Pre * De * Cede: Chapter 4
I noticed a trend of when we would have another come awake. The process began when we had available seventy percent of our power reserves. It would then take thirty-two percent of our maximum power, leaving us what what seemed to be excess for what our remaining needs were. Better safe then sorry, I surmised. I did not know why the process took so much of our power, but I also came to the conclusion that once everyone was awake, other systems could be run more efficiently. What systems those could be were yet another unknown.
The power had risen the most during the morning hours. Gamma pointed out that the first set of panels that was facing the sun during that time of day were facing south-west. During late day, the second set of panels, aimed logically north-east, was obstructed partially by a rise in the land, and therefore would not generate the same amount of power.
Unfortunately, it had fallen to night between Zeta having been awoken and the hopes of another one of our crew coming awake. Our female crew member had managed to calm Beta. She ended up going through more of the supplies in the lab. Our now constant movement through the station left the lights on more often then not.
It was some time after finishing the work I had prescribed to myself that I sensed a faint haze in the air, detectable both by my eyes and sense of smell. Zeta was the closest when I finally decided to speak out-loud of it. “Do you smell that?”
Zeta peered around the corner and into my section. “I do. That isn’t your doing?”
“Not me.” I shook my head before calling out. “Gamma?”
Gamma was already on the move through several of the doorways, his nose turned up to the air. “Ozone?” He murmured.
Beta was after Gamma, his eyes squinted down. “Is there… something floating in the air?”
“It could be an electrical fire.” I stood, gazing around towards the other compartments. Gamma marched off, his hand trailing against the wall, to the rear section with all our compartments.
I followed after, and as I entered the room, Gamma was already at the back wall, looking to Beta’s compartment. There was a distinct darker haze inside the room, but no obvious source. I looked to the computer readout for any hints to the problem. I noticed first that the ambient temperature in the room had gone up two Celsius, and that the amount of oxygen had dropped, replaced by a larger chunk of the trace sliver.
“Alpha, help me out.” Gamma shouted back. He had moved to a separate compartment, to the one I had made use of.
I gave the screen one last glance. The power readouts seemed to glitch, the bar jumping back and forth unpredictably.
Gamma had taken flat-head a screwdriver to the corners of the compartment, attempting to wedge away the back panel. “The pry bar.” He glanced back at me, his teeth grit.
I jumped back, ready to search for it, when Beta presented himself, the tool already in hand. “This is it. You helped me get out with it, right?”
“Thank you, Beta.”
Gamma allowed the screwdriver to tumble to the ground as he grabbed at the handle of the pry-bar. The metal awed and crinkled as he took the tool to it, arduously separating the bald-headed rivets holding the sheet of thin metal to the frame behind. Bits of flaky debris crumbled out onto his sleeves as he continued to pry away.
“There is something-” Gamma huffed. “Alpha, take the bar.”
I offered out my hand and caught the roughly-tossed tool. Gamma shoved his hand into the free space, wrenching at something. There was a loud snap, and the lighted panels spelling out our names went dark.
“Beta, would you grab Zeta for us?” Gamma spoke back to him. His hand was covered in blackened dust and white, fibrous debris.
Beta nodded and ran off. “Is there something she needs to see?” I asked, attempting to peer at the problem.
“The wire has been chewed through.” Gamma pursed his lips. “A spark caught fire to the nice pile of insulation that’s been amassed there.”
“Did you find the problem?” Zeta’s voice came down the hallway.
Gamma stepped down off the ledge and presented his palm out, holding a fine, brown pellet. “What does this look like to you?”
“Rodent scat.” Zeta declared, rolling it off Gamma’s palm and into her own.
I pulled my head back. “Zeta, why would there be a rodent here?”
“That was a nest, I suppose.” Gamma shrugged back to the mess assembled in the wall.
“There is no indication that there should be any here.”
I crossed my arms. “I don’t remember that there was anything like the means for taking care of animals in any of our supplies. Are you sure you didn’t see anything, though, Zeta?”
She shook her head once again. “Nothing. Perhaps it is a stow-away.”
“For how long?” Gamma said.
“Let’s hope that is the only system the… thing has chosen to gnaw on.” I sighed. “Beta, help me clean this place up before we have another waking up. Then we may take a break.”
Gamma, Beta, and I remained in the room as the power ticked upward, awaiting the next member to awaken, silently hoping that none of the pertinent systems had been damaged by the pest. The reserves hit their quota some time when my eyes were turned away, and predictably, the slight hum returned. It was behind Epsilon’s door.
