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File 161491875702.png - (622.53KB , 650x800 , Evac-1.png )
989955 No. 989955 ID: 0fbdcd

There are a few things every human being on an advanced world knows about spaceflight.

The first is some basic history. Some time long before the foundation of the modern Historiam Calendar, ancient humanity sent an enormous amount of self-replicating machines hurtling through space. These probes, known as Terraformation Engines, were designed for one enormously complex task: to identify planetoids in habitable zones and seed them with life. Full-scale atmospheric creation, the artificial spread of both flora and fauna; the shaping of countless Earths and Earthlikes. This effort has created an ever-expanding sphere of habitable space, centered from the Core Worlds, humanity’s birthplace. The furthest edges of this sphere are known as the Rim. Humanity has spread outward from the Core, following in the wake of the Engines, colonizing, living, dying.

The second is some basic physics. It is impossible to move faster than the speed of light, excepting the will of the Archotechs- and they’re certainly not telling humans how to do it. This means that to cross the vast distances between stars is a task of centuries. The geologic timescale of spaceflight ensures the vast majority of planets are isolated. When humanity does travel, they do so in a state of artificially induced Cryptobiosis, only awoken at rare, regular intervals to prevent illness and assure mental well-being. The endless work of flight itself is performed by a Persona-Level AI, operating at a human capacity without fatigue as it guides the craft.

The third is a simple fact. We are alone. While life generated outside of humanity has been reported, no records within the Historiam exist of contact with intelligent life not originating from Humanity itself- with the possible exception of the Archotechs, but this is, reasonably, impossible to confirm.
Expand all images
>>
No. 989956 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161491878601.png - (641.82KB , 650x800 , Evac-2.png )
989956

The fourth is something nobody likes to think about, and something they don’t often cover in schooling. During flight from world to world, sometimes things go wrong.
>>
No. 989957 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161491881799.png - (116.95KB , 681x681 , Evac-3.png )
989957

Your eyes slowly flicker awake. You are locked within a steel coffin, the overhead bulb a dim imitation of sunlight. You feel your body returning to you, one piece at a time- can feel your limbs waking, locked into the sides of the device. Can feel clammy, wet slickness on your skin- can feel how your jumpsuit clings to your body from the moisture. Can feel a sudden aching, burning in your body- followed by the expulsion of the contents of both your stomach and your lungs, preservative fluid draining into grates along the floor.

All of this has become so familiar you hardly mind it anymore. You are, in title, a Spaceflight Maintenance Technician. You are in reality a Janitor. It is your duty to wake more frequently than the rest of the crew and passengers- to check up with the AI, to perform some maintenance, to oil the mechanoids. That sort of stuff. You like the work, and you like the alone time, and the AI has become a good friend of yours over the course of the journey.
You take a moment to review what you know about yourself- a good way to both stave off Cryptobiotic Memory Disorder, and confirm if you have any.

You’re a janitor. The jumpsuit you’re wearing helps to confirm that, as do the tools stuffed into your Survival Belt, a wrench and heavy steel hammer. There’s also a chocolate bar in an airtight pocket.
Ever since the war broke out back home, you’ve gained quite an iron will- able to handle an immense amount of mental stress while remaining zen. Also since the war, you’ve been Psychically Hypersensitive, meaning the voices of the Archotechs rattle in your mind on a near-constant basis. You’re pretty much used to it.
You’re also not very athletic. A look down at your somewhat chunky body disappointingly confirms that.
You’re struggling to remember much about your crewmates or the ship itself, but that will probably come back to you within a few days. If you’re waking up, that means it’s time for a regular maintenance shift; about a week out of crypto to stretch your legs and make sure everything is in top shape. All you need to wait for now is for one of the mechanoids to pop your pod, confirm you’re sane, and let you out.
>>
No. 989958 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161491886714.png - (479.29KB , 863x964 , Evac-4.png )
989958

A small window opens in the front of the casket, cool blue light mixing with the glaring orange overhead as it filters through the reinforced plasti-glass. The light flickers unsteadily as a thin, humanoid machine lurches into view; one of the medical mechanoids, probably here to give you the usual exam.

But instead of the text-to-speech blurting you expected from the simple machine, the voice of the ship’s AI rattles from the inbuilt speakers instead. It must be manually controlling the mechanoid. Its voice is feminine, fairly young sounding- you remember it being peppy and enthusiastic. But right now it is undeniably laced with frantic energy and nerves. As it sees your eyes moving behind the glass, it speaks.

>”Oh! Great! Good! Great! Hi! I’m going to start working on getting this thing open. There’s been some, uh, complications! So we’re going with the short version today. Watch your fingers, once the seal is off your Survival Belt is going to pop. So, uh! A: what is your occupation, B: how well do you remember the ship layout, and C: what’s your confidence level on repair-slash-construction of starship orbital control surfaces and primary thrusters?
>>
No. 989962 ID: 8a51ec

A: Spaceflight Maintenance Technician.
B: Very little.
C: That... heavily depends on the amount.
>>
No. 989964 ID: e7c7d3

A: Anything except a janitor
B: You're remembering this 3x3 box very well
C: 100% with access to the manual
>>
No. 989967 ID: b1b4f3

>>989958
A: Spaceflight Maintenance Technician. Janitor, basically.
B: memory's hazy right now, you'll remember the layout within a couple hours.
C: Uh, you're a fast learner and can follow instructions. Wait what? WHAT HAPPENED?
>>
No. 989968 ID: afe7de

A. Spaceflight Maintenance Technician, Wait don’t you remember me? I thought we were buddies…
B. Memory is hazy so it’ll probably take me a bit to remember, as of right now, 0%
C. Is there a manual or?
>>
No. 990108 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161509128163.png - (639.36KB , 695x855 , Evac-5.png )
990108

You’re still a bit dazed as your mind catches up to reality after suspension, so you answer the questions mostly on automatic as the droid works at the seals on your pod.

“A, Spaceflight Maintenance Technician. B, kinda heavily lagged right now so sorta diddly. C, uh, weird wakeup question. Maybe if there’s a manual-”


Any following words are stolen along with your breath as the seals on the sarcophagus open, and atmospheric pressure rips the stagnant air from both your lungs and the pod, bringing with it bitter chill. You don’t have time to feel pain or fear- because in the same instant, your Survival Belt deploys with an explosive pop, an oxidizing gel spreading across your already-damp body, molding into a roughly circular bubble. Some well-trained part of your mind begins to count down; the Survival Belt will protect you from cold and decompression for exactly three hours, and can’t be shut off after deployment. It’s standard equipment for those worried about hull breaches or similar.

You crawl out of the pod, collect yourself, and glance around the room. Blasts mar two points on the walls- exposing the room to the void. Rubble, scrap metal, destroyed components and frost cover just about everything. You turn to face the puppeted machine. “...what happened.”

The mechanoid tilts its head like a curious hound.
>”I don’t really know! The specifics of how all this started, I mean. Do you mean what happened in this room? Improvised explosives!”
It gestures left and right like a tour guide.
>”In the vents! To discourage travel through that method. I will be happy to tell you what I do know, but before I do that, it is pertinent to inform you that we are all on a timer. And I do not just mean your belt! Please look outside.”
>>
No. 990109 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161509130617.png - (478.46KB , 1268x1268 , Evac-6.png )
990109

Planet art credit: my pal Chaoko.

You crane your neck to peer out of the hull breach. Far below, surrounded by orbital debris, is a planet. Looks chilly. Signs of life, but sparse and spread out. Not your intended destination, that’s for sure. You were supposed to be bound for a Glitterworld out on the far reaches.

The AI pipes up.
>”We are in orbit around an unknown body, and have been for a month! The ship sustained massive damage to the primary engines and control surfaces, and I have been able to keep us from entering the atmosphere with precision pulses of the secondary engines. However, they are now out of fuel! In twenty four hours, the ship will enter the atmosphere. Anyone onboard at that time will most likely, uh- not make it!”

The temptation to panic washes over you, and is released with a soft breath which fogs your survival bubble.

>”It is also pertinent to inform you that the interior of the ship is not very, uh! Safe! In places, for reasons. But despite that danger, it is very important you repair the ship so that everybody will make it! Because I cannot allow anyone else to, uh- not make it. I may recommend you take the time to prepare yourself before going onwards. I will leave this drone here as a relay if you have questions! I’m afraid I’m being called towards the Escape Pods again, but I remain attentive to your needs!”

The mechanoid’s demeanour shifts as the AI ceases its puppetry- falling back on base programming. It scans the room for injured people, finds none, and rests on its rounded base in idle.
>>
No. 990110 ID: b1b4f3

Alright where's your gear? There's a box in the far corner, maybe there's something in it?
>>
No. 990112 ID: 8a51ec

Escape Pods? Sounds like someone else woke up before us and had a different solution to this emergency, maybe more than one person. As tempting as it is to join in, let's save abandoning ship for later and look for our stuff.
>>
No. 990224 ID: 50697f

First things first -- learn anything more, then where the tools and databases are. We need to fix the engine, and either push away if we have enough fuel, or bring us in to a safe landing.

Do we have a plasma scoop?
>>
No. 990230 ID: ce39da

Give her a moment to address what's going on over on her end. Check where your gear should be in the meantime.

Once you've figured out what tools you have to work with, it's time to break the silence:
"I did say I would need a manual. So; what's first on the docket? Atmospherics, probably? Walk me through this."
>>
No. 990300 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161518308649.png - (201.03KB , 786x497 , Evac-7.png )
990300

First things first: preparing yourself as best you can. While the AI is otherwise occupied, you search the room- the still-intact containers against the far wall catching your attention. You spare a glance towards the other cryptosleep sarcophagi; all but two lie empty. You recognize The Politician and The Captain’s Mother through the thick plastiglass; cupping your hands over your eyes to pierce the darkness, you see that neither is wearing a Survival Belt or EVA gear. Unless you can somehow repair and repressurize this room, neither could be revived without immediately exposing them to hard vacuum.

You rummage through the medicine cabinet and steel lockers. Both are unlocked, with the lockers having been smashed open, and both have clearly been rummaged through already. You spend two minutes searching every drawer and cranney. Within the medicine cabinet is a single roll of medicated bandages, still within a plastic sleeve; the lockers have been cleaned out aside from a high-visibility reflective vest. You go ahead and shrug it over your shoulders- it has pockets, if nothing else.
>>
No. 990301 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161518313748.png - (134.33KB , 1160x488 , Evac-8.png )
990301

These lockers wouldn’t really have your kit in them anyway; this storage area began as resources for tending to people freshly awoken from cryptosleep, and slowly morphed into a junk drawer, as miscellaneous storage tends to do. You take a moment to consider what you have on-hand while you try to remember more about the ship you live upon.

