“Slow down!” Janine yelled down the corridor. “You don’t
have to run so fast! Actually, you shouldn’t! I don’t know the layout of this
station, we could find a maintenance room anywhere!” She was starting to lose
her breath, when Allie suddenly stopped. Thankful for the respite Janine leaned
her bulbous salawoman hands on her legs. “Do you see something?” She managed to
get the question out between gasps.
Allie turned her microphone off. “Mute your mic. I want to
talk.” She idly scratched her beak with her taloned hand.
With a sigh Janine muted her microphone, making sure she
was still receiving audio and could quickly turn it back on in case of an
emergency. “There, it’s off. What’s up?”
“I’m going to preface this with something that should be obvious.”
Allie started walking slowly along the corridor, expecting Janine to follow
suit. “Relationships on the ISS Dominiot between crew members is allowed. Obviously,
the captain and myself are in a relationship, and it seems you and Elinog are
Janine blushed slightly. “Yeah, it seemed a little quick,
but we just hit it off. But I don’t get it. Where is this going?”
“Did you have real feelings for him before the accident?”
“What? Of course I did.” Janine said, confusion in her
voice. “What exactly are you insinuating?”
“Look, I’m not insinuating anything. I’m just looking
after someone who’s been like a brother to me. Calm down, please.”
AB-775, Blavet, and Elinog’s voices came over the comm as
they started to talk about the split in the corridor. Janine and Allie were
approaching one as well.
Allie and Janine stopped walking and turned to face each
other. “Ok,” said Janine, “I think I know where this is going. Go ahead and
With a sigh Allie complied. “Are you just seeing him as a project
now that he’s lost his legs and lower arms, or do you still have real feelings
Janine shook her head. “Look, I know where the question is
coming from, but I still don’t like that you’re asking it. No, I don’t just see
him as a project. I loved him before, and I love him now. It might be a little
hard for him to reciprocate that for a while, which is why I’m so focused on
making him better.”
“Good. That’s exactly the answer I was looking for.” Allie
turned back toward the corridor and motioned to either side. Which way do you
want to go?”
“Heroes go left, but that would lead us towards the guys.
Let’s continue forward. Sounds like they’re investigating the rooms.” Janine
listened to the comm for a moment. “Seems like they’re all crew quarters.”
“Fine, oh, and you can ask me any question, seeing as I
just probed into your relationship.” Allie moved forward and the door in front
of her slammed shut, blocking the path. “Uhh…what was that?”
A crackling noise emanated from a nearby speaker followed
by the monotone voice of a station AI. “I would not recommend going in that
direction, organics. Please take the right corridor.”
Janine glanced up at a camera next to the speaker. “Looks
like we don’t have much choice in the matter…right it is.”
With a curt nod Allie turned toward the right corridor and
began walking down it. “Maybe you should unmute your comm and let the guys know
wha-” The sentence was cut short as a group of bipedal creatures spilled out of
a side corridor and advanced on Allie.
Unsure what was happening Janine unmuted the comm as she
saw Allie get tackled. Reacting on instinct Janine pulled her skravyn companion
from the onslaught of mad beings and pulled her into one of the crew quarters.
She severed the wires leading to the door and shut it manually.
Allie screamed as the door shut. “What was that?” Blavet’s
voice was full of fear. “Allie! Janine! Can you hear me?!”
Allie’s comm had been unmuted and she started cawing into
her comm, followed by Janine’s voice on her own comm. “Something’s here, on
station! Be careful! I’m getting Allie to safety!”
“I’m going to track your mental traces. Elinog, Abe, and I
will be there as soon as we can.”
“Ok, good.” Janine turned to face Allie. “Allie, speak to
me, are you okay?”
Allie tried to respond but was only able to caw. She tried
to remember how to form speech with her tongue and beak, but nothing was coming
out right. She grabbed for her datapad and quickly typed something into it,
sending it to Janine’s datapad.
“I can’t talk,” Janine read from the datapad. “I’m scared
and confused, but I don’t seem to be injured in any other way. What were those
things?” Janine shook her head. “Allie, those looked like they were people
once.” Janine pulled a small welding torch from her small pack. “I’m going to
weld up this door so they won’t be able to get in. You should warp yourself in
the blanket on the bed. You might just be suffering from shock. I’ll be with
you in a moment.”
