By Robert Lynch
Quiet. Cold. Dark. Still.
The storage crate was not large enough for Lara to move. Cramps came and went as the hours passed. From inside, it was impossible for Lara to know how much air she had left. Cargo doesn’t typically need to know how much air it has. Lara tried not to think about it; this wasn’t a time to worry about things she had no control over.
In a survival situation, there is a hierarchy of concerns. The mnemonic is called the rule of threes. You can live for three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food.
In a decompression event, three minutes without air is technically true, but not super useful. When the air is gone, most people will stay conscious for less than thirty seconds. While true that if someone rescues you within the next hundred and fifty seconds, you will recover; in Lara’s experience people rarely had the presence of mind to start rescuing people so quickly after escaping death themselves.
In her thirty-second panic after the cargo bay wall ripped open, she had thought through such thoughts. Strange how quickly the mind seems to work in stressful situations. It was as if time had slowed. While she was waxing philosophical about how much time she had, her hands had ripped open the hermetically sealed cargo pod and dumped the vegetables on the floor. In a flash, she had climbed in and sealed the box around her.
If she survived, this crate, essentially a portable refrigerator, will have been a tiny lifeboat. If she didn’t survive, her corpse would be well preserved.
It was already cold, which would help to keep her metabolism slow, but she needed to sleep. Slowing her metabolism to its slowest gave her the most time to be rescued. Sleeping while contorted in a terrifying box, plagued with cramps, was not a very good recipe for slumber.
The crate was sealed, so she wasn’t losing any air, but it didn’t have life support. There was no new air. No way to tell how thin the air was when climbed in, and no point worrying about it. Nothing she could do would change it.
Don’t panic. Try to sleep. Wait for rescue.