Lifeline · Day 1






[incoming communication]

[establishing connection]

[receiving message]


Is this thing working?

Can anyone read me?

Who is this?

Right, right, sorry. Should’ve started with that.

I was just excited to get a response to my signal.

My name’s Taylor. I was a… an astronaut on board the starship Varia.

The Varia?

The Varia was a transport ship. Nothing fancy. Crew of less than a dozen.

We were en route to Tau Ceti IV and, as far as I knew,
everything was going fine!

We were set to dock in six more days.

But then… I don’t know what happened. We crashed on some moon.

I don’t know where.

How do you not know?

Why don’t I know? Why don’t I have this whole sector memorized, like any astronaut worth a damn would?

Because I’m a STUDENT, okay?

My number came up in a lottery of science students, and I got to join this mission.

I was on board the Varia running zero-G experiments on rats and lichens and stuff, all right?

I was never, ever meant to be without a trained supervisor by my side at any time.

So it’s safe to say that this crash landing wasn’t covered anywhere in my student handbook.

Okay. Calm down.

Right. Sorry. As you can imagine, I’m pretty freaked out right now.

We covered a ton of different protocols in training, but this was never one of them.

But it’s cool. It’s cool. I just have to find the other survivors, and they’ll know what to do.


[Taylor is busy]

…what if there ARE no other survivors?

What if I’m the only one who made it?

Aw, God, Captain Aya is probably dead. And all the others, too. Colby… dammit. Colby.

I just… what if I’m all alone out here?

Easy, now. Just breathe.

Right. You’re right. The atmosphere is breathable, might as well breathe it.

I mean, it’s like Colby said, more than once:

Don’t waste time worrying about “what if,” just concentrate on “what is.”

So. Let’s do that.

Okay. Where are you?

The only way I can answer that with any confidence is to say “stranded.”

If you know where nowhere is, just look right in the middle of it, and you’ll spot me.

The Varia was on a gentle elliptical path toward Tau Ceti IV.

I don’t know whether we went off course, or by how much.

I was nowhere near the bridge when it all went down.

Colby, she… she shoved me into an escape pod and then went to see how she could help the others. That’s just who she was.

I guess I blacked out in the pod, from shock or fear or something — I don’t know how long —

…and when I came to, I was here.

Want to talk about Colby?

Oh. Yeah, maybe that’d help.

Colby was… she was like the “mom” around the Varia.

The nicest, but also, I think, the smartest.

Not in a showy way, but in that way of, you know, if something broke, she’d know how to fix it.

(And yes, even on a multi-billion-dollar starship, half the time the answer is “duct tape.”)

But Colby was sweet enough that her smarts never made anyone else feel stupid. I really appreciated that.

I know I’m hoping against hope, but I really hope Colby made it through this nightmare alive.

I mean, I hope EVERYONE did, obviously. But maybe I hope a little extra hard for her.

Thanks for sharing that.

Hey, no, thanks for listening to me blather.

That actually felt normal. Like I was telling my new friend about my old friend.

Hey, if this all turns out for the best, maybe we can all go get coffee sometime. I’m buyin’.

Or, hell, if I make it out of this alive, I’ll have earned something a lot stronger than coffee!

Sounds good!

Yeah, anything sounds good after the Varia’s rations!

Speaking of which, I’m gonna want to find something to eat and drink before long.

I have this theory that if I just built an intersection here, competing Starbucks would magically appear on at least two of the corners.

But I’d hate to do all that work just to be proven wrong.

Save your energy.

Sure, sure. But I’m going to have to start heading in some direction, sooner or later.

Can’t just stay here by the pod forever.

Look, let me tell you what I can see from here, maybe you can advise me on where to go.

All right, so, my escape pod came down in some kind of desert.

The ground is all cracked white rock. There’s a huge white peak a few miles away.

Or, uh, kilometers, I guess. (They tried to get me to think metric for the trip, but some things are just hardwired.)

It’s weirdly symmetrical, like it might not be a natural formation.

My IEVA suit’s compass places the peak northeast, and then, in the opposite direction — south and southwest, to be precise —

…are two funnels of black smoke from what I have to assume are two pieces of the Varia.

Best case scenario, it’s ONLY in two pieces.

