"Nos Manere" (we remain) - a Subnautica story



  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    edited September 2019
    AN: Sharks, the sea, pirates, and me.

    On this day America celebrates another anniversary of freedom both won and maintained at great cost, so I think it appropriate to give a special salute to those who keep the oceans safe. Until fairly recently in human history sea travel was one of the easiest ways to cash in on your life insurance. Besides the dangers of the ocean itself, pirates who looked nothing like Disney movie stars infested the trade lanes for centuries until the civilized nations finally quit catfighting long enough to go smash their safe spaces. One of them being a little upstart country called the "United States" who responded to a ransom demand by sending their brand-new navy to turn the chief pirate/slaver's house into Swiss cheese.

    To everyone who chose to be out on the high seas, far away from home and family, for the benefit of others, I thank you. As should everyone else who benefits by the commerce you make possible, which IS everyone. If you think this is an exaggeration, take a moment and look down at the smartphone in your hand or the imported food in your fridge. If the oceans were unsafe for trade. you wouldn't have been able to get it for cheap, and possibly not at all.

    Swimming to where I last remembered the wreckage took me uncomfortably far from our tiny home, hanging on to my improvised flotation device with one hand. Tying two air bladders together with a length keeps me reasonably bouyant...but only so long as I keep them both close at hand. A little trial let me know I can - barely - swim with one if need be. Swimming is already awkward enough that I don't dare try to tow a locker behind me. The first trip will be for only what I can easily carry.

    I waste too much time finding the wreckage again, and stop to catch my breath on the top of another coral tube a few feet below the waterline. It looks larger now that I have more than a half-second to look. A roughly cube-shaped piece of the ship a couple stories tall. I'm trying not to think about the fact that I'm in the 'danger zone' when everything suddenly starts going dark. VERY dark. In a matter of seconds it's as if someone flipped a light switch in a windowless room. The bluish haze of the water fades into a giant inky gloom, until all I can see are the ghostly lights of the alien life. I kick off from the tube to the surface to find the sky itself staring down at me with a baleful orange eye amidst a veil of blackness.

    The rational part of my mind tries to reassure me that it's only an eclipse, but I can't stop myself from shaking at vague thoughts of some extraterrestrial horror blotting out the sun itself. Without a flashlight I'm helpless until it passes - stranded where I swim for something as simple as a lack of light. It takes little imagination to see how my ancestors would grab at any explanation for something so terrifying or use it as inspiration for a hair-raising horror movie. For the world to go dark around you in the middle of the day without warning is triggering my flight-or-fight response hard because I'm so vulnerable in the water. I can't run, I can barely fight, and I can't even stand on solid ground as the thing darkening the sky looms over the ravaged corpse of the Aurora.

    And why is the moon so damn orange?

    Slowly the sky brightens, as if the moon seems to reluctantly to let the sun shine again. I'm no astronomer but between the size and speed it seems to move means that the moon is quite close to the planet itself. If that orbit is decaying...

    I have to grab that thought and mentally stuff it in the closet as I venture closer toward my goal until I'm hovering over the site of the wreckage. A jumble of boxes helpfully labeled "CARGO", support girders twisted like spaghetti, an assortment of metallic fragments strewn about. Almost nothing is even small enough to swim home with and none of it looks actually helpful. Of the two doors I can see one still has its status display working. "Locked". Naturally, it was set to stay shut in the event of a large scale hull breach, and I don't have a cutting tool. All this way for nothing. Unless...the solution isn't to break something. If the automatic response to damage is "lock", would the human programming it make the response to the absence of damage "unlock"?

    There's a junction box to the left of the door, now a tangled mess of wires. It's as good a place as any to start. I hit the inflate/deflate button on the air bladders and brace my arms outward to land on the hull nearby. The repair tool thrums in my hands as white sparks dance at the tip like a mad fairy. Pointing the dang thing is easy enough, but with no real training on how to actually use it I have to just start 'painting' anything that looks sufficiently busted until the battery runs dead or it looks fixed.

    I 'paint' a way larger area than I should. But suddenly a flicker on the display catches the corner of my vision - the display still says "locked" but the orange dots have changed to green. I have to grab my floating aid and go up for fresh air, my heart pounding even harder as I return to press on the latch. As the door slides open my hope rises higher than the clouds before plummeting deep as the sea.