Allie nodded and pulled the blanked from the quarter’s
bed. She shook the dust from it and wrapped it around herself. She cawed
quietly to herself, trying to whisper encouragement to herself and quickly
decided that wasn’t going to help.
– – –
“Why did you tell her you were going to track their mental
traces? Do you have the experience to do that?” Elinog was jogging behind
Blavet, his metal legs making dull thuds through his synthetic skin grafts.
“Normally, no, but I can feel the fear radiating from
Allie. You heard what Janine read from the datapad. She’s scared out of her
“You realize we’re still on comms?” Janine’s voice
crackled through the speaker.
“Yes, and Allie? I love you. Don’t forget that. You may be
scared, but I’m on my way.” Blavet doubled his pace.
AB-775 turned to Elinog, who was struggling to keep up. “Hey,
I can track comm signals, if you want to slow down a little.”
“Yeah, I do.” Elinog slowed his pace slightly. “Blavet,
you go. We’ll be right behind you.”
Blavet, Elinog, AB-775, Allie, and Janine approached the
airlock. The outer door was open, and the airlock was empty. There was no
viewport to see inside the station.
“Well,” Blavet motioned at the airlock, “looks like it’s
into the airlock or nothing.”
Elinog nodded. “I agree, but once we get in there what do
we do? If we meet someone then we discuss payment for docking and refuel, but
what if there isn’t anyone on the station?”
“If we meet no one we split up. Elinog will go with me,
and the girls will go with Abe.” Blavet motioned at AB-775. “After that we look
for things to salvage.”
“Why are we splitting up like that? I think Elinog and I
should be together.” Janine motioned at Elinog’s legs. “I can repair those, you
With a nod Blavet motioned them into the airlock. “Because
if you want to do that we might as well stick together. The idea is that both
groups can identify parts we need to replenish on the ship. It’ll go faster if
we split up.”
“Makes logical sense, but why is Abe going with us?” Allie
motioned at Elinog’s legs. “You have someone with an impairment. You should
Blavet nodded. “I suppose it does make more logical sense.
Very well.” He patted AB-775 on the head. “Looks like you’re coming with us,
The air finished cycling and the inner airlock door opened
to an empty corridor going in two different directions. There was no welcoming
party. Along the walls opposite the airlock were lockers with keys in them.
There was a sign above the lockers.
“It says ‘choose a locker, put your things in, lock it,
and take the key.’ It looks like communal lockers.” AB-775 motioned at the
lockers. “Seems like a good place to leave your vac suits. The air is a little
dry, but it has the right mix of gasses.”
A camera above the Dominiot’s crew turned towards them and
focused on them.
“I don’t know, would it be safer to wear the vac suits or
to deposit them?” Blavet looked at his ungainly suit then over at Blavet’s
clunky one. “One second thought, we’d be more mobile without them.” He double
checked his exterior air readout. “My readout confirms Abe’s analysis. A little
low on moisture, but otherwise breathable.”
Janine and Allie put their suits in lockers, then turned
to help Elinog out of the remaining portion of his suit. Blavet was already
“You know, maybe we should state our intent, just to be
safe.” Elinog looked around the empty corridor. “This is the crew of the ISS
Dominiot. We are here for repairs, refuel, and foodstuffs. If anyone is here,
please respond.” His voice echoed along the corridor. “Well, no answer. Let’s
split up. I think our group will go left.”
“That’s fine with me.” Allie turned to the right and
started walking, laser cutter at the ready, but pointed at the floor.
Janine shrugged at Elinog and turned to follow Allie. “Wait
for me, I’m the one who knows what we’re looking for!”
“Switch to open comms! We need to be inconstant
communication!” Blavet yelled after them, turning on his own comm.
Allie’s voice crackled over the comm. “They’re on. Yeesh.”
Blavet, Elinog, and AB-775 walked or rolled down the corridor.
After a few dozen meters the corridor split in two directions. The one on the
left seemed to continue around the outside of the station, while the one on the
right seemed to go into crew quarters.
“Still no terminals?” Blavet glanced around the
intersection. “I would have expected some sort of access point by now. Have you
seen anything, Abe?”
AB-775 glanced around the corridor. “I haven’t seen any
interface devices yet, but maybe they’re further in. It seems we’re in the
visitor area. Maybe they didn’t give computer access to visitors.”
