Entrance Examination, Chapter Sixteen

About an hour later, “Cadet Trainee Elder, this is Captain Quinn. Have you anything substantive to report?”

“Captain, I have no idea. The sensors are without power, so I have not a clue about what is happening outside the ship. Even if I could detect something, I cannot do anything about it without power. I’m useless up here.”

“That might be a valid concept from your immediate point of view. I, however, anticipate that your presence is not a wasted effort. Consider that once we have power restored, we may require your, or someone’s, presence on the bridge quickly in order to react properly to the situation that may exist at that point.”

“You’re right Captain. I had not thought of that. There might not be enough time for someone to get to the bridge from the power plant once we finish the repairs.”

“That is the crux of my thoughts. Since I cannot see that it would be a good idea to send people to the bridge from elsewhere in the ship, two people should stay on the bridge and stand watch on watch. You are presently there, and I would seem the most logical one to assist you, so I will travel there and we will perform such bridge watches as are required until this crisis has passed. I will bring sleeping gear and whatever else we my require for living on the bridge.”

“Make sure that includes food as well Captain.”

“Food? Indeed, the galley will not function without power. We are without sustenance, other than the emergency rations provided in our suits.”

“Life support is off also, Captain. How long will our oxygen tanks last? Without power, we cannot recharge them. My suit shows,” and here Elder looked at the display under his faceplate, “a reserve of forty hours. Will the repairs be done by then?” Elder’s voice rose a bit involuntarily.

“Remain tranquil Cadet Trainee Elder. Increased excitement will increase you body’s oxygen consumption. Calmness will increase the length of time that oxygen will remain available to you from the limited supply available to you. Is there any information concerning the space suits in the data files in your portable computer? I doubt that we can access any such information that might be in the Main Computer.”

“No, I don’t have anything in my computer, I checked already. I have the files in it memorized now. It did not have anything on space suits when it was issued to me, and when I shuffled the files around between it and the Main Computer, I did not load anything about space suits. I did not even look to see if there were any. Cadet Trainee MacBeath would know.”

“Cadet Trainee MacBeath is quite knowledgeable of the equipment and systems aboard this ship. It does surprise me that your knowledge of the computer does not include the data on the existence of any files on the space suits and their operation.”

“I’m not as good as you say Captain. I think you’re expecting too much of me.”

“My estimations of your abilities is accurate I believe. However, I will speak with Cadet Trainee MacBeath concerning the availability of the data.”

“Cadet Trainee MacBeath here, did I hear you talking about me like the choir behind the preacher’s back?”

“There was no intention of referring to you in less than a commendatory manner. Concerning the space suits, have you knowledge of the systems involved?”

“Some. What systems are you concerned about Captain?”

“The communications system. There is a radio system that everyone has, and the audio system,. The receivers are always operating for one or the other system. Is there any method of completely turning off the receiving system so that people may sleep with some tranquility?”

“Oh, that, sure. On the shelf below the faceplate, where all the indicators are, there is a row of switches right next to the edge and extending along the sides of the faceplate. The third switch from the left on the shelf is the receiver switch. Punch it and you cannot hear anything, radio or audio, even a preacher could not get you to hear anything. Punch it again and the receiver comes back on-line. The water dispenser is on the left side of the helmet and the emergency food rations are on the right side. The space suit is set up so that you could live in it for probably a week or so, which would be one way to get out of church. The waste disposal unit is the limiting factor. You have to empty it every other day or so. Being on a ship, that is not much of a limit for us, we will plug the suit into a shipboard unit and dump it. That switch is the second from the top on the right side of the helmet. It uses suit power, so that should be no problem. It’s all better organized than a prayer book.” This reciting of information, some of which Elder already knew and suspected everyone else did also, was probably an indication of how tired MacBeath was. He did not normally babble like that.

“Your knowledge of the systems is commendable.” Quinn did not mention that everyone already knew most of what MacBeath had just said.

“Think nothing of it Captain. Everyone thinks that if you have a Scottish surname, you have to be good with engineering. Sometimes, it is just best to play along. Besides, I find that I like engineering. Maybe there is something to the cliché after all, sort of like preachers being the heaviest drinkers.”

“Thank you for your information.” There was a slight edge to Quinn’s voice.

Elder listened as Quinn divided the remaining cadets into two teams, sent one team to gather bedding and designated one area near the power plant as a temporary sleeping facility for the duration of the emergency. Ostrom would command the cadets involved with the repair operation.

MacBeath was right, the toilet facilities did not require ship power and the cadets could discharge waste from the space suits when required. Elder checked out the bridge. Yes there was a place to empty the waste receptacle in his suit. Checking out his suit, he determined his emergency rations would last for a couple of days, but the water in the bottle would not last that long unless he was very careful about how much he drank. Then Elder though about MacBeath’s description of the functions of the suit. Elder knew most of them, he knew how to operate the suit and use the functions for the most part. Why did he need MacBeath to explain it to him? Thinking about it while waiting for Quinn, Elder concluded that his tiredness was interfering with his mental abilities. Was that part of the examination? Elder did not know but he realized he needed to recover some of his abilities before he killed someone, like himself, because of his reduced abilities.

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