I held my breath as the compartment door clicked outward. I caught Beta, in the corner of my eye, turning his face away, before leaving the room all together. When I came back to face the fresh-crew member, I sighed a breath of relief to find nothing out of the ordinary.
I was the first to step forward. “Good morning, Epsilon.” I greeted the man. He looked himself down, and felt at his hands, twitching and grasping his fingers and toes as I imagined myself doing when I first came to consciousness.
“Good morning.” He replied, stepping out onto the floor. “Alpha, Gamma.” His eyes grazed our emblems stating our names.
“Should we get him to Zeta?” Gamma directed his voice into my ear alone.
“I shall go to Zeta on my own.” Epsilon responded, glancing about. Before we could respond to him, he began to pace down the hallway. Gamma tilted his head to me. I returned with a shrug, and went to Epsilon’s storage bay, helping myself to the suit and boots inside.
As I approached the lab, bringing with me the clothing, I could hear Epsilon and Zeta already conversing. “What of my things have you pulled up?” The new member asked.
“Seems you have several drawers filled with samples and certain instruments for collecting more.” Zeta was directing Epsilon as I entered. Zeta was sat upon the stool, while Epsilon stood waiting, his sleeve rolled up to his elbow.
I folded the uniform in my arms and laid it on the counter. “Epsilon-” I grabbed his attention. “Your things.”
“Thank you, Alpha.” He nodded, taking the needle with hardly a reaction out of him.
“Have the environmental filters been working properly? There is a strange… scent in the air.”
“Perhaps Gamma has looked at them…” I shook my head. “However, there was the incident before you came awake, of the… rodent, it was in the wall, chewing up cables.”
“Rodent?” Epsilon rubbed at his forearm as Zeta disposed of the syringe. “A rat?”
Zeta cleared her throat. “Alpha and Gamma had thought it had come from here.”
“I do not believe we would be sent with live samples.” Epsilon took the uniform, unfolding it in his hands to look down the zipper and over the name emblem. “Perhaps an embryo in cold storage, but… it wouldn’t just spring to adulthood.”
“I said as much.” Zeta confirmed.
“Alpha-” Epsilon spoke up again. “You must have a manifest somewhere.”
I shook my head. “I have wondered if we had such a thing since we began unpacking. Nothing.”
“If I may suggest…” Epsilon paused. “I would like if we could create one.”
I nodded my head. “Beta and I have finished stowing everything away and folding up the crates. If there was any time to take count of what we have, it would be now.” I shrugged and moved to the mess hall. I pulled open one of the familiar drawers I had packed myself, containing a meager stack of paper and a box of pens. I grabbed a piece for each of us and brought the materials back into the next room.
Epsilon was just finishing stepping into his uniform. He looked my way as I I flipped the paper his way. “You two seem to know your gear well enough. If we know how much we have, we will know what to ration.”
“Ration… until when?” Zeta took a sheet of paper pensively.
“Until…” My mind went blank. “Until we know more.”
Beta and I spent the remainder of the light hours making tally marks of some of the food packets. Until then, I had only taken two meals per day, for a total of eight, including the one I consumed while taking down the numbers. I figured that at the same rate, multiplied by the number of people, including the one yet to come awake, we would have twenty more days.
While the sun began towards the horizon, I made note to continue checking the power reserves from the secondary screen in the room. I paused my work and packed away the utensils I had been counting and moved to the back room. Gamma was already waiting before the compartment door.
“The last one.” I spoke up, pulling Gamma’s gaze back.
“Assuming no problems…” Gamma crossed his arms. “It will be a relief to not have to worry about the reserves for a bit.”
I leaned against the back wall beside the door, waiting for the whirring to begin. The door popped open as we expected it would. I noticed Epsilon poking his head out of the hallway in suspense. “So, this is where we’ve all come from.”
“Every last one of us.” I said back. I watch as Delta stepped forward out of the folding doorway, his eyes twitching from the sudden stimulation.
“About time.” Gamma teased.
Delta looked about, peering at the computer screen as he stepped out. He then made eye contact with me, and onto Gamma.
I looked back to Epsilon. “Call the others to the dining room. I believe we should have a proper meeting now, with all of us.”
Epsilon nodded and ducked out of the room as I went to Delta’s compartment to grab his clothes for him.