Pendulum Ch. 9: Impact

The sudden crash slammed Achim into the console. His head crashed against the metal of the small desk, and the light flickered—either that, or the hit caused the effect. He shook his head to clear his vision and looked around in a daze.
The Tuatha’s artificial gravity stopped working and chaos broke out in the engine room. This was not a technical problem. Deck Two was a rotating habitat, but Deck One’s gravity was the effect of a spell maintained by the archdruid in his chamber.
All around him, people and equipment lost touch with whatever surface and drifted about, but it ended as suddenly as it had begun. Only a few seconds had passed when gravity set in again and his colleagues dropped back to the ground. As far as he could tell, nobody got hurt. Good.
What had happened? Achim had a pretty good idea, but he wanted confirmation. He activated the communications module via his console, but the whole thing shut down in the process and appeared to be offline. It wouldn’t start up again. He gnashed his teeth.
“Ship, connect me to the bridge,” he said, and the metallic taste in his mouth drew his attention to his wounded tongue.
“Communication systems unavailable.”
He frowned. Even in the event of the ship crashing, and several important systems going down with it, the intercom of the Tuatha was well-engineered and robust. The ship’s computer accessed it like any other element, but it was completely self-sufficient. The decentralised nature of the comm elements themselves made it impossible to be completely shut down everywhere on the ship. Or was this only a problem here, on the engineering station? He would find out.
Achim activated his own system, connected to the ship computer and met an “access denied” error pop-up when he tried to log in. This was even weirder. Something was going on, but he would sort it out. He closed his personal system interface and shut it down again. For regular personnel, activating private network interface hardware was not permitted on board the ship, but Achim was an exception. He had login credentials and override codes for almost every system as part of his job, in case he had to access the ship’s computer externally. He stood up and walked over to the main console on the other side of the room. The faerie technician, on whom the loss of gravity hadn’t had much of an impact, raised his eyebrows and hurried out of the way without asking unneeded questions.
Achim leaned over the console, which showed most of the Tuatha’s systems as operable. However, parts of Deck One were dark, some rooms and corridors fully shut down and compartmentalised, so his crash hypothesis seemed to have some merit. He went through the menus, following his priority list without even thinking. All life support systems were working fine. The comm channel to the room of the archdruid was active, but the old man was not in front of his console. Achim didn’t have business with Brilann right now. That gravity had returned told him everything he needed to know about the old man right now.
“Bridge,” he said.
“Connection not available,” the Tuatha’s synthetic voice answered.
Things got weirder and weirder.
“Show me my personal message queue.”
“Access denied.”
The faerie tech hanging in the air next to him gasped. Enough was enough. If the damn ship didn’t want to cooperate with him directly, it would have to via the station’s console.
A list of automatically generated status reports by him and for him appeared on the screen. He navigated to the outbox, and there it sat, the report he had sent to the captain an hour ago. Either the system hadn’t sent it when he had ordered it to, or something had blocked the connection, and it just didn’t get through. He didn’t feel like looking into this right now. Achim could find out which it was, but he had more important things to do at the moment.
“What’s wrong?”
The voice belonged to Mccoys, who had appeared from nowhere. The lurikeen looked fine, even this hairstyle appeared to be impeccable. His uniform sat perfectly, the red beard flowing over his chest in perfectly groomed waves. There were no signs of the incident. Of course not, Mccoys had his kinetic force field, and was protected from trivialities like the ship crashing into something in open space. Achim bared his teeth in a grim smile, and the dried blood on his lips must have made him look like an angry demon.
“I need to go to the bridge. I want you to find out when exactly the communications system started to show errors.”
“The communications…? Understood.”
Mccoys narrowed his eyes, lifted his palms, turned around and walked over to his desk at the far end of the room. Achim could have told him more about the problem, but something was rotten on board the Tuatha De Danann. He kept details about the failed report to himself for now.
Why had the ship launched, anyway? As the chief of the engineering station, Achim giving clearance was part of the protocol, and there was no way for the ship to move, even on direct order of the captain, as long as his report wasn’t out. Questions over questions. There was only one way to get in touch with Captain Thornhill, and that was per pedes. The ship was enormous, over two kilometres long, and the engine room was located just next to the engine at the stern of the vessel.
“Show me the way to the bridge,” Achim said.
“Cannot find a valid path,” the ship answered.
“You must be shitting me.”
“Pardon me?”
Shit. This meant he needed a space suit to even walk over, maybe even cross sections of the ship that were exposed to open space. It was probably not that bad in reality, though. Maybe he could just wing it and deal with problems as he encountered them, but according to the ship’s AI, there was no way to walk the entire distance through still intact corridors and rooms. There had to be way bigger obstacles to overcome than the computer systems told him. He looked at the board map once more. If the system reported life support as online, it was online, from stern to bow, along the central and port corridors. Then why was there no path?
Achim stood up and groaned. He had no time to waste on fruitless tasks. He’d get an EVA suit from the armoury and walk to the bridge double time.
“Warrant Officer, I leave you in command here until I’m back. Please get me a detailed list of our inventory and a complete damage report. And the thing I asked you for.”
The lurikeen lifted his palms, then showed him a salute.
Achim left the station, turned to the left and walked over to the door on the other side of the corridor. Just a few steps to the armoury, at least something.
“Open the door,” he said.
“Access denied,” the ship answered. Was there schadenfreude in its tone? Probably not.
“Display the override console, you godforsaken rust bucket,” he said.
“Access denied.”
This had to be out of the question. Even without being logged in, without access to anything, it should still have been possible to activate the damn console. If anything unexpected happened on board the ship and spacesuits were needed, there had to be an easy way to open the door. There still was an alternative. He could open it manually, but that required strength and would take time. The armoury was secured by heavy steel locks. Only a human in good shape or a firbolg had a chance of operating it alone. Achim wouldn’t deal with that right now. No time to waste. He turned around and scurried down the corridor, then fell into a jog. There was way too much weird shit going on right now. He needed to get to the bridge to clear it all up.

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