The Gray Bunny (graybunny) wrote,
The Gray Bunny
graybunny

Infrastructure, Part 1

Starting from the beginning again because I wanted to change a few things. This time hopefully I'll be able to keep the momentum going.

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INFRASTRUCTURE


He woke up a little creaky. The only thing that worked right away was his eyes, and even those were a bit fuzzy, but he was able to glance around and see the familiar, sterile walls of the hibernation hold. It was reassuring to wake up where he expected to be, and the row of green lights on the wall opposite him was reassuring as well. No red, a few yellows, but that was to be expected too. Nothing immediately theatening.

Then he realized that he was resting on the pad beneath him rather than being held against it by the straps. That _was_ unexpected. Surely it was just a lingering effect of the drugs, surely... but then a figure dressed in white stepped into view. His vision was still fuzzy, but the blue blur on the shoulder was right for the Athena's ship patch, and the reddish-golden fur meant Pat. The medic was the first one out, as she should be, and he would be second. But she was walking, trying not to trip over the locker hatches and whatnot on the wall which had never been intended to be a floor, where there should be no gravity.

He waved feebly, pleased that his arm was cooperating, and she stepped over. She paused to check the readout beside the tube, then opened the clear cover. "Joseph!" she said. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I slept too long in one position," he grated out, then coughed.

She nodded, dividing her attention between him and the medical readouts. "That's normal. Not much fun, but normal. The gravity probably didn't help matters, though."

"Yes. Where the devil is that coming from?"

She shrugged. "Beats me. My job is to keep you guys alive. Life support is stable, and the gravity has been around for a while -- my straps were loose and there's a permanent dent in my foam pad. I thought I'd concentrate on my job and let you figure out what's going on later."

He nodded. "I suppose we're lucky that the tubes didn't end up on the ceiling. Now, when can I get out of here and up to the bridge?"

She consulted the readout one last time. "You're good to go, Captain. Although you're not going much of anywhere until you get limbered up. Without zero gee, you're going to have to walk to the bridge." She held out her arms and he leaned forward into them, groaning as she helped him out of the hibernation tube. She managed to get him sitting on the edge and made sure he wasn't going to fall over, then slowly made a round of the other half-dozen tubes while he tried to convince his knees that they should bend.

=====

Getting to the bridge was an adventure. The Athena was built for freefall, or at most her own modest tenth-of-a-gee acceleration. The main companionway didn't even have walls, just light plastic sheeting, since people were supposed to float up or down it or use the rungs. He had to step carefully from strut to strut while trying not to put his foot through anything important, while wondering why his ship was even in one piece.

As he neared the bridge, he started seeing glimpses out the forward ports. There was light coming in, and something that might be a wall, some distance away. Odd, since he and his crew should have been awakened well before entering their destination system, let alone docking with anything. But even if there had been a malfunction and Traffic Control had guided them in and docked them, docks were always in freefall.

He finally made it to the bridge, clambered down into the captain's chair, and looked around. A wall in front, which he'd seen from the companionway. Ceiling above, studded with huge fluorescent fixtures. Walls to either side, some distance away, and a floor below. All of it looked like concrete, which wasn't a normal space construction material. The thick, load-bearing pillars which he could see to either side weren't a normal feature of space stations either.

His hands shaking a bit, untrimmed claws clicking on the buttons, he started keying up views from the external cameras. The walls extended all the way around his ship, he saw. He didn't see any hangar doors, only a few which appeared to be about people-sized. Furthermore, underneath and partly surrounding the Athena was a skeleton of girders, carefully supporting every part of the ship and reinforcing weak spots where she might have broken. _That's_ what was holding her together, he thought.

He keyed the intercom next. "Pat?"

A pause and a beep. "Pat here. What's the story, Captain?"

"I wish I knew. If I didn't know better, I'd say we were in a museum, planetside."

He could just imagine Pat's cocked ears as a second pause stretched out. "A museum?"

"We're in some kind of large room which looks like it was built around us, and I've seen smaller ships supported on girder skeletons like this in the Smithsonian. The only thing I haven't spotted yet is a plaque!" Struck by his own idea, he checked all the external cameras again but still didn't see one.

"Hunh."

"Exactly. Quite a mystery, but it's been this way for a while, so we can take our time too. Finish waking everybody up. The place looks pretty deserted, and we'll want everybody available if we have to go poking around."

"Already in progress, Captain. Could you send some views down here? I can't leave right now but you have me very, very curious."

"That makes two of us, Pat." He tapped a few more buttons. "There, you should be able to get all the cameras, now. I'm going to finish touring the ship. Hm, I should stop by the airlock and check for atmosphere outside."

"You're not going out yet," the medic said in a warning tone.

"No, of course not!" he said hastily, ears drooping a bit. "I'm just curious."

"All right," she said. "Let me know if you find anything. Pat out."

=====

He started back down the companionway, moving more easily now, and starting to get the hang of walking on the rounded struts. He passed the hibernation hold, where he could hear Pat moving around and someone coughing. Probably Miriam by the sound, he decided. He looked briefly in the crew quarters and saw nothing amiss -- his own little cubicle was as he remembered it, at least. Life support, common area, and galley had nothing unusual to offer either. Then he passed through the hatches into the main cargo hold.

Most of the cargo was missing, which only made sense. The huge containers were meant to be radially arrayed around the main companionway and were only braced for fore and aft acceleration. Trying to put in enough girders to support them all would only have blocked the view. Whoever had put his ship on display had left two rows of containers down at the 'bottom', where they could be supported most easily. He could see bits of orange girder between them... and he could also see light shining in through holes in the hull where the girders entered.

He stopped at the halfway point and used the intercom there. "Pat?"

Beep. "What's new, Captain?"

"Scratch the atmosphere check. Whatever is out there, we're breathing it already. Or at least I am."

"You didn't go out?" she asked, obviously winding up for a scolding by her tone.

"I didn't have to. They breached the cargo hold hull when they put in supports. I don't know whether any outside air made it through the lock to the crew area, or there may be hull breaches there which I didn't see, but I've definitely been exposed, and I can't tell the difference between the air in the crew area and here."

Pat sighed over the intercom. "Nothing to be done about it, then," she said. "I'll want to check you when you get back, but if you're OK, you might as well finish the tour. Miriam and Al are getting limbered up, and Ted and Reiner should wake up any minute now. No problems."

"Very good! Carry on, and I'll keep you informed. Joseph out."
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