    The interior is a disheartening jumble of lockers, boxes and tables. Nothing has been spared from the violent descent. There's scarcely a fragment of machinery left recognizable as my eyes drift aimlessly over the ruins. Besides the hollow cargo boxes the only thing not crushed to junk are the wall displays, screens still displaying some meaningless data. On one wall is a ventilation and emergency access shaft I'm not nearly dumb enough to try and squeeze down.

    This isn't a salvage mission. I've expended half my battery and braved deadly radiation to sift through a trash heap.

    Edit: Now with illustrations!
    Into the danger
    Terror of the sky

    AU: Sudden unemployment and being bounced around like a pinball at crummy temp jobs does a number on one's creativity. But I owe my readers an apology for the lack of a status update. I refuse to let the creative spirit I put into this to go to waste.

    Nos Manere will resume with a biweekly update schedule. Full stop.

    Up next: Eating Subnautica.
    Post edited by DarkStar88 on
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user

    "Eating Subnautica"

    Have you ever wondered what breakfast on Planet 4546B would look like for a survivor? Wonder no more! Pictured above is a hearty breakfast of 6 oz plain water, salt, fish and seaweed.

    This humble fare took some doing to assemble. Since the fauna in Subnautica is fictional, a catfish fillet stands in as a generic fish. Being as I live in a landlocked state the raw, unflavored, untreated seaweed was monstrously difficult to find until a clerk at Baker's pointed me to their website where it was available by delivery only. If you're curious to munch on some yourself, here's the link.

    So...how does this all actually taste? In short: FISHIER THAN SEAWORLD.

    The seaweed itself tastes like purified green fish oil and the unseasoned baked catfish has a strong flavor. Making a 'wrap' out of the two is an experience that, from the first cautious bite, is probably about like biting into a fish minus the scales. Even for someone who loves seafood...it took all my willpower just to finish it and I still turned greener than a field of clover. The salt provides only the barest relief for your tastebuds as they're being assaulted by weapons-grade fish taste. This was a world apart from the 'seafood' that Westerners like myself are used to - tucked away beneath a half-pound of oil, batter and seasoning.

    Immediately after managing to swallow the last bite of my "Ryley wrap" I drained the entire bottle of water at a gulp in an attempt to purge the fish-taste that was haunting my palate so bad that my mouth had become a sequel to Room 1408. It took three bottles to even begin to stop breathing fish-breath so strong that my cat kept trying to climb on my lap and sniff my face. As i type this hours later I still am glad that I don't work with people face-to-face at my job, otherwise I'd definitely have been offered a breath mint or a few pointed comments about personal hygene.

    I'd have to be half-starved or crazier than I already am to subsist on this fare daily. And I don't have to deal with seasickness or mental trama beyond that caused by this little culinary excursion. If I were absolutely forced to eat this for breakfast every day, I don't think I could go more than a few days without putting myself at more risk than I'm usually comfortable with for the CHANCE to have 'civilized' food again.
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    All I can think about as I morosely swim back is that I'm in deep. Deep water, literally. Deep...trouble, metaphorically.

    Somewhat counter-intuitively, the only possible way out is to get myself even deeper. If most of the hand tools we need so badly are already smashed to junk, then we need to find lots of wreckage to increase our chances of finding anything intact. Which means the few pieces of the ship that lie in shallow waters are not going to suffice. It's an obvious fact I'd been hoping to skirt but with the Aurora's hull deadly to approach that slim chance has gone flying off with the satellites.

    On my way 'home' I try to come up with some efficient way of searching the nearby area with muscle power, while swimming vertical distances akin to climbing a building and walking back down again. And I got nothin. Automatic mapping is of course right out. A grid-search would be the obvious next step if I had any reference to divide the world up into nice neat squares. The lifepod's display screen is stuck on the system status display with no obvious way to change it - would it have killed the beancounters back home to even stick on a civilian-grade sonar array - and my bog-standard tablet is even less useful. EPSI suits like Kate's and mine come with a rudimentary waypoint management system, but it can only track existing beacons. Without any GPS or other frame of reference it can't know where "X marks the spot".

    There were lockers full of deployable land/sea/space beacons back on the Aurora. Now I don't even see one on the fabricator's list. I really am down to one reference point: the lifepod. Swimming out in a straight-ish line to go out, find something and come home is the new way to go now. Like a caveman. Without a club, or a fire, or soft tiger skins to sleep on.

