By Robert Lynch
The pod seal slid open; air whooshed in as the hermetic seal popped, red flashes and sirens assaulted Meg’s senses. Her eyes struggled to open; she was dehydrated, her muscles sluggish. She pulled herself up from the pod. The head rush nearly knocked her out, were it not for the stabbing pain in her temples as a migraine tore through her head.
She could hear her pulse in her ears; it was fast. She was slick with sweat, burning with fever.
She took a breath. She had air; she had time to slow down and assess. Listen to the training. She took a second breath. Her pulse eased, slightly.
She knew what was happening. She was presenting with the symptoms of lightspeed sickness. She had to get to the AutoDoc; no time for questions. Not even to wonder how she could have got lightspeed sickness while in hypersleep.
Meg climbed out of the pod, her feet unable to hold her body weight; she slid slowly to the floor. It was more comfortable lying down; her head didn’t hurt so much. As she crawled the red flashes were interrupted by white flashes. White flashes were not part of the emergency system. She looked at the window but could see nothing from her vantage point on the floor. It didn’t matter right now anyway; she had to get to the AutoDoc. The medbay wasn’t far.
The crawl seemed to take forever, although she probably covered the ground in a couple of minutes, Meg climbed up onto the AutoDoc chair. The display, sensing a patient, moved into view and read out the problems and diagnoses. Lightspeed sickness was top of the list. She tapped the consent button for procedures related to that illness. Hypodermic needles came out of the chair arm and expertly found her veins. Saline and a drug cocktail began to make her feel a lot better.
She instinctively went to grab her communicator, then realised that she was still in her hypersleep suit, so she dropped the AutoDoc screen to common functions and called the bridge.
“This is Meg,” she said, “What the hell is going on?”
“Lieutenant,” the computer’s voice said, “The crew is incapacitated, we were attacked at lightspeed, and I initiated defensive manoeuvres.”
“Why wake me up?” Meg asked, “Surely the Captain should be the first one awake?”
“He was.” The computer replied. “The ship is still at near lightspeed and decelerating, he was immediately afflicted with lightspeed sickness and even with first aid treatment he succumbed. You were awakened as the closest pod to the AutoDoc; you can get proper acclimatised care before helping him.”
“So I’m the most senior officer awake?” Meg asked.
“Affirmative.” The computer confirmed.
“Lightspeed sickness can be deadly if not treated, how long has the Captain been out?” Meg asked.
“94 minutes.” The computer told her. “Internal sensors show a weak pulse.”
“How long before I can get out of the ‘Doc and help him?” Meg asked.
“Recommended fluid intake is 125mL/hour.” The computer said.
“Yeah, but you can push it,” Meg said, recalling the first aid training. “The quicker I can grab the Captain and get him in the ‘Doc, the better. Get it out me as quick as you can, override the safeties if you have to.”
“As you wish.” The computer said.
Five minutes later, Meg was pulling the Captain through the ship and onto the AutoDoc.
“The Captain’s readings are erratic. It will take time to stabilise him, 6 hours at least. Until that time, I cannot revive anyone else.”
“Right,” Meg said. “So I’m in charge. This is going to be an interesting report; I’m what 47th in line for command or something?”
“39th,” the computer corrected.
“Running the ship, alone, in battle, during a deceleration. Fun,” Meg said. “Speaking of the battle, what the hell is going on?”