Thursday, January 12, 2017

Vacc Tape

At least there was no smoke on the bridge. The ventilation system had cleared it. Death by smoke inhalation was almost as bad as death by vacuum. Sandoval fancied she could hear the vacuum on the other side of the hatch scratching to get in and kill them all.

The Captain and Luch were going over the readings and checking the view on the rest of the deck. Finally thr Captain looked up and rubbed his eyes. "Okay. We have a direct hit on this deck which, aside from letting the air out and messing our quarters up did not real harm. But we took that hit right before we went to FTL. Good job on that Sandy. Now we gotta get to the main damage control locker and the space suits there and get them back in here. Then we can see about patching that hole before it lets FTL space in ... that isn't good. And there's ten meters or so of indoor vacuum between us and that locker."

Sandoval shuddered a bit. FTL entering STL space was never good. As a navigator she knew enough of the theory of FTL to know that. Non-biological entities, jump trauma, flash fever ... the list went on.

The bridge damage control locker had compressor masks that could be hooked up to a small air tank or air line. No space suits though. In aperfect world they'd be suited up already and at their stations for a hazardous operation and the bridge was too cramped for a locker to hold their suits. It was only designed to keep them alive when things were killing them slowly.


 Using a breathing mask in a vacuum was a good way to kessler your lungs. Absently Sandoval began rooting through the locker, digging through the various odds and ends accumulated over the years. Power bars, lanyards, vacc tape spilled out. What was she looking for? A new hyperdrive to get them to port and a rescue ship?

"Well I was told this sort of freighter was designed to explode on a direct hit killing us all cleanly," Luch said in mock anger. "I get out of this I'm suing the fucking shipyard."

The Captain administered a dopeslap that forced Luchador to adjust the mask he never removed, for no one knew what reason. Sandoval never thought it was polite to ask. "Not the time Luch," the Captain reproved.

"Sorry sir. A little gallows humor. On the bright side we could hide in the electronics hole and prolong life a few more hours. None of these doors are completely airtight but we could get by."

"How long till we break out, Sandy?" the Captain asked.

"At least six days," the small woman answered toying with the materials she'd pulled from the locker. They all knew the air was going to leak out before then. Even with the last refuge of the computer and sensor service crawspace they had maybe a day of air. Air tight doors everywhere was too expensive.

It wasn't fair. She'd plotted that jump perfectly and in half the time. The ship had ducked missiles and beams like a courier on uppers. they had all performed so well in the face of an invasion and an enemy determined to kill them. It just wasn't good enough. But to die knowing there was a locker full of air tanks not ten meters away was galling.

Luch grabbed a roll of tape. "We can seal the hatch with this. Buy us a few more hours. We could just say screw it, hit the overrides and open the hatch now. At least it'd be fast. Why do we have so many damn rolls of vacc tape anyway? Your previous quartermaster was a tool, Captain! And this damn ship ... you do everything on the cheap! We're going to die because you didn't spring for some extra spacesuits!"

The Captain grabbed Luch by the arm and hauled him as far fro Sandoval as he could. It wasn't very far. Urgent and harsh whispering followed. The Captain finally ordered the Steward/Mechanic to take a seat and eat a power bar. Sandoval toyed with an old wallet someone had constructed out of tape. Probably an attempt to stave off boredom on a watch during FTL, much like this but without a hole in the hull dooming them all.

"Hey ... Captain!"

***

Adhesive tape was invented in 1845 by dr. Horace Day. Clear adhesive or tape was made by Richard Drew in 1922 and the Holy Grail: duct tape appeared in 1942. By TL 8 in the year 20-mumblety-rhubarb we have Vacc Tape!

The salient feature of vacc tape is it works in vacuum. More primitive tapes use adhesives that boil off in vacuum or are destroyed in extreme temperatures. Vacc tape works in extreme temperatures and vacuum ... for a while. By TL 10 synthetic adhesives are able to keep a bond and even strengthen under temperatures extremes to rock hard consistency.