    You know your living situation sucks rotten eggs when living in a cave would be an upgrade.

    AN: A little roleplay for planning ahead. From the Lifepod to the absolute nearest point to set foot on dry land is
    1200 meters, or ~.75 of a mile. Round trip, 1.5 miles.
    I can now confirm after swimming that distance nonstop you will HURT if you're not used to it. My leg muscles feel like over-tightened piano wires and my arms feel like melted butter.
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    edited October 2019
    Despite talking my ear off about the loss of everything civilized, Kate is now firmly content to catch fish and grab what few scraps lie in the nearby region we touched down in. The evening after I returned in disgrace from my venture near the Aurora we saw something even worse than a Sawback: two of them. Both fighting to the death over a mate or food or territory. Even for the short time their battle was visible above water...the sight was brutal beyond words. A spreading cloud of green staining the water as two warriors of the deep coiled their snakelike bodies into coils and ripped chunks out of each other until one of them began to sink, violent thrashing slowing to feeble twitching.

    All I could think about was that the observing Sawbacks didn't take the opportunity to attack the weakened member or degenerate into a feeding frenzy. Whatever had happened had been between those two. A clue that they have an effective - if brutal - hierarchy of some sort.

    The most violence I've ever seen in the animal kingdom was two stray cats getting in a tussle. Even videos of severe animal injury are age-restricted on most planetary comm networks. To watch this unfold just a few minutes away from our temporary home is soul-shaking. Kate held onto me harder than in the last crisis for comfort but I had little to give. I imagine this is a shadow of what a desperately poor person lives with. Unstoppable brute violence so close to where you lay your head, that you can't get away from. In any case it's a definite motivation to keep "Operation: Reach" a go today. Safe shallows, these aren't.

    Before venturing out I have to set limits on time and distance. The large section of wreckage was 400 meters away, the farthest I've swum so far, so I'll start by heading 400 meters out in whatever direction before stopping to assess what I've seen so far. Turn back at 1000 meters in any case because I'm unsure how far the EPSI can track the Lifepod's beacon. Naturally, there's no documentation anywhere on either of our PDA's about that rather useful fact, so I'll just have to take care not to get lost alone at sea.

    With that cheerful thought, I'm off. A knife in my hand, hope in my heart, and the inextinguishable human desire to explore the unknown driving me onward...oh enough of that nonsense. The 'fish wrap' I had this morning is bouncing around in my stomach like unsecured cargo while I'm looking over my shoulder every 5 seconds. Like a predator all my vision is fixed straight ahead, except I'm no longer at the top of the food chain. But as I swim onward there is nothing particularity threatening as the rambling cliffs drop away, except perhaps a pair of fat things that swim clumsily with their tails full of green boils. They don't look aggressive but it's hard to say which end of them looks uglier. A few columns of stone jut up from below, worn away in the middle to a vague hourglass shape by countless centuries of erosion.

    Oddly, one is surrounded by giant chunks of rock floating in mid-water, buoyed up by the jelly-like bags with teeth. The "Floaters" appear to have a small colony. I ponder their potential uses. If a half-dozen of them can lift a 100 pound boulder afloat, could one or two keep the Lifepod afloat if it springs a leak? Could enough of them support a platform? Perhaps...a small island? "Determine lifting capacity of Floaters" I type into my PDA's notepad. They're ugly and have a mouthful of sharp teeth, but so do many other animals useful to mankind. If my distant ancestors could tame donkeys I think I can handle a few floating jellybags.

    Then a tremendous bass moan startles me from my hypothesizing. Another lone floating boulder-like creature hangs in the distance, much larger than the others I've seen. Definitely an old fellow with a veritable reef growing on the top of his back. Reef....back. Reefback. Now there's a name for them. So why is this one all by himself? I decide the expedition can stand being put on hold for a few minutes while I investigate this living relic. As I swim closer alongside another deep-throated call rumbles through the water. It's a sound that is as much felt as heard, like standing in front of a giant underwater subwoofer that doesn't just rumble in your chest but makes your whole body vibrate.

    "Lone Ranger" has definitely been around awhile. Its natural carapace has grown a tiny coral reef complete with swaths of reddish grass sprinkled with luminescent blue-green weeds. An odd basket-like plant flails oddly from the motion of its host as a giant purple leaf wags from side to side like a metronome. And from at least two places I see bulbous pale purple corals emitting bubbles of gas, giving this astounding creature the vague appearance of an underwater steam engine.