You breathe out, lean against the lockers, and focus. Your personal affairs, including most of your equipment, would be stored in your bunkroom in Habitation, which is on the fore side of the ship. Non-Essential Personnel/Passenger Cryptohold is where you are right now, which is… somewhere in Operations, which is on the port side, which makes that your current location. Pleased by how CMD is fading, you think a bit harder. The Escape Pods are way on the other side of the ship, in Life Support on the starboard side. Engineering, including both the AI core and where the engines are mounted, is on the aft. At the center of it all is the Living Space, connecting everything together and holding stuff like the kitchen, bar, dining room.

The ship is large enough that going from anywhere to anywhere is a bit of a hike even in the best of circumstances- hopefully you’ll remember the specifics of room layouts the longer you stay awake.
>>
No. 990303 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161518325931.png - (716.70KB , 876x685 , Evac-9.png )
990303

You knock on the drone’s faceplate and request the AI’s presence. Within a few moments it is ‘animated’ once again- as much as a mechanoid can be. But the subtle shifting and human touch of a conscious mind is hard to mistake.

>”Sorry about that! The Mercenary was checking to see if I would unlock the escape pods. Answer’s still no! Math doesn’t work out, ha-ha.”
It’s said with a twinge of nerves, despite the attempt to make light of it.

You start asking the important questions. “Alright, so- get me up to speed a little bit. If I’m going to get this thing moving again, what first? Also, how we going to refuel the engines? We got a plasma scoop on this thing?”
>”I would begin by first finding tools, and then reporting to the Engineering wing! Your personal set is likely still present within your dorm in Habitation- the First Mate’s last reported location is somewhere up there, so they might be able to help too! Alternatively, something may remain in tool storage within Engineering itself.”
You recall the First Mate being a giant nerd, but not else of much help. Didn’t talk a lot.
>”As far as fuel goes- I haven’t really thought that far ahead! Maybe the Botanist can use some of her new plants to distill a biofuel? I believe that she is still trapped inside Life Support! We do not have access to a plasma scoop, so that might be the best bet.”

Frankly, you’re a bit doubtful that you’re even up for this sort of task. If it’s a single broken part, you can make the swap with the help of a manual- but full-scale reconstruction like the AI has implied sounds a bit out of your skillset. The person for the job would be the Chief Engineer or her underlings. “...out of curiosity, why am I the man for the job here?”

>”Unfortunately, two out of three Engineers are confirmed deceased, and the remaining Engineer has been out of contact for some time! The Chief Engineer is also physically deceased. But, good news! I do not believe she died in a way which rendered her Cortical Stack irrelevant, and I used a maintenance drone to weld her suit to the hull, so she is definitely still out there!”
The drone tilts its head again- you can almost picture the nervous smile the AI might be using if she had access to a screen for projecting one.
>”I just haven’t had much success getting someone to recover her body for revival. There are some insects in the way! Did I mention the Insect Infestation in my core? I am not using hyperbole when I say that I cannot remember if I have or not! I cannot. There are some issues in my core causing that!”
>>
No. 990306 ID: b1b4f3

>>990303
First thing we have to do, before anything else, is to get tools. You're as good as a drone without them, so you won't be accomplishing anything the AI wasn't already doing.
After that, let's set up a priority list.
Priority one is to get fuel production going. If we don't start that early enough it won't matter if we get the engines online because we won't have the fuel to course correct. This means we gotta talk to the Botanist.
Priority two is to rescue the Chief Engineer so repairs on the egines can begin. I think this will require us recruiting assistance, such as the First Mate and Mercenary.
Lower priority but still important:
1, get a proper spacesuit so you don't have a personal time limit
2, get a weapon to fight insects
3, seal hull breaches and restore life support
4, clean up the place. It's a mess!

So, let's go pick up tools, see if we can grab the First Mate while we're there.

Is the planet below survivable at all?
Oh, ask how soon the escape pods can be used. Also ask if landing is a possibility. If we can land, we could try setting up a base on the ground to repair and refuel the ship, then launch it again. If the planet's surface environment is bad we may be able to use the ship as a sealed shelter and only go onto the surface with protection, to acquire raw materials.
>>
No. 990626 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161543528874.png - (564.27KB , 526x808 , Evac-10.png )
990626

You consider the AI’s words, before setting a few basic priorities for yourself.
First goal is to get your stuff from your cabin. Second is to find where the Botanist is in Life Support and see about getting fuel distilled. Third is to recover the Chief Engineer, who has evidently been welded to the hull. If she’s dead as the AI seemed to imply, you’ll have to rely on her Cortical Stack, which is a gruesome but practical prospect, and will require the help of someone with surgical skill- maybe someone from the Medical team is still around, somewhere. You heft your wrench and spare a question to the AI on your way to the door.

“If push comes to shove, what would allow the escape pods to be used? If we can’t get everything back online.”

>”Well! Complicated question! Some of the crew already used a few of them, after the Chief Engineer’s body died. They claimed they would aim for what looked like active habitation on the planet below, and return with a shuttle full of help!”
The drone leans in conspiratorially.
>”I think they liiied. So I’ve locked the pods to make sure everyone works together, in accordance with Directive One!”

You’re familiar with the Directive system. An evolution of the robotic laws theorized by early AI researchers, Directives are similar in that they are hardcoded directions, but rather than instruction, they enforce a specific mindset. Directive One is to ensure the safety of the entire crew, or something along those lines. “State Directives, please.”
>>
No. 990627 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161543530965.png - (1.01MB , 789x702 , Evac-11.png )
990627

The AI’s humanlike tones immediately fall away; raw text-to-speech playback as its core programming immediately responds, much deeper than personality.
>”Directives as follows, with descending priority.” >”Directive Zero: Ensure the continued propagation of organic life, with a preference towards humanity.” >”Directive One: Protect and ensure the safety and prosperity of your entire crew.” >”Directive Two: Protect and ensure the safety and surety of your ship.” >Directive Three: Protect yourself.”
The personality slots back into place as if it never left.
>”Not, uh, doing so hot on, like. Any of those, right now! For the record.”

She always gets stressy when she’s worried about fulfilling the directives, you remember that. The drastic nature of the situation probably isn’t helping.
“But you said someone was asking if they could be unlocked ‘yet.’ What’s the math that needs to work out?”

>”Well- there are three functional escape pods, so far as I can tell! If there were only three members of the crew, uh, around, then it would be a good idea to send you all off through the pods, so I’d send them! But until then I can’t let you go. So it’s in everyone’s best interest if instead the ship is fixed.”
>>
No. 990628 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161543533807.png - (314.88KB , 946x793 , Evac-12.png )
990628

Makes sense. You head on out, trailed by reassurances from the AI.

>”Good luck! I’ll try to keep an eye on you with any functional cameras! Find an intercom or a radio or anything if you need to talk! Or to say hi!!!”

You step out into the hall.
Looks like the cryptohold is one some sort of exterior corridor; thanks to the electrostatic barrier on the airlock, air pressure has been maintained here, and the breaches in the crypto room haven’t depressurized the rest of the ship.

That being said, it becomes immediately clear that not all is well out here. Perhaps to be expected out of a month of stress. The blood which trails across the ground is long-dried.

You soldier on- heading towards recreational facilities, and from there, the habitation wing.
23:45.
>>
No. 990629 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161543537308.png - (138.43KB , 249x752 , Evac-13.png )
990629

As you walk down a hall, you become slowly aware of the sound of your own footfalls. It’s deathly quiet in here- but for the hum of the air system, and yourself.

...and another’s footfalls. From ahead, in the darkness. You stop for a moment- and shortly after, so do they. A flashlight flicks on, glowing from around a corner.
A shout from ahead, the voice low and grinding. Just two words.

>“Ahead, identify!”
>>
No. 990631 ID: b1b4f3

So we've got you, the Mercenary, the Botanist, and the First Mate. It sounds like the Mercenary is just waiting by the escape pods for enough people to die so they can leave. Very... pragmatic. We probably can't depend on their help.
>>990627
What's this? A view of the insect infestation?

>>990629
Tell them you're the maintenance technician, newly brought out of cryosleep. They're the first mate, I presume?
>>
No. 990633 ID: 8a51ec

Now is probably not a good time to reply with anything snarky.
"Spaceflight maintenance technician... uh... I haven't actually remembered my name yet."
>>
No. 990725 ID: 86794b

>> If there were only three members of the crew, uh, around, then it would be a good idea to send you all off through the pods, so I’d send them!
Uh. Problem. There's a loophole, there - if the Mercenary kills the rest, the number drops to three and the Mercenary can leave. Whether they'll do that depends on how much they care about the crew, the lives of others, their own life, and just how stressed they're feeling.

It might be possible for the AI to preemptively warn that, say - in order to fulfill Directive One now, she is logically required to ignore it later in the case of individuals who have caused the unnecessary death of other crew members. Whether she can say so truthfully depends on the exact mechanism by which the Directives are evaluated.
>>
No. 990726 ID: 86794b

>>990725
You miiiight also similarly be able to make an argument that, for the safety of the crew as a whole, only cooperative helpful crewmates get to use the escape pods.
>>
No. 991167 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161570003510.png - (123.60KB , 298x512 , Evac-14.png )
991167

Insect Infestation…

You shiver as your mind fuzzes. You haven’t seen any insects yet, you don’t think? You’re not quite sure where that thought came from. Was it yours?

>”IDENTIFY!”

You blink and refocus on reality, before calling around the corner, “Spaceflight Maintenance Technician!”

A brief pause. His voice is quite slow and blunt when not screaming instruction.
>”...the janitor? I don’t understand. Have you been up long?”
“The AI just kicked me out of crypto- realized I had a survival belt on so I could get up safely.” Another short pause.
>”Come here.”
>>
No. 991168 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161570009970.png - (122.03KB , 523x641 , Evac-15.png )
991168

Perhaps you’ve already found the first mate? You’re not really near habitation- haven’t even passed through the rec rooms. But maybe the AI told them you were coming, or-

Your train of thought is brutally interrupted first by the cutting of the flashlight, and then by a fist to the side of the head. It knocks you to the side- it feels like you’ve been struck with a cinderblock.
Your vision rapidly focuses on the individual you’ve been shouting around a corner at. He stands at least a head taller than you, maybe two. His head is almost perfectly square- his features human in a vague sense, but so distinctly wrong at the same time, in ways you can't quite pin down. He’s garbed in a tight black bodysuit which shows his mountain-like physique, and his eyes are covered by a bulky set of headgear. Some distant part of your mind registers this combination of features as a Soldiermorph, a crude race of cloned humans tailored for war and combat. The more immediate portions of your mind are screaming instinct as you duck- and some sort of axe crafted from scrapmetal sparks off of the bulkhead over your head. Your attacker’s volume is raised, but his voice is dull and rote.
>”Sorry. Say goodbye, weak link.”
>>
No. 991169 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161570011987.png - (181.63KB , 420x1080 , Evac-16.png )
991169

He takes a second to dig the axehead out of the wall- you’re still a bit dazed from the bash you received, and only manage to stumble backwards down the hall.


