Author : Asher Wismer
“It’s worse than that,” I said. “Everyone coming out of sleep at the same time, my staff is overtaxed, and you tell me half the ship is missing?”
“Entirely gone,” Captain Stefan said. “Almost the bottom third of the ship. Sleep pods, living quarters, hydroponics, two singularities; all gone, like something came by and sliced it off with a laser torch.”
“Have to be a big torch.”
“And the problems with waking–”
“I know about those,” I said. “Remember my medical degree.”
“But it’s all too much, they never trained us for this.”
“They trained as best as they could,” I said. “Now hold still.”
I injected two CCs of epinephrin in the Captain’s neck, just above the esophagus. “You should start feeling better in ten minutes. Now, I really have to check on–”
“But what could have done it?” he said, plaintively. “All those people, gone, dead….”
I sighed. “If I think about it for five minutes, will you go and let me tend to the others?”
He nodded. I checked his readout, saved it to my files, and sat.
After about three minutes, Captain Stefan took a deep breath.
I clicked a cabinet open and took out three foil-wrapped tablets. “Take one of these before bed for the next three nights. Let me know if you have more trouble after that. Magnets.”
He took the packet and blinked at me. “Magnets?”
“Children often swallow small things, and small toys often have magnets inside. They stick together, you see, and if they are in different loops of intestine they can stick, pulling the intestines out of place, causing blockage and pain. You might check our telemetry, see if we passed by something very large, something with a lot of gravity. The singularities in the lower section could have attracted–”
“–and although our speed was too high to pull the ship off course,” he said, “they would have enough attraction to push against the magnetic couplings. We built the ship for containment but I bet they never considered something attracting from outside.”
“Send someone EVA,” I said. “Check the rivets. Probably the ship parted on seams, and everything just fell off.”
He was already standing. “I’ll call you,” he said.
“Please don’t,” I said. “I have responsibilities.”
The door hissed shut. I turned to my screens and tabbed through a crew list. Almost six hundred people, simply gone.
Who knew if my solution was right. The point was, with fewer people to get sick, I would have much more time away from the clinic in the years ahead.
There’s a silver lining.