    A microcosm of alien life is slowly floating by me. This smorgasbord of fauna is all unknown to science, to the best of my knowledge, atop a behemoth that is as harmless as it is amazing. All I can think to do is swim down and stretch my hands out to grab onto the stony surface of the coral. At first it seems nothing happens. But as I let my tired legs relax I can feel myself being slowly pulled along for the ride. Carefully I run one hand through a patch of red grass to feel the mass of thin blades pass around my outstretched fingers. The creature lets out another call, different this time. It vibrates my very bones, tickles my eardrums to the point of madness for an instant.

    I scarcely remember to exhale in the sudden silence that follows. This is wonderous. Something out of a fairy tale. I've hitched a ride on something the size of a small shuttle with a glowing forest on its back, sailing to some unknown destination. All too soon the air-supply warning interrupts my brief vacation from cruel reality. Bidding my hitchhiked ride adieu, I surface to get fresh air and my bearings. 432 meters from the Lifepod the little blue numbers tell me. Brilliant. But landmarks? Once again, it's the middle of the damn ocean. Besides the flaming wreckage the only thing that might possibly provide a reference is a vague mass of low-hanging clouds. If indeed they are indeed low hanging and my eyes aren't playing a trick on me.

    So much for looking around! Far under me is two spires of stone poking up like a grotesque pair of eyes from some freakish faceless monster. But just under them, barely visible, is a jagged cluster of shapes wrapped around and through and over each other. Wreckage. A wordless howl of joy echoes through my helmet as I set course for the ocean bottom far below. First a free ride - then dropped off right where I needed to go? In a sea full of hungry monsters to whom I am but an appetizer, this benevolent behemoth has all of my gratitude.

    As a parting echo gently thrums through the water I only wish I could respond in kind.
    Post edited by DarkStar88 on
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    edited October 2019
    AN: What equipment should Lifepod 5 have been carrying?

    It's no secret that the storage compartment in Lifepod 5 is laughably under-equipped. Even audio logs from other survivors mention having gear the player can only wish for - Lifepod 3 had a seaglide, for one example.

    But even without an underwater tug, handy as it would be, just what should have been stuck in the compartment for when the fertilizer really hit the fan? Real-world seafaring provides a good answer: a "ditch bag". Aka a "flee bag", "abandon-ship bag" or per one anonymous U.S. Navy sailor, an "oh sh!t kit". It's a waterproof red bag that floats and contains everything needed to help other people find you quickly, and some things in case they don't.

    Let's compare the contents of a ditch bag for oceangoing vessels to the gear found in Lifepod 5.

    Lifepod 5:
    - 2x All-Environment Protection Suits
    - 2x Ready-to-eat nutrient blocks
    - 2x Drinking water provision
    - 1x Emergency medkit
    - 2x Emergency flares

    (1) ACR Global-Fix V4 406 EPIRB
    (3) PW SOLAS Flare Hand Held Red
    (3) PW SOLAS Flare Parachute Red
    (2) PW SOLAS Flare Orange SmokeCan
    (1) Standard Horizon HX890 DSC/GPS/FM VHF Radio
    (5) AAA HD Alkaline Batteries, back up for the VHF
    (1) Ultimate Survival StarFlash Mirror
    (1) Fluorescent Dye Marker
    (1) Sirius Signal SOS Distress Light
    (6) Emergency Space Blankets
    (2) Pelican Pocket SabreLite Flashlights
    (4) C HD Alkaline Batteries, for Pelican lights
    (12) Light Stick, WHITE 12 Hour
    (30) Emergency Drinking Water Packs
    (1) Emergency LifeRaft First Aid Kit
    (1), Comprehensive Guide to Marine Medice Handbook
    (1) Seasickness Tablets, 12 (one dozen pack)
    (1) Perko Manual Fog/Air Horn
    (1) Suunto Hand Bearing Compass
    (1) Garmin 73 Waterproof GPS
    (1) PUR Srvr 06 Manual Watermaker

    Even stripping the respective lists down to items available in-game, Lifepod 5 is woefully unprepared.