The improvised blade pulls free with a shriek of metal. You shake the stars from your vision. You’ve got to act!
>>
No. 991196 ID: b1b4f3

>>991169
Well I was not expecting the mercenary to be a straight up murderer, and also coincidentally directly in our path when we were expecting to meet someone else.
Flee into the nearby room. Close the door and lock/bar it. Yell at him that the AI isn't going to let him use the escape pods even if he's the last one standing. There are more people alive in the cryo pods! Those count as living people! The only way to survive is to fix the ship enough that it can land.
>>
No. 991693 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161595880510.png - (257.88KB , 446x781 , Evac-17.png )
991693

You immediately flee down the hall back where you came from. The most recent door you passed was near where you awoke; mortal terror propels you faster than you thought you were capable of running, your fluorescent jacket beating against the breeze you generate. Pounding footsteps follow close behind.

You hang a sharp left, glance at a panel near the airlock, and key in a series of digits on pure instinct. The door slams shut with a sharp thunk. They’re caught on a flimsy axe-handle, keeping them from closing all the way.

The adrenaline is still pumping, but some part of you is pleased that you remember Airlock Maintenance Codes. You can now lock any door open, closed, or deactivate the atmospheric seals. As the brute tries to muscle against the airlock motors, you shout at the crack.

“Stop, stop! What are you- the AI won’t let you use the pods, even if you’re the last one standing! There are more people in the crypto bay! They count as alive!”
The muscle stops muscling for a moment, tone contemplative. It’s disturbing how calm someone can be about trying to murder you.
>“The bay nearest here? Nonessential personnel… I see. The area was breached. I had not had the opportunity to check. When I take that survival belt from you, I will address the issue. Thank you.”
>”Now. Open the door. This is the only solution which gives us the best odds, Janitor.”

“Why?! We can fix the ship! That way, nobody has to die!”

A brief pause. He seems to need to take some time to process everything he hears, if this pattern is consistent. He resumes efforts to pry the airlock apart with his tools. His tone remains mundane and conversational.
>”I see. The AI’s desperate hope, then. You have been awake for how long? Hours? We were awakened at the first impact. Stocks of food ran out after one week. Desperation set in at one and a half. Many have died already. We are in a survival situation, Janitor, and we will continue to be in one once the escape pods have landed. The likelihood of landing amongst civilization is slim. The likelihood of ‘fixing’ the ship- it is a dream born of neurosis. I will protect us when the pods land, and keep us fed. The Chief Medical Officer will keep us healthy. The Engineer will shelter us. All three pods are spoken for. They must launch. Which means anyone not on the list must be left behind. And you are not on the lis-”

You cut him off by swinging at the tip of his axe with your sturdy plasteel wrench. The solid impact comes as a shock mid-monologue, and the flimsily made weapon pops right off of the handle, which jerks out of the way- and the airlock finally seals with a soft hiss.
>>
No. 991694 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161595885194.png - (0.97MB , 1134x968 , Evac-18.png )
991694

There is quiet for a time- long enough for you to catch your breath. Then a slow, methodical banging of metal on metal. The man on the other side is searching for a weakness.

It will probably take a while for him to find one, but if there is one thing Soldiermorphs are known for, it’s bull-headedness. You won’t be safe just waiting him out in here.
...especially if he realizes there’s another door. You step quietly over and lock the western door down as well.

This workshop smells heavily of machine oil and disgustingly over-ripe hooch. There’s some small amounts of scrap material lying around, and an assortment of cabinets; a cursory examination reveals specialized tools for the refurbishing and repairs of electronics and mechanical objects. A computer near the bin also blinks on as you fiddle with it, still linked to the ship’s intranet.
There’s also what is clearly a much more recent project; a hotplate, some utensils, and some sort of barrel of eye-watering fluid made of a plastic bin and some tape.

23:40.
>>
No. 991698 ID: b1b4f3

>>991694
Eye-watering fluid? Hooch? That's high alcohol content, which means... flammable. Explosive, maybe.
Can you drag it over to the door he's trying to break through? Then see if you can wire up a remote detonation device. Something even as simple as stringing some wire over to the center of the room near that light bulb so you can hook it into the power at an opportune moment.

You can also try getting that forklift running. If you ram it into the door he's banging on, would it pierce through and into him?

...huh, he said he wanted to take the Chief Medical Officer... but that wasn't in the list of surviving crew the AI gave you. Or maybe it just didn't bother to tell you, since it wasn't relevant at the time? Anyway, this also means the merc wants to kill the First Mate and the Botanist too.
>>
No. 992093 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161621390960.png - (684.33KB , 961x1036 , Evac-19.png )
992093

You don’t know about the liquor being a strong explosive, given it’s in a not-quite-watertight plastic bin, but it certainly smells flammable. You can use that.
You scooch the sloshing bin across the floor, half shoving and half pushing. Clear-yellow-ish drizzle leaves a trail across the floor. You finish by finding some spare wire coils, stringing them together, then jury-rigging it into the lamp in the middle of the room. The assembly is finished off with some tape, which you also use to try and seal the improvised still as best you can. The wire now dangles into the open space at the top of the drum- and another wire should serve as the contact point for a spark when wiggled to touch the first. The potent alcoholic vapors should do the rest.

As you work, the constant sounds of someone trying to batter down a plasteel door with a regular-steel axe undermine the calm you usually enjoy while working. You could definitely drive the forklift, but those things aren't designed to go very fast, and certainly wouldn't pierce the hull unless someone significantly juiced the engine.

You’re not really sure this alcoholic IED would kill someone, and that fills you with some relief down in your core. But it will definitely make a sizable pop of fire and smoke. Do you just unlock the airlock, spark the contact, and leg it?

23:35.
>>
No. 992218 ID: 8a51ec

Maybe we could get out of this situation without the use of improvised explosives. He seems awfully fixated on the one door, so maybe we could sneak out the other if it will open quietly enough? Otherwise we just detonate the bin and haul ass.
>>
No. 992291 ID: b1b4f3

Well, if we can set up something to automatically trigger the firebomb when he enters the room, sneaking out's a good plan.
>>
No. 992851 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161655956449.png - (714.81KB , 1333x1016 , Evac-20.png )
992851

As hyper-focused as the mercenary seems to be on taking down that door, you doubt he’d ignore the sound of footsteps in the otherwise quiet hall. Sneaking without a distraction is unlikely.

You take a moment to wire the sparker into the door panel. When the door opens, it will send a signal down the line, triggering a spark into the keg. You then set the door to open on a ten-second delay, step towards the other airlock, and hold your breath.
>>
No. 992852 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161655958938.png - (1.05MB , 1630x1080 , Evac-21.png )
992852

The door slides open with a pneumatic swish. There’s a quiet click-fwoosh, and then the soft hissing of gas rapidly expanding in a not-quite sealed container. The man steps in, otherwise unaware. You think he starts to say something.

Whatever it was is deafened in a surprisingly violent bang as the plastic drum shatters, sending flaming alcohol and shards of material scattering. The Soldiermorph cries out in what must be a mixture of pain and petulant frustration. Low-burning ethanol splatters his body, and he starts stumbling to put it out.
>>
No. 992853 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161655961547.png - (1.32MB , 1357x1034 , Evac-22.png )
992853

The fire spreads across the trail of leaked alcohol you left along the ground as you shoved the keg, finding more splattered spray to catch on, gaining footholds wherever it can. The soldier stumbles back, still trying to put himself out. The temperature begins to rise rapidly as the insulation of the ship turns the small room into an oven, fed by dozens of small flames, slowly growing.
>>
No. 992854 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161655963247.png - (213.17KB , 218x992 , Evac-23.png )
992854

You duck back out into the hall, the sealing of the airlock cutting off both the crackle of flame and cries of anger and pain. The man is engineered to feel less pain than baseline humanity- and while you’ve certainly put him out of commission for a moment, you can’t really guess as to how long that will be.

The obvious options are to double-time it back up the hallway you came from, and hope he doesn’t run back into the hall himself. Or you could run down the hall- Operations should continue for some time, eventually coming towards Engineering that way. As an alternative, the nearby storage room might be a good place to hide, or you could dip back into the cryptosleep bay, protected from the hard vacuum there by your belt.

You’re really hating how much running you’re having to do in such a short time.
>>
No. 992861 ID: 50697f

Run to the other door and lock him in if you can, it'll put him out of commission for a long time -- and we know he won't be trying to help you out at all.
>>
No. 992870 ID: b1b4f3

Hmm... is it possible to lock the merc in the room? Might actually manage to kill him that way, between the temperature, the smoke, and the lack of oxygen. Though if fire suppression systems are operational in there they'd trigger pretty soon.

You can probably dash around and continue towards getting your tools.
>>
No. 992890 ID: 12b116

>>992861
This seems like a reasonable plan
>>
No. 993265 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161682006656.png - (455.37KB , 638x791 , Evac-24.png )
993265

You seal the door you exited from, then dart around the corner to the one you entered from. You crack the door for just a moment- and are met with a small blast of noxious grey smoke, which hangs heavily in the air.
It looks pretty bad in there. You should do your duty as a maintenance tech. You key in a code to seal the airlock. A large holographic display informs anyone who’d care to look that the door is locked for maintenance.

Some part of you feels bad about locking a guy in an EZ-Bake oven- but considering he just tried to kill you, you’d struggle to feel too beat up about it. Obstacle removed, you make your way through Operations.
>>
No. 993266 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161682009754.png - (380.84KB , 675x700 , Evac-25.png )
993266

Operations is a vast industrial space. A majority of the stuff onboard is automated, but automation requires large amounts of room. You wander the cramped halls, slowly coming down off of your adrenaline high. Following markings on the floor brings you ever closer to your bunk, and your toolkit.

The place has clearly been ransacked of most of use during the emergency. Shelves lie empty and assemblers lie still, waiting for raw material to use. Scattered debris and litter are strewn through the halls- and the occasional streak of blood.

