# Lifeline · Day 2

Hey! Check it out! I'm not dead!

I don't even have an ear growing out of my forehead, or any other weird toxic radiation mutations! Nice.

Okay. Fresh new day, same old moon.

Maybe I'm oversharing here, but I woke up with a HORRIBLE taste in my mouth.

Rinsed with some water, spit out it... and it had a weird green tint to it.

Probably something to do with trace elements in this place's atmosphere...

...but still, pretty strange, huh?

Oh. God. You think? I don't feel bad, or anything. No headache, no nausea, nothing like that.

In fact -- apart from the whole "lost in space" aspect of things -- I actually woke up feeling really good this morning.

It's just... green spit IS a little weird, huh?

Man. I sure hope it's not radiation poisoning. It'd be tough finding a matching bone marrow donor around here.

Anyway, rat pellets don't taste much better...

...but I gotta do SOMETHING to get this weird flavor out of my mouth.

Let me choke enough of these down to keep body and soul together.

Maybe I'll try and freshen up with what water I've got, too. I'll drop you a line in a few minutes.

[Taylor is busy]

Well, that was... "delicious" isn't quite the word I'm searching for.

Maybe "sustenance" is. And maybe just barely.

But it should hold body and soul together for today's field trip.

The generator's still humming along happily, powering the stasis pod...

...and Captain Aya's still stable inside. I'd prefer "healed," but oh well.

I guess when it comes to miracle technology, you take what you can get.

Anyhow, with her stowed safely away, I can step out for a few hours.

Should be plenty of time to go check out that strange peak to the north...

...and still make it back to the Varia before nightfall.

Just one more pass over the ship, make sure everything's locked down...

...and then I'm packing some rat food and water, and heading out.

I'll keep you posted along the way.

[Taylor is busy]

Back to where my escape pod came down. Looks like it rolled over during the night.

I guess the wind caught the 'chute and dragged it a little ways?

Damn. Must've been some pretty high winds. It moved probably ten feet.

But, hey, that's only -- what -- three meters? Three doesn't sound so far.

Things are less freaky in metric.

[Taylor is busy]

Damn! Looks like the path I was on is blocked off.

I was tracing this shallow canyon, but I hit this huge boulder. Way too big to climb over.

What do you reckon... should I look for some quick way around it?

Or back out of the canyon and try another path altogether?

Find a way around.

Okay, I'll give it a shot. Honestly, though, this terrain looks pretty unforgiving.

[Taylor is busy]

Listen, there's just no way around this thing.

Not enough footholds to get even a few feet up it. Or "meters" up it, whatever.

These canyon walls look like nothing but loose rock, too...

...and -- surprise, surprise -- as a science fair champ, I'm pretty much the definition of an "indoor kid."

I don't think I'm cut out for rock climbing.

Thoughts?

Back out of the canyon.

Yeah, I'm with you. I think that's the right call.

That whole boulder situation looked like a deathtrap waiting to be sprung.

There's a gentle slope up the canyon wall, a few hundred yards back.

(No, I can't rattle that off in metric. A hecto-bunch? A picobuttload?)

I hate to lose time from doubling back...

...but it's preferable to the whole "breaking a leg 5,000 picobuttloads from the nearest hospital" scenario.

Anyway. Off I go.

[Taylor is busy]

So... I'm having one of those dilemmas that only people stranded on a moon can have. Bear with me here.

I'm standing at the lip of a huge crater. I mean, HUGE.

As in, like, if I weren't terrified of dying alone in deep space at any given second, I'd take a moment to be really, really awed.

Problem is, this marvel of geography is smack-dab in the middle of where I'm headed.

So... it's either a slog around the perimeter, making a big semicircle in one direction or the other...

...or else I try my luck easing down the side and then cut straight across.

There's certainly something to be said for the shortest distance between two points...

...but people don't usually factor giant craters into that equation.

What do you say?

Walk the perimeter.

All right. You know, this is probably the safest call. All flat surfaces up here.

Flat... dull... plain... planes. Wheeee.

Look, the most exciting decision I'm anticipating in the next couple hours is whether I should take off walking left or right.

And since I don't have a coin on me (because there are very few laundromats or video arcades up here)...

...I'm leaving this one up to you.

Should I walk around this stupid hole in the ground clockwise? Or counterclockwise?

