I stumbled along as I ran for the bridge, climbing up the half-flights of stairs to access the upper deck of the ship. On this higher level, I could see definite signs of damage. Some of the lights, normally providing a pleasant underglow, had been knocked out and left dark areas in the corridor. I guessed that they had been overloaded by a power surge.
As I hurried along, I suddenly was brought to a stop by another sight, something that sent a tremor of fear running down my spine. The upper levels of my ship had been equipped with small portholes, granting the crew a limited view of what lay beyond, in the reaches of space. Most of the time, I ignored them completely, as there was nothing to see outside.
But now, as I gazed at the small, thick window that offered a slightly smudged view of the starry expanse, I could see a faint white line, creeping up from the bottom of the window. I reached out and tapped on the glass with a finger, only to watch as, with a screech at the far edge of hearing, the crack expanded another inch up the glass.
This was serious. If that glass gave, we would all be dead, and no number of reboots would fix that. I had to hurry.
Not bothering to exercise caution any more, I sprinted down the rest of the hallway until I reached the large door at the far end. Unfortunately, I saw as I skidded to a stop, the door was closed, sealed shut and inaccessible without using the wall-mounted access panel.
I stared at the keypad on the wall, my mind going blank. I knew the combination, I was sure of it – but I couldn’t remember what it was! I reached out, flipping down the cover on the panel. After a moment, I peered closer – something seemed to be scratched on the inside.
It looked as though the numbers had been scratched down with the tip of a knife. I wondered why a previous version of myself had known the code, when I didn’t remember it now. Maybe, I briefly considered, this had been carved by the original version of myself, before I had first been hit by something enough to trigger a reboot, which would then wipe the information from my memory.
There wasn’t much point in thinking about it too much now. I reached up and punched in the letter sequence. For what felt like an eternity, the screen continued to glow baleful red at me, and then finally:
Code Approved; Access Granted
With a hiss, the door began to slowly slide open. At first, I was about to rush forward and try and slip inside, but then I remembered those fourteen slash marks on the paper in the mess hall. I restrained myself instead, keeping one hand on the access panel, my finger poised over the close button should I be greeted by a dangerous sight.
As the door opened, however, I saw no immediate danger. What I did see, however, was the glowing, blinking, furious red of a control panel where many, many things were going wrong. As soon as I was sure that there was no other danger, I hurried in, staring down in dismay at the confusion before me.
“Computer, run diagnostics!” I commanded, my fingers flying over the keys.
After a moment, one of the few remaining undamaged screens flickered to life:
Voiceprint accepted. Welcome back, Captain Reynolds.
Running diagnostic scan…
Warning: scan reveals multiple issues at code three or higher:
-Extensive damage detected to Reboot™ system. RealScan system software is unable to function; hardware damage is critical.
-Ship’s power core is offline. Connection to power core has been severed. Unable to reactivate.
-Multiple hull breaches detected. No repair process is possible at this time due to lack of power.
I groaned, running a hand through my hair. I was definitely in trouble.
I keyed in a few more lines of code, pulling up the few security cameras that were still functioning. The bottom deck, down by the cargo hold, looked as though it had been breached in multiple locations. Fortunately, it looked as though the blast doors leading up to the main and upper levels had successfully sealed, their automatic circuits detecting the loss of atmosphere and closing to protect the rest of the vessel. But this meant that I had very few options for accessing the power core.
Nonetheless, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get anything else done, be able to escape to safety, without the ship functioning, without the ship having power. There looked like there was still one route open. I didn’t doubt that in my previous visits, before being rebooted, I would have seen this option. But I had no other choice – I had to take it.
Continued in Part V…