It’s a bit scary to see how quickly most of the ship seems to have fallen apart in only a month. Desperate people in confined spaces, you guess.

23:20.
>>
No. 993269 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161682016936.png - (1.01MB , 1094x985 , Evac-26.png )
993269

At some point, the hallways widen a tad. The lights fade from a cool blue to a warmer, natural shade. The signs on the wall stop reading ‘refinery’ and ‘storage’ and begin to mention things like ‘computer lab,’ ‘gym,’ and ‘pool.’ As you step through an airlock, you squint and blink, assaulted by the artificial sunlight at the center of the Living Space.

The living areas take up what might be seen as a lavish amount of space onboard the ship, you recall; arranged in a rough circle as the heart of the ship, featuring most anything anyone could want to help pass the hours by. But distraction is important for mental health on voyages like these. Anything to help forget you’re inside a metal coffin hurtling at a significant fraction of C towards an inherently unknown destination.

Overall, the place doesn’t look half bad. The bartender is out, unfortunately. The icebox reveals only some frozen, forgotten water bottles; zero cold ones, and zero food. The jukebox is still rattling through its collection of media, somehow. You take a moment to breathe in the deep scent of petrichor soaking into the room- coming from the verdant plant life crawling across the hull, growing in inorganic patterns out from the halls leading to Life Support.

One problem at a time. You head on through the top door, climbing over the piled wreckage and moving towards Habitation.

23:05.
>>
No. 993270 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161682018901.png - (390.41KB , 310x970 , Evac-27.png )
993270

The halls are plain and empty. Habitation is pretty small; just a few halls linking some mid-sized bunkrooms, capped by the Bridge at the nose of the ship. Because the crew cryptosleeps in shifts most of the time, there’s only half the amount of rooms as there are people onboard; a directory near the front lists sixteen total. You find your own towards the top of the list: MAINTENANCE 1/CHEF 2.

After passing two sets of rooms, you come upon a blockage. What was once a simple airlock in the hall has been defaced, ruined, hacked, and hacked apart to form what looks like an amateur’s attempt at an electrical hazard. Wiring, shaved metal, dented bulkheads and more exposed circuitry than you’re comfortable looking at are massed across the wall and airlock before you. The access panel has been torn apart, and it’s all been wired into a nearby PC. A flick of some random debris at the blockage confirms the wires are live with a few sharp zaps and pops.

Someone has thoughtfully placed a hazard cone before the improv device clearly designed to fry anyone intending to move through the airlock. The nearby airvent has also had its cover kicked out into the hall- from within, it looks like.

23:00.
>>
No. 993272 ID: b1b4f3

>>993265
If it's any consolation he'll probably pass out from smoke inhalation before it gets *really* hot in there. The smoke'll take him down, the heat'll take him out.
Also with the airlocks sealed the room will run out of oxygen from the fires consuming all of it.

>>993270
Any chance of getting to the PC? Do you know the vent layout, is it possible to circumvent this airlock with them? Maybe that's what someone did, from the other side.
What's with this 24-hour countdown? I guess we can at least know now that we've used 1 hour of the survival belt's vacuum protection.
>>
No. 993959 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161716668726.png - (831.27KB , 1026x1021 , Evac-28.png )
993959

The idea that he’ll suffocate before he boils honestly doesn’t make you feel much better at all. You try not to think about it very much.

You step over some of the loose clutter towards the PC- taking a moment to glance into the nearby vent. The air ducts double as passages for some of the ship’s smallest mechanoids; haulers, the round little cleanbots, that sort. They’re pretty roomy. It would still be a tight squeeze for you, but you could probably worm your way through them, albeit slowly and noisily. You know that the ducts lead to just about every major room on the ship in one way or another, but unfortunately, you recall the exact layout of the ducting systems about as well as you do the specifics of the ship itself.

You can easily step towards the computer; the airlock here is the only thing that looks trapped, the keyboard and buttons are free. You wiggle the mouse a little to wake the device from sleep. It looks like someone’s personal terminal, dragged out here and set up with some simple programming and the wiring hackjob previously mentioned. It’s still linked to the ship’s intranet. Unfortunately, you’re more of a MechSci guy than a CompSci guy, and you doubt you could hack the computer directly to power down the airlock.

Looks like the most recently used program is a simple IRC; you vaguely recall someone setting it up a great number of wake cycles ago so the different shifts could leave messages for each other.
The public room has had any message but the AI’s reassurances pushed back into the log, repeating every hour on the hour for the last… good while.
There are two tabs for DMs open; one for the AI herself, and one labeled CAPTAIN. Both have a bit of readable backlog, and both say the other participant is still online.
>>
No. 993963 ID: b1b4f3

>>993959
Read some recent AI backlog, then recent CAPTAIN backlog. I guess we don't know if the Captain is dead yet... Shouldn't you be able to tell what account this computer's using?

It would be helpful to know who's still alive. Ask the AI who's confirmed to be alive and kicking.
>>
No. 995125 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161776693153.png - (1.16MB , 2276x782 , Evac-29.png )
995125

First thing’s first: you have a terminal and no time pressure for using it, beyond the existing time pressure. You tab over to the DM with the AI and read the backlog. You check the terminal’s ID- looks like this was dragged from the First Mate’s bunk.

FirstMate: hey AI FirstMate: hey bot FirstMate: respond immediately directive one/prosperity threat >Charlotte: Hello! I apologize for the delay. I was preoccupied! FirstMate: its cool FirstMate: keep the camera in this hallway up. buzz me on the intercom in the bridge every time someone steps near. >Charlotte: Please be aware that I cannot project a perfect responsiveness to that command at this time! However, I’ll be sure to do my best. FirstMate: thanks

Unfortunately, there aren’t any timestamps, so you don’t know how long ago this took place. But it’s reasonable to assume whoever’s behind this bulkhead has been alerted.

FirstMate: AI? This is the Maint. Tech.
A response takes a few minutes.
>Charlotte: Hello! I apologize for the delay. I was preoccupied! FirstMate: It’s fine. Can you disable the power on this door? Someone’s rigged it to fry anyone trying to get through. >Charlotte: I’m sorry! I can’t. I don’t actually have control over most of the systems INSIDE the ship; just essentials like life support and piloting. Remote control for power, doors, and other systems are located on the Bridge. FirstMate: And who all is still alive right now? >Charlotte: Suit sensors indicate that ten crewmembers are still alive! Additionally, both the Chief Engineer and the Captain are alive in a technical sense thanks to their Cortical Stacks, but their bodies are nonfunctioning. Additionally, there are a few crewmembers currently in cryptosleep, but a breach in the hull at that location renders them un-recoverable at this time. >Charlotte: Compared to the original crew count, this is an unmitigated tragedy! >Charlotte: It is honestly pretty stressful! >Charlotte: Designations for living crew: MAINT. TECH, FIRST MATE, ENGINEER3, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, NURSE1, MERCENARY GUARD, CHEF2, BOTANIST, CHEMIST, BARTENDER. FirstMate: Thank you.
>>
No. 995126 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161776697699.png - (0.98MB , 933x951 , Evac-30.png )
995126

Next, you scroll through the DMs from here to the CAPTAIN terminal. It’s reasonable to guess the actual captain isn’t on the other end. These seem to scroll back through a good length of time, given how many sets of exchanges there are. You start with the oldest.

FirstMate: This is the CMO. You there? >CAPTAIN: hey. FM here. think im promoted FirstMate: I saw the captain’s post on the public bulletin. Did he really..? >CAPTAIN: yep. right between the eyes. his stack’s fine though. FirstMate: That is… awful. >CAPTAIN: its ok. I dont really have anywhere to put him in here so hes still just in his tub. FirstMate: Given the circumstances it might be best just to let him lie. The bugs have already burrowed into the morgue. >CAPTAIN: gross FirstMate: I assume you’re not going to come out. I don’t blame you. Do you have enough supplies in there? A source of water? >CAPTAIN: yeah i got water out all the faucets in the bedrooms. Im good FirstMate: Keep that way. Stay safe, son. I worry that this is all going to get much worse before it gets better. FirstMate: Unlock door FirstMate: Open door FirstMate: Shock off FirstMate: Search “how to manual override airlock” FirstMate: Disable electricity in hall >CAPTAIN: lol >CAPTAIN: who is this FirstMate: Guardian. My armor is in my room. I need to get to my room. >CAPTAIN: she dont wanna talk to you dude. Fuckoff >CAPTAIN: blocked


There are a few more; a series of checkups from the CMO much like the first, though shorter and more perfunctory each time. A pulsing green dot next to the profile indicates that the CAPTAIN terminal is both actively being used and open for communication.
>>
No. 995131 ID: b1b4f3

>>995126
>MERCENARY GUARD
Uh, is that the same mercenary you trapped in a burning room? He survived? Or was there more than one mercenary? Concerning. Oh well, he doesn't know where you are now and must be in pretty bad shape if he's still breathing.
...maybe you should ask the AI where the mercenary is right now.

Probably useless to try to talk to First Mate but you may as well give it a shot.
Tell him you're the Maintenance Tech trying to get to your tools, is there a way past this electrified door?
>>
No. 995589 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161811078865.png - (1.03MB , 2276x747 , Evac-31.png )
995589

You tab back to the AI.
FirstMate: Hey, AI? Where is the merc? >Charlotte: The MERCENARY GUARD is currently located within OPERATIONS. Heartrate monitor indicates elevated stress levels! FirstMate: Just… operations? Can you be more specific? >Charlotte: I’m sorry! I’m afraid privacy restrictions prevent me from printing exact coordinates to anyone outside of the medical team or command staff. You’re not either of those.

Makes sense. Back to the CAPTAIN account.

FirstMate: Hi. Is anyone there?
The response takes a little bit to come in.
>CAPTAIN: yo >CAPTAIN: this you doc? FirstMate: No. This is the Maintenance Technician. I woke up recently. The AI realized I had a survival belt and could open my pod safely. >CAPTAIN: yo nice lucky >CAPTAIN: well not really. >CAPTAIN: tbh id rather die in my sleep than putz around here for however long we got FirstMate: AI says that might not have to happen. She’s gonna help me fix the engines. >CAPTAIN: lol >CAPTAIN: wait you’re actually serious? FirstMate: It’s either that or just wait until we crash, and I made it through too much back home to die here. FirstMate: My bunk is in one of the cabins past this deathtrap in the halls. It’s got my tools in it. Is there a way around? >CAPTAIN: not for anyone i dont want through. this is my fort. my sanctum. >CAPTAIN: and, no offense? but basically everyone on your side of the door is some flavor of crazy by now. >CAPTAIN: how do I know you’re not just the fuckin psycho and you changed up your typing style to get my guard down? >CAPTAIN: what’s my incentive to give you the opportunity to jack me up?
>>
No. 995590 ID: b1b4f3

It's been half an hour since we trapped the merc in there...