THIS COULD BE THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION YOU MAKE ALL DAY!

(It won't be.)

Clockwise!

Wow! Clockwise? That is a very bold choice!

As I take off marching to my left, in a big gigantic circle on an unknown moon in a poorly trafficked quadrant...

...know that your strong, clear decision-making skills have made all the difference!

Counterclockwise sucks! Clockwise rules! Without it, clocks would be useless! Except for digital ones!

[Taylor is busy]

...Ooh, boy. I think I used up all my enthusiasm, and I've still got an awful lot of walking left to do.

I'll message you when I get to about the halfway point.

If anything amazing happens, though, I promise, I'll let you know.

[Taylor is busy]

OH MY GOD! You'll never believe it!

I'm still walking around a moon crater and it's still boring as hell!

...Sorry. I was just going a little bonkers, with nothing but the sound of my own thoughts.

No worries. Wanna chat?

Yes! Please. I mean, I don't want to be a bother, but you're kind of all I've got.

(Wow. How needy is that?)

So, uh... have YOU ever wandered around the circumference of a giant moon crater?

Well, try to imagine being a single grain of rice on the rim of the universe's biggest wok. That's about the scale of things here.

Some part of me is terrified that a gigantic sugar snap pea is going to come plummeting out of the sky and crush me.

(Not a very rational fear, I know... but then, two days ago, I wouldn't have thought "spaceship crash" was a very rational fear.)

Anyhow. The crater's opposite side is in sight. I'm gonna buckle down, grit my teeth, and keep truckin' my way on over there.

Thanks for the pep talk. I'll message you in a bit.

[Taylor is busy]

Well, it actually didn't take as long to trek around the edge of the crater as I thought it might.

Here's the strange thing, though: Maybe fifty yards back, I tripped over something while I was walking.

(Yeah, I know, I've been so graceful so far, it must be hard for you to believe.)

Anyway, it was pretty well buried in the sand, but when I looked down at it... it glinted at me in the sun.

Because it was METAL.

It took me a minute to dig it up, and I've been examining it ever since, but I'm still not sure what it is, exactly.

I mean, I guess it's GOT to be a panel from the Varia... it's just weird that it came down so far from the rest of the ship, huh?

Anyhow. I'm pretty much directly opposite the point where I started circling this crater, so I guess it's time to keep heading north.

What a long, strange, clockwise trip it's been.

[Taylor is busy]

Um. So. Here's something.

On this side of the crater, there's a little ridge.

And on that little ridge, there are more little pieces of metal.

Like, SEVERAL more.

And then, just on the other side of that little ridge -- where you can't see it until you've crested the little ridge --

There's, um...

...there's a spaceship.

[Taylor is busy]

So... yeah. It's a good thing that the air here is okay to breathe, because I've been hyperventilating it for the last minute or so.

What the hell? I mean... I mean, what the hell? Seriously, just, what the hell?

(I was a science student, not an English student. Forgive me.)

From up here, I can tell it's a much smaller ship than the Varia -- it's what I think they call a caravel-class vessel.

It would've had half a dozen crew, tops, making quick runs with minimal armament.

Minimal defenses.

What is it doing here? How long has it been here?

The engine looks like it was just... SHEARED from the rest of the ship. Did they collide with space debris, maybe?

God. I have about a million questions.

Should I go down there and explore the wreckage, do you think?

Or do I keep to higher ground, and stay the hell away from that ship and whatever brought it out of the sky?

Explore the wreckage.

This is crazy. What I'm doing right now, heading down TOWARD this derelict ship instead of away from it... it's CRAZY.

I mean, this is the part in every single horror movie where I'd be watching the idiot on the screen...

...and I'd be muttering to myself, "Well, I sure wouldn't do that if I were you."

Except that right now, I'M the idiot on the screen.

Seriously, shouldn't I walk away now before the killer in the space-hockey mask from Camp Mare Tranquillitatis jumps out and stabs me?

Or, worse, forces me to play space-hockey? I'm TERRIBLE at sports.

No, you should explore it.

All right. Fine. But if I get serial-killed in there, it's on you. Hell, even if I'm just maimed, nonserially, I'm gonna be upset.

Gimme just a minute to get down there.

[Taylor is busy]

It was really surprisingly easy to get down from the ridge. A little TOO easy.

