Source: The Homesteader’s Guide—an ofﬁcial Jovian Republic publication for Reagan cylinder residents [Link]
Everyone knows on an intellectual level that space is a hostile environment. Since our survival depends on conquering the showers of radiation, wide temperature swings, and inﬁnite vacuum, we have a tendency to become complacent or, at least, push the risks to the backs of our minds. For many individuals, a complex web of technology and other people stand between them and the danger. Even in the event of an emergency, most rescue systems are designed to be so simple and so automatic that a child can follow the directions without an adult present.
We in the Republic don’t rely on machines to do our thinking for us, though. We face the danger with clear eyes and full vigilance against the unforgiving black. Though the Reagan cylinder is a triumph of engineering, external threats could one day penetrate the armor it provides. You need to know what to expect if the unthinkable should happen. This section of the Guide will help you remember what is important and may just save your life and those of your loved ones in the event of an emergency.
Fire is the most common and among the most feared dangers on a habitat because it affects everything. The ﬁre itself uses up vital oxygen and releases soot and toxic compounds into the air. Persistent burning can destroy internal systems and damage structural elements. If left unchecked, a ﬁre can spread quickly from its source, which is always a concern in an enclosed volume.
The easiest way to avoid a ﬁre hazard in everyday life is to keep separation between heat sources and potential fuel, such as trash, clothing, electronics, and food. Inadequately protected cabling is believed to be responsible for sparking the ﬂash ﬁre that killed America’s ﬁrst lunar explorers. Anything that emits fumes should also be extremely well-ventilated. One early cosmonaut died horriﬁcally when he threw an alcohol-soaked cotton swab into the trash near an open Bunsen burner ﬂame and it ignited in the pure oxygen environment.
Immediately report any signs of ﬁre. Initial warning signals are the charcoal smell of smoke, an acrid smell from burning plastic, an unusual mass of hot air, or smoke tendrils. If you locate an open, uncontrolled ﬂame, ﬁnd the nearest emergency alarm and follow the directions given by Control. In the event of a ﬁre alarm, follow the directions announced by Control or local Republic authorities.
A ﬁre on the Russian Mir station from a failed oxygen generator nearly destroyed an entire module before it was brought under control. However, the burning plastic and metal overwhelmed the station’s primitive environmental control system. The American astronaut on board at the time reportedly could still smell the ﬁre for months afterwards.
Residents who spend time in external microgravity modules should be aware that ﬁre is spherical in shape in microgravity. Such ﬁres also expand more slowly, as they do not draw in as much air as they do in gravity conditions. Many small ﬁres will actually put themselves out if there is a lack of air circulation.
This brings us to the issue of air pollution. Environmental systems are responsible for keeping the air we breathe clean. If those systems break down or are destroyed, you will need to control your emissions to help keep the air safe for everyone. Most storage containers are designed to absorb the natural off-gassing that occurs with nearly every manufactured material, so put your things away when not using them.
Biological emissions, such as bad breath, evaporated sweat, accumulated dust from skin cells, and ﬂatulence, can be a signiﬁcant contributor to local air pollution, so keep your body clean. If you notice that the airﬂow is low or inconsistent and you start to feel ill, move to a new location or call for help. Carbon dioxide from your exhaled breath might be building up to dangerous levels in your area.
If pollutants in the air and water are allowed to accumulate, the environmental and life support system will eventually be unable to cope and the ambient environment will be increasingly unsafe without personal protection equipment. A habitat is said to be “septic” if levels of toxic materials or the presence of pathogens (bacteria and viruses) that ﬂourish in the poor conditions are high enough to require full environmental gear. If you notice signs that your area is “going septic,” it is your civic duty to report what you ﬁnd to the local Republic authorities.
Look for cloudy or odd-colored water or particles settling out. This might be a sign of a broken ﬁlter. If your water pressure is low, immediately report it to Control as this could indicate a pump failure or a major leak. If the plumbing is pressure-fed, waste-water might backﬂow and cause local contamination. If you detect any sort of sewage in your water, notify Control and request a hazmat ﬂush of your system.
Thanks to the natural protection of a Reagan cylinder’s thick rock walls, decompression is rarely a concern for the main habitat spaces. However, this is something you should keep in mind if you work in the spaceport or a mine near the exterior surface. Decompression is also a plausible threat if a foreign adversary ever attempted to invade the cylinder. As a result, you should always remember the basics on exposure to vacuum.