“Or nothing here runs on computers.” Elinog shrugged. “But
then, the air probably wouldn’t be breathable still.”
Blavet shrugged and took the right corridor. “Well, we
didn’t find anything up until now. Time to move deeper into the station.”
After another ten meters or so they came across a four-way
intersection. There was finally another sign. It had arrows pointing left,
right, and forward.
“The sign says quarters left and right. Market forward.”
AB-775 looked around. “Whatever happened here seems to have been clean. There’s
no debris anywhere inside.”
“Odd, it seemed like a war zone outside. All that junk
must’ve been ships.” Blavet shook his head. “This makes no sense.”
“We’re in warp space, and there’s a research station. We
left sense behind a long time ago.” Elinog shrugged. “Let’s go left again.
Maybe we’ll find something in the quarters. A clue, maybe?”
“Or a survivor, however unlikely.” Blavet rubbed the end
of his tail idly. “Yeah, quarters. Let’s go.”
After a short interval the sides of the corridor had doors
spaced every three meters. Every door was open.
“Odd, none of the doors are shut.” Elinog looked through
one of the doors with his bulbous salaman eyes. “Looks like someone has been
using the bed as a nest.”
“Or something.” Blavet looked at the blankets on the
floor. “Looks like something that sleeps curled up like a dog.”
Elinog nodded, scratching at a fresh patch of synthetic
skin. “Yeah, looks like it. I wonder what it is?”
“We’ll probably meet up with it sooner or later.” Blavet
looked at the dresser in the room. “The dresser is covered with dust. Nobody’s
used it in a long time…I wonder-”
A piercing scream over the open comm cut Blavet off.
“What was that?” Blavet’s eyes were wide. “Allie! Janine!
Can you hear me?!”
There was cawing from the other end of the comm followed by Janine’s voice. “Something’s here, on station! Be careful! I’m getting Allie to safety!”
Dominiot continued following its trajectory. The signal was getting closer and
the crew was on edge. The third root language had been found, Earthish.
Earthish was the term for the human language after years of the languages of
Earth co-mingling on the generation ship that saved humanity from its dying
sun. Now, most humans called New Earth home, a planet as close to Earth as they
were likely to ever find. This information rushed through Blavet’s head as he
looked at the report from AB-775.
Blavet turned to face the crew, “we’re coming up on an old research station.”
He paused to let the absurdity sink in. “The signal is on continuous loop. AB
put a translation together.” Placing a fingertip to his tablet Blavet sent the
translation to the three crew members in front of him.
This message is on a loop, please do not respond.
This is research station 093 dash 702. If you are stuck in warp space come to our coordinates. There’s a way back, but you aren’t going like it. If you choose to stay, we have formed a colony on the station.
This message is on a loop, please do not respond.
“Now that we have this message we were able to isolate old text data from the broadcast and now know where we are in real-space coordinates.” Blavet signaled AB and the holoscreen in the hold flickered to life. “We entered warp space here.” A zoomed-in galaxy map appeared, a red dot started pulsating. The surrounding sector was mostly unmapped space. “And this is where we are.” The map zoomed out, moved to a well mapped section of space and zoomed back in. There was a green, pulsating dot there that was slowly moving towards a blue dot. “We’ve spent this entire time moving at warp speeds and are close to New Earth now.”
Allie nodded. “Right. We move through warp space at the same speed as real space, but usually with a shockwave effect distorting our view.” She shrugged and glanced at AB-775. “I had AB walk me through the warp travel process. We punch a hole into a ‘dimension’ with shorter distance between things, spend a predetermined amount of time there, and pop back to real space after.”
“We tend to assume we move faster here, in
warp space, but we actually keep our velocity.” Blavet shrugged. “Things we
don’t normally need to worry about.” He motioned at the map. “Gravity from real
space is detectable here by our instruments but doesn’t seem to have any affect
on the matter around us.”
“Wait,” Janine spoke up, concern in her
voice, “the closer we get to New Earth the more ships there are jumping to
“And collisions become more likely.”
Blavet finished Janine’s thought and started typing on his tablet. “Configuring
collision avoidance for autopilot.”