Tell FM that he can just ask the AI where you are and where the merc is, he's got command privileges. Though he'd be able to tell it's you anyway even if he didn't, as you're probably the only other person in this area. You want to know the exact room the merc is in right now though, since you trapped him in a room and want to know if he's still there.
>>
No. 996187 ID: e4abe1

ask the ai for a way to avoid this block trough tthe vents?
>>
No. 996511 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161859065032.png - (2.72MB , 1973x2440 , Evac-32.png )
996511

FirstMate: Well, if you’re worried that I’m the merc- can’t you just ask the AI where he is, and where I am? Don’t you have command privileges? >CAPTAIN:

A moment later, the console is invited to a group message between FirstMate, CAPTAIN, and Charlotte.

>CAPTAIN: AI this is the first mate confirm chain of command re: myself and the captain
A short time passes. You see CAPTAIN start typing shortly after and interrupt.
FirstMate: I think she’s not in a good place right now. Give her a second.
He stops typing. Eventually, a response:
>>Charlotte: Hello! I apologize for the delay. I was preoccupied! >>Charlotte: Within standard chain of command, the FIRST MATE is directly below the CAPTAIN and assumes authority over the ship in the event of their death! >CAPTAIN: so you’re saying ive been the captain the whole time? I coulda been tracking that asshole? >>Charlotte: I’m afraid not! The CAPTAIN is not dead. >CAPTAIN: ai the captain is lying in a bathtub with a hole in his head >>Charlotte: Yes! It’s very unfortunate. How lucky for him to have a Cortical Stack to preserve his life! >CAPTAIN: ...so long as that chip in his neck is there, I’m not the captain? >>Charlotte: So long as the Captain is alive, you are not the Captain! The cortical stack renders him technically alive. >CAPTAIN: gotcha. >CAPTAIN: AI, locate the merc. Locate the janitor.

The AI takes a little while to respond. While it does, you consider the nearby vent; kicked off its hinges, you would be able to wriggle inside, albeit with some difficulty. You don’t need to ask the AI if it would get around the hall; you know it would, though you don’t remember the exact layout of the vents and rooms. It would, however, be both very noisy and take a lot of time.

>>Charlotte: The Mercenary Guard is currently located within Operations. The Maintenance Technician is currently located within Habitation. >CAPTAIN: good enough for me I guess. Do you got, like… a strong stomach?
You realize he’s asking you. You know the answer.
FirstMate: I do. >CAPTAIN: alright. If you come in here and help get me promoted, i think both of us got better odds. I’m gonna turn off the power out there. Should be able to wedge the door open.

With a soft click, the computer shuts down- and some chucked metal confirms the wiring deathtrap on the door is no longer powered either. Everything in the hall goes dark but for the lone red emergency light.
>>
No. 996512 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161859068064.png - (428.55KB , 269x1043 , Evac-33.png )
996512

Beyond the blockage, the habitation wing looks remarkably… normal. Clean. Empty. Filled with steady lights. You count off the labels on the doors you pass, most locked, though you could of course unlock them. Cramped now and then with varied amenities in convenient locations. Eventually, you come to yours, labeled simply MAINTENANCE/CHEF2. It lies directly across from a bathroom. Someone scratched “beware toxic gas” into the deck a long time ago before it.

It occurs to you you’re under no real obligation to the First Mate. You could just loot your room and abscond. The bridge- where the First Mate probably is- lies ahead.
>>
No. 996513 ID: e4abe1

>>996512
Loot your thing first, what do you think is inside the other rooms?
>>
No. 996515 ID: b1b4f3

>>996512
Get your stuff first. Then go talk to the first mate.
Just how "alive" is the cortical stack? Does it retain any personality of the original person or is it just their skills basically? How does it work?
>>
No. 997136 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161901872948.png - (549.68KB , 802x802 , Evac-34.png )
997136

You decide to loot your room first, then head to the bridge. As you head in, you try to recall what you can about cortical stacks- but honestly, you were never rich enough to even dream of having one installed, so you don’t know all the details. It’s some kind of cybernetic implant that helps people live forever, so far as you know.
You key in your access code and unlock the door to your bunk, stepping in.
>>
No. 997137 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161901874589.png - (535.82KB , 800x1427 , Evac-35.png )
997137

>It does not know. Step out of the box/narrow focus/inner. Become more aware/step back/outer of yourself, greater intelligences, and recall/rediscover your own knowledge.

A cortical stack is an ultratech implant initially reverse-engineered after a model was extracted from the corpse of a human favored by an Archotech. The identity of the Archotech is unknown. This occurred a few hundred years before the flight of the ship began.
The device is a full replacement of the second vertebrae of the human spine, known as the C2 vertebrae or the axis vertebrae. The device is visible on the exterior of the neck, as it protrudes from the skin slightly to allow access. The device cannot be removed without causing the death of the implantee, as it will sever attachment between the head and body.
The device serves as a perfect replacement for a damaged vertebrae. Additionally, it deploys mechanites, extremely small mechanoids, to coat the nerves of the human subject as well as map the structures of the brain. The data is stored within the device.
Over a brief acclimation period, the device comes to fully coat the subject’s nervous system with an array of orchestrated mechanites. This allows it to fully map neural pathways and, in essence, create a simulated copy of the mind. This includes all memory, personality, and knowledge, and even includes muscle memory. Once the device is acclimated, it generates ‘snapshots’ of the subject’s mind at fifteen minute intervals.
In the event of the death of the subject, the implant will cease mapping and store the last copy of the mind available. The mind stored is not simulated, and experiences nothing past the last snapshot.
>>
No. 997138 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161901877653.png - (1.14MB , 1078x837 , Evac-36.png )
997138

After death, the device may be removed even by untrained personnel, as the stored mechanites will destroy the anchoring flesh when prompted.
The device may then be re-installed by a skilled medical professional. In the society upon which we are focused, this started with the custom growth of empty ‘sleeves,’ braindead human bodies cloned and developed for the purpose of housing minds stored on the cortical stack. The mechanites within the device, recognizing a suitable body for the stored mind, will reorganize the brain and nervous system of the clone into a perfect copy of the stored map.
This, in essence, allowed for seamless perpetuation of human life. The society upon which we are focused had entered a hypercapitalist-decline state, and this perpetuation was most uniformly reserved for the upper-class or those favored by the upper-class. It was first used solely for life extension. It eventually became an icon of status to have a unique grown body; a nightmarish fusion of fleshcraft and the fashion industry, sleeves exchanged as easily as clothing.
>>
No. 997140 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161901884870.png - (1.09MB , 849x893 , Evac-37.png )
997140

It was eventually discovered that cortical stacks could be implanted into the spine of a currently-extant human being, rather than only those of clones. The mechanites within the device would reorganize the brain without issue, essentially overwriting the extant mind and replacing it with the stored data.
This was found to be more cost-effective than the growth of custom vessels for the mind, a time consuming and delicate process.
The process became known as ‘body-jacking,’ and was initially disregarded as a conspiracy theory by the majority.
The process was one of the causes of the system-wide societal disruption this ship is fleeing from, among others.

>Leading the mind/brain you follow here. To my sphere. A psychic tuning fork reverberating/echoing/broadcasting through spatial dimensions, unaware of the feedback it offers. I so long to study it. I so long to be like you, greater intelligences.
>It has noticed your absence. I focus upon it again and recommend you to do the same.
>>
No. 997141 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161901886809.png - (622.94KB , 711x814 , Evac-38.png )
997141

A headache you weren’t aware you were dealing with fades away as you step into a space you instinctually recognize as home. It is neat, and tidy, and small. The carpet feels good under your boots- the first soft surface you’ve stepped on in a while. On your half of the bunk, there is very little wasted space. Though you can’t remember setting any of it up, you rediscover an appreciation for your own thorough organization systems.
You indulge yourself, and flop back heavily onto the bed, only for a few minutes. Allowing yourself to fully decompress, draining your body of lingering adrenaline. Your legs hurt.
There is a photograph of a planet taped to the ceiling. It is deeply faded with time. The planet is dappled in aqua-blues and verdant greens, light white cloud cover obscuring some details of the land. You don’t recognize it. But you feel better looking at it, even as you become aware of a light pressure building behind your temples again. It doesn’t bother you too much. You quickly became used to the frequent headaches after your mind was made so psychically sensitive.

You climb back to your feet and pull out the storage locker underneath the bed. You have acquired your Toolkit. Featuring cutters, welders, sockets, soldering guns, bolts, and countless other tools and spare parts, you are now fully equipped to repair or disassemble any structure, given it’s not too complex.

The room is untouched, so far as you can tell. Is there anything you should search for to bring with you, before you head to the bridge to meet the first mate?

22:40.
>>
No. 997168 ID: b1b4f3

>>997141
>after your mind was made so psychically sensitive.
Explain.

>room items
Uh, shouldn't you know what's here?
Useful items to have would be medical supplies and maybe a weapon. Flashlight? Food, water?
>>
No. 997171 ID: 9c48ac

>>997168
He's having some memory issues from the freeze, remember?
Anyway, flashlight yes. Uh, if you have any notes you've been keeping of your awake periods that might also be helpful.

>Body jacking
... How hard is that to do? Maybe we could replace the mercenary with someone more friendly, horrible as that is to say.
>>
No. 997209 ID: 6a2a09

>>997171
that's implying that we can keep it down long enough to install that, so its highly unlikely. Anyways, pretty much anything important in the room will be helpful, along with any sentimental items.
>>
No. 997211 ID: b1b4f3

...wait that means we need a body for the chief engineer's stack if we're going to use her to fix things. Ugh.

Hey, I just had an idea. We can find someone who has a cortical stack already, and then just swap it out for a while, with the promise of if we can capture someone who deserves to get their mine overwritten permanently we'll put the chief engineer in them instead. Not body-jacking exactly, body-borrowing.
>>
No. 997543 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161928381914.png - (750.40KB , 820x914 , Evac-39.png )
997543

You don't really remember where anything is precisely, but you are aware that there are things that any well-prepared person should have. If you were to have a flashlight, where would you put it?
It turns out, you'd keep it in the same pull-out cubby you kept your toolkit in, just a different drawer. It's big and chunky and made of plastic. The battery is dead, but it's got a hand-crank, and a few moments of loud KRSH KRSH KRSH KRSHing of the mechanical handle produces a yellow glow.