A slow leak should give you time to put on a spacesuit or oxygen mask and/or evacuate to a secure location. Be careful if you’re working in an area without automatic sensors, though. Hypoxia could settle in and threaten your health if you aren’t paying attention. This might result from a broken external seal or a small penetration of the outer hull that does not affect the overall structural strength of the habitat.
Rapid, or “explosive,” depressurization is indicative of a more catastrophic structural or systems failure, such as outside attack or impact with a large piece of debris. By whatever cause, the sudden weakening of the pressure containment is overcome by the internal air attempting to equalize with the near-perfect vacuum outside. The suction force may eject you into open space if you are not tethered by a safety line. In an event like this, the affected sections will almost certainly be sealed to prevent further depressurization. Self-rescue may be your best option, if you are sealed out and can ﬁnd a way to an unaffected airlock before emergency personnel arrive.
Damaged Habitats and Systems
Only properly trained and licensed salvage operators are authorized to approach or enter derelict habitats. Some reclamation work of habitats critically damaged or abandoned during the war with the AIs is underway, but strict protocols are in place to prevent a Trojan horse from threatening our people. Even abandoned stations conﬁrmed to be untainted by their presence are still dangerous places. Much of the knowledge gained by the brave salvagers could be useful in an evacuation during enemy attack, so heed their lessons.
Severe structural damage makes for protrusion, debris, and sharp edge hazards to gloves and suits. This is especially true for soft suits and mechanical compression garments. Always be careful where you grab with your hands and move your arms and legs. Many abandoned habitats are also either exposed to vacuum or have unbreathable internal volumes. The interior surfaces might even be covered with vented toxic materials, including chemicals that can degrade suit materials upon contact or warming in sunlight.
Dormant security systems with independent power supplies could perceive entrants as a threat and react accordingly. Damage to their control hardware and/ or software would render them unresponsive even to people with the required ident codes or security keys. Scrambled mesh systems can “snow” sensors with junk data or even be used as a vector for attacking perceived intruders.
Damaged power systems are a particularly severe hazard. Never touch an exposed power cable without conﬁrming it is not electriﬁed. Keep in mind that suits with protection against electric shock may not be able to withstand the heat loading from a high voltage line. The greatest dangers from ﬁssion power generators are the heated working ﬂuids and the radioactive materials at the core. A breakdown in the power generation loop can vent superheated steam at high pressure. A failure in the cooling loop or containment system, such as from battle damage or a core meltdown, could contaminate the reactor spaces such that specialized suits would be required for safe access. In the event of a catastrophic failure of a fusion reactor, the reacting plasma could be vented like a torch. Also, fusion fuels that emit neutrons during the reaction irradiate the containment shell over time. The destruction of an old fusion reactor could, thus, scatter radioactive metal.
Abandoned habitats that are known to have suffered at the twisted machinations of the TITANS or are suspected of infection are typically sterilized with x-ray lasers and guided into an impact course with Jupiter to ensure no trace of the enemy remains. Entire projects have been lost when a work crew stumbled upon and inadvertently activated a trap left behind. We mourn their loss, but remain thankful the containment procedures continue to work.
If you notice changes in your own behavior or that of the people you know after doing work on a reclamation project, report to Control for a medical evaluation. Anti-social or sociopathic behavior, paranoia, speaking in tongues, and impulsive activity are warning signs. Also watch for inexplicable disorientation, seizures, hallucinations, and chronic nausea. Physical changes can include unusual growths, inhuman body features, skin alterations, and even physiological transformation—all in a matter of hours.
Also monitor your equipment for inexplicable malfunctions or outright subversion. Please report rapid or degenerative changes in people or equipment to Control immediately. If you are self-reporting, assist with the quarantine process. Control will assign you to the nearest rescue zone to limit any infection. Turn off any inserts or portable devices. Do not attempt to re-sync with the mesh. The proper authorities will locate you, secure the site, and provide you with instructions to be followed to the letter and without question. This is for your own safety and that of others.
Sadly, we must also remember that not everyone accepts the truth we have found in the Jovian Republic. Criminals and anarchists alike threaten our stability and security because of our belief in the sanctity of every human life as nature intended. More than a few have attempted to use abandoned habitats as covert bases of operation from which to launch unprovoked attacks on Republic information systems and citizens. Others use derelict stations as waypoints for the trafﬁcking of dangerous and illicit materials, including understandably forbidden TITAN relics. If you come across evidence of subversive activity or identify a criminal outﬁt in the course of your work, report your ﬁndings to the security services without delay. You may just be the next Hero of the Republic.