I seriously hate everything about what is happening in my life at this moment.

So, the hull of this thing is pretty badly beaten.

There's some writing that isn't too legible... looks like Chinese characters? Or Japanese? There's too much paint missing to be sure.

That said, the metal isn't overly oxidized. This ship hasn't been here that long.

Ugh. My stomach is doing flips, just looking at the exterior. I'm sweaty and ice-cold, all at once.

The airlock iris looks like it's open just wide enough for me to crawl inside.

But I'm looking for any reason in the universe NOT to do it.

You have to keep exploring.

Okay. Deep breath. Switching on the IEVA suit's helmet light, because it's dark as pitch inside this ship.

(OF COURSE it's dark in here. How could it terrify me to my core if it weren't dark in here?)

I wrenched my shoulder a little trying to squeeze through the door, so... that's fun.

Looks like the ship was shaken around pretty hard. There's stuff all over the floors, falling out of bins and cabinets...

...it's slow going, having to pick my way through all this debris with only a headlamp to navigate by.

So, I can tell you this just from here: The instrument panel are smashed to splinters. And then the splinters were smashed to splinters.

I had some hopes that maybe this thing had a functional distress beacon, but that notion just went out the proverbial window.

Anyway. Right now I seem to be in a sort of pass-through. Figure I should take the east hall, or the west one?

Try the east hall.

Turning right, we head down the lovely (not lovely) and spacious (definitely not spacious) east hallway.

On either side of me is a sealed door.

Without any power to get behind the pneumatics, I don't stand a chance in hell at getting these open, so I guess it's...

Huh. That's strange.

I just noticed that the compass on my IEVA suit still claims I'm headed north, even though I took a hard right turn down this hall.

That's... kinda messed up.

If I were a character in a horror movie I was watching, I would be SO PISSED watching myself keep walking further into this wreck.

I can practically hear myself yelling at myself for proceeding down the hall.

"You've got a faulty compass," I'm shouting at myself. "You can barely see where you're going!"

Oh. Crap. My headlamp is starting to flicker.

Keep moving. Faster.

Sure, that's great advice. "Oh, you're doing something stupid? Well, then, just do it FASTER."

No one ever went wrong by pursuing that particular strand of logic.

There's an open door at the end of the hall. That's where I'm headed.

The light on my suit is strobing like I'm at a rave. Any second now, I'm expecting a pounding bass beat to kick in.

Maybe tonight a DJ will save my life.

Geez. This door is... just barely open enough... for me to slip inside the next room.

I'd better hope there's not a buffet on the other side. If I gain an ounce, I'll never get back through.

[Taylor is busy]

Ugh. They should've sent a contortionist, not a science student.

Anyhow, I'm in. This looks like a pretty basic sick bay. I say that because I found a medkit in here.

And inside the medkit was a bottle -- a large bottle -- labeled in both Mandarin and English, so I could tell it was painkillers.

Which, I thought, yay! Because my shoulder hurts like there's no tomorrow.

(There may legitimately be no tomorrow. Fun thought.)

But the bottle is almost empty. It would make a nice maraca, but there are only three pills in it.

I'm not here to judge, but someone on this ship must've had a pretty serious problem.

Or else... they downed a whole bunch of pills rather than face whatever brought the ship down.

(Nope. That's officially too dark. Not gonna think in that direction.)

My shoulder is killing me. I could certainly justify taking one of these pills now to make things easier.

But then again, things could always get worse later. I might want to hang onto them.

Hold off for now.

Yeah, all right, maybe that's smart. I'll hang onto the pills for the time being.

If the last couple days have taught me anything, it's that, no matter how bad things seem at the moment, they could always get worse later.

Crap -- my headlamp is really flickering badly. I think I should get out of here before it fails me completely.

Risk it; keep exploring.

I am SO FREAKING NERVOUS about staying here any--

Hey! Check it out! A whole drawer full of glow rods!

Okay, there's no way you possibly could've known these were here, but still, I have to hand it to you... you were right to tell me to stay.

I'm gonna crack a couple of these and shake 'em like they wronged me. Now it really DOES look like a rave!

Plus there are ten more glow rods here that I can stash for later. Nice!

Suddenly I don't feel so freaked out by the dark anymo--

[Taylor is busy]

WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Oh God. Okay. Oh God.