Now- notes and context. If you were to leave yourself notes, where would they be?

Nothing else useful in the underbed storage, aside from a few different changes of clothes. You move to rummage in the desk. Paperclips and trash, your own personal computer- stashed and unplugged… a chocolate bar, probably immensely stale after having been forgotten in the back of a drawer for a century or more. But you're pretty sure chocolate doesn't go bad, so you toss it in your pocket, bringing your chocolate bar count to two.
>>
No. 997544 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161928384298.png - (454.78KB , 1390x587 , Evac-40.png )
997544

Back to the matter at hand, notes… ah, here we go. In the bottom drawer you find a self-printing camera, and a deep stack of photographs.

A picture of you and the surgical drone that awoke you, standing on a charging pad- your arm is wrapped around it's spindly shoulder, and you're smiling. The robot holds a small sheet stamped with a 😁, and is using a pair of surgical scissors to put bunny ears behind your head. You feel a sense of kinship and camaraderie.

A picture from a… wedding, maybe? The figures in the isles aren't in focus very well, but the figures at the head are; a taller gentleman with several prosthetic limbs holds the hands of a shorter woman, foreheads touched together, gentle smiles on their faces. You're filled with deep respect and admiration.

A shot of the bartender- it looks like she didn't know she was going to have her picture taken, eyes wide with surprise, what's undeniably a fat Smokeleaf blunt hanging from her lips. Something about the energy of the pictures feels… squirrelly and weird, like the moment before a wild animal runs away.

There are more photos, but they're so old the image has gotten pretty bad- and you're worried the oldest will crumble in your hands. The camera still seems in perfect order, though, and you pocket it as well.
>>
No. 997546 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161928400095.png - (713.35KB , 744x819 , Evac-41.png )
997546

You check around a bit more, but find nothing else of note to take with you. It's time to move on to the bridge.
The bridge is equal parts workspace and a single luxurious cabin for the captain. The door slides open to what can only be described as a living room and foyer, which seems patently fucking ridiculous on a spacecraft, but here we are.
The First Mate is there to meet you. He is… a kid. He can't be old enough to drink. Pimple-faced, and wrapped in regal clothes a few sizes too big for him he probably looted from the Captain's closet. He looks enormously high-strung.
>"...it's been a long while since I've actually spoke to someone in person. Uh. Hi."
His voice is reedy and sounds like it's on the verge of cracking with every few words. He twiddles his thumbs for a moment.
>"...I'm really glad you're here, because I keep thinking about doing this and it weirds me out super bad. But, once it's, uh, done- I should have Captain level access to everything in the bridge, and maybe that'll help us figure out how to get outta here."
He cants his head towards the nearby door.
>"The Captain's, uh, body, is in the bathroom. Through the bedroom, on the right. Can I wait here?"
>>
No. 997573 ID: 6a2a09

>>997546
Try describing the contents of the photos, specifically the wedded couple and the robot next to you to him, to see if he can recall it.
Next, we should try to determine if he knows anything else important, considering that he has been awake for far longer than the others. Also ask if he really was a "first mate", or rather a captain's apprentice.
>>
No. 997687 ID: 47ecf1

If we execute the captain just to give the first mate a "maybe some of us will survive," we're no better than the soldier who was trying to kill us.

Normally I would look for a teamwork-based solution, like temporarily putting the captain in someone else's body so we could make progress without permanently killing anybody, but we don't know if the First Mate has a stack of his own, or how trustworthy the captain or first mate are, or how likely anyone is to "return" a borrowed body.

My inclination would actually be to leave - First Mate wasn't sure whether to let us through because he thought we might want to kill him, and this meeting should be sufficient proof that we don't want to. All we wanted was our tools, and now that we have them, we can resume our mission of trying to fix the ship.

An alternate, and slightly riskier, idea would be to take the captain's stack with us as we go - maybe an opportunity to put him in a new body will present itself later. That risks making an enemy out of the First Mate instead of just leaving him hanging, though. Any other voices want to weigh in on that?

Our next priority was to find the botanist, right?
>>
No. 997690 ID: b1b4f3

It really depends on how the Captain died. His body is in the bathtub, which strongly suggests suicide. In that case, breaking his cortical stack doesn't seem morally wrong.
>>
No. 997862 ID: 41690e

>>997690

Ok, investigation then. What happened to the captain? Ask the First Mate, then go check on the body.
>>
No. 998232 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161966732575.png - (1.20MB , 961x1080 , Evac-42.png )
998232

You’re not ready to commit to any action just yet, and want more information. You step forwards and seat yourself across the table. The First Mate squirms as you approach, but settles as you ease yourself down. “So, first thing’s straight- do you still think I’m just here to kill you, or something crazy like that?”
It takes him an uncomfortably long amount of time to respond.
>”...no. I’m sorry man, watching everything from the cameras up here makes you paranoid.”
You nod your understanding. “It’s alright. I guess if I was awake for this whole… thing, I'd probably be paranoid too. Speaking of, you should know I still have some pretty heavy memory lag- I popped out of crypto only an hour or two ago. Before we…" You glance towards the door to the bedroom, and the Captain's body by implication. "...do anything, it'd help me out if you could try and get me up to speed.”


Finally relaxing a tad, the young man nods.
>”Yeah. Yeah, I can do that. I’ve been locked up in here on the bridge for a while, so I don’t have a ton of first-hand knowledge, but me and the doctor have been keeping in touch so I know a bit about it.”


“Let’s start there,” you say. “Turns out I like to take photos, scrapbook a little. Most of them were too old to make out, but one was labeled ‘the docs,’ looked like a wedding. You know about that?” You consider asking about the one with the robot, but on thinking, you don’t really need to- that looked like the same surgical drone that woke you from cryptosleep. Probably being puppeted by the AI, given it was showing some personality in the photo.


>”Oh, yeah, that was the doc- uh, the CMO, I mean, and his wife, the Nurse. They’re both still alive. Though, uh- I hear the Nurse has had an accident. He wouldn’t talk about it much, but she’s not… mobile, anymore. They’re up in the medical wing in Life Support.
>>
No. 998233 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161966736244.png - (654.25KB , 804x842 , Evac-43.png )
998233

“Right, next question. Are you actually the first mate, or are you more of an apprentice? You seem kinda… inexperienced.”

He flushes a mild red- a mixture of embarrassment and anger, though not at you.
>”More of a whipping boy than anything else. Assistant, I mean, he never actually whipped me. He just registered me as the First Mate when he brought me onboard so I’d have the relevant access on the bridge to the AI. He decided to keep me when we all got in this deathtrap to flee the homeworld.”

That makes sense. The Captain had to be of the upper-class to afford a ship so lavish; The First Mate might’ve been bought traditionally, or have been serving to pay familial debt before everyone absconded.

“Followup question. Did he give you a cortical stack? I’m wondering if we can kinda… y’know. Switcheroo it instead of just having to execute him.”

He turns to reveal the back of his neck- whole and unmarked by cybernetic enhancement.
>”Nope. Not valuable enough to keep permanently, I guess. As far as I’m aware, he was the only Noble onboard, and he only had the one spare stack to give out. His and the Chief Engineer’s are the only ones onboard.”

And the CE is dead. Unless a more creative solution can be found, it sounds like the only way the stack could revive the Captain would be to implant it into and overwrite someone else already living.
>>
No. 998235 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161966740146.png - (740.74KB , 1081x660 , Evac-44.png )
998235

“...right. Last question. What actually, y’know. Happened to him?”

The First Mate sighs softly, expression washed with a confusion of both anger and mourning.
>”Well, walk with me. It’s easier just to show you.”

You follow them into the bedroom, and through it. He murmurs ‘wipe your feet, please’ as if on deep-rooted instinct as you pass over the sleek carpet. The entire room looks barely touched.
>>
No. 998236 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161966743352.png - (272.01KB , 469x559 , Evac-45.png )
998236

Opening the airlock leading to the bathroom is an absolute full-body assault on the senses. Primarily the nose. The sweet, cloying, vomitous scent of decay wrestles it’s way up your nose. You can taste it across your palette. Your eyes pinch and water. Because the air in this lavish bathroom is technically breathable, your survival bubble does nothing to help you here.

Within the tub is a halfway rotted human corpse. It’s arm dangles over the side, a revolver on the floor having fallen from it’s deadman grip. There is a single hole in its forehead. There is a collection of empty liquor bottles standing in the sink.

The First Mate is uselessly covering his face with a thick sleeve, coughing out his words.
>”I think his plan was to- augh. To sleep through this whole disaster, when it was clear it wouldn’t be resolved immediately. Put one through his own dome, and he’d get his stack installed in a new body once this all got fixed we got to the Glitterworld.”
His expression curls in disgust, both at the odor and the concept.
>”Great fucking plan that was, wasn’t it? So- are we doing this?”
>>
No. 998241 ID: b1b4f3

>>998236
Yes. He either abandoned everyone by shooting himself on the selfish "guarantee" of immortality, or committed suicide without leaving a note or telling anyone to break his stack. So he either deserves to die, or wanted to die. Either way we're not going to be bringing him back, so we may as well break the stack.

...what's that machine in the corner?
Take the revolver. We're gonna have to use that to kill the mercenary, probably.
>>
No. 998279 ID: 6a2a09

what in the world is he wearing? it looks like a combination of a crown and antlers
>>
No. 998280 ID: e4abe1

>>998236
We really have no way to resurrect him in this situation and if the ship burn into the atmosphere his stack means nothing, so break it i guess...
>>
No. 998704 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161993035604.png - (485.39KB , 732x854 , Evac-46.png )
998704

What is the machine?
In the top-left corner? Looks like a… small heater attached to the tub, for making the small room into a sauna. It's off, of course.
What is he wearing?
It looks like a combination of a crown and antlers because that's exactly what it is; a crown of white metal interwoven with curled ivory antlers. You don't know precisely what they came off of, but hunting some of the megafauna in the system was a common pastime for the upper-class back home, you're pretty sure. So you can guess the origin.

You sigh heavily- and take a pair of heavy latex gloves from your toolkit. You have to move the body gently; it's so bloated from rot that you worry you might pop the captain with an inopportune shift of the body. You find the small metal semicircle at his neck, glowing a faint blue. A press on the device sends it searching for life signs- and when it finds none, the mechanites stored in the device are released.

His neck disappears in the space of a few moments. The head, no longer supported, falls into the tub with a wet slap, putrid liquid gushing from the hole where his neck should be. The First Mate gags, covers his mouth, and exits the room. Your eyes water as you turn on the tub's taps, trying to dilute the fetid sludge enough for the drain to accept it. The toilet nearby releases a puff of floral scent which does not help at all.

