Starting back to work on the second Rimworld novel now.
9000 words as of today. As always, unedited, stream of consciousness… But I’m getting back into the ‘feel’ of the world.
Lherson groaned as he tried to roll over, What the hell? Feels like my damn ribs are broke… Consciousness came flooding back, and with it a red haze. He finally realized it was blood inside of his helmet, he frantically gasped for air, and was thankful to find there was air, even as his ribs spasmed from the pain. I’m outside, I’m alive. I’m in zero-G. I was working on the forward particle shield power connector. What happened? Did something hit me? Am I a Dutchman?
He tongued the mic, “M-twelve, maintenance forward?” He didn’t hear a reply and tried again, “M-twelve, calling maintenance. How copy?” He heard pops in the speakers, so he knew he was getting out, or so he thought. Extracting one arm from the arm controls, he reached behind him and pulled out a Sani-wipe, scrubbing it over the inside of the helmet. He almost wished he hadn’t, when his mind registered what he was seeing.
He was pin wheeling slowly in space, and looked down to see he was still boot locked onto Star Liner number 133, Destiny. His tool bag tugged gently at his waist, as it floated at the end of its tether. He looked forward to where Duggan should have been tethered, and only saw a flopping tether, with nothing attached. Shuffling painfully forward, he tongued to all-call, and steeled his voice to calmness, “M-twelve, on all call. Anybody there?” He heard pops again, but no answer. Not even static.
Reaching the tether, he coiled it in, and found the end of it burned, almost like a laser cut. He’d seen those before, in his other life, as he called it. “Is there anybody out there? Hellooo?” Turning around he gasped as he looked aft, the stern third of the ship was… Gone. Well shit. That kind ‘splains things. Fourteen years in GalPat and two major battles, we got one minor hole. I get out for something safer, and I get my ship blown out from under me on my second underway. A diplomatic underway at that. Some fucking spacer I am.
A flashing alert caused him to glance up at the HUD, and he saw an amber LOW O2, ONE HOUR REMAINING, roll across the top of the HUD. One hour? These tanks are 24 hour tanks. I must have a leak, or was I out for, shit. How long were we working on the shield? Half hour, one hour? It was programmed for a two hour EVA, total. So maybe twenty hours?
Shambling back to the airlock, he popped it open, unclipped and stepped through. Cycling it closed, he noted the emergency lights on, and saw the no pressure indicator on the interior hatch. He hit the emergency override, and cracked the hatch, peering carefully out into a deserted, eerily lit passageway.
Carrying his tool bag, he moved aft toward the maintenance shop, amid the clutter and detritus of what had obviously been and explosive decompression. He saw a couple of reddish smears in his helmet light, but knew better than to look too closely at them.
He had to cross Main Street, as it was called, to get to the space, and as he put a glove on the wall, he felt a tremor. He stopped, then felt again. Was that something he had done? Or? He stood there for a minute or two, then felt a tremor again. Leaning his plasteel helmet against the bulkhead, he could vaguely hear three fast taps, three slow taps, and three fast taps, repeated over and over. Where the fuck do I know that from? Ah shit. Code! Somebody’s alive somewhere.
Dropping his bag, he took out a spanner, and frantically thought back to his training, then laboriously tapped out W H E R E R U. He was getting ready to try it again, when a series of taps came back, F W D M E D. Forward Med? Where the hell is, oh yeah, that’s the pressure space up on deck six. Tapping back, he sent R U O K H O W M N Y. moments later, he heard 4 N D O 2 H 2 O. Four alive. Need O2h2O, what the… Oh, need O2 and water. Forward Med is configured for overpressure, up to two atmospheres. Now where the hell was that connection? Shit. He tapped back, S T B Y, then moved as quickly as he could to maintenance forward.
The space was predictably trashed, but he found two O2 bottles still in their racks. He quickly set up a hose and pressure filled his reservoir, then pulled the second bottle out of the rack and gathered up a hose connector. Pulling up a schematic in his HUD, he started slogging forward and down to deck six, he felt like it was taking too long, but he couldn’t risk screwing up the valve on the O2 tank. He finally got to the forward bulkhead, and found the access panel.
Tapping out, S T B Y O 2, he plugged the hose into the coupling and gently cracked the valve, slowly bleeding air into the space. He could feel taps, but couldn’t separate them out from the vibration of the O2, and continued for another ten minutes. Then he tapped B T T R. He got a tap back of O K, followed by N D H 2 O.
Flipping quickly through his cookbook on his HUD, he shook his head, Crap. No way, unless I can put a portable lock on the door. There’s one in the forward damage control spaces, I think. He tapped out, W R K O N I T S T B Y.
Wrapping the O2 bottle in some dangling cabling, he started forward toward the damage control locker, and saw another alert pop up on his HUD- LOW BATTERY CHARGE REQUIRED IN ONE HOUR. “Well isn’t that just fucking great? There aren’t any working chargers. Dean old boy, you’re about fucked, unless you can figure something out.” Pulling up his cookbook again, he found the battery was in his right thigh area, and he just might be able to change it, if he could find a spare.