The other feature of vacc tape is not obvious at first. It changes color in vacuum. A roll of red tape turns a bright blue. Exposure to oxygen turns it red again. Seal a hole with it and air leaking out will turn the tape red making it easy to judge the worth of your damage control. Air bubbles can be spotted and reinforced before they burst. Savvy spacers in an unstable situation or hull will lay strips around the door to the living section. A blue strip around the door indicates vacuum on the other side. Suit up. Some spacers put a strip around the wrist of their space suit as a final check that an airlock that says it is pressurizing is pressurizing.

Needless to say the stuff also spawns its own craft industry. Spacers make all manner of things, wallets, bags even clothing, slippers and more ...

***

"The breathing mask is not ... optimal," Sandoval said. The Captain's voice rattled in her earbud. "Explain?"

"It's fogging like a sonuvabitch. Also the soft helmet part is inflating. I'm dizzy," she said walking down the corridor. To compound matters, her tape slippers were slippery: a small etymological irony and she was dragging an air line behind her. The journey of ten meters seemed very long.

She was sure she was starting to feel the bends despite the Captain lowering the bridge's air pressure and switching to a pure oxygen mix.

It was only logical they use her for a subject. She was the smallest, letting them layer the tape the thickest over her. She was female and needed less oxygen. She thought up the crazy plan.

She new her mask was filling with carbon dioxide, or was it monoxide? She always confused the two.  The mask's exhausts were puttied shut. To make maters worse the tape covering every inch of her below the neck constricted like a ... constricting animal thing. that monoxide dioxide was really messing with her.

Applying the stuff was the most undignified ordeal of her young life. The Captain and Luch applied the tape in rings around her torso and extremities. Luchs made sure the strip ends overlapped a lot. Then they reinforced the rings in the first layer with a layer of vertical strips. That was bad enough. But Luchs wanted to make sure the tape wouldn't peel up from curvy places and had puttied them up but good. It didn't help that Luchs was asexual. She'd blushed down to her toes. It didn't help when Luchs said there were establishments that would pay a few hundred credits to people submitting to such treatment.

 The Captain's dopeslap was perfectly timed and thump on Luch's head was most satisfying. They actually all managed a laugh.

To make matters worse her nose was itchy. Her nose was itchy. She was having all manner of trouble breathing and now had the figure of a twelve year old boy and her neck felt like it measured 70 centimeters because that pulchtritude had to go somewhere.

Her goddam nose itched. Was an itchy nose a symptom of suffocation/asphyxiation?

She was at the damage control locker! The door opened to her frenzied yanking and curses. Cursing helped all manner of things. She grabbed a spacesuit and turned to scramble back to the bridge. The door was open and looked inviting even though the vacuum was as hard on the other side of it. The Captain and Luchs were waiting in the electronics hole and were pretty screwed if she messed up. Lugging the suit and the air hose she slipped and slid back to the bridge. At least they still had gravity. That alone indicated the hull couldn't be that badly holed.

Sandoval threw the suit into the pilot seat. Her vision was blurring and not from a fogged mask as she reached for the hot key they'd set up. She hit it before she reeled and crashed to the deck.

She woke up in the deluxe stateroom's master's bed. Usually the captain took the cabin over when he couldn't fill it.

Luchs was sitting on the bed shaking her foot. "How are ya?" he asked. Sandoval stretched and saw tape still covered her arms. She moved her feet and realized it still covered most of her. She saw a very careful slit was made down her sternum letting her breathe. "I have the best vat steak in the galley cooking for you with your favorite sides. The Captain is still working on damage control but we're holding air. The beam went through the hull at stateroom three. There's a big hole on the outer hull and a nasty on on the hatch. He slapped patches on them and is welding the cabin's hatch shut."

"Sounds good. Can I get up?" Sandoval said. She really was enjoying the bed though. Much better than a bunk.

"Sure Sandy ... put here's the bad news: that tape has to coe off you before it cuts off circulation."

"Mmm ..."

"On three ..." Luchs said.

He yanked the first strip off on 'one'.

The Captain heard her scream through one deck and his helmet.