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Pre * De * Cede: Chapter 2
I eventually brought Gamma back to the first room and showed him where he could find his clothes. “Put on the suit before the boots, as the other way around is not efficient.” I warned.
As Gamma dressed himself, I turned my attention back to the instrument screen. I returned myself to the readout of the energy reserves. It seemed as if waking Gamma had taken much of the reserve power. I watched the percentage stagnate at a single number, for much longer than before.
“It is night time.” Gamma spoke up. He was already suited up behind me. “The station runs on solar.”
I accepted his words for some reason. “I see. Life support seems it will last, then, until we begin generating power again. I don’t believe the others will be awake until we have enough stored up.”
Gamma turned back to the remainder of the compartments. “We can go outside during the light hours and determine if the solar arrays are dirty or mis-aligned.”
I once again accepted his words, nodding in agreement. My thoughts suddenly turned to the exterior, and the vast expanse of what seemed like nothing. “We will need to find suits to sustain ourselves if there is no oxygen out there.”
“Have you explored the station?” Gamma spoke up. He turned his attention away from the other name plates and looked my direction.
“Not beyond the first hallway.”
“Suits will be somewhere, then.”
Gamma stepped into the boots and laced them with neat ties. Meanwhile, I found a way to power down the screen to save what reserves we could.
As we went deeper into the station, the lights came on for us predictably. There were more of the metallic boxes deeper inside. The horizontal surfaces were covered in a fine layer of dust, including the floor. Our footprints seemed to be the first objects to make marks in the residue. Among the thick walls of the structure and the heavy doors between the sections, we found a total of four distinct rooms outside of the one we had come to in.
The first had a table with six chairs. The room was lined with various counters and tall cupboards, and one sink. The water flowed naturally, but left behind a dull silt in the shiny surface of the basin around the drain. I rubbed the gritty material between my fingers and offered it up to Gamma for his observations. “That is a problem to be solved.”
“I shall keep a mental note.” I said back, rubbing my hand on my pant leg. We moved around more of the crates to the next room.
The second room had windows, looking out upon the surface again. It was hauntingly dark, save the tiny specks of stars starting to speckle at the highest points we could see. The room held compact exercise machines, a stationary bike and a treadmill, as well as a table and stools. There was also an electronic screen like the one in the first room. Behind a privacy barrier was a water spout for a shower, and a toilet receptacle.
The following area included several long counters. Apart from the crates stacked and secured in the center of the floor by hooks and straps, it was empty.
The final room had more windows, looking out at the opposite horizon. In the center of it all was a heavy door sitting in an equally heavy frame that allowed access to the outside. Gamma grabbed my attention, pointing to the tall, narrow cabinets. Behind the transparent doors were hangers, holding morbid, limp space suits. The helmets were made up of round, clear domes, with some sort of connection system resting at the back of the neck. The body of the suit was bulky and irregular, sewn up with thick, reinforced stitches in red thread.
“That is how we will be able to go outside.” Gamma spoke up.
I looked back to the exterior and the pitch blackness. “We will have to wait until morning.”
“We may spend the time then, arranging all of these things about?”
The crates were held closed with four latches, one for each side. Those occupying the bare room, I found, contained various scientific equipment- microscopes, a centrifuge, a compact oven, and various other tools I was not able to recognize. The drawers were filled with things already, neatly and firmly packed. After some wiping down of the dust and emptying of the crates, I found them able to be folded down into flat forms that would be easy to store.
I finished and moved back to the previous room. I found Gamma inside the mess hall finishing similar work. “Gamma.” I called him to attention.
“Do you remember where all this came from?”
“It was… provided for us.”
I walked to the drawer where he had been loading some of the items from the crate. They were brown paper packets, each printed in dark blocky marks with a bar code and a description of what was inside. “Mac and Cheese.”
“That one was my favorite.” Gamma spoke up.
“How… how do you know it was your favorite?”
Gamma stood and stretched his back. “I guess… I just remember.”
“How long have we been here?” I tossed the packet back into its place. “Asleep, that is?”
“Probably a long time, if we can’t remember anything.” Gamma sounded as if he were joking. “Maybe the others will know.”
“We will have to get them up, then.”
At the first hint of sunlight, Gamma and I instinctively went to the room with the airlock. We opened the compartments and pulled down the suits. The bottom section was as heavy as I expected. It had a long zipper and a thick layer of velcro up the back. I had to remove my boots to fit my feet in, but after, I found the suit able to fit around my body with ease. I required Gamma to help me zip up and secure the back section. I did the same for him, up to the back of his neck, that fastened with a singular button.