    Just look at an apples-to-apples comparison: a dozen light sticks versus zero. 30 water rations instead of 2. No flashlights and no batteries. An automated beacon (that has to be repaired) versus a handset capable of actually communicating. A freaking portable water purifier. A GPS and a compass versus virtually no wayfinding until you scan a couple beacons and scrounge up the materials for more.
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user

    I am beyond your senses, yet I will rob you of them.
    You cannot see me, but you can see what I do.
    I am the judge without bias or pity -
    My sentence for trespass is equal to all.
    I am the fire that gives no heat.
    Lit for a few years, I burn for ten thousand.
    I turn the living into the living dead.
    Water tempers me but cannot quench me,
    I multiply when more of me is added,
    And any more of me than none is deadly.
    I can give as much power as you can take,
    But I will give more than you can handle.
    I cannot be hidden from, only hidden away,
    And woe if your children forget why.
    I shoot neither arrows nor bullets nor darts,
    Yet my aim is unfailing and ceaseless.
    I will outlast your kings and your cities,
    The mountains themselves will have worn 'ere I dwindle...
    For all the very short time I was kindled.

    I am the hidden fire.

  • 0x6A72320x6A7232 USMembers Join Date: 2016-10-06 Member: 222906Posts: 5,272 Advanced user
    The penny-pinchers strike again!
    UWE Community guidelines | Guide to play in VR with Google Cardboard or Gear | Increase Subnautica view distance | Useful info to post with error reports | Recovery of corrupted saved games | How to easily update your drivers
    Crashing, lag problems? Or maybe your old save didn't get the latest update? Upload your saved game folder to help the devs troubleshoot, then try clearing your cache directories | Automatic Cache cleaning tool here | How to use the Debug Console | How to play any version of Subnautica using Steam | Tips for Subnautica beginners | Why can't the devs "just fix it"? - a modding session for you to educate yourself with Want more frames? Try adding this to your launch options: -window-mode exclusive | Solve options not saving or black screens by deleting options file | Possible workaround for Pause / Menu Bug | Rescue a trapped Seamoth / PRAWN
    Slow loading / textures popping in? Try moving Subnautica to an SSD | How to switch Subnautica to Experimental mode (clear cache afterwards) | How to run chkdsk on your drive | How to verify integrity of your game cache (in the "Installation" section) | Blue screens or computer freezing up? Try this fix (updates a corrupted DX10 compatibility file in the graphics driver that sometimes doesn't get updated)
    Subnautica launches in a tiny window? Use Task Manager to Maximize it (Thanks FlippingPower) | How to place your Moonpool so it connects correctly (includes diagrams) | Want to hang out with fellow players and the devs? Subnautica Discord server ← swing on by! | SuspensionRailway's Modding Emporium Categorized list of mods, including 1st playthrough-friendly Hey, look, mods! ReShade mods Subnautica NexusMods | TERRAFORMING mod
    Humans don't crush at the depths you might think
    Joystick problems? | Xpadder | UJR / vJoy | JoyToKey | Get detailed info for troubleshooting: CPU-Z | GPU-Z | HWiNFO64 | Speccy | Pastebin | Recover the data on your crashed hard disk! | I'm a Total Geek
    Forum BBCode Rainbow text generator
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    edited October 2019
    0x6A7232 wrote: »
    The penny-pinchers strike again!

    The disparity is so bad one even that explanation falls short. Lifepod 5 is inadequately prepared for landing in a large terrestrial lake.

    Factor in the likely possibility of the Aurora's lifepods landing somewhere with unbreathable atmosphere and the lack of equipment is even worse. External air tanks in an ocean environment are merely useful compared to, say, stepping out into hard vacuum.
  • RockaBen99RockaBen99 Members Join Date: 2019-03-26 Member: 251971Posts: 29 Advanced user
    From a gameplay perspective, it works. From a survival perspective it's practically manslaughter (or even murder!). Alterra, lives are worth more than a few hundred units.
    My signature!
    ]WARNING| Broken |WARNING[
    Hi! Look, another box!

    It's empty...



  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    edited October 2019
    Down I go, hopefully fluttering in the direction of the treasure trove with the giant slowly circling above.

    The distance is farther down than it looks. A bit more than halfway through the water pressure begins to start noticeably squeezing through my suit. As if the monsters IN the ocean weren't bad enough the water itself is trying to crush me to death. At eighty meters down the clutter begins to shape into more recognizable forms, tantalizingly just out of reach.

