What felt like hours had passed by in moments. Eames could no longer see the storm of rubble outside, but he could feel every minute collision as debris sprayed outwards. Every few seconds the station would heave and shudder as one of the larger chunks of debris slammed against the steel plating. They would drag across the surface, producing a bone-chilling screech as their slow roll threatened to shred the casing open. Through it all, he tried to remain calm, ignoring the pain of his injuries and taking deep, heavy breaths.
The explosion did not last long however. Within minutes, the dangerous impacts had completely subsided, leaving only a few minor collisions from smaller objects. Their periodic bumps against the outer hull still brought Eames some pangs of anxiety, but his immediate safety was all but assured. SAM had been silent this entire time, likely overwhelmed with activity to properly notify him. Her voice returned soon after.
“Multiple alpha-level impact events recorded. Calculating number of breached compartments… thirty-seven,” she reported. Before she continued, Eames could feel another vibration reverberate through his feet. “Recalculating… thirty-nine breached compartments.”
“How’s Command faring?” asked Eames, his voice audibly shaken.
“Command deck reporting portside structural damage. Zero breaches detected.”
Eames sheepishly approached the viewing port at the front of the room, the security plating still covering the glass. He pressed his left hand against the panel and curiously wondered about the damage outside.
“Can I open the windows again?”
“Windows have been sealed. External sensors indicate the outer protective layer has caved in on at minimum one viewport. Estimating loss of atmosphere if internal layers are retracted.”
Eames pulled his hand back, scrunching his fingers together. He was lucky the inner layer had managed to hold. The pain and dizziness of his injuries were starting to take hold now, and he needed a visit to the infirmary. His right arm pressed against his chest and his left hand rubbing his temples, he shuffled back towards the command chair. Around him, the multitude of workstations and screens buzzed with activity. Each device spouted their own warnings amidst the cacophony of alarms, a dazzling display of lights flashing all around the room.
“SAM… could you please contact the surface team? We need some hands up here ASAP.”
She paused for a few moments. Whatever she had to say, he wasn’t going to like it.
“Communications array is not responding. External sensors indicate at least 75% of the platform is damaged or missing.”
“Visual surveillance is reporting the majority of the platform as non-present.”
“You’re telling me that debris tore it clean off?!” replied Eames, now agitated.
“That is a fair approximation.”
“I strongly recommend you make your way to the infirmary, Jacob. The high possibility of fractures and a concussion requires a medical evaluation”. SAM didn’t often use his first name, only when she was trying to act convincing or motherly. The slight changes of inflection in her voice gave way her current focus of ensuring his health, and though she was an AI, he still appreciated the attempt all the same. He attempted to reposition his broken wrist against his chest and felt an aching pain in his ribs. They were certainly bruised as well.
“Just… We… Okay, I’ll go,” stammered Eames, deciding it was best not to protest. The damage to the station wasn’t going anywhere.
“Excellent. Please make your way to Medical.”
Eames lumbered back to the doorway he first entered through, passing into the corridor leading to the elevators. Shaft three was still open and waiting for him, the lights now faintly buzzing in the interior. To his sides were a number of doorways, the majority now sealed shut. One pair led to the two stairwells, the portside door sealed shut with a flashing red warning light. Eames could only hazard a guess at what the damage looked like from the inside, let alone the outside of the station. SAM confirmed no breaches on this level, but that didn’t eliminate the possibility of breaches further down the stairwell.
The other doors, adjacent to the three elevator shafts, provided direct access to the I/O section. It handled the connection and boarding of other spacecraft attempting to dock with The Martens, but hadn’t seen any use in months. Only one passage remained open. Pushing the thoughts of structural damage to the docking system into the back of his mind, Eames stepped into the elevator and selected level three.
As expected, the elevator shuddered again as it passed level four. Only this time, before it had fully cleared the floor, it stopped completely in its tracks. The overhead light switched off, followed in short fashion by the rest of the powered systems and plunging the elevator into darkness. Eames began to worry, his earlier frustration having now waned under his newfound stress.
“SAM?” he called out into the dark.
She did not respond. He thought to begin prying open the control panel, but a low electrical hum soon returned to the capsule. Moments later, the lighting reengaged, temporarily blinding Eames after his eyes had started to adjust. The elevator shuddered once more before grinding downwards and continuing its path. Resting back against the wall, Eames let out a pained sigh of relief. He could feel it continue to shake as it made its way downwards.
Reaching floor three, the pod paused briefly before opening its doors. Eames stood just behind them with a new eagerness to escape what he believed to be a moving death trap. They slid open, giving way to a darkened junction. Eames stepped out but quickly found himself crashing into a shrouded figure awaiting the elevator.
A pair of unmoving yellow eyes met his as Eames yelped, staggering backwards. Tall and slender, the figure stood above him by several inches, its head almost peering over him. It took a step towards him, stepping into the light emitted by the failing lamp inside the elevator. Having been startled by the encounter, Eames racing heart began to slow as he began to make out the details of this surprise stranger.
The figure, made of metal and plastic, continued to watch him intently. Covered in a black coat of paint, it appeared to blend right in to the darkened halls, the small circular lights that represented its eyes almost hovering in the dark. Most of its body was cased in smooth, curved facades, while its joints revealed exposed cabling and mechanisms. In the center of its chest was a small light fixture that now began to pulse a soft gold colour.
“Mr. Eames, you appear to require medical attention,” it stated matter-of-factly, the robotic voice lacking any sort of expression. Eames huffed in irritation, shoving past the custodian with dismissal.
“Please visit the infirmary as soon as you are able.”
He could hear the slow whine and whir of its joints rotating in place, its unblinking eyes still focused on him as he shuffled away into the darkened hall. The fixture in its chest had now faded into a dull, leafy green. Around him, the vast majority of lighting on this floor had long since lost power and made adjusting difficult. Scant few emergency lights remained powered, but they merely provided guidance rather than illumination. Eames toed his way forward until his eyes had adjusted enough to navigate the room. Behind him, the custodian continued to watch his exit, awaiting some verbal response to its statement. Eames simply ignored it.
Arriving at a bulkhead door, the symbol for medical emblazoned across its surface, Eames pressed his open palm into a still functioning keypad. It chimed a second later, giving way to a similarly gloomy, yet still lit infirmary. A headache now pounding with every heartbeat, Eames staggered towards a nearby bed, a plethora of mechanical arms and devices stowed above it. It came to life as he slid into place, the blue beams of the scanner sweeping from head to toe. He barely felt the slight prick of a needle in his arm, a comfortable numbness enveloping his aching wrist.
Eames shut his eyes and sighed. For a brief moment, he had respite.