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Scavenger Hunt - Hydroponics

Posted on Mon Jul 4th, 2022 @ 3:07am by Delaney O'Callaghan & Aarix Teral & Curtis Vaan
Edited on on Mon Jul 4th, 2022 @ 3:08am

Mission: Adrift
Location: Hydroponics - Deck 20
Timeline: MD-04: 1000 Hours
3630 words - 7.3 OF Standard Post Measure

Nobody had really thought about how far away the hydroponics bay was from the shelter on Deck 6 the crew had set up. The main hydroponics bay was actually 14 decks down, in the true bowels of the ship. It took the better part of an hour to get there in EV suits.

Curtis had done his level best not to complain that they'd gotten the worst deal out of any group. Not only were they collecting vegetables, but they were having to travel pretty far to get them. He'd sort-of wished Leiddem was along to be the muscle, but having Laney along made him feel like that would have been a bad idea: he'd have been the third wheel in their little coupling. He didn't know the doctor all that well at all, so maybe this would be a good opportunity to see what he was like.

"Are we there yet?" he grumbled aloud, looking to evoke a response from either of his companions. "Anyone wanna play 'animal, vegetable, mineral?' while we wander? Or maybe a good old fashioned game of 'I spy'."

Curtis wasn't the only one missing a certain security officer, and not just for the obvious reasons of personal preference. Leiddem, as far as Delaney could recall, was the only one who knew about her difficulties in the dark. Being lumbered with an EV suit and then thrust into the bowels of the ship with only the aid of head-lamps and their hand-held flashlights was starting to resemble a sense of claustrophobia she would have vehemently denied suffering from.

"Let's see; I spy with my little eye, something beginning with 'N'. Is it nothing? Got it in one."

She shot the Risian a trademark deadpan from behind her protective mask and proceeded to bonk him on the helmet with the handle of her torch.

"You're supposed to be watching the tricorder so we don't launch ourselves out an airlock or fall fifty thousand decks to our deaths."

"Ha - there's only one deck below us. So falling fifty thousand decks isn't even possible," Curtis retorted, a little childishly. "Besides, the doc can fix you up, right?"

"I'd rather he didn't have to. Again." Delaney spun, a little too quickly, to regard Aarix as he brought up the rear, and sent the beam from her headlight on a brief yet wildly-erratic pattern across the walls and ceiling. "Might need you to run a bioscan to check for signs of intelligence, doc. The closer we get, the easier it'll be to mistake this doofus for a pumpkin." A hand outstretched left faint smudges over Curtis' visor as Delaney gave him the gentlest of pushes.

Aarix smiled at the banter, doing his best to hide how out of breath he was. "I'll inform you of the first signs of leaves sprouting." While he had done EV walks before, it was in Martian gravity, so the bulky of the suit felt heavier than normal to him. Even the artificial gravity in the colony wasn't quite the same as it was on the ship. Hearing his own breath echo in the confined space of the helmet made him very aware of the suit on his body, and he forced regulated breaths to ignore just how close the insides of the EV suit were to his body. "We're on deck 20, right?"

"I sure hope so," Curtis replied. "Because around this corner..." he turned the intersection and came to a large door, which was appropriately labelled 'hydroponics' on a sign that wasn't part of the original specs. "Bingo. Ladies first, eh?"

A sweep of her gloved hand saw Delaney mockingly concede the first move to Curtis, at his own insistence, but she already knew that sending him ahead would just involve frustration. Continuing the sweep to bring her hand around to swipe at his helmet, the redhead then fronted up to the door and pulled aside the panel that would allow for the manual release. It was a clumsy arrangement, frustrating enough that Delaney fought the urge to compromise her suit entirely by ripping off a glove, but she eventually cracked open the doors enough so that she at least could slip through. Podgy Risians may have had to turned the mechanism a few times to squeeze themselves in.

Making a small sound of complaint, Curtis heaved hard on the door and managed to push it an extra couple of inches to allow himself entry, with the doctor just behind.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to floor 20: tools, hardware, and groceries..." he pattered. "Don't forget to tip your server on the way out." He nudged Delaney with his gloved hand. "Bet you can't find a root that looks like Ford."

"Please tell me you didn't just use 'root' and 'Ford' in the same sentence." Delaney's tone was distracted, however, as the bulk of her attention was fixated on the rows of crops. "So Doc," she addressed Aarix, who had the dubious pleasure of seniority over their expedition. "What was the grand plan again for how we get all this up a bunch of ladders?" She flexed a gloved hand in front of her. "I'm not even sure I can pick strawberries with fat fingers."

