Chapter 7. EVAC and Repair

Log Entry 07:54:31 – 01.12.2186

The whole ship rocked and I was thrown forward against the console at the systems bank in the cockpit. The second pod had let off a massive explosion that sent fragments tearing through upper-deck sections of the SM5, including damage to the central corridor that runs the length of the ship.

I have never been witness to such automated calamity. I bolted from my seat and hit the hatchway. In the corridor was madness. Alarms rang, lights flashed, automated response systems were shouting orders, closing off hatchways and sealing sections of the ship. By the time I had emerged from the upper-level cockpit, the ship had already closed off the port-side observation lounge, medical lab, and an aft hold. Access denied. For a moment, I was stunned, motionless, my mouth agape. Just then, two compartment hatchways along the upper corridor slammed shut in front of me and hissed deafeningly as they expanded into the corridor walls and created an air-tight seal. Not knowing the extent of the damage, I shook myself from my frozen state and jumped the personnel lift to the mid deck. I ran aft toward the Evac gear compartment. My heart raced. I clutched my chest and took deep breaths. The thought that I could find myself sealed off in a compartment with no other crew onboard to resolve the damages and release unaffected sections sent panic through my entire body. Fortunately, the mid-level corridor was open through the entire length and I ran like mad. As I reached the Evac gear compartment, I heard loud bursts from above. I crouched and covered my ears. Looking up, I half expected the whole upper deck to collapse in on the mid ship. At that point, I could only assume that and sealed compartments within medical had violently exploded in the vacuum. I leapt to my feet and launched myself into the Evac gear compartment. The compartment housed general mobility suits for ten crew members and two heavy Evac rigs. Preparing for the worst, I took up with one of the heavy suits.

As I entered the suit and fired up the internal systems, all I could think about was the never-ending series of events that seemed to be constantly working against my getting home. I may never see home again. I sealed the suit.

[Communication sent: 12JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 19:38:27 – 01.13.2186

The environment on the SM5 had become one of calamity, decompression, and panic.

My heart was pounding in my chest, as I sealed myself into the Heavy Evac suit [image attached]. My fingers, inside the suit hands, nervously fired up the internal systems and fully powered the suit. In an instant, the onboard systems downloaded current ship status reports and I got my first look at the damage done by the pod flak. I squinted at the display on the face screen. As I had imagined, there were significant breaches in the port-side observation lounge, medical lab, and the aft hold. I was horrified to see a hole punched through the aft section of the upper deck corridor. I keyed in to the main ship systems and shut the alarms off. The quiet returned and the flickering madness ceased. The augmented reality systems in the suit helmet allowed me to look through the decks and see damages and environmental data as part of the peripheral readouts. I moved forward, stepped off the staging platform and jettisoned the tether.

The ship’s equipment lift was just around the corner from the Evac gear compartment. Taking the lift to the upper deck would position me within the sealed section of the main corridor and I could get a first-hand look at damage done there by the pod flak. I stepped toward the door. The suit was powered throughout and moved as if it weighed nothing. It takes a little time to get used to the suit’s reactions to your movements and gestures, but I managed to stay on my feet. As I rounded the corner and stepped up on to the equipment lift, I readied myself for what would be a huge undertaking. These ships are constantly being bombarded by all manner of space debris, including micrometeoroids. The hull is made from numerous components, one being a composite material made with microencapsulated healing agents. Unfortunately, this type of built-in safeguard is only made to stop small cracks before they become problematic. The flak from the exploding pod created significant damage to hull integrity. I would have to manually seal up each breach. I wondered if I would have enough time and materials.

[Communication sent: 13JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

heavy_evac_suit

Log Entry 11:23:14 – 01.15.2186

The work repairing the damage done to the ship was arduous and time-consuming. Given the extent of the damage and the available repair materials, it almost seemed pointless. The Heavy Evac suit, although power-assisted and climate controlled, is incredibly uncomfortable to work within for extended periods of time.

As a complete EVA suit for all external ship needs, these rigs are outfitted with a variety of technologies and tools. In the case of a complete disaster, where micrometeoroids completely perforate the ship and the power core threatens to ignite a vast region of the space you’re in, the Heavy Evac suits allow one to move in and out of the ship to adjust or repair just about any physical, electrical or mechanical problem. You can also log in to the ship’s systems and execute ship-wide commands. Although you are contained to a large, heavy, armored suit, the technology does have its advantages. The helmet, for one, features a variety of parallel display options, including low-light, no-light, infrared, ultraviolet, and enhanced-focus vision modes. It was this technology that allowed me to make a unbelievable discovery.

