Darkness Within

Narijic (Freeport Loop) System
CS Gutpunch

I woke to the worst stabbing, throbbing headache of my life, nausea, and the stink of burnt insulation, stomach twitching with the electronically-repressed urge to vomit – all of which was helped immensely by the ship screaming at me, the piercing electronic screech of the general quarters signal.

At least the ship shut the hell up when I told it to.

— Isif? Are you back on-line? –

Sort of. Almost. What – I went to rub my eyes, encountering the gummy feel of clotting blood and another jolt of pain – aaah! What the hell?

— Your internal diagnostics suggest that you have a concussion and many contusions. Repairs are underway, but you shouldn’t move yet. –

No choice. Can you damp this pain, maybe clear the fog out of my brain?

— Pain damping is already enabled at the highest automatic level. And it would be most inadvisable to administer stimulants in your present position. –

Something must have happened to the ship. Maximum damping and a shot of zoom-juice. Override code… agh. Override code whatever. Hit me.

— This is against my better judgment. Enabled. –

I opened my eyes as the relief flowed in, blinking them against a light that wasn’t there. My pod was dim, lit only by the faint glow of starlight. That was a relief; some of the sticky wetness must be the bio-gel from the emergency light, rather than my blood, although the splatter across the deckhead looked dark enough.

Do you know what happened?

— I recorded three sharp kinetic transients. They were what knocked us both off-line. No further information. –

Can you raise the bridge? Or damage control central?

— No. Isif, the ship’s mesh isn’t responding. The carrier is up, and a few local nodes, but none of the servers are responding.  I can’t find any crew presence, even on broadcast. –

My finger stopped half an inch from the hatch release. Starlight gleamed weakly silver through the translucent door of my pod, but the crew pods opened into an internal corridor. That suggested it would be a really bad idea to open the door, even before checking the pressure warning…

…and then it caught up with me. I couldn’t hear anything.

The general quarters signal had stopped.

The general quarters signal had stopped when I told it to.

But an Ensign can’t do that. That meant the local processors had run down the command-succession tree, and not found –

“Well, shit.”