Garcia was hearing sounds. Sounds, not voices for all that Jiminez liked to twit him about voices. The sounds that told him that everything was coming apart. That wouldn’t be so bad if they were home, buildings needed upkeep all the time in San Duramos, what with the wind, the sand and the occasional snow dump. No, the problem was that right now they were in a space ship and had been for months.
Albureda, home, was behind them and the double worlds of Hasta and Vista were still ahead; a pearl and a ruby dancing together in the dark of the fourth orbit from the sun. Every step of the way, now, the ship’s structure spoke to him of failure, of splitting open and spilling them into vacuum.
So he’d developed his ritual: check the maintenance supplies and work out what could be consumed each day and still leave enough to get them home; do the day’s scheduled maintenance; double check everything’s diagnostics; do any tasks that threw up; and then, if the sounds were still there, track them to their origin and do more maintenance. The captain, Delgado, thought he was just coping badly with the isolation and confinement of the voyage, but he knew something else was going on. He hadn’t heard sounds like this before, except for those few days during acceptance testing, but he’d spent six winter tours in Arctic and Antarctic stations and never heard a whisper. (Despite the issues at Borealis that time and everyone knew what that had led to.)
No-one complained about his ritual, it was mostly just him being very diligent, until Silva found him tracking down a particularly annoying scream in the forward bulkhead of her quarters. She complained to Delgado, who sent him to sick bay for rest and ‘observations.’ Ramirez had taken blood samples, checked him over, and then told him that he was fine. That was when Felicidad, the psychologist, came in dragging the first officer by the arm.
“He’s hallucinating now too,” Felicidad said shortly. “He spent an hour tossing Garcia’s quarters and gear for drugs and suddenly he’s hearing noises.”
“Why was he doing that?” Ramirez was almost indignant, “I’d tell you if you needed to look for anything.”
“Would you?” The two medical professionals were glaring at each other when Garcia's boss, the chief engineer arrived, followed by Delgado.
“Jiminez found these in Silva’s bulkhead. He says there shouldn’t have been any way of telling they were like this until they failed,” announced Delgado as Jiminez set down the terminally frayed components. “Now, who’d like to explain what’s been done to Garcia?”