I spent the next couple of days snooping about the station, trying to find out the best way to disable it. I was learning more about the station than I thought was possible. A strange thing took place. Time seemed to melt away as I dove deeper and deeper into the station's systems. I would forget to eat or drink, and I hardly moved from my spot. Every time the orderlies came by for their rudimentary visits, they would startle me to death as the sound of opening doors violently jarred me to the surface from the depth of an almost alternate reality.
I discovered that I could trigger a shutdown of the weight balancing system of the hospital's pseudo-gravity mechanism. I reconfigured parts of the spin controller to speed up when it was instructed to slow down, and vice versa. It would slow down when told to accelerate. The sysadmins would have to immediately restart all systems without any delay if they wanted to foil my little mischief. I didn't have much going for me. I could only hope they would have the good old "it never did THAT before" stupefied reaction to the developing disaster. Yes, the plan was risky, and a bit far fetched, but how could it not be?
What worried me wasn't the plan, but the funny feeling I had in my gut. It was my incessant exploration of the station's systems and the pace at which I was moving through them that gave me a pause. It perplexed me whenever I stopped to think about it during my forced breaks. It would be one thing if I were involved in the design of the labyrinth I was exploring, or if such designs were my specialty or a point of interest, but as far as I could attest, none of those conditions applied to me.
On the one paw, it led me to wonder again who I think I was; on the other paw, I was glad for it because it would let me bust out of here that much quicker. The question still hung over me though, where exactly would I go after the breakout? At that time I had no idea that two vessels were converging on St. Cinnamon.
I don't know at exactly what time I ran out of energy to dig any deeper into the station's systems. I was way past what I needed to know to do the job. I didn't so much go to sleep but rather passed out. I didn't check on Hopper or Mel. For some reason, I wasn't worried about them anymore.
The sound of the doors sliding open for the orderlies bringing breakfast salad and paying their respects on behalf of the big brother woke me up. I sat up straight, even though my body screamed for twice as much sleep as I had gotten that night. When you're not up for their visit, they think your temperature will tell them something about why you're not up. So they proceed to check your temperature. I don't like it. No, they don't check it like THAT — not anymore. They take pictures of you and strap gizmos to you. I don't like my pictures taken, and I don't like their gizmos. So it's easier just to sit up.
I served my usual sideways stink eye and the harshest frown I could muster to both of the orderlies. They were used to that and cleared out as soon as they could. I had some of the salad and went back to sleep. Next time I got up, I finished the leftovers and went to work.
I didn't have to turn off completely the weight balancer; I only had to slow it down. I tricked it into thinking it had a lot less weight to balance, and the balancer slowed down. The system detected that something was not right and reacted by trying to speed up the balancer. Well, the system sent the right command, but the component responsible for its execution didn't work anymore the way it was supposed to. It slowed down the balancer even more.
That day, whoever worked the shift in the control room, tried to fix the problem manually. Again, he or she did the right thing, as the manual instructed them, and attempted to speed up the balancer. Now the balancer continued to slow down until it stopped. Thus the rotating part of the hospital started to gyrate and threatened to tear apart the entire installation.
Of course, no one has seen such a combination of failures, and while they tried to figure out what had happened, the system tried to recover on its own. Since it couldn't make heads or tails out of the puzzle either, it opted for the easy way out by initiating a shutdown of the station.
The system sounded an evacuation alarm and started shutting down, isolating the hospital sector by sector. Going into full emergency mode meant getting help from the outside world as soon as possible. The hospital broke its radio silence.
I left my pod as the mayhem started to froth and began looking for Hopper. He was waiting for me.
"You know, Major, when it rains, it pours. I bet the ventilation system is about to have a very bad day," said Hopper as he winked at me. I was not surprised.
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