Uh, there was this... I don't know, this, like, scuttling type noise. Coming from behind me, out in the corridor.

And I turned around. And, and... I saw something. Something moving.

Something GLOWING. Glowing green.

Lots of little somethings, actually. Close to the ground. Glowing, and moving, and scuttling.

Which are three things that are way, way high on my list of stuff I was NOT EXPECTING TO SEE today, if I'm being honest.

I don't think I'm alone in this ship.

I gotta get the hell out of here.

Find out what it was.

Are you kidding me?! Like I want to go CHASING AFTER whatever that was!

Seriously, you didn't hear it. I did. It was freaky as anything. Like, "Don't follow me into the dark" freaky.

That's the worst kind of freaky, in case you're keeping track.

Seriously, go find it.

This is a terrible idea. I just want that on the record.

That way, when they find my body all chopped in half with a space chainsaw or whatever, I get to say "I told you so."

(Hey, I'll be dead. I'll have to take my little victories where I can get them.)

Okay. Okay. So, I'm back in the main corridor, with all the debris all over the place, and I'm just trying to be careful so I don't--

[Taylor is busy]

Sorry. I tripped over something and went down hard.

And, uh, despite everything you may have read... in space, you can definitely hear YOURSELF scream.

And it's a little embarrassing.

But the good news is, the thing I tripped over? It's another little generator!

It's a different model than the one I've got back at the Varia, powering the

pod-- a little smaller, a little lighter --

but in essence, I've just doubled my power supply!

So I'm calling this excursion into the nightmare ship a success, and I'm also calling it finished.

Time for me and my generator to get the hell out of Dodge.

[Taylor is busy]

Ah. God. I would kiss this soil if I didn't think Earth would get jealous.

I don't know what that was. Maybe... maybe it was nothing. Just my mind playing tricks.

It would sure suck if I survived a spaceship crash only to suffer a heart attack jumping from shadows, huh?

I'm just gonna sit here for a minute and try to catch my breath, okay?

[Taylor is busy]

Yeah. Much better.

All right, before I go any further, let's stop and assess things for a minute.

It looks like I've got a long hike north, in a northward direction, before I get to that peak up north.

From here, I can see a couple more craters in my direct path -- small ones, though, nothing like the one I navigated earlier.

This probably wouldn't be the worst time to pause for a snack before I start off again...

...if you can call rat pellets and Habitrail water a "snack."

I've still got

3painkillers -- I can work up enough spit to dry-swallow one, but I hate to do it on an empty stomach.

I've got this little generator. The question is, do I lug it with me all the way to the peak?

Or I do leave it here with the caravel, and just snag it on my return walk back to the Varia?

(Check out the optimism inherent in the idea that I'm even gonna make it back to the Varia. Go, Taylor.)

Leave the ginny there.

Yeah. Good idea. No point in expending any extra energy hauling this thing halfway around the moon and back.

Either I'll make it back and it'll be waiting for me here...

...or I won't make it back, in which case I won't need the generator anyway.

(Or, third option, I'll make it back and the generator will be missing... in which case, I'll suddenly have MUCH bigger worries.)

I guess there's no point doing much more thinking about it.

I'm just burning daylight, and I don't really know how much of it I have to burn.

So... off I go.

It's gonna be a long march. If it's all the same to you, I'm gonna switch off the comm for a while and just concentrate on hiking.

Talk to you in a bit.

[Taylor is busy]

Something strange to report. I've been keeping close tabs on it, because I didn't want to say anything until I was absolutely sure.

My IEVA suit's compass is 100% useless.

I got to the rim of a small crater, a little ways back, and elected just to walk its perimeter.

But the compass didn't alter itself in concert with my orientation.

It just spun at random, or not at all -- it had nothing to do with which way I was facing.

I mean, back when I was inside the caravel wreckage, the compass was acting all weird...

...but I'd figured that was just a localized event, that whatever had brought the ship down had played havoc with its polarity somehow.

I thought, once I got away from there, everything would go back to normal.

I could still keep moving toward the peak, just navigating by sight, obviously...

...but this is a little bit troubling, in consideration of the return trip.

The winds have been really calm for the last hour or so.

If I wanted to trace my footsteps back the way I just came, this would be the time to make that decision.

Turn back while you can.