Having patched breach holes in the main corridor, medical lab and the aft hold, I stood in the upper deck observation lounge, with the patch gun in my hands, applying a composite sealant bubble to a breach in the port-side hull wall. The breach holes were large and they extended through the entire hull. The sealant only covered so much space. More work would have to be completed from the exterior of the ship. I knew there wasn’t enough sealant on the SM5 to complete the job. All I could do was patch up enough to get parts of the ship in temporarily-habitable condition. Fear of secondary decompression, when the sealant failed to hold, was overwhelming. I was nervous, tense, and tired.

My arms ached, wanting to drop lifelessly at my side. Sweat rolled into my eyes and stung. I blinked rapidly, cursing the suit designers for failing to adequately anticipate the stress one feels after twenty hours of suit containment. As the patch gun ran empty, I stepped back from the breach and watched as the composite material sunk into the hole and tried to form a mend. Little bubbles of wayward sealant floated weightlessly around the room. Occasionally, they came into contact with the Evac suit, a wall or a piece of furniture and quickly stuck, spreading rapidly into a grayish smear. If I had enough patch material, the sealant would meld with the hull’s microencapsulated healing agents and form an integrated patch section completely undetectable from the surrounding material. With the sealant finally depleted, I could only wait and hope.

The last of the patch material struggled to transform, conform, and integrate around the breach. Exhausted, I turned to the observation port and stared out at the emptiness that surrounded me.

“Magnify by ten,” I instructed. The helmet zoomed in. Nothingness. “By twenty.” There it was.

A shape, dark and motionless caught my eye. The helmet adjusted focus and zoomed in further. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I stared at the object for a moment longer and the greenish augmented reality display in my helmet activated. The readout highlighted and acknowledged the object as the Shinkai Maru 5, just 2,843 km off our port side. I stared at the ship. My ship!

“Object identify,” I command.

The ship’s AI voiced the response loudly “SHINKAI MARU 5.”

“Negative. Ident error,” I replied. “Confirm object identity by code,” I ordered.

The AI response came again:  “IDENTIFIED SHINKAI MARU 5. IDSA DATA CENTER CODE RXJ1242 DASH 11.”

For the longest time, I stared at it, unblinking, in rigid disbelief. The spent patch gun fell from my hand and floated away.

[Communication sent: 15JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 17:55:12 – 01.17.2186

I burst into the cockpit, after a dead run from the aft end of the mid-deck and fell to one knee behind the main systems bank. Near a complete collapse, I braced myself up on the back of one of the seats in front of the main console. I was taking deep breaths and rubbing my chest, trying to calm down. I was shivering with cold, exhausted and physically spent. My body felt as if I’d run the entire two-month IDSA fitness and conditioning stress series in a single day.

“Object SM5 off port bow status, data and vitals on visual,” I ordered, breathlessly.

Information on the other SM5 came flooding in. The main console display screen was immediately awash with data and records. It was too much information for a single display.

“All screens merge and display,” I ordered.
I stood up and took a step back as the screens through the cockpit, as well as the holographic display over the viewport came alive with the merged data. All displays functioning collectively, I could see the whole ship end to end. All systems, throughout the ship, appeared to be functioning but there were sketchy details on life support, power and crew vitals.

“Show me crew status and vitals.”
“DATA UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME,” replied the ship’s AI.
“Data update estimation.”
“UNKNOWN. PLEASE STAND BY.”
“Saiyaku,” I cursed.

Not even the frontline of current processing capacity and calculation speed works fast enough, when you’re waiting for valuable information. What was happening here? Was I confused? Seeing things?

After the discovery of this identical SM5 earlier, I dashed from the upper deck observation lounge back down to the Evac gear compartment. I tried to quickly emerge from the Heavy Evac suit without adequate decompress and immediately collapsed to the floor. I was completely spent after twenty-plus hours of ship repair in zero atmosphere. I shivered uncontrollably and vomited on the gear compartment deck. When I could eventually get on my feet, I re-tethered the suit for power re-charge and raced to the cockpit. Here I stood, looking at data on what was my own ship. This, somehow, was another SM5. And it was floating just 2,843 km off our port side.

“NOTICE: SCAN DATA SHOWS ANOMALIES.”
“Anomalies?”
“ON-BOARD COMPUTER SYSTEM DATE IS NOVEMBER 28 OF 2187.”
“November 28, 2187? Confirmed?”
“DATA IS CONFIRMED ACCURATE.”

I had no response. I stood silent. The SM5 floating out there was nearly twenty-three months older than the SM5 I was presently stationed aboard. I was exhausted and weak but I didn’t think that I was delusional. This had to be seen. After the Evac suit re-powered fully, my plan was to make a ship-to-ship excursion. I would find out what secrets this other SM5 was hiding.

Already, I had my suspicions.

[Communication sent: 17JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Next Chapter: 8. Outward Bound

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transmission details:

A communications specialist in the year 2185 is abandoned in deep space by a deranged Living Modified Organism, setting up a series of events that lead him back in time to a ruined home world ruled by a wealthy eccentric, a scientist playing God, and the very creature that first stranded him in space.
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