    Further down still. My lungs struggles to inflate against the ceaseless force. It is a ghastly feeling where your survival is measured in individual breaths. A warning echoing through my headset of "...oxygen efficiency decreased" only serves to underscore the peril. I have to fight the rising panic to try and make sense of what I see: an intact forklift, pieces of machinery I more or less recognize. All of them desperately useful, all of them far too large to carry away. I have to vent a sudden burst of frustration by pounding on a chunk of hull. This is just too much to bear. All the effort to get out here only to find the treasure literally within my grasp yet unobtainable, like some luckless antagonist in a low-budget movie. I snarl in tongues and strike the whitish surface until the a warning startles me out of my tantrum.

    "30 seconds."

    It takes a supreme effort to not ignore the voice and keep going just a bit longer. With a sudden hissing I feel myself rising toward the surface. The wreckage shrinks away to that awful distance I just had to fight to swim down.


    The timer runs into the single digits before I burst through to the surface to get fresh air and my wits back about me. Another trip down will need a plan; I can't well expect to have the energy to make limitless round-trips that far down. As hard as I try to think of something else the best idea I've got is "grab the small stuff".

    My second trip is harder than the first, my excitement gone at the realization of my own physical limits. I feel like a man at a buffet who sees a 12-ounce prime rib but restricted to eating crackers. Given enough time I'm sure I could come up with some ingenious method to float the larger bits. Maybe a dozen flotation devices tied on with a rope? In my old life it seemed not even the sky was the limit. Now I'm limited to the desperate needs of bare survival, day by day, which weighs heavily on my mind as I scrabble for titanium scraps around the edge of the larger wreckage.

    At the edge of my vision I notice a round lump with some kind of glowing symbol on it. I resolve to at least see what it might be before daylight and my energy are gone, but in the shortest path there is some stubby fish that is definitely another predator with the amount of large spiky teeth it has. But as I wait for the vaguely cigar-shaped monster to catch its meal and depart, a sudden squirming motion from the seabed catches my attention. Some kind of fat orangish weed has come to life like an overexcited hand puppet at the proximity of the larger fish. What an active defense mechanism for a plant! It seems to curl up and then lash out...almost as if throwing something?

    My wild guess is confirmed a second later when the predator suddenly turns on a dime, squirming as if in sudden pain from something I can't see. Squinting hard I just barely notice another tan-colored spine zip past it. Another one soon follows, then another. The plant is practically a biological machine-gun! With a gurgling snarl the predator departs the area in haste. Now the coast is at least clear of one danger for a moment.

    Note to self: stay away from the orange cacti.

    I keep a close eye on the movements of the bulbous, thorn-covered plant as I swim over to the glowing symbol. But as terrified as I suddenly am of being impaled somewhere vital my heart skips a beat when the 'symbol' resolves itself into the shape of a giant 6. Lifepod 6.

    The discovery is only the briefest crescendo of hope as I realize the top is blown off, the lifepod torn open to the elements. Yet again the faintest ember of hope is doused mercilessly.

    I have to choke back a sob of bitterest dispair at the brief expectation of other survivors gone as soon as it comes. This cruel new world demands survival take priority even over pain. Mourning my friends will have to wait until I get 'home' to a crude meal and an ache-inducing 'bed'.

    Not surprisingly, all the indicator lights inside are blank along with the display screen. Whatever the cause of the devastation the interior of Lifepod 6 is mercifully barren of...organic debris. Between the ceaseless waves and hungry carnivores there isn't so much as a bloody fingerprint left. The only sign that someone even was here in the first place is an abandoned PDA and a couple flares in the opened storage compartment. It barely takes one hand to carry it all as I depart the empty tomb to check out a glowing box lying on the nearby seabed.

    Except the "box" is four feet long, armored like a riot truck and has an obvious pull-here handle. This is no mere storage crate! This is a fabricator blueprint all gift-wrapped in a titanium package! Not thirty seconds after a losing hand, I've hit the jackpot. Excitement turns my hands shaky and clumsy. I have to make yet another long trip up to the surface for air. But on the second try the latch springs open, depositing a blue-veined chunk of plastic in my hands. Now if I can only get it home intact. Water won't corrode the optical contacts, but if I fumble this ball it wll be lost in the dusty seafloor before you can say "abandon ship".