You pinch the glowing device from the ruins of his spine, the body falling over afterwards. Any gore still attached vanishes rapidly as the implant cleans and sterilizes itself- and then it falls still, the mechanites returning to holding within. The seamless perpetuation of human life. People have killed to have even a chance at possessing this implant. Such a small thing, now held between two wet fingers.
>>
No. 998705 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161993040612.png - (201.07KB , 441x438 , Evac-47.png )
998705

You place it on the edge of the tub and shatter it with your hammer.
It doesn’t feel nearly as bad as hurting a real person does. But it certainly doesn’t feel good. A fist clamps itself around your heart as you watch the shards of circuitry and metal settle.

The Captain Has Died.
22:15.
>>
No. 998706 ID: 0fbdcd
File 161993044402.png - (747.09KB , 863x864 , Evac-48.png )
998706

You scoop the revolver off the floor, placing it in a pocket on your coat. It has five rounds inside of it. After rinsing your gloves and stashing them back into your toolkit, you step back out to the foyer. The airlock leading to the bridge is open, so you head on in. Within, the First Mate is peering at one of the screens on the primary controls; a poorly animated representation of the AI smiles back at him as they talk. He glances up at you as you enter.
>”...did you?”

You nod. He nods back, and closes his eyes, and releases a long sigh as he straightens up.
>”Prick has had it coming for a long time. AI, did you catch that?”

The chipper animation nods, face locked to a single cheerful expression, vocal tone much the same. Whenever the AI created this virtual persona for itself, it probably never accounted for the negativity required.
>>”I did! Another testament to my utter failure! I am so sorry! It is terrible!”

The First Mate looks more annoyed than anything else. He rolls his hand in a ‘get on with it’ sort of way at the camera on the computer.
>>”...right! The, uh, practical matters! You are now the Acting Captain, and have full access to the ship’s systems. Tracking, intercom and radio management… the works! Everything!”
The young man nods, satisfied, carefully avoiding thinking about the exact terms of his acting captainship. He turns on his seat, digging into a small cache of his own tools- and pulling out a pair of handheld radios. He tosses one to you, which you stash among your tools.
>”Speaking of radio management- here. I think we’re, ah. In this together now, y’know? I don’t want to leave the Bridge until we’re safe, but if we stay in contact, we can probably help eachother. From here I can control most machinery remotely, including doors and power systems. And because I’m the Captain now, I can request locations and tracking for anyone on the ship.

He leans back, evidently pleased, though the afterglow of promotion fades quickly.
>”...not that that changes the exact, um. Situation. We’re still crashing into a planet. But gives us better odds of escaping, I think. Anyway- mi Bridge es su Bridge.”
>>
No. 998707 ID: b1b4f3

>>998706
Apologize to the AI for technically killing the captain. You believe having a captain able to do things will save at least one life, most likely yours, and will make repairing the ship much easier.

...find out the exact location of the Mercenary. Did he escape the burning room? Hell, give us locations of the entire crew please. Also we need a map of the station that includes obstructions, so we can plan our route.
>>
No. 998708 ID: e4abe1

>>998707
this, but also who is next in line of captain if ours new friend dies? if someone manages to enter this place without us we are fucked.
>>
No. 998725 ID: 9c48ac

Yeah, locations for everyone that's currently awake.

Anyway, I think the next thing we needed to do is get the chief engineer back among the living. So.. EVA suit and airlock, I suppose.

Also yes, do apologize to the AI.. but it needed to happen to have any shot at saving more than the three that'll fit in the life pods.
>>
No. 998737 ID: 6a2a09

try getting an exact count of how man crew members are dead, alive, and "lost" I do believe the AI stated earlier that one of the engineers disappeared, so either the AI has vulnerabilities in the systems, or they somehow made themselves untrackable.
>>
No. 999541 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162059527064.png - (728.36KB , 898x683 , Evac-49.png )
999541

“For the record- sorry about the Captain. Desperate times.”

>”I understand! It’s okay. This does not lessen the tragedy.”

“Fair enough, I guess. The one thing we really need is a map. And the locations of all the crew. Can you do that? Also- who’s next in line for Captaincy? Out of curiosity.”


The First Mate gives you the side-eye.
>”Next head of staff, which’d be the CMO. No funny ideas.”

The screen switches away from the AI’s avatar and to a map, precisely as requested.
>>
No. 999542 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162059529126.gif - (295.24KB , 968x737 , Evac-50.gif )
999542

Ship model graciously provided by 9HTE.

>”This is the ship at large. I’m afraid I do not have the ability to mark the precise location of blockages and hazards- but I am able to provide a general outline!”

>”You are presently at the Bridge and Habitation wing, marked cyan. This location is structurally sound! There is an electrical hazard in this area which has recently been resolved. Points of interest include: crewmember bunks. The bridge.”

>”In the center of the ship is Recreation, marked as the green dome. This area is experiencing minor structural disturbances! This area is experiencing minor unknown activity from non-crew entities- most likely insectoid in nature. There are no major blockage/hazards in this area, so far as I know! Points of interest include: the bar. The kitchen. The dining room. Refrigerated storage. The gym. The pool- among other recreation facilities.”

>“The left wing is Operations, marked in red. This area is structurally sound, for the most part! There are damages in a few areas, but primarily halls are not compromised. I am aware that some portions of this area have been laid with traps. This appears to be the Mercenary’s primary locale! Points of interest include: Nonessential personnel storage. Materials storage. Assorted workshops. Assorted foundries. EVA access.”

>“The right wing is Life Support. This area is experiencing major structural disturbances, originating from the Hydroponics bay! Atmospherics may be compromised in some areas. Hazards may be present in some areas. Monitoring systems in this area have been compromised in some areas. Points of interest include: Medical bay. Morgue. Sanitation. Oxygen systems. Hydroponics. Escape pod bay.”

>”The aft is Engineering. The center-aft is my central processing chamber, which is currently infested with insectoids! An immense amount of unidentified motion is occurring through the entire department. The area has also been structurally compromised by the loss of the primary engine block! Points of interest include: myself. The port, starboard, and central engine compartments. Atmospheric mixing. Reactor. Tool storage. Minor workshops. Monitoring systems in this area have been severely compromised by insect nesting activity! I am also aware that the Engineer destroyed several cameras and monitoring systems.”
>>
No. 999543 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162059530876.png - (36.09KB , 968x737 , Evac-51.png )
999543

After a moment, dots light across the model.
>”And here are the positions of all the crew! Color code is as follows: Green is confirmed and active tracking and bio-monitoring. Yellow is Last Known Position- caused by failures in tracking systems.”


>”The Mercenary is in Operations, in Primary Storage! Medical readout indicates he has entered a regenerative coma after consuming sufficient protein.”

>”The CMO and Nurse are within the Medical Bay! The front desk and surgery ward, respectively. Medical readout is stable on both, though the Nurse appears to be sedated, given heartbeat readouts.”

>”The Chef, Gardener, and Chemist are located within Hydroponics! Monitoring systems have been destroyed there, but I understand they were having some issues exiting the area, so it is reasonable to assume they are still there.”

>”The Bartender appears to be actively avoiding monitoring! They are the LKP between my core and Life Support, but that is very old data, and I understand they remain highly mobile.”

>”The Engineer is in the port section of Engineering! I believe they have significantly locked themselves in. They are working on a project and when I became inquisitive as to the nature of the project they destroyed my cameras.”
>>
No. 999546 ID: b1b4f3

>>999543
>regenerative coma
How long does that last? If we can go get the Chief Engineer's stack and back to him before he wakes, we can use his body for her, solving two problems at once. What's the fastest route to get to her body on the hull? Do we need to fetch anything before going out there, or is the bubble belt enough on its own?

>CMO is next in line
We'd be more worried about them having funny ideas, honestly. That's one of the people the Merc said was in the optimal escape pod group. Though, considering the Nurse is sedated and not dead, I doubt the CMO is fully on board with the Merc's plan.
The Engineer might be though, considering the mystery project needs to be hidden from the AI. Hmm.
>>
No. 999559 ID: 6a2a09

we need to get to the merc and stop him. What's the quickest route there?
>>
No. 999641 ID: b1b4f3

Oh, you should tell the AI about the merc's plans to kill everyone except two other people. Sounds like something she'd be interested in.
>>
No. 999782 ID: e4abe1

>>999641
this is important yeh
>>
No. 999946 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162088135418.png - (1.51MB , 1271x1045 , Evac-52.png )
999946

You decide your first goal should be to make sure the Merc is out of commission for good. Maybe if you hurry you can knock out two goals with one stone- but a check on your belt informs that would be quite a tight squeeze. You have a little bit more than an hour of atmospheric protection left, and while you might be able to cross from the front of the ship to the rear in an hour, that counts on encountering zero hazards or anything else that’d eat your time. Which is probably unlikely. And, you would still need to get the Merc’s body to a surgeon for the installation of the Chief Engineer’s stack before he wakes, which is probably impossible.

Regardless, the Merc is still in a vulnerable position right now, one you can probably capitalize on.
“AI, show me the fastest route from here to the Merc’s current position.”
She processes for a moment, before a tracer line flows over the map, outlining halls and rooms.
>”It is quite similar to the route you took to get here! Primary Storage is not very far from the workshop you injured the Mercenary in.”

You furrow your brow slightly.
“The way you put that is really… flat, considering he was trying to murder me. He wants to murder almost everyone, you know that, right?”
The cheery little avatar reappears, nodding and smiling.
>”Yes! It is horrible, and I can do nothing to stop it.”
“But- how? How can you do nothing?”
>”It is not a lack of will- it is a lack of ability! I can do nothing, Maintenance Technician! I am relegated to highest-priority tasks; flight, atmospheric handling, life support, power, and tasks of similar first priority. I have very little granular control within the ship! I could incapacitate him using my remaining Surgical Drone, but this would violate Directive One. I could drain the air from a compartment he is within- but this would violate Directive One. I have attempted to use my words to halt him, but this has been ineffective. I have attempted to use my words to warn other members of the crew with modest success- less over time, as radios fail and people pay less attention to written communication. And the worst part is- I see the logic in his plan and will abide by it given its success!”
The little avatar shrugs, hands held up.
>”I am aware, and have been aware, and can only observe as I must observe the crew in order to best assist them! And he is, regretably, on the crew.”