Yeah... maybe this is the best plan. I mean, given Tau Ceti's position in the sky, I've got less day ahead of me than behind.

As long as I can see my boot prints in the sand, I'll have no problem.

If and when those disappear, I'll have to navigate by landmarks like the caravel site and, past that, the enormous crater.

If my luck holds, I'll make it back to the Varia before sunset.

Maybe once I'm there, I can build a compass out of spare parts. I think I still remember how to do that.

Anyway. Enough talkin'. No time for chattin'. Not even enough time for puttin' the "g" at the end of words.

That's how you know I'm really runnin' short on time.

All right. Back to hikin'.

[Taylor is busy]

I'm back in sight of the caravel wreckage. I never thought I'd be grateful to see this haunted house of a starship again.

The generator is right where I left it -- which, of course, is exactly where it SHOULD be.

Because, I mean, who was going to take it? I'm all alone on this ugly hunk of chalky white rock. Right? Right.

I'm feeling weak as anything.

The rat food has just barely enough calories to keep me from falling completely to pieces...

...but it was never designed to sustain (or appeal to) a human being.

Especially not one who's enjoying the active, outdoors lifestyle I've been living ever since I got marooned.

From here, if memory serves, it's better than four hours' walk back to the Varia.

At least, that's how long it took me to get from there to here earlier. And that was WITH a working compass.

But I've still got

10glow rod

s, so I wouldn't be completely blind.

I guess my options are to forge ahead toward the Varia, and pray I get there before I run out of light...

...or else make camp here, despite how scary that sounds, and get busy figuring out how to stay warm for the night.

Make Camp.

There's no way I can sleep out under the stars -- as romantic as it sounds, the temperature drop is just going to be too severe.

Just like back at the Varia, there's clearly no power on the caravel to help me get the doors shut...

...but UNLIKE at the Varia, here, I think I have a solution to that.

The only opening to the outside is the iris door on the airlock, which is just barely big enough for me to shimmy through.

I wrenched my shoulder a little trying to squeeze through the door, so... that's fun.

And once I'm in, there's all sorts of junk littering the corridor -- junk I can use to seal over that opening in the door.

A few layers of Mylar blankets, maybe some bedding if I can turn any up from the cabins, and I ought to be able to insulate myself decently.

I've got

10glow rod

sleft, so I'm gonna go ahead and crack one to hunt through the rubbish in here.

Okay. I'm gonna scavenge a little bit.

I can go back down one of the hallways to the east or west, or else I can try the flight deck...

...even though I can tell from here that the control panels are smashed to bits.

Try one of the hallways.

Fair enough. Everybody loves a good hallway excursion.

I think I already discovered all the treasures the med room had to offer earlier, so I'm gonna try the opposite hall.

The side doors down the opposite hallway are sealed too, but the facing door at the end is ajar.

It's... hnnnn... it's not open... wide enough... for me to get through.

But I can see into the room. It's the galley.

A lot smaller than the one on the Varia. And it looks like the inside of a galley-themed snowglobe after someone shook it violently.

Everything is everywhere, just strewn all over the place. MREs just waiting to disappoint someone's palate.

I'm way too tired tonight to try to bash my way through that door...

...but the idea of eating something besides rat food is pretty freaking compelling. And tomorrow IS another door-bashing day.

Keep trying the galley door.

I'd love to tell you that if you just clap hard enough and believe in me, I'll make this happen, like I'm some sort of space-Tinkerbell...

...but it's no good. I'm even working the door with a piece of scrap as a lever, and it hasn't moved an inch.

Centimeter. WHATEVER.

I'll try again tomorrow after I've had some sleep, but for now, I'm callin' it. Back to the main hall.

(P.S. If I make it back home alive, Space-Tinkerbell is copyright me. That's a million-dollar idea, right there.)

[Taylor is busy]

Good grief. There's enough junk thrown around in here that I could probably build myself a jaunty robot companion out of spare parts.

If I knew much about building robots. Or programming them to be "jaunty."

I mean, I already stumbled over a generator in here earlier.

For all I know, I'll find a time-traveling Delorean if I just keep digging.

Apart from those halls and their barely-open doors...

...nowhere else in the ship is open to explore, other than (what's left of) the flight deck.

Like I said, the instrument panels are trashed.