    It's definitely time to head home to see what's inside my electronic prizes. The only thing fading faster than my muscles is the daylight. Tired, alone, and blind is a recipe for certain death out here on the water. Something glowing a bright pinkish-purple from beyond a cave opening will wait for another day.
    Post edited by DarkStar88 on
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    edited October 2019
    "It's no good arguing whether to get hens or eggs if you don't have a chicken coop."

    ---Dutch-American 'folk wisdom'.

    As I lean wearily against the thin wall of the Lifepod I know just enough about engineering to know two things: I'm way out of my league, and if I pick the wrong thing to build first I'm likely to kill us both. This provides plenty of incentive but unfortunately doesn't make any brilliant solutions appear in my head.

    After brute-force trial and error the brown, smooth rocky outcrops are good sources of silver and gold while the lumpy tan ones have titanium with the odd bit of copper. Unfortunately the former are found at deeper depths than either one of us care to go with muscle power alone. So after taking inventory of every scrap of mineral I can either fabricate a build tool or a handheld scanner, but not both. The wrong choice is going to mean a lot of death-defying dives if not a slow demise. It's like trying to play grandmaster chess and thinking twenty moves ahead after barely mastering which piece does what.

    "Get to build more things, or get to build a house" I muse to myself while staring at the wall-mounted unit. "Chicken or the egg." For the life of me I can't freaking decide! I'm dying to know more about the flora and fauna but our Lifepod is cramped and fragile...another storm at sea could well smash us apart. Or a visit from the titanic thing lurking south of the Aurora's hull. But what if the build tool doesn't even have any blueprints for a shelter? Given how pitifully the lifepod was equipped, I'm not at all certain that whoever was in charge of preloading the fabricator's memory included anything suitable for housing! We'll both be in dire straights if I build a paperweight...

    A series of wet thunk-thunk-thunks draws my attention to a very bedraggled woman descending the ladder in a state best described as "I'm done with this". Kate's hair resembles the business end of a well-used mop with the way it dangles in uneven ropes around her shoulders. Her skin is glistening with an odd sheen, which might have something to do with why her facial features contorted by an inscrutable mix of emotions. She's also naked from top to toe, which a week ago would raise more than my eyebrows. A voice in my head reminds me that we're a little short on laundry as I take a moment to peruse the front side of her athletic figure, more from something to get my mind off our current dilemma than anything else.

    I await her usual outburst over some crisis or another. Instead Kate closes her eyes, inhales deeply, then lets out a sigh strong enough to rush over my face.

    "Please tell me we can get out of this freaking round closet now. I need to take a real shower."

    "Kate that's about five steps AFTER what I - "

    "NO! Please!" she's suddenly in my face, her cheeks aglow from sun exposure. "You men can go forever without a shower. You haven't even pulled off your suit since we crashed here. Do you know how awful it is when a girl like me can't clean off? I try swimming and THIS happens!" Kate twirls on her heels, doing a pirouette with a figure that in any other circumstance would render me a drooling idiot. Her tanned skin is flawless - except for the still-healing burns. Saltwater helps with those, somehow, I vaguely remember. But all over her body is...some kind of coating? I gently put one open hand on her back and feel it stick, a faint peeling sound coming as my thin glove pulls away.

    "You felt it, right? That's me! All. Freaking. Over. The only way to not feel sticky on all the nice sensitive places is to go get wet again, until I have to get out, and then this happens again when I dry off. I can't even stand to stay in my EPSI because those spotes chafe and it drives me nuts and there's no lotion or bandages." Her voice begins to quaver. "Even if I use all the battery for fresh water AFTER I catch a zillion fish it's not enough to get all the salty sticky stuff off me. And then I can't have a drink when I'm thirsty or lay down and not have my butt stick to this stupid chair for once!"


    "Please tell me we have anything. A bigger battery or a bucket to hold clean water or something. I can eat fish and seaweed and pretend I'm at the organic food market but I just can't be stuck here in this tiny chair feeling sticky and gross all day. "

    Social Interaction classes did not prepare me to deal with a distraught, naked coworker. I have to pick my words as carefully as they were bombs ready to go off in my face.

    "...I can't promise much. I don't know what the habitat builder has for preloaded blueprints because Alterra didn't think that might be important to have listed. It could have everything we could want, or it could have nothing. In which case we need a scanner so we can scan stuff to build, which is going to mean more time finding the stuff to make the scanner."