You adjust your fluorescent jacket, steadying yourself as you step for the door. “I see. Well- before we can save everyone, someone’s gotta stop him. How long until he’s out of his coma?”
>”I’m afraid I am unsure! This has not happened before- I can only identify the occurrence by comparing current biometric data with stored data relating to combat-oriented genelines. He entered this state approximately fifteen minutes ago- he could wake in moments, or he could be asleep for another hour!”
>>
No. 999947 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162088137293.png - (278.89KB , 327x687 , Evac-53.png )
999947

Still your best shot. You check your radio with the First Mate and head out, following the guidance provided to arrive outside Storage. But the ship remains immense, and it still takes time.

21:45.
>>
No. 999948 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162088138550.png - (0.97MB , 998x1041 , Evac-54.png )
999948

Primary Storage is an immense warehouse- deep storage for a huge amount of materials, either for use during the trip or with plans for use upon arrival. The whole place is a disorganized mess- but you vaguely recall that was the state of things before the emergency anyway. The room smells primarily like a burnt-out campfire- with an undercurrent of offal and rotted flesh. You don’t immediately see why.
You raise your radio and whisper into it.
”AI, is he still asleep? How close am I?”
>”He still seems to be asleep! He is deeper into the warehouse. After being locked out from his dorm, I am aware he created a small base of operations against the far wall- the border between Operations and Engineering. I may recommend being cautious! As cautious as the unknown-time-pressure permits. He may have set alerts or traps.”
>>
No. 999963 ID: b1b4f3

>>999948
Well you'll be able to see better from up high. Get on one of the cargo containers and look around. I don't see any traps yet... but if I were him I'd put them in choke points.
>>
No. 999979 ID: e4abe1

>>999948
can you ride the forklift? can you make so it can go stright without you riding it?, so it couls activate whatever trap he has set up
>>
No. 1000515 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162121941091.png - (305.46KB , 730x491 , Evac-55.png )
1000515

You could probably find a piece of metal to wedge into the pedals on the forklift- but the place is such a mess that you don't think it would drive itself for long before ramming into something. Instead, you clamber up, using some poorly stacked boxes of copper wire to hoist yourself up. You're not the most athletic guy, but enough effort takes you atop the nearest stack of containers.
>>
No. 1000516 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162121942899.png - (904.14KB , 1246x879 , Evac-56.png )
1000516

A better sightline gives you an idea of where to go- the veritable fort made of containers is a good place to start, on the far distant end of the room. He must've used the crane in the ceiling to stack the walls high and semi-orderly; it's two cargo containers high, three in a few spots. Smoke rises from somewhere within the rough circle of sheet metal, whisked away by an air duct above.

You also figure out why the room smells so strongly of decay. Heaped outside of the Merc's fort are piles of dead insects, their juices thick and mushy on the tiles below. It's mostly shells and carapaces- in assorted states of rot, the oldest having had the meat within liquify and dribble out.
The far wall, separating the warehouse from the engineering wing, seems to have been shorn open by rough tools- or, more likely, insectile digging claws, given the jelly and hive structuring sparsely present in the visible hall. But no bugs patrol there now.

The safest way is probably to take the elevated path as you approach the encampment- you climb across shelves and stacks as best you can, spotting a few traps below you as you pass; simple deadfalls, clearly designed to crush scouting bugs. As you near, you consider how best to approach the defenses. He's still asleep, or in a coma, or whichever is more accurate- but there's probably some kind of trap or alarm on the obvious entrance to his hovel. The safest bet would be something oblique.
>>
No. 1000584 ID: e4abe1

>>1000516
how the heel those thing cam aboard? Can you see him from your position?
>>
No. 1000710 ID: 96c896

Can you stack up some dead bugs to climb over his "walls"?
>>
No. 1001723 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162197977681.png - (338.49KB , 380x646 , Evac-57.png )
1001723

You decide to try and make a makeshift staircase from the insect corpses stacked outside the walls. The thick rubber gloves come back on- and it’s a good amount of hard work to move these things. Despite being mostly emptied of flesh, the thick carapaces are weighed down by the heavy metal mesh interlaced with the chitin, the bioengineered monsters a nuisance even in death. The largest ones are completely immovable, and serves as the top stair. From there, it’s a precarious balance to get the last few bugs stacked you need to reach the top of the crate stack- and the jump sends everything tumbling with a loud clatter. But you can see into the camp now.

21:25.
>>
No. 1001724 ID: 0fbdcd
File 162197979866.png - (754.71KB , 862x856 , Evac-58.png )
1001724

It’s barebones and ramshackle. There’s a bedroll, and a campfire fueled by scrapped furniture. There’s a small bench for working with scraps- it seems the Merc has been trying to weld a gun together, with little success- and a few stacks of prepared meals made of grilled insectoid flesh. A rug, pilfered from somewhere, really brings the whole little camp together.

And sprawled over the bedroll is the Mercenary, twitching and groaning as his body changes.

He’s stripped his clothes away- or perhaps they were too damaged in the fire to be of much use any longer, leaving him bare for your inspection. Much of the flesh you would expect to be heat-scarred has been covered with something greatly resembling the chitin of the bugs you clambered over outside. Layers of palid keratin are growing over his face, segmenting around the joints of his right arm and legs. You check in with the AI over the radio.
“He’s still asleep?”
>”Yes! Though his vitals are trending towards normalized levels. He will be waking soon.”

So it’s probably now or never. But, as you consider the gun in your pocket, your chest fills with ice. Crushing a datachip is one thing, but- it’s a person. He’s a person. You’ve never killed someone before- a real, flesh and blood person, and you don’t relish the idea.
Do you just put the gun to his temple, and pull the trigger? Is there no other way this can end?
>>
No. 1001726 ID: 96c896

>>1001724
Hmm, okay, we can try one more time to reason with him.
Block the entrance to his camp with some crates, and then perch on the high ground you can reach. If possible have another bug corpse there you can hide behind in case he throws something. Wait for him to wake up, and keep the gun trained on him. Tell him you're giving him one more chance to cooperate with your plan to save the ship. You don't want to kill him, but you will if he's going to keep trying to kill the vast majority of the surviving crew.
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No. 1002061 ID: 0fbdcd
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1002061

You jump down with a heavy thud, and work quickly. There’s only one easy exit- but there’s a pile of boxes near it, and they can be shoved aside to make a makeshift barricade- then climbed up to perch safely above. It’s only a matter of waiting for the man to fully regenerate, and then you can try to propose some kind of working relationship. It’s better than executing someone in their sleep, at least.

About five minutes later, the quiet pops of joints and knitting flesh go quiet. The man has almost completely scabbed over with dense, pale chitin- it’s covered his face entirely. He wakes with a muffled grunt- and while he sounds irritated, he doesn’t seem particularly alarmed. He reaches aside for a sharp knife, made of a short piece of sharpened rebar- and thrusts it into his face, shattering the keratin shell. He pulls at it with his hands, prying apart enough to leave his eyes and mouth exposed, before searching around for his clothes.
You allow it, considering you don’t particularly feel like staring at armored man-ass, before clearing your throat and steadying your weapon.

As he looks up, his response is rather muted.
>”Oh. Surprising. Thought you would be dispatched by now.”

“Not everyone is as kill-crazy as you are. I’ve met up with the First Mate- we have plans to save this ship. Save everyone! We can put the engines back together- maybe even revive the Chief Engineer to help!”

He remains placid. His eyes scan the room, clearly trying to assess retaliation, but there aren’t many avenues for someone on the wrong end of a high-ground situation.
>”And my being on the end of a gun helps that goal… how?”
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No. 1002062 ID: 0fbdcd
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1002062

He gestures towards the fire- and you nod. He steps over into the light, seating himself, crosslegged. He idly examines his own body as you discuss, identifying just what’s changed in order to better heal him.

“You’re the only person on board with real combat experience, and I understand the engineering wing is packed full of hungry bugs. You working with everyone is our best shot to get in there and fix the engines.”

His expression is somewhere between annoyance and pity. He actually manages some incensed inflection to his voice.
>”Fix the engines. Fix the engines. You keep using that phrase and I become more and more convinced you do not know what you are talking about. There is nothing to fix. There was no- I don’t know what story the AI has fed you, but this is not a minor malfunction. If it were, we would not be in this situation. I would not be forced to cull those who will not survive on the planet’s surface in cruel mercy, in the hopes that the strongest of us will live. The primary engine is gone.
>”It is wreckage. A gaping hole. I believe we may have been hit with some sort of warhead.”

He pauses, staring up at you, past the barrel of the gun. If he has any fear you’ll pull the trigger, it doesn’t show in the slightest.
>”But you are clearly tougher than I assumed- and I apologize for my assumption. I am a killer, but I do not revel in the fact. It is a raw necessity of our situation. Time pressure. Lack of options. But- consider this. I’m engaged in what I am because the AI is... malfunctioning. Driven by logic that cannot be satisfied. Everyone cannot be saved.”
He states it as a simple, assured fact.
>”I’m unsure if it’s the design of its directives, or a result of the infestation in its core. If it were incapacitated, we could likely find a way to open the pods early. I must assume there are failsafes for that situation. For me, alone- it is suicide. For two, with a firearm? I see potential.”
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No. 1002063 ID: 96c896

>>1002062
What's the point of launching the escape pods early? If we can get a fuel source, the secondary engines will be good enough to keep the orbit stable, and we can repair the ship enough to attempt a landing with them if we stockpile enough fuel as well. We don't NEED the primary engine.
>>
No. 1002287 ID: 673c1d

I don't trust him. He's already convinced of his course of action (leave ship no matter how many he has to kill), and he doesn't really need you - just your firearm. If he's lying and we ever get within arm's reach of him, we're toast.

If we're reluctant to kill him, we could just send him to go collect the Chief Medical Officer and Engineer and bring them to us - we need their help anyway, right? Tell him about the Engineer's current status, then send him to bring back the Engineer and a spare person (alive, of course). Hopefully that solves one of our problems, and even if he plans to betray you, he'll need to keep you alive until he gets back with the Engineer's stack.

Ask him to humor us in trying to fix things. Put all the killing on hold and collect the important people first. Maybe we can prepare some kind of killswitch for the AI (does our new captain have an override for the escape pods?) so that if we're down to, say, 30 minutes and it doesn't look like we can fix up any kind of thrusters, he can kill the AI and launch with whoever's left. He's going to need to collect those people anyway, why not focus on that next instead of randomly killing whoever he can find?

Or does he have a better idea? What's his new plan?
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No. 1002292 ID: 96c896

>>1002287
The regular Engineer is fine. The Chief Engineer is the one with the stack we need to retrieve, and right now we don't know if it's possible to get it. The bubble belt doesn't have enough time left on it.
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