"There are storage units around here somewhere, or there should be. Perhaps one of those cabinets?" He pointed with a gloved hand to some cabinets along the wall. "Now if I recall correctly..." Aarix walked to a nearby work station and began to poke around in cabinets, the thickness of the gloves making the search difficult. "Aha." He revealed what looked like a mix between a handheld garden rake and a shovel. "I happened to check the inventory list for items to help us. This should make it easier to grab smaller things." He handed one to Delaney before turning his attention back to the cabinet.

"Smaller, you say?" Lofting the implement, Delaney made a pantomime of aiming it at Curtis' head, never one to miss the opportunity to accuse him of inadequacy of some sort, and then lowered it immediately as the heft of it became a little more awkward than she'd anticipated. "Here, you take it," she handed the contraption to the Risian and turned to make her slow, ambling way towards the waist-high plot-pods that lined the centre of the room. Running a gloved hand over the casing, Delaney then lumbered her way in search of something to transport everything in.

"We probably should have asked for more help," she pointed out, a little unhelpfully at this point. Dragging over several backpack-shaped items, Delaney held one upside down and sought a second opinion. "I think these normally house the spraying cannisters but we can probably shove a decent amount of potatoes in here if we have to wear anything back. What we really need," Delaney turned slowly, her cumbersome suit leaving her to bump against the storage container, "is an anti-grav unit. There ought to be a couple, the kitchen stopped relying on transporters for cargo delivery from Hydroponics once it turned out to be faster to just manually push an AG-unit into a few turbolifts. Dragging it up a billion ladders is another matter entirely but we brought our resident small-brain genius for a reason."

Delaney turned, took several steps back towards Curtis, and placed both gloved hands on the dome surrounding his face. "Time to save the day, Smee."

"Say 'please'," Curtis poked back, ineffectually trying to shake her off him. "Well, if I were a grav-lift, I'd be positioned somewhere marked 'grav lift storage'," he explained, tapping the front of his helmet as though thinking deductively. "I wonder if that storage unit we passed in the hallway, marked 'grav lift storage' is worth looking at?" he sneered just a little at Delaney as he said.

"Aren't those a pain to move up ladders?" Aarix asked, not entirely paying attention as he was rummaging around in the cabinet. "At the very least, we should be able to cart it to the ladders and do like an anti-gravity assist thing to haul food up to higher decks." Finding another tool like what he gave Delaney, he stood, the movement clunky with the suit.

"I guess we just pick what needs harvesting and do what we can." Delaney waited for the doctor's back to be turned to poke her tongue out at Curtis and then moved to pick up one of the backpacks. "As the only representative of County Meath, County Louth and County Wexford respectively," she leaned heavily into her brogue, "I declare myself in charge of fossicking for spuds. I'm actually craving mashed potato," Delaney continued, reverting to her more subtle lilt as she weaved her way towards the tuber section at a slow shuffle.

"Your face is a potato..." Curtis grumbled as she went. "Let me grab those grav-lifts for you, Doc."

Leaving out through the main entry to the bay, Curtis slowly made his way to the large storage locker built into the wall almost opposite the door. Even without power it was a simple trick to slide the hatch aside and haul one of the larger sleds out of its storage unit. It clunked heavily into him, bouncing off the deck before coming to rest haphazardly against the bulkhead. Alongside it he found a set of antigrav pods, which could be attached to individual crates to support carrying. He figured it might make sense to bring a few more of those along instead of the larger piece of tech.

Turning on the larger sled and guiding it towards the open door to the bay, he chimed in on the suit comms again.

"Found what we need. Piece of..." he trailed-off mid-sentence when he noticed a strange hissing sound. And a slight fog on his visor. And an odd flashing light on the wrist-mount of his suit. "Uh...that doesn't seem right..." He shuffled around awkwardly, trying to figure out what was going on. "L-Laney..." he mumbled. "I don't feel so good."

There was something about his tone. By now, even though Aarix had likely not spent a great deal of time in either's company, the relentlessness of their banter had surely highlighted just how much time Curtis and Delaney spent hanging out and, more to the point, the depth of friendship that allowed for sibling-esque squabbles in the middle of dire emergencies. Those less acquainted with either personality would have been excused for believing they didn't like each other, but there was no hesitation to the turn of Delaney's head, just as there was no misunderstanding of the difference between Curtis finding something new and miniscule to complain about, and Curtis identifying an actual problem.