The crash sites look closer than the peak. What do you think I should do?

Check the crash.

Yeah, cool, that makes sense. There might be other survivors… fingers crossed.

(It’s not actually possible to cross your fingers in an IEVA suit, but just take my word on it.)

Or at the very least, there should be some supplies I can use.

Okay, I’m headed south now. Looks like the smoke is at least an hour away. Or whatever the metric equivalent of an hour is.

I’ll let you know once I’m there.

[Taylor is busy]

Holy crap. It’s a lot further than it looked. My legs feel like Jell-O, and I’m maybe halfway there.

[Taylor is busy]

Great. And now all I can think about is how much I want Jell-O.

[Taylor is busy]

Okay. At long last, I’m in sight of the Varia. Or what’s left of it, at any rate.

It seems to have cracked hard once it hit atmosphere.

Like I figured, it came down in two major chunks…

…with a ton of scattered debris thrown around just to make the whole scene look terrifying and post-apocalyptic.

(In case anyone asks, it’s working; I’m appropriately terrified.)

Looks like the flight deck came down pretty far from the crew quarters. Where do you figure I should go first?

Check the flight deck.

All right. It’s gonna take me a few minutes to sort through the wreckage.

A lot of the heat shielding was stripped on entry, but it seems to have taken the worst of the damage.

Most of the instrumentation looks surprisingly intact.

Let me poke through this mess…

[Taylor is busy]

Hot damn! We’re in business!

(Well, I mean, if you keep in mind that most businesses fail before they ever really get off the ground.)

So, let’s play a round of Good News/Bad News.

Good news: I found the ship’s distress beacon, and from what I can tell, it’s totally intact!

Which means, hey, maybe I won’t be stuck here forever.

More good news: One of the defense turrets is still operational.

Yes, that means that three of them AREN’T, but there’s only one of me to operate a turret, so in this case the math works out great.

So that means if the little green men DO come poking around, I’ll have more than a smarmy pop-culture reference to defend myself with.

But now for the bad news: I’ve got no power for either the beacon or the guns. The reactor came down with the back half of the ship.

I’m quite certain we didn’t pack any extension cords long enough to bridge that distance…

…and even if the reactor were right here, I seriously doubt it’s in good enough shape to power much of anything at the moment.

So… I’m going to keep hunting in this end of the Varia and see if I can dig up some kind of alternate power source.

[Taylor is busy]

Oh… oh, no. I hadn’t found any of the crew up here near the flight deck, but… I just found Captain Aya.

There’s just… so much blood, I wouldn’t have thought

OH HOLY HELL she’s not dead! The Captain’s not dead!

She’s got a huge piece of metal through her side, like a, like a support strut or something… it doesn’t matter what it is!

What do I do? Should I… do I pull it out?

Oh, man, she’s really bleeding. Oh, man.

Leave it in.

Okay. Good plan. Who knows what kind of damage I might do if I yanked it out?

It’s… the wound isn’t really actively bleeding right now, but her breath is really shallow and kind of… rattling?

Oh, man. I think there’s a good chance this thing pierced her lung.

Crap, crap, crap. What am I supposed to do?

Make her comfortable.

“Comfortable.” What, while she dies?

Look, as far as I know, she’s the only other living person on this rock.

I owe her more than just a nice memory-foam pillow under her head while she bleeds out.

If there’s a chance of stabilizing her, I’ve got to do it!

[Taylor is busy]

The damn forward med supply cabinet is scorched over. I’d need a crowbar and a power drill…

…and with my luck, I’d injure myself so badly that I’d have to use all the contents on myself if I ever DID get it open.

There’s another med locker in the rear of the ship, by the crew quarters. I’ve gotta go for that one.

[Taylor is busy]

Okay. Okay. I’m at the wreckage of the crew quarters.

And, well, this wasn’t totally unexpected, but still.

I, uh… I found some of the crew.

It’s… oh, man. Hang on.

[Taylor is busy]

Sorry about that. I had to go be sick behind some moon rocks.

So, there were a few crew members who were apparently pretty near where the Varia’s hull split.

I can’t… I can’t tell who they were, or how many.

They’re all sort of fused, to the metal or, uh, to each other.

