy…”
“You mean, maybe someone hardened those nodes to trap Chef later?” said Alexander, genuinely considering the idea.
“I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of time to be suspicious right now, but remember how you said you weren’t ready to commit to this being an attack?”
“You think it could be some kind of inside job, instead.” Not a question.
“Yes,” Singer responded. “But I have no idea what kind, yet, so for now, we’ll just proceed as we’d planned, because breathing longer is the key to figuring this out.”
“Can’t argue that logic. Okay, let’s get started.”
Lieutenant Singer and Lieutenant j.g. Alexander stepped out of Main Dining through the sphincter of the emergency slip, which had not yet been dismantled. Singer thought about that for a moment, and then decided it was worthwhile to leave it, for now. If they couldn’t get life support going, they might want to evacuate Main Dining.
Right now, nobody who needed oxygen was still present in it.
In the corridor, they found a knot of fifteen junior officers and ratings waiting. Five of them were clearly with Ensign Garecki, giving their seniors some space to figure things out and get their heads straightened by the medic before going in to start the cleanup.
“Yes, ma’am. The gymnasium should do for a temporary morgue, for now. We were lucky there—no one was using any equipment, just a few people playing volleyball. They’re all battered but otherwise all right.” Singer suppressed a shudder at what might have happened if someone had been lifting weights. Fortunately, when not in use, all such equipment was locked down.
Garecki gestured to some of the folks waiting, whom Singer now realized were not folks who had been with them on the Rec Deck—this would be the volleyball players, then. “We already took the net down and stowed a couple of other things that had shaken loose.”
Singer could see the dim light from where they’d left the door open, down the corridor, two doors forward and starboard. She carefully did not nod, still wary of setting off another headache, but said, “Very good, Ensign. Carry on.”
Garecki saluted again—that might stop being weird, sometime soon, but not yet—and gestured to four ratings who had been clearly waiting for her, and they went through the sphincter of the emergency slip, into the dining hall.
Singer looked at the crewmen remaining. She was surprised to see one of the first-aid people from earlier, waiting for her, and not still in the Rec Deck working on patients. “PO…Luchny, isn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am! PO3 Danica Luchny.” She saluted like a cadet on their first review.
“Not to tell anyone their jobs, but shouldn’t you be in there?” she waved—Rec-Deck-ward.
“I’m not really a medic, ma’am. Logistics is my usual posting. I just also have first aid training. Anyway, Nurse Kasel asked me to go along with you…” The young crewperson trailed off, suddenly realizing that the instructions she’d been given had been meant to be somewhat confidential. She was, in fact, expected to keep an eye on Singer and Alexander and make sure they didn’t fall over on their faces.
Fortunately for everyone involved, Singer was more amused than anything else.
“You and two others come with Lieutenant Alexander and me. We’ll be going aft, first to see to some capacitors, then to main engineering. The rest of you, head forward down the boulevard, then split into two and start coming back along the side corridors, trying to get a sense of what’s what, and see who else might be alive. You find anyone ambulatory, send them here. You come across a cold door, you leave that alone, for now. Otherwise, use your judgment. We don’t have an infinite number of emergency slips, and until we get power back, we can’t replicate more. Find suits if you can—there should be at least two more emergency lockers between here and the forward communication bay.
“Be back here in thirteen kiloseconds. Don’t dawdle. We all want to find any trapped or injured people, but we’re all battered and exhausted. We’re also, except for a group of middies trapped in the Training Center, the only people we know for sure are left. None of us are currently expendable. Understood?”
Some of the acquiescences were half-hearted. Singer didn’t need her shields down to know that some were thinking that they’d be willing to work ‘til they dropped to map the current state of the ship. If it turned out to be a mistake, they could hate her later. Right now, they needed to use what energy, heat, and air they had to try to get to a better state.