"What did you do?"

The demand came as long strides, frustratingly impeded by her suit, drew Delaney from her digging to immediately grab his helmet in both her hands once more. A futile wipe of her glove across the visor confirmed the problem to be interior condensation and so she spun him, unapologetic hands patting him down until the small rent in his suit, on the lower left side near his stomach, earned itself a wide-eyed gawp before she clamped a glove over it. "Doc!" Staring directly at Curtis, Delaney's tone curved around the desire for alarm and brusquely favoured authoritative optimism. "Don't panic. Hyperventilating is just going to make this worse."

"Eashy for you to shay..." Curtis slurred, the thin air in his suit causing him to dizzily waver. "Guesh...I wush the damsel after all..."

An index finger, pressed roughly in the vicinity of where his mouth would be if the helmet wasn't in the way, demanded less chatter. "Shh, talking uses more air." Nothing about Delaney's tone held the playful mockery that had constituted the entire trip through the Jeffries tubes. Instead, the laser focus of her eyes provided an immediate reassurance that was just part of her normal motivation; his problem was her problem and they'd figure it out together.

"Doc, we have to deal with the decompression threat. The tear is here," she grabbed Curtis' hand and pressed it against the rip, closing her own glove around his to form a fist of material in an effort to stall matters. "Are his tanks still functional?" Suit malfunctions had formed part of the security training Leiddem had subjected the department to in the lead-up to light's out; Delaney had honestly wished her priorities at the time hadn't been quite so divided.

Aarix heard the change in Curtis' tone, followed by the sudden urgency in Delaney's voice, and ran/waddled over as fast as he could in a suit. He started to kneel on the other side of Curtis, only to pause when he saw a piece of metal that would easily puncture an EV suit. Kneeling a little closer to Curtis' head, Aarix turned the man's arm a little to see the readout on the wrist mount. "The suit says the tanks are functional, doing a physical check." Carefully rotating Curtis just enough to access the air tanks on his back, and with stubby gloved fingers he carefully checked the tubes and whatnot. He also pulled his tricorder to scan for anything the gloves wouldn't pick up, like any smaller cracks. "The tanks don't look damaged to me, and tricorder readout indicates no leakage anywhere. Is there something we can use to seal the tear in the suit? We're too far away from everyone else to get him back on foot."

"Keep holding," Delaney instructed Curtis, and swung her headlamp's beam around to locate her flashlight again. That done, she aimed it with pinpoint precision in two directions within the bay itself and then immediately turned to disappear into the corridor. A quick scan with the torch located what she was looking for, slightly further up the corridor than maybe she would have directed someone else to look, but memorising the exact coordinates of all the security lockers she'd recently authorised stocktakes for was pushing it even for her. Grabbing what she needed, Delaney returned without so much as having noticed that she was in the dark entirely on her own.

Panic and concern, as it turned out, were great for focusing the mind.

"Here," she tossed the repair kit to Aarix before moving to stand in front of Curtis again, squeezing her hand over his to assist with the temporary air-seal. "Your tanks are fine," she reiterated calmly. "Once we seal off this tear, the suit will manage the contaminant purge and reset your levels and then you can just supervise while we do all the hard work." Though she smiled, Delaney's eyes held a resolute firmness that, whilst equal in intensity to her usual high-spirits, pulled from an entirely different aspect of her personality. "You're okay. We've got this, you're going to be fine."

"The room's spinning..." Curtis mumbled. "Was it always doing that? Hehe...flashy lights..." His hand waved aimlessly in front of him, grabbing at hallucinatory flashes.

"Curtis, keep still."

It was very rare that Delaney pulled out that tone but the deep furrow of her brow didn't leave much room for misinterpretation. If he was choosing that moment to attempt a joke, she'd murder him afterwards; right now, she kept one hand over the repair location waiting for the doctor to unearth the sealant, and the other gripped Curtis' shoulder to coax him to settle.

Curtis mumbled some more as he felt and heard the muffled movements around him. He wasn't sure how long it took, but he registered his suit being tethered up to someone else's. The last time he'd felt anything like this he'd been blackout drunk, and the feeling was weirdly similar. Maybe Laney might carry him home. Pity there weren't any taxis in space for her to put him in the back of.

