Eames stirred from his induced slumber. He had welcomed the chance to pause amidst the unfolding chaos, though his rest was, in fact, restless. Whatever cocktail SAM had pumped him full of did the trick for his pain, but failed to keep him fully sedated. Over time, he felt a growing shortness of breath, and had awoken when the sensation became insufferable.
The room was shrouded in almost total darkness. There was functional lighting when he had first entered, but now, even the emergency lights were out. It was far from silent, though Eames felt on edge. He knew in the back of his mind that something was missing, though he couldn’t quite determine what.
Clumsily, Eames inched his way across the room towards a nearby cabinet, inadvertently kicking his shin into a rogue storage drawer. He gritted his teeth, and with a sharp inhalation, continued limping forward. Reaching the door, Eames found his right hand and wrist to be wrapped in a firm cast. The pain had been so numbed, he’d forgotten it had been broken to begin with. He appreciated something going his way for once. His fingers were still operable enough to assist in prying open the door, though the cabinet’s contents remained masked in darkness. He fumbled around until his fingertips felt the coarse grip of a flashlight.
Eames switched it on and scanned the medbay. An assortment of medical tools and equipment lay sprawled on the floor, thrown loose from the earlier impacts. The doorway was wide open, and while Eames wasn’t superstitious, he did feel unnerved by the situation. Being alone and near comatose in a dark, easily accessed room was an idea that prompted a shudder in his spine.
“SAM, status report,” he called out. Eames waited for the familiar voice to respond, but it never came. “SAM, are you there?”
Only the muffled creaking of flexing steel and distant mechanical vibration met his ears. Worry set a knot into his stomach, the thought of The Martens running unguided a terrifying concept. How long had he been out? Was the rest of the station even operational?
He urged himself forward and back out into the hallway, retracing his previous steps. The emergency lights on the entire level had gone out, shrouding the hallway in the same darkness as the medbay. Eames' flashlight swept through the empty space, finding little of interest.
“SAM, respond!” he commanded again. Before he could have even received a response, he was jolted by the mechanical roar of machinery overhead. A series of whirs and buzzes vibrated through the ceiling, sputtering in and out in a repeating pattern. To his sides, a shuddering growl echoed through the nearby vents. The startling symphony continued for a few seconds more, before finally halting as suddenly as it had started.
Though startling, Eames had recognised it all the same; the death throes of the ventilation system, trying desperately to restart itself in short bursts. The unnerving silence he noticed earlier revealed itself, the telltale hum of fresh air being expelled into occupied space being completely absent. His shortness of breath? A symptom of dangerously low oxygen levels.
“No, no, no no no,” Eames muttered to himself, limping towards the nearby stairwells. Another sound reached his ears however, which wasn’t present before. The high pitched whine of mechanical joints rotating in place caught his attention, with Eames bringing his flashlight to the seemingly disabled elevator doors.
There, caught between the elevator door and the frame, was a custodian. The door had attempted to slide shut with the custodian part way through exiting, it’s edge now buried into the custodian’s chest cavity. Eames noticed the interface panel had been crushed into shards of broken glass and wiring, removing the telltale glow he had come to expect.
The custodian’s head had rotated around to view the approaching crew member.
“Mr Eames, your presence is required in command.”
“I can tell,” he replied, examining the damaged machine. “Are you able to contact SAM?”
It paused for a few moments, staring off into space with its small beady eyes. “I’m afraid a connection was unable to be established at this time.”
Eames sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose in frustration. “Do you need help?”
“Help has already been requested. I am awaiting retrieval and repairs,” it stated, it’s robotic voice providing little comfort to the conversation.
“And how long have you been waiting, exactly?”
Another pause. “Three hours, forty-two minutes, and seventeen seconds.”
Almost four hours?! thought Eames, panicking with the realisation. Four hours itself was bad enough, but that only covered the timeframe of the custodian being trapped.
Eames spun around and staggered towards an open stairwell, wincing under the pressure exerted on his bruised body. Behind him, the custodian offered words of farewell, though Eames failed to pay it any notice. To his weary mind, the amount of steps above him were innumerable, but he made haste all the same.
After what felt like hours, Eames found himself arriving at the doorway of the control deck. He waited for some time, wheezing with choked gasps for air. Dizziness had long begun to swirl within his head, his chest ever tighter. Lurching forward, the sensors on the still active doorway registered his presence. A light chirp emerged from a panel mounted on its side as the door slid open, a cool gust of fresh air sweeping through the portal. Eames wasted little time and staggered into the well lit room, dropping to his knees as his lungs were refreshed.
“SAM- gasp, SAM!” Eames attempted to shout.
“I’m here,” spoke a familiar voice. A wave of relief rushed through Eames' mind, though confusion soon took its place.
“What the hell was that? Are you trying to get me killed?”
“I’m unaware of what you’re insinuating, Jacob. You need to calm down.”
“The life support in Medical is gone! CO2 levels are beyond safe down there.”
SAM paused. “That shouldn’t have happened. Allow me to reactivate the facilities on level three.” The door behind Eames slid closed, though he briefly heard the familiar sounds of the ventilation system echo up the stairwell.
“I have reviewed my calculations, and have come to the same conclusions. This is, as you would say, perplexing.”
“Calculations?” Eames asked between his breaths.
“Numerous faults throughout both The Martens and the refinery have been detected, and repair procedures were initiated. The station is suffering major grid failures, and certain systems were temporarily disabled to prevent outages. Levels two, three, and four had their life support included in the shutdowns.”
“And you didn’t realise I need life support to live?!” he accused with a rising anger.
“No. Levels three, four and five were provided with an estimated sixteen hours of oxygen. These appear to have been depleted within five. Pressure sensors indicate no atmospheric leaks are present in any of those compartments.”
Eames grew all the more tired and confused. “What went wrong then?”
“Review of the O2 depletion rate shows that usage in the first thirty minutes matched my projections. Power was cut at the thirty minute mark. For the remaining supply to have been used so quickly-,” SAM paused while she pondered something she had yet to voice. Eames winced in preparation.
“The usage rate corresponds with the estimated combined usage of one sedated adult, and at least one concious adult.”
He began to subconsciously hold his breath.
“Two crew members would need to be present for such a scenario.”