Chapter 08: Communications

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It actually wasn't as simple as Ishi made it sound.

They had to go out onto the hull to make repairs, yes, but not right away. First, they had to make three repairs on the inside of the vessel, the first two of which were a deck below them, on what was referred to as the utilities deck. Except they weren't so much repairs as a long-winded, roundabout way of bringing the auxiliary communications array online. Or that's what Ishi had told them. Jennifer knew a little about technical things, she could get by if she had to. She didn't quite seem to have a mind for it. Mark, on the other hand, did.

So she was pumping him for information on it as they made their way down the stairwell that they'd located, not because she wanted to actually know, but because he needed to keep his mind occupied. She was beginning to get worried about him. He looked in shock. He was acting distant and had paled noticeably. But as they descended the stairwell, which was mercifully clear, (that last Titan had startled her more than she cared to admit, but, well, it was a fucking eight foot tall screaming nightmare), Mark was looking a bit better. His voice had stopped shaking, he stopped hesitating so much and picked up the litany of technical information.

"There's new ones," he said, suddenly, after having finished his explanation of how they were going to manually activate the auxiliary comms array.

"I think I saw a few. The ones with the big claws," she replied.

"I call them Rippers."

"A very apt name."

Jennifer finished walking down the steps and opened the door to the utilities deck. There was no one and nothing waiting for them in the admittance lobby beyond. It was very bare, very utilitarian in nature, which made sense, given that this deck was basically the guts of the ship. The oxygen plant, main power routing, sewage, it was all housed here. Ishi had already fed them the appropriate information and Mark said he knew exactly where they had to go, as he had spent most of his tenure aboard the ship on this deck.

"Do you know why I joined up with the Cimmerian?" Mark asked suddenly.

"No, why?" Jennifer replied, glad to keep him talking.

"I wanted..." he paused, uttered a grim little laugh. "I wanted a fucking adventure. Can you believe that? I was born and raised on Earth. In the US. Oregon. Lived my whole life there in a small town called Jameston. Population maybe twenty thousand or so. It rained a lot. We were very near the coast. It was so peaceful. Then, one day about three months ago, a thought occurred to me. I had just turned thirty. The thought was: I'm thirty years old, and I've only ever seen one town in one state in one country on one continent on one planet in one solar system. It was kind of a horrifying thought. It filled me with panic..."

By now, they had reached the site of the first thing they needed to do. On this deck, the two things they needed to do were manually sever the primary communications relay and manually activate the auxiliary one. Mark paused in his litany and set to work with the severing. Since it didn't work and the process of making all the repairs to it would be far lengthier and more complicated than simply killing it and turning on the backup.

Jennifer was grateful that the deck seemed so empty. They hadn't run into so much as a single zombie so far and she hadn't heard anything. She supposed it would make sense that the utilities deck, being so untraveled, would be one of the least populated locations on the ship. It took Mark about ten minutes to make the cut.

"Okay," he said, straightening up. "Done, let's get to the next one. Now, as I was saying, I was terrified that I would live and die in Jameston, Oregon while there was an entire galaxy of people and places out there. So I signed up for the first job I could think of. I mean, exploring new worlds along the Far Reach sounded about as exciting as it got...except that, of course, I wouldn't be part of the teams going down to the surface of said worlds. I didn't know I'd just be stuck on this tub for six months. I was actually going to go back when my contract was up."

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