And we, I don’t know, we might’ve lost some crew when we lost pressure.

[Taylor is busy]

Behind the sealed door to the rear quarters, though, I… I found the rest of the crew.

Antoine, Trotter, Colby, Adair. All dead. All of them, just… dead.

I… I don’t think I can do this. Knowing that all of them, every one of them… I just…

I am so sorry

Ugh. This… this is awful.

Part of me was still holding out some tiny hope that they’d be okay, but… oh, man.

I feel like I should have some sort of memorial service for them, you know?

Sure. Honor the dead.

Yeah. You’re right. I should… bury them, or something, huh?

There’s got to be, like, a spade or some kind of… something to dig with.

Wait, what am I thinking?

I don’t have time for sentimentality right now, and I certainly don’t have time for grave-digging.

Captain Aya is waiting on me!

[Taylor is busy]

Okay! Good News/Bad News time again.

Bad news: No medkit that I could find. I could get into the cabinet just fine, but the kit was gone.

Someone must have taken it for something, and not put it back before the crash. So it’s probably still around, somewhere.

But! Good news: The Varia had two medical stasis pods on board.

One is so much scrap metal now (bad news), but the other is still intact, and all functions have a green light!

How do I know, you might ask?

Because I also found a portable generator!

(And then I did a little portable generator dance.)

It’s small, but it’ll keep the stasis pod running for days.

And the pod might not be able to heal the Captain, but it’ll keep her wounds in check and keep that lung from getting any worse.

It’s gonna be a pain in the ass to haul the pod and the ginny all the way back to the Captain, though.

You think I should bring her here, or try to rig this thing up to move it to her?

Move the stasis pod.

Right. That’s the safer plan, so long as I can figure out some way to get this pod over there quickly.

You know what would come in handy on one of these things is —

nope, nope, nope

A-ha! YES! A hover mode!

Well, this is gonna suck some extra power from the ginny, but I’m not gonna look a gift hover-horse in the mouth.

(That’s exactly how the old saying goes, right?)

Okay, I’m headed back to the Captain. I’ll message you once she’s safe and sound.

[Taylor is busy]

She’s in, and the pod says she’s stabilized!

Blood loss is dangerous, but not at critical levels yet, and this will keep the lung perforation from getting any worse.

Oh. Man. I’m not alone on this stupid rock.

This feels like a miracle.

Don’t celebrate yet.

Yeah. Yeah, of course not. “Stable” doesn’t mean “better.”

Plus, I’ve still got to figure out how to get us rescued, and get her some real medical attention.

In the meantime… what? I guess I should go see to the rest of the crew, right?

I mean, they’re just… lying there.

I’m heading back to the other half of the ship, bringing the Captain in her stasis pod and the ginny with me.

I’ll message you once I’m there.

[Taylor is busy]

So after a depressing trudge across a barren wasteland, we arrive once more at a crewless crew quarters.

My life has become bad middle-school poetry.

So I guess my options over here are either grave-digging, or else exploring the ship further.

Dig those graves.

All right. Here goes.

I’m going to get the rest of the graves dug and inter the crew, which I think will be a really good thing.

Just to have some sense of closure, you know?

I want to come up with a few words to say over each of them. I’m gonna take a little private time while I work.

I’ll get back to you in a bit.

[Taylor is busy]

Well, that’s it. Everyone is buried.

I guess there’s nothing for it but to keep exploring this end of the ship.

Okay, so… past the bunks, there’s a corridor that branches.

The way to the galley looks pretty scorched. The other option is the lab.

I’m afraid of what I’ll find if I check on my rats. If the humans didn’t make it, what chance do those little guys stand?

Try the lab.

Well, it’s time to play Good News/Bad News.

Good news: All my handwritten notes on the maze-running and food-seeking habits of Sprague Dawley rats in various gravities?


So you can stop worrying that this whole trip was for nothing. We got the goods.

Bad news: Their cage looks like it’s been through a cage match. Half-crushed, warped from the heat.

And the rats are nowhere to be found.

I’d love to believe that they escaped into the ducts and that they’re going to start repopulating this barren moon.

I’m gonna leave my notes here. Who knows? In a million generations, these could be the planet’s sacred historical texts.

