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The Hospital Ship - Page By Page

Part 1 - Chapter 1 - The Battle - Page_1

Everybody was well-drilled and disciplined. It was not a chaotic scene as one might expect.  There was not a clamour of noise nor frantic motion. Almost everybody sat at their stations quietly attending to their duties. In many ways, it were almost as though this was a moment drawn from a usual, mundane space voyage. Most communication occurred not from human to human, but was mediated through the automated command system which instantly accrued every bit of information and individual piece of decision making on-board the ship and any development in the environment beyond the ship which came to the notice of its computational sentience. Largely, it was the command system which decided what every person and every station needed to know. There was some movement and some noise. Commands were voiced loudly and sharply mostly from the centre of the room and from the Captain who stood rooted there, occasionally rotating his upper torso as though his feet were glued to the floor. Section chiefs sometimes rushed from station to station speaking in staccato form to the responsible individuals.

However, while individuals attended to the screens towards which their seats were orientated, all the while they sought secretively to crane their necks so that they could quickly glimpse a larger-scale impression of the life-and-death battle as it impacted upon the ship in which they sat hermetically sealed from the uncompromising, brutal vacuum of space. If one were suddenly beamed upon the bridge of the ship without any knowledge of the immediate context and of what had occurred before, it would be in the furtive glances and surreptitious movements of the seated operatives that the fraught nature of the atmosphere would to be comprehended.  At this point in time, what relevance to these individuals, the ordinary matters of the detail displayed upon their own consoles. So, if the bridge was a quiet and orderly place, the atmosphere was tremendously tense. Hearts beat fast and hard and lungs gasped and appeared unable inhale a sufficient quantity of oxygen. In short, this was a miniature world in which all present knew that at any moment their lives might be over.

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