With stubby fingers, Aarix got the sealant ready and moved to apply it to the leak Delaney was keeping at bay. He nodded to Delaney to swap the hand with the sealant, and he could hear the hiss of air start again as he quickly covered the leak. Or tried to. The first time, he missed and got right above the leak. Muttering a curse, Aarix tried again and was successful. The hissing stopped, and while one hand covered the leak, his other grabbed his tricorder from its little holster and scanned both Curtis and the suit. "Looks like the sealant is holding, but he shouldn't move for a few minutes to let oxygen get back into his system."

The next few minutes constituted an eon as far as Delaney was concerned, watching to see if the repair, coupled with Aarix's tethered suit, would allow Curtis' to stabilise. For once, she weathered the wait in silence, still standing directly in front of her friend to maintain eye contact as his face slowly returned to a more normal colour. At one point, she reached out to flick a finger against his visor, a suitable replacement for punching him in the arm for worrying her, and eventually Delaney slowly exhaled the breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding onto.

She turned to survey the room.

It wasn't going to be enough. As her mind whirled through all the possible scenarios, Delaney still wound up right back at the point of non-negotiable amendment to their original plan. Even if Curtis' suit recalibrated and responded well enough to allow the doctor to untether, the sheer amount of exertion required to get them back was eventually going to land the Risian in trouble. Climbing up required greater oxygen intake than their descent, and even if they abandoned the vegetables, which seemed problematic long-term, the jostle and strain on a damaged suit trying to clamber back up all those ladders just seemed like a recipe for further catastrophe. Curtis needed a replacement tank. There was only one place that had any of those that were tested and verified ready to deploy. For a moment, the young woman's shoulders sagged as, eyes closed, she wrapped her mind around what seemed like the inevitable. Then, with a slow reassembly of her posture that Curtis at least might recognise as Delaney 'making a decision', the redhead moved to struggle back into her backpack of potatoes.

"I'm going to go get us some help." It wasn't a request and was said in such a definitive tone that it didn't leave a lot of room for argument, though Delaney held up a hand at Curtis' visual attempt to protest. "Even if we get you to one of the other supplies of suits and tanks, they're all in parts of the ship that have been without life support or regulated temperature control for too long. I don't have time to test them. It's a long way back and you just lost a lot of air. It'll be fine," Delaney added, mustering a grin that attempted to smother the rapid acceleration of her heartbeat. "I'll take my potatoes and go rally the cavalry. You two can just finish loading up."

Half-hearted attempts at arguing with her became endless instructions that mostly went over Delaney's head. Armed with Curtis' tricorder, her attention was focused on not consuming her entire air supply trying to control impending panic. It's just the dark. Except, the dark was disorienting, a veiled trickster that robbed her of spatial awareness and produced waves of vertigo that Delaney was suddenly very glad she'd only ever properly confessed to Leiddem about. For their sake more than hers, she threw a potato at Curtis to accompany a request for him not to cause any more mayhem, and then strode off just far enough beyond the closing doors to appear confident.

It's just the dark.

Much though they'd calculated the return trip to be longer by half again, due to having to climb upwards whilst hauling vegetables, Delaney had been determined to shave as much time as possible. The faster she moved, the less time she had to think about what would happen if she misread the tricorder's readout and took a wrong turn.

The journey back was not a pleasant one, and though eventually some would remark on the sheer amount of balls it had taken to make it on her own, Delaney felt neither ballsy nor tough as she huddled against the bulkhead in between ascents, waiting for the waves of nausea to subside enough for her to proceed. Most of the climbing was done with her eyes closed, since once she was on a ladder, there was no way to deviate incorrectly, and that certainly helped her regulate her breathing so that she didn't suck through her air and simply add to the current problem. It wasn't enough to hold back the occasional tear, however, nor was it a magical recipe that left her immune to the sensation of hopelessness. It was often assumed that Delaney didn't experience bouts of insecurity and vulnerability; that was poppycock. What she tried very hard to avoid was suffering from them, or at least allowing them to get in the way of what she had to do.

She lost track of time. She lost all sensation of forward momentum. Her only lifeline was the bleep of the tricorder, and the predetermined pathway that guided her steps when her internal compass shut down completely. She didn't remember what her first thought was when she heard a voice shout her name, nor could she properly process the suddenly influx of light and colour, and someone's hands grabbing her arms to pull her upwards, but she drew in several lungfuls of slightly-warmer air and hoped her voice was loud enough to carry.

"Curtis needs help."


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