Good(ish) news? I won’t starve to death. I have rat food pellets and a half-full ball-spout water bottle.

Look at that. I called it “half-full.”

Feelin’ more optimistic already.

So… I guess I can count my blessing and snack on rat food for a while…

…or that can be a distant “Plan B,” and I can go hunting for people food.

Stick with rat food.

Uh… yum?

Rat pellets may count as caloric intake, but they’re not about to win any awards for flavor.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine that they’re… uh…

Nope. It’s no good. I doubt anyone could trick themselves into thinking these were anything other than what they are.

Eatin’ rat food on the moon. Sounds like a lousy prog rock album.

[Taylor is busy]

Tastes like one, too.

Okay, this is pretty good incentive to try to get into the galley and get some real food.

Either that, or I’m gonna start making plans to bunk down for the night…

…and just hope that I dream about something that’ll get this taste out of my mouth.

Try the galley.

The door is… SUPER stuck!

Fortunately, I am not above bashing it with scrap metal…

…because, confidentially, I don’t think we’re getting our deposit back on this ship.

I’m gonna keep at this for a bit because this is my best bet at finding rations.

If I can just get through… this… damn… door!

[Taylor is busy]

Tastes like one, too.

Okay, this is pretty good incentive to try to get into the galley and get some real food.

Either that, or I’m gonna start making plans to bunk down for the night…

…and just hope that I dream about something that’ll get this taste out of my mouth.

Get some shut-eye.

All right. Let’s think through things here, try and figure out what my next move is.

The crew is all buried.

The stasis pod is humming along nicely, keeping the Captain alive and well. Or at least alive.

Still, as long as the ginny is powering the pod, there’s no way for me to fire up either the distress beacon or the gun turret.

I’m not so worried about the turret — I seriously doubt there’s anything else living on this rock besides me…

…but without the beacon, how will anyone know I’m here and alive? How will I ever get rescued?

After everything… I can’t unplug the Captain for my own sake.

Can I?

Keep powering the pod.

Right. Of course. There’s no way I’d let the Captain die now, not after everything she’s been through already.

Maybe in the daylight tomorrow, I’ll be able to figure out some way to get the beacon working.

Some part of me thinks they picked the wrong science student for this trip. Or that I picked the wrong trip.

Either way, this has gotta be worth some bonus points on my final grade.

Tau Ceti is down now, and I don’t mind telling you, it’s darker than a goth kid’s journal, and colder than the prom queen’s shoulder.

So, uh, here are my options, as I see ’em.

I can stay here in the wreckage — although without power to the ship, I can’t reseal any door I’ve opened.

So I’ll have a roof over my head, sure, but I’ll be exposed to the elements.

Or, I can head around to the rear of the ship and pitch a tent near the reactor engine…

…which is nice and toasty warm — I can tell from the squiggly heat lines it’s sending off into the night.

(You like that science-speak? “Squiggly heat lines?” That’s some advanced-level terminology, right there.)

Only problem there is, there’s radiation involved in that engine, and I’m not precisely sure whether it’s enough to roast me overnight.

So, would you mind doing a little research for me?

If I get about 150 rads overnight, will that kill me? My IEVA suit sensor tells me that’s about what it’s giving off.

Can you look that up and let me know whether it’d toast my marshmallows? Thanks.

[Taylor is busy]

So, uh, hopefully you had a chance to look that up, because it’s getting really, just stupidly cold here.

What’s the verdict? Should I just layer up under whatever cover I can find and spend a night shivering in the Varia?

Or risk radiation poisoning by cuddling up to a faulty fusion reactor?

Camp out by the reactor.

I gotta be honest with you: I’m really nervous about this.

I mean, you’ve gotten me through this day so far — definitely the worst day of my entire life.

(I’d put it up against the worst day of pretty much ANYBODY’S life, pretty confidently.)

So I’m going to trust you on this. I mean, either you looked it up and you know I’ll be safe at these radiation levels…

…or else you didn’t bother to look it up, and you’re just blowing me off.

I guess I won’t know until I wake up in the morning.

And with that cheery thought… goodnight, wherever you are.

Here’s to a better tomorrow.

[Taylor is busy]



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