    "But it-it probably has something, right?"

    An exasperated moan escapes my throat in answer. But Kate's face wavers on the borderline of anger and pleading. I'm bearing the cramped quarters better for now, but only because I took dozens of camping trips in my youth. My fellow survivor is wholly unused to this self-confinement.

    "Okay. Come take a look. This is what we need to build one."

    The list is painfully long. Every last gram of silver-bearing ore we have is barely enough to make a single "wiring kit", and the two CPU's will need another 'unit' each besides all the freaking gold. Why can't the circuits just use copper? Bloody hell. The precious metals we need seem to be available only in the deeper part of the ocean, and probably require way too damn many long trips to the surface and back.

    I decide to lay it on the line. "Either give me 2-3 days of deep sea diving or get ready to come along tomorrow."

    "Come along where?"


    "How far down?"

    "You're happier off not knowing in advance," I intone as I slap a purplish fish on the fabricator's platform. "The PDA called this a 'Reginald'. Dinner is served, please have a seat ladies and gentlemen."

    "What, no baked potato to go with our rack of house-special smoked ribs?" she needles as she heads for the ladder to retrieve her EPSI suit, stretched over the top of the Lifepod to dry. A hundred possible jokes zing through my mind involving her ribs or being 'cooked' medium-well. But for every jest I make about the state of her hygiene, I imagine she could make ten more about mine.

    AN: with the ocean being around 1,000 miles away, how does one simulate exposure to saltwater?
    Post edited by DarkStar88 on
  • DarkStar88DarkStar88 Omaha, NEMembers Join Date: 2018-05-03 Member: 240491Posts: 62 Advanced user
    “We find ourselves in a bewildering world. We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?”

    ― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

    Kate backed out. Or perhaps more accurately she panicked about halfway to our intended destination.

    What can I say to her? What can I do? About the time that the Lifepod begins shrinking on the horizon and one realizes just how alone and small you are in the middle of a trackless ocean...how could a person so unused to such isolation react other a panic to get back to shelter? In that fearful moment the only comfort is to flee to the one place your mind recognizes as a "safe space".

    So far my fears have been shut into a closet in my mind, locked as tightly as I can. All the most primal fears that transcend language, culture, and time. The fears of starvation, drowning, great heights, sickness, being torn limb from limb by a savage predator. Every one of them hammering at the lid of my mental Pandora's box day by day.

    I've finally had to throw some titanium into crafting external storage when about the tenth time I tripped over a hunk of rock I managed to smash the edge of my elbow on the ladder. A throbbing 'funny bone' is quite the incentive to find a solution to a problem. It chafes me to no end that a fabricated storage box can't be reclaimed at the same bloody replicator that made it, but short of dumping stuff in a pile there isn't any other option.

    The remainder of the day has been spent investigating an accidental discovery. What appeared to be a pile of translucent squarish crystals turned out to be condensed sea salt. Good ol' NaCl, with plenty of trace minerals, as vital to nutrition as it is annoying to have on your skin. Even better is the fabricator can use it to preserve food! Whoever put that in the database was no fool - salt preservation is a practice as old as recorded history because it just works that well. Even illiterate caveman could master it!

    We're taking the brute-force approach to research: grab a fish and a salt pile, throw them on the fabricator, see how well the result tastes. Culinary arts at their most basic. 'Garryfish' are so completely tasteless that preserving them is a waste and I'm not eager to see what happens to the numerous "Peepers". Biting into a giant swimming eyeball is just disgusting on some level.

    As glad as I am to have some option to pack a food reserve, the prepared results are stilI unappealingly lukewarm. I'd love nothing more than to throw one on a grill and sprinkle it with a little salt...but we have no electric grill, no combustible fuel, and no way to turn giant salt crystals into salt-dust. I even tried rubbing the flat surface of a salt crystal on a cooked fish.

    What I wouldn't give for some fruit or starch right about now. Even a nutrient block has a pleasantly consistent taste, packed with artificial flavors though it may be. We have all the time in the world and all the fish in the sea to work with. But even the most skilled craftsman is no good without tools. The pair of us are eager, but mostly unskilled in the culinary arts, and have exactly one tool.

    Forget the Aurora's gallery. I miss being able to make toast.
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