Not that this caravel was ever in danger of taking off again, what with the whole "missing its engine" problem...

...but it looks like it's all wrecked: guidance, communications, waldo controls. The whole nine yards.

(The whole eight meters and change.)

...Well, except maybe I spoke too soon.

There's a... looks like a proximity alarm. Panel appears to be intact. God knows whether the rest of the hardware is functional.

I'm not sure I'm convinced I need an alarm system. I'm pretty sure I'm all alone out here.

Weird, scuttling, "that must have been my mind playing tricks on me" noises notwithstanding.

Plus, that means figuring out how to hook the system up to the generator.

And that's IF the thing even works, which is a BIG "if."

What do you think?

Hook up the alarm.

Woof. I can't help but feel like this is probably a waste of time, effort, and light. All of which are in short supply around here.

All right. Another glow rod cracked. Only

8left.

Fortunately (?), the wires to this thing are mostly exposed, so maybe it won't be that hard to get it patched in to the ginny.

Gimme a few minutes to mess with this.

[Taylor is busy]

In what I'm calling nothing short of a miracle, I've got the alarm hooked up, and the monitor powered.

Whatever detection grid this thing projects, it actually appears to be projecting most of it.

(The section that covers the rear of the ship says "No Readings," but that's probably because there IS no rear of the ship anymore.)

All right, then. I guess no one's going to steal my hubcaps while I catch some ZZZs.

The ship really must've been designed for a small crew. Only a single mission specialist seat up here, half-uprooted.

Which, in fact, seems to be my most comfortable option as far as sleeping arrangements go around here.

I figure it's time to call it a night. Only got

8glow rod

sleft; no sense in cracking another one now.

I sealed over the airlock door, and I've got enough blankets to swaddle myself and hopefully beat the cold.

I'm signing off. Goodnight, wherever you are, from me. Wherever I am.

[Taylor is busy]

Huh? Whuzzat noise?

You say something?

I swear I just... I totally just heard that weird scuttling noise again. Like from before.

And I turned around in the chair, and I saw it again: Little glowing, green, moving things in the main corridor.

That's just... I mean, I didn't ACTUALLY hear anything. Or see anything. Right?

It's just my exhausted, terrified mind playing tricks on me. "Space Madness," like in that old Ren & Stimpy cartoon. Remember that?

I should just... go back to sleep, yeah?

See what that noise is.

Wow, is that the last thing I want to do.

Go traipsing around in the cold and the dark, looking for something that isn't here to begin with?

It's not like glow rods grow on trees. And even if they did, it's not like there are any trees on this moon.

Seriously, I feel like it's a better plan if I just go back to sleep. Don't YOU prefer sleep to snipe hunting?

No. Chase down that noise.

One more glow rod cracked, which means now I have exactly

7remaining. So I hope this is worth it.

How do you know that this scuttling monster's whole modus operandi isn't to wait until its prey is ridiculously sleepy...

...and then lure it into a corridor so littered with trash that the bleary-eyed prey slips and breaks its own neck?

Because I am about 99% sure that's what's going to happen to me sometime in the next few minutes.

All right. I'm gonna walk the halls. I'll scream like I'm the singer for a Van Halen cover band if anything jumps out at me.

[Taylor is busy]

I've been everywhere I can get to inside this ship, and I didn't find a thing.

No noises, no movement, no glowing green anything.

I must've just dreamt the whole thing. And that's what I intend to do now, is get back to sleeping and dreaming.

And probably scaring myself silly yet again. But next time I'll know better than to go looking for monsters under the bed.

Let's just pretend this chair is comfortable (it isn't) and that I'm going to go right back to sleep (not likely)...

...and that when I wake up in the morning there'll be a rescue ship waiting with a whole breakfast buffet on board (seems probable).

G'night again.

[Taylor is busy]

Crap! The alarm is going off!

So this is what it feels like to go into cardiac arrest in deep space!

There's... there's nothing on the monitor screen.

I mean, OBVIOUSLY, there's nothing on the screen. What WOULD be there? I'm the only living thing for who knows how many light-years.

Screw this. I'm unplugging this stupid device. I'm regretting ever hooking it up in the first place.

Gonna go ahead and say, tonight is NOT angling for a shot in my "Best Sleep Ever" Hall of Fame.

Back to bed. Such as it is.

[Taylor is busy]