World of Souls Ch. 5: Troubles in Warp Space

In the early years of warp travel, many ships were lost trying to jump through warp space. The ones that returned intact fueled the design for the future drives. Eventually, the failure rate of drives dropped to astronomical rarity. Occasionally there were ships that went missing, but nobody knew if they had gotten destroyed during travel or if another malfunction had happened.

At one time a group of scientists purposefully trapped themselves in warp space to better study the area. They had a plan to jump back out, but that didn’t pan out. The shuttle they used to test the exit procedure exploded the moment the engine fired up. Any subsequent designs also failed until a scientist made a discovery.

“Look, we’re using the same calculations to leave as we used to get here. These are the entrance calculations. We’re already here!”

The scientist’s assistant looked at her strangely. “Okay, I don’t follow.”

“We have two…well three calculations for warp travel. The first is the entry, the second (which isn’t important here) is distance, and the third is the exit back into regular space.”

“I thought the entry was the same equation as the exit only inverted.”

“No, there’s a few other calculations involved. I think it was just assumed they weren’t relevant because we weren’t moving through warp space.” The scientist turned to her computer and typed in afew lines of code. The screen showed a simulation of a shuttle. The shuttle disappeared from warp space without an explosion. “The only problem is that we no longer know where we are in relation to regular space…”

The assistant looked over the equations on the computer. “Hmm…but where are you going to find someone willing to test it? Everyone else has begun building a sustainable society. They’re all resigned to their perceived fate.”

“Then I’ll just have to try it myself, won’t I?”

– – –

The door leading to the warp drive was silent after the inner door shut. Blavet looked at Elinog and motioned at the door. “Should I try it or wait?”

Elinog shrugged. “No, I’ll open it. Keep your laser ready.”

“And you.”

Careful not to bang against the door with his radiation suit Elinog inched the door open. Blavet positioned himself to be able to see in the door when it was open enough, but not close enough that something could jump out at him.

The outer door opened and there was nothing inside. Blavet nodded at Elinog to continue. Elinog opened the door the rest of the way.

“So, do you think they’re inviting you in?” Janine’s voice crackled over the intercom. “They’ve collected at the other end of the warp bay.”

“Perhaps. Or it’s an ambush. What do you think, captain?”

Blavet scratched the chin of his radiation suit. “Well, there’s only one way to find out. Let’s go in. Lasers at the ready.”

Nodding Elinog went inside the door and Blavet followed. They closed the door behind them and waited for the all clear to open the other. It didn’t take long. It was exiting that the foam sprayers would activate, and the radiation would be scrubbed from the suits.

Elinog opened the inner door and stepped through. He saw a writhing mass of large, pink tentacles. He thought he could make out four of them before they charged forward.

Without thinking of the consequences Elinog immediately opened fire. Following Elinog’s lead Blavet also began firing his cutting laser.

The tentacles slowed their charge and assumed a more defensive stance, raising their heads high to strike. As they did so Elinog’s laser found an eye and killed one of them. The long body fell on Elinog, in a glancing blow. The laser cutter went flying from his hand. He immediately grabbed for the spare that was still attached to his suit but he didn’t make it in time.

Blavet watched in horror as one of the tentacles ripped through Elinog’s torso, launching greenish blood into the air. He quickly resumed firing, focusing on that tentacle. It went down and fell toward him. He attempted to side-step the body, but it pinned him against the wall. He felt a searing pain in his tail and passed out.

The other two tentacles ignored them now that they were not moving and made for the door. It shut behind them and the foam started spraying them.

– – –

Blavet awoke in the small medical bay. His tail felt stiff and he was unable to move it. He looked around the room and saw Janine working on Elinog. The lower half of his body was missing, but one of his lower arms remained. Blavet watched as Janine started to attach biomechanics to the bloody mess before he passed out again.

Allie watched the med bay cam from the cockpit as she tried to figure out which direction to head. She noticed Blavet wake up on the cam and saw him take in his surroundings before he slumped back on the bed. She was worried that he wouldn’t be able to function with only half a tail, but she was more concerned about their mechanic. If Janine couldn’t save him, they were going to have a hard time. Sure, Janine could do the mechanical work, but she didn’t know the ship like Elinog.

Allie sighed to herself and turned her attention back to piloting. She wasn’t sure what else could go wrong today. First, they got into a stutter, then the tentacles got onboard, then the tentacles tore through half of the crew.

When Elinog was attacked Janine had run out of the cockpit so fast Allie’s feathers were ruffled by the wind. When Blavet had gone down she wanted to run down there too, but she had to make sure that Janine wouldn’t get attacked by the tentacles.

Allie had rerouted the two tentacles to an airlock and launched them into drive space. They then changed their momentum and started heading for a point below and behind the ISS Dominiot.

Coming to a decision, she turned the ship around and started to go in the direction the tentacles were headed. Now that the tentacles were off the ship they seemed to know where they were going…

“Shast! They caused the stutter! They wanted to be here, in warp space!” She quickly typed her revelation into a document Janine had started on the tentacles.

– – –

Blavet paced in his room. His balance was a little off now that his tail was only a half meter in length. He still had a splint and a bandage on his tail and a wrap around his chest for a couple of cracked ribs. The bandaging could be removed in a few days.

He tried to think about his own injuries or how the tentacles could have gotten on board, but his thoughts kept going back to Elinog who was only barely alive, and Janine who was trying desperately to keep him that way.