The damage control locker was closed, and he gingerly opened the hatch, not knowing what to expect. Surprising him, most of the equipment was still in the respective racks. There was one portable air lock, latched to the bulkhead, just forward of the hatch. He also found spare batteries, and managed to get his battery pack changed out. By the time he was finished, he was sweating and hurting, so he popped an analgesic tab and electrolyte replacement to choke it down with. Water, where the hell… None in here. Did any of the escape modules go? They’ve got E-rats and water. Now where the hell is the closest one?
Twenty secs later, he floated through the tunnel and into escape module 7, which would have been the one the bridge crew would have used. Damn, this means nobody on the bridge got out. Well, let’s see… He popped open the hatch marked emergency supplies, and was greeted with a blizzard of pacs floating out. He grabbed one, flipped it over and confirmed it had both E-rats and water. A body bag floated out of the hatch and he snagged it, then loaded it with all the pacs he could corral quickly. Dragging it behind him, he started back down to medical.
Tying the body bag off with the O2 tanks, he went back for the portable airlock. As he was pulling it off the bulkhead, he knocked over a rack of radios, and picked two of them out of the vacuum, sticking them in his suit. Another thirty secs, and he finally had it in front of the hatch into medical. He tapped out, P O R T A I R L O C K, a pause then E R A T S, another pause and R D O I N B A G. He got back a tap O K. Taking the radios out, he shoved them in the body bag. He wrestled the airlock over the hatch, braced it with his suit, and hit the sealing charge. There was a flash of light, and he felt a clang as the airlock mated to the bulkhead. He shoved the bag into the lock, then sealed it.
Moving over to the O2 tanks, he plugged the hose into the airlock, cracked the valve, and waited until the light on the lock showed green. Shutting the valve, he tapped on the bulkhead, P R E S S E Q, a pause, H 2 O B A G. He got back O K, then felt a grinding as the hatch was cracked open. He moved over to the small view port, and saw a slim female he recognized as the assistant astrogator, Solly? Yeah, Solly… Holly? Or was that just what they called her. Tapping on the view port, he saw her look up, then nod as she pulled the body bag through the hatch.
A sec later, he heard a click in his speakers, and a tentative voice, “This is Solly. Thanks for the O2, water and food. Who’s in the suit?”
He tongued the mic, “Spacer Second Lherson, ma’am.”
A click, “What happened?”
“Dunno, ma’am. The back third of the ship is gone. As far as I know, you and whomever else is in there and myself are the only ones left alive.”
He thought for a sec, “How many of you?”
“Four now. Doc committed suicide.”
Lherson sensed there was something she wasn’t telling him, but he didn’t have time to worry about that. He tongued the mic, “I’m going to see if there is anyone else alive. Be back in a div or so. Will you be okay until then?”
Click, “I think so. Now that there is some water and food. Nobody answers on any channel?”
“No. Not a soul. And we’re tumbling. I didn’t see any other ships either.”
Two divs later, he was back at the hatch, he tongued the mic, “Ma’am, looks like we are it. The escape modules are still in place, as far as I can tell. There is a shuttle in the forward bay…”
Solly interrupted hopefully, “A shuttle? Which one?”
Lherson stopped, “Uh, the fancy one. Not the one the crew uses. But what good does that…”
“We have soft suits in here. If we could get to the shuttle, and it has fuel…”
“Ma’am, I didn’t check. Why the shuttle and not an escape module?”
She sounded more hopeful as she keyed up, “More room and more range. And I could navigate it, as opposed to the EMs, which go to the nearest habitable planet.”
“Oh. Want me to go check?”
“Please. Do you know what to look for?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m a former GalPat spacer.”
“I’ll raid the modules too. Back in a div or so.”
Lherson made his way back to the forward bay, floated in the back hatch of the shuttle, and made his way forward, realizing there was no atmosphere. Shit, gotta figure out a way to get atmosphere in this thing. Didn’t we have cylinders that had normal atmosph… Crap that was on the combatants. Not sure they’ve got that capability here. Easing into the cockpit, he steadied himself and found the master bus switch. Flipping it, he was startled when alarms started blaring and the board lit up red. He found the reaction mass gauge, and saw the tanks were full. Quickly shutting the switch off, he backed carefully out, checking the various lockers and hatches. Plenty of room to store E-rats. Now I just need to get some.
Two divs later, he tongued his mic, “Ma’am, I’ve got the shuttle full of E-rats. I’ve located a cylinder of compressed air, and I can put atmosphere in the shuttle once I get you and the others on board. I’m about at the end of my rope, though. I haven’t slept in over two days, and I’m running on stims and meds.”
He heard a click, “Understood. I will get the matriarch out of the med comp, its battery is down to two hours anyway. I think I can get her in the soft suit, and I’ll get the young ones in another two. I’m going to need help to get them to the shuttle though.”