The bearing around the base of our necks matched up with the rim of the helmet. I hesitated putting mine on, as I was preoccupied by the hard instrument pane sitting on my chest. Sitting at the exterior of it was a threaded nozzle and a set of straps. “Oxygen.” I spoke up.
Along the side wall, there was a tool I had yet to take notice of. It had various tubes, leading to a bulbous section of machinery, made of brushed steel. Under a flap of textured fabric on the wall, there was a shelf of orange canisters, also made of a similar metal. They had a dial reading pressure and a male nozzle that matched with the female one on our chest plates. When I screwed mine in, the air began to flow into my suit, escaping around my neck. I hastily affixed my helmet and twisted it to a locking position.
Gamma mouthed something at me. I could not hear his words until he put on the helmet himself. A speaker crackled up at me from the chest section. “Alpha?”
My feet felt heavy as I marched to the first set of doors. An illuminated plate glowed at me faintly from beside the door. Pushing it in opened the compartment leading to a second set of similar doors. Gamma’s presence came up behind me as we found our way inside. A second plate by the exterior doors was labeled with a set of circular arrows and the word ‘cycle.’ I looked back to Gamma, who nodded, and I tensed my chest, allowing myself to push it. I felt a stillness for a few brief seconds before the exterior doors opened up.
The expanse was just as it looked from inside. The ground felt of irregular material under my feet. I scanned around, looking back to the station. It was of vast contrast to the rest of the surroundings; made of clean lines and hard, reflective materials.
“We must not waste time.” Gamma called me aside. He was waddling around the corner, only stopping to waive me forward.
I began to follow after, looking towards the sky. Just as I figured, Gamma was leading us to the side where the sun seemed to shine the most directly. Along one of the walls of the station was a frame, upon which was affixed various panels. The blue-black material was encrusted with dust and dirt from the surroundings.
“These are the photo-voltaic cells.” Gamma announced, running his glove across the surface. The debris parted with ease, leaving behind the shine of the sun. I shifted behind him and took to another panel, beginning to scrub it down.
Gamma finished his work and stood back to gaze at the results. I saw him pivot between the panel and the sunlight at his back, before making slight adjustments to the angle of the structure. His hands then found their way between the panels, tugging at the thick rubber-encased sections of cable running back to the main structure.
“We may need to repeat this some time in the future.” Gamma spoke up again.
I finished, taking a step back to collide my palms together and rid them of the extra dust. “It is simple enough.”
“You may return and monitor the energy reserves.” Gamma said, turning to me. “I want to examine the rest of the structure. There may be other panels on the opposite side.”
I nodded and carefully treaded back to the airlock. Inside, I found it simple enough to wiggle myself out of the suit, despite the zipper at my back. I then carefully hung the suit up back where I had originally found it, along with the canister of air on its little shelf.
I made my way back through the compartments. At the wide windows in the exercise room, I stopped to watch Gamma come by. He nodded at me as he passed, his hands dragging across the clear surface. I continued once again to the back room, the hallway now free of extraneous boxes of cargo. The backlight flickered as I depressed the power button. There was a slight hesitation before it displayed the sets of information for me again. As I had presumed, the power reserves were now climbing at a steady rate, about one percent per every twenty seconds. The reading was still very much below half, and I knew that I would have some time before anyone else would come awake.
I took a moment to gaze once again upon more of the readings. The atmospheric readings had not changed, nor had the amount of power the system used. The other uses of power were the station’s electrical, which I assumed to be the lights and the plugs spread about on the walls. Then there was waste mitigation and water cycling, whose usage flickered between one and two percent. At the very bottom of the alphabetized list was one reading that was simply labeled with a . I tapped on it, but it failed to provide me any more information.
I distracted myself by looking back to the other compartments that were still sealed; Beta, Delta, Epsilon, and Zeta. I considered knocking upon the doors, to perhaps awake the others, but some reflection told me that if it were me back in the same situation, it would be nothing short of frightening.
Gamma eventually returned, coming up behind me. “They are clear.” He announced.
“Power is increasing.” I replied. I pointed back to the readout screen.
“There are more things to unload, Alpha.” Gamma continued. “May I continue going through them?”
His question was that of a request, as if I had the right to accept or decline. “Yes.” I responded.