Janine had installed every piece of biomechanical patch she could to his system, practically rebuilding the lower half of his torso. She had then started to attach cybernetics to him. They didn’t have the type of advanced products she needed in storage, so she had started to cobble him together using spare parts.

Unable to keep his mind off Elinog, Blavet decided he should visit the cockpit again. He had tried to relieve Allie of duty earlier, but she said that he was in no state to fly. She was right, but he felt like he needed to do something. He left his quarters and started back up to the cockpit.

Allie was annoyed to hear footsteps climbing the ladder. There was only one person it could be, and she knew the stupid emris would try to take over flying again. “You are in no state to fly.”

Ignoring the statement Blavet sat down in the co-pilot’s seat. “I see you swapped seats.”

“Yeah. Feels weird flying from the other chair.” Allie was relieved that he hadn’t insisted on giving her a break.

Blavet pulled up a side cam on his screen and watched the colors of warp space fly by. “You know, this place is beautiful.”

A clicking sound filled the cockpit as Allie laughed silently. “It’s a bad place for a date, though. You have to get trapped here to see the colors like this.”

Laughing slightly Blavet winced and doubled over. “Ah, don’t make me laugh. I have a couple of cracked ribs, remember?”

“Sorry. Just stating the truth.” Allie turned the ship to avoid a large rock. “Hey, can you check the receiver readout? It keeps flashing at me, but I don’t have the time to look.”

The readout appeared on Blavet’s screen as he pressed a few holo-buttons. “Hmm. We shouldn’t be getting any signal here. Maybe it’s just interference?”

Allie nodded. “Right, that’s what I’m thinking. Shouldn’t be anything intelligible.”

There was a pattern showing up on the visual signal display. It kept repeating the same thing. “Hmm…this seems manufactured. It’s like there’s a signal on a loop.”

“Well, let’s hear the audio then.” Allie flipped a switch on the pilot’s seat and interference started playing from the speaker. Her skravyn ears picked up a quiet repetitive section. “Okay, I don’twant you flying, but I need to clean this signal up. This could be important.”

“Okay. Taking the stick.” Blavet switched controls to the co-pilot cluster. “I’ll try not to ram us into a boulder.”

“Quiet. I need to hear.” Allie pulled up the filter controls for the receiver and started eliminating the obvious sounds.

– – –

Janine was glad to see Elinog’s vitals stabilize. She took a moment to down a coffee pod and force some nutrient paste down her throat. She didn’t have time to get real food. Just because Elinog was stable for now didn’t mean she could leave the room.

Parts were scattered all over the second, unoccupied bed. She didn’t think Blavet was ready to leave the med bay, but she needed the extra room. With great effort, she cut off Elinog’s remaining lower arm. She had hoped that it wouldn’t need to be removed, but the casing needed more bone to attach to, and the arm was in the way.

Designs for replacement arms were on display on her datapad. Mostly things she could think of while she was working on the emergency biomechanics. She screwed the last front plate into place and carefully turned Elinog over to connect the wires to his spinal column. She tested the wires before inserting them, then screwed on the last back-plate.

There wasn’t enough artificial skin on the ship to cover the whole apparatus, so she made sure to put pads on the bottom of the feet and a few other places. She jotted down a note to start growing a new batch of skin in the cargo bay when she had the time.

After she finished final checks on the cybernetics Janine started flooding Elinog’s system with nutrients and a wake-up stim. He slowly began to stir.

Elinog opened his eyes and saw Janine leaning over him, concern on her face followed by relief. He felt lighter and heavier at the same time. He opened his mouth to speak and found his throat was extremely dry. “Water” was all he managed to get out.

“Right.” Janine grabbed a dropper and filled it with water. She slowly dripped it into Elinog’s mouth. “Small swallows. You’ve been getting hydration from drips.”

It took a while for Elinog’s throat to feel wet enough to speak. “What happened? Last I remember a tentacle shot at me.”

“Well…I did what I could. There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just tell you. You lost the entire lower half of your body.”

Elinog propped himself up on his elbows and looked down his body. Just below his ribcage, he saw the silver and black plates. He lifted a leg to get a look. “Well, you did a good job. The leg looks right. I think I need some time to process, though.”

“Do you want to be alone?”

“No, doc. I want you here.” Elinog looked at Janine. “Thanks.” He tried to swing his legs over the edge of the bed. It took more effort than he was used to. “Ugh. Looks like I need to work on my upperbody strength.”

“Careful! The connections are still fresh.” Janine rushed to stabilize him. “You’re both more and less fragile than before. You need to be careful.”

Elinog nodded. “I understand…wait. Where did you get the parts for this?”

“Uhh…I had to raid your spares.” Janine said, sheepishly. “There weren’t enough cybernetics on the ship for this.”

“Okay. Well, we’ll just hope we don’t need anything you used then.” Elinog finished standing up. “Oh, I can feel the bottoms of my feet. Am I supposed to?”

Janine watched as Elinog took a few steps. “Yes, there’s not enough skin on the ship to cover the whole thing so I just dealt with the important places. I’ll grow more when I get the chance.”

“Right.” Elinog looked down at his sides. “So, about my lower arms. Can we do something about those?” He looked over and saw one of his arms on a tray with other, mashed organs. “Oh, I assume that neededto be removed?” He motioned at the tray.

Looking where Elinog was motioning Janine nodded. “Yeah, I needed more bone to secure the legs.”

“I assume the metal will keep them from regrowing.” Elinog sat back down. “Okay. Now I need to process alone.”

“Comm me if you need me.” Janine kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t try to fix anything by yourself. Talk to me first.”

“I will.”

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