“Matriarch? Young ones?”
“I’ll explain later,” came across the speakers forcefully.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be there in twenty secs.”
“Once I get them in the suits, I’ll need you to bleed off the pressure. I don’t know where the manual controls are in here.”
“I can do that. Heading your way now.”
Thirty secs later he heard, “Okay, bleed the atmosphere off. We are all in soft suits.”
Lherson had rigged a hose with a valve to the feed valve on the medical spaces and slowly cracked the valve, feeling it trying to move him down the passageway. Clamping in, he quickly bled off the rest of the atmosphere, watching the lights on the airlock. When it showed green again, he dropped the hose and spun the locking bar on the airlock.
He was not expecting to have a fully grown Dragoon shoved in his face, and recoiled across the passageway, reaching for a weapon, before he realized it was a she, and she was unconscious. She seemed to be missing body parts, but he couldn’t tell for sure, as it was quickly followed by a second soft suit, containing one very alive and agitated young Dragoon. That was followed by a third soft suit, containing a very young female. His speakers clicked, “I’ve strapped them together, if you take the matriarch, I’ll bring up the rear.”
“Yes, ma’am. Be aware, lots of stuff floating and panels down. We’ll have to go careful.”
“Fine. Lead on.”
A div later, he had them in the shuttle, not without a few scares, and it was pretty clear that Solly was one determined young officer. They decided to crank the hatch closed, rather than power up the shuttle, until it had atmosphere, so he was back outside, running more hoses and connecting to a port on the servicing panel of the shuttle. He tongued the mic, “Starting flow. I have no idea how much is in the bottle, but there is an O2 bottle here if we don’t get adequate pressure.”
Click, “I won’t hit the master bus until the soft suit deflates. That will at least give us an idea of pressure.”
“Yes, ma’am. Standing by for your call.”
Thirty secs later, he heard a click, “Okay, they’re deflated. Powering up the master bus now,” a pause, then, “About thirteen and a half.”
Tonguing his mic, he said, “Okay, switching to the O2 tank.” While it was emptying, he floated across to the hangar door, looking at the emergency releases. What the hell, I gotta do this sooner or later… He clamped his boots onto the hangar deck, and with some trepidation, fired the left emergency releases. He felt two ‘tings’ through his boots, and the left side of the hangar door started moving outward. He unclamped and floated over to the right side of the door, clamped in, and fired the emergency releases on that side. Two more ‘tings’ and the door disappeared as the door’s rotation no longer matched that of the ship.
Crap, I didn’t think about that. How the hell are we going to get the shuttle out? As soon as we…
He was interrupted by a click and “Spacer, we’ve got fourteen point five. What did you do?”
“I got rid of the hangar door, ma’am.”
Click, “Good thinking. Are you coming aboard?”
“Let me disconnect the O2, and I’ll come in through the back airlock. Where are the pax?”
Click, “I have them strapped in seats, for now, and still on their bottles.”
Lherson climbed wearily up to the shuttle lock, cycled in, and clamped his boots to the floor. Cracking the seals for the first time in almost two days, he sniffed the air, and realized he could breathe. Easing himself out of the suit, he strapped it into the bulkhead, then floated forward and into the cockpit, steering clear of the two Dragoons. Solly was out of her soft suit, strapped into the copilot/nav chair, and she turned, “My God, you stink!”
“Sorry, ma’am, I been in that suit for almost two days. Why aren’t you in the pilot chair?”
“I’m an astronav, not a pilot. I looked you up in the system, you’re a qualified cox’n, right?”
“I was in the GalPat, but that was on much smaller things than this!”
Impatiently she said, “Well, you’re a better choice than I am, Spacer Lherson. Do you think you can get us out of here?”
He looked at her, “Either that, or kill us. Not like we have much choice, is there?”
Solly just looked at him, and he shrugged. “Binary solution set, ma’am.”
Lherson strapped himself into the pilot’s chair, scanning the instrument panel and mumbling to himself. Touching the joystick, he looked at the thruster controls, “Huh, like a scooter, maybe I can do this.”
Pulling up the emergency checklist, he powered up the APU, and heard Solly gasp, “What are you…”
“Gotta have power. APU points up, and the hangar should be high enough that I’m not setting it on fire. Scratch that, no atmo, no fire.” As systems came on line, he ran through the checklist, with more mumbling, then finally said, “Okay, we can’t cycle the Nav and Stab systems, since there is no power and no stability. Gonna have to try to fly us out, assuming the guillotines work to disconnect us from the hangar deck. Would you go check and make sure the others are strapped in tight? This is probably gonna be a rough ride.”
She looked a bit miffed, but did as he asked, then came back, “Passengers are secured as tightly as I can make them. What do you want me to do?”
“Right now, nothing. If we get clear, then you’re going to have to try to cycle and sync the Nav system.”
“Okay.” She pulled her straps tight, turned to him and said, “Okay Spacer, let’s do this.”