Malcolm walked over to one of the monitors in the central control room and watched a video loop of the predicted storm pattern.
7200 people. That’s a lot. The number bounced around in his head before he tried to remember how many rescue shuttles were available on the surface. Namely, how many shuttles could handle more than two thousand rems of radiation. Going to sleep wouldn’t be easy.
“Sir, the airlocks to the outer storage sheds are beginning to fail. I’m getting faulted signals on doors 4,7,22, and 18.”
“Which ring?” Malcolm said groggily as he turned on the light and his room came into focus.
The August was organized as a series of rings, A through E. Shield coverage was optimal at the center-most part, and gradually lessened to the outer rings. Echo was as far out as the August got.
“Was anyone out there?”
“No sir. Everyone is behind the Delta ring.”
“Good. I want to know the nanosecond any of Delta’s doors pop. Got it? Keep at least one ring between our people and any door that does so much as squeak louder than you’d like.”
Malcolm sat up, and let his feet hang off the side of the bed as he waited for a reply.
Malcolm dressed before leaving his cabin and making his way to the central control room.
“Morning Stephen – how we lookin?”
Stephen Sanders had been given the unfortunate task of the night shift. He was intelligent, awkward, and more tolerant of the faults of others than any sane human being should be. Malcolm liked him.
“Good sir. Well…decent.” He paused before continuing. “Actually…this looks downright awful,” his thought completed.
“I was afraid of that.”
“I mean, look at these projected readouts. Everything seems hunky-dory until 0600.”
“Right when it hits.”
“How much radiation are we talking about?”
“Well, more than I’ve ever seen…but that’s not what I’m really worried about.”
“It’s the secondary particles from that radiation. Imagine a 75 mile-an-hour baseball smaller than an atom. Now multiply that by the numbers you’re seeing. “
“It’s an invisible hailstorm. Can our shields stop that?”
“Ours? Sure. But those transports? I haven’t the slightest, and those ships have magnetoplasma engines like everything else and loads of organic electronics to boot. Those transport hulls are going to look the same way a chain link fence does to a needle, and I don’t think helicon couplers hold up too well to sub-atomic 75 mile-an-hour baseballs.”
“I was thinking about the radiation poisoning. The crews Stephen. Those rays are going to poison the crews, and then slice up the engines and leave them stranded.”
Stephen looked at Malcolm in disbelief.
“Can I have a printout of those numbers? I need to go have a word with Shielding.”
“You can do it then?” Malcolm stared straight into the eyes of Terry Thatcher, the chief engineer in charge of the shield generators.
“Yes…but…look…to dissipate those kinds of numbers we would have to increase the shield output by at least 30%”
“How long could they last running like that?”
“Day and half. Two. Tops.”
“Which would be okay. Right? The radiation dies down and takes the cosmic activity with it.”
“Yeah. We could pull them back once the brunt of the cosmic event has passed. What are you thinking?”
They were interrupted by a frantic comm transmission.
“Malcolm. We need you in command compartment. We’ve got radiation spike readings all across the station. I’ve got door two door faults on the Delta ring, and three warnings on Charlie.”
“I’m on my way.” Malcolm spoke to the comm before turning to the shield engineer.
“Stephen, I need you to give me 35% over capacity. Do it!”
Malcolm ran to module 320 that housed the command deck.
“It’s the solar storm sir. It’s interfering with the cosmic ray sensors. We never saw it coming.”