“The odds of another ship ramming us in
three-dimensional space are astronomically unlikely.” AB-775 commented. “I’d
give you the number, but it’s very long and I would bore you before I
Blavet nodded. “That’s why I was fine with
putting the ship on auto-pilot.” He shut off the holo screen and motioned to a
small pile of cutting and welding lasers. “The only real personal gun on this
ship is now hidden under my jacket, but I want the three of you to be armed
when we dock with this station. We don’t know anything about them other than
they’ve been trapped here for a long time.” He looked each of his crew members
in the eyes. “If you are attacked do not hesitate to shoot, but only kill if
your life is in immediate danger.”
The crew nodded one by one.
“Good. Elinog, I want you to set up a
practice range here in the hold. I want everyone to spend at least an hour a
day back here practicing. Is that clear?”
“Aye, captain!” The three subordinates
Allie and Blavet started leaving the cargo
bay as Elinog started setting up targets and Janine helped. After walking a
short distance Blavet felt a tug at the back of his shirt. He turned around to
see AB-775 staring at him.
“May we talk in private, captain?”
An odd request from an astrogation droid,
but Blavet decided to oblige him. “Allie, you can fly solo while I talk to AB,
Allie shrugged. “Sure, I’ll expect you to
do most of the flying when you get back, though.”
With a curt nod Blavet followed AB-775
into the medbay and shut the door behind them. “What’s up AB?”
“I request permission to use a laser
cutter in defense of the crew.” AB-775 looked at Blavet, but with his flat,
motionless features Blavet couldn’t read anything into the statement.
“Doesn’t your programming prohibit the use
of weapons?” Confusion was easily read off Blavet’s Emris face, his three
focused on AB-775.
“My programming allows the use of weapons
to preserve this bot and crew members, but only if continuing function or life
are in danger.” AB-775’s camera lights seemed to increase in intensity. “If I
had been in the reactor room with you my computation matrix shows a 75% chance
that Elinog would be whole still.”
thought Blavet, I didn’t know bots could
feel, even if it’s driven by programming that sounds like he regrets not being
there. “Okay, you have my permission to use any means necessary to protect
the crew’s life when in immediate, life-threatening, danger.”
“I understand the need for clear, exact,
commands when dealing with the life of the crew and will disregard your
unintended implication that without a clear command I might act rashly.” AB-775
rolled past Blavet, opened the door, and began moving back to the cargo bay.
Shaking his head Blavet sat down on one of
the two beds in the medbay. “What programming did you install on our
astrogation bot, dad? I wish you would’ve told me.” A deep sigh exited his
lungs as he stood. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to find out the hard way.”
Three days after translating the signal
the station was visible on sensors.
Allie looked at the readout. “The power’s
on, but I’m not seeing any exterior movement. Could mean nothing, but they aren’t
responding to our hails for docking clearance.” He ebony feathers shuddered as a
feeling of dread washed over her. “I hope nothing’s wrong.”
“I think that sentiment is shared by the whole
crew.” Blavet slipped into the co-pilot seat. “Strap in everyone, we’re going
in with or without clearance. We need to know how to get out of here.”
Elinog and Janine strapped into the other
“I’m not sure that’s the best idea,
captain.” Janine voiced her concern. “What if they see us as a threat and open
“Then you better hope what extra plating
you were able to place is enough to block defense lasers.” Blavet took ship
controls and began to approach the station directly. “I’m hoping they’ll hail
us before that happens.”
The station slowly became visible to the
naked eye. Blavet had angled the ship’s trajectory to give a clear line of
sight. It soon became apparent that the station had a lot of debris collisions.
The exterior was dented in many locations and a small ring of debris orbited
the station in a ring.
As the ISS Dominiot approached the scanners picked out an open docking bay. With the doors open the bay would be nothing but hard vacuum.
“We have a suit big enough for Elinog,
right?” Blavet passed the controls over to Allie and turned to face Janine and
Elinog. “If not, we’ll have to figure out how to get him inside. There’s been
absolutely no activity and we’ve made our intent fairly obvious. I think it’s
likely that the station is abandoned.”
Janine had been monitoring the sensor data.
“I agree, the power doesn’t seem to fluctuate at all. In short, the data backs
up your conclusion. It’s either abandoned, or the people have lost all
knowledge of how to run the station.”
“The second option seems less likely, but
that’s the one I’m hoping for.” Elinog shook his head. “Yes, there’s a suit
that fits me. It’s just bulky. That’s why AB had to help Janine with the
The ship started to match the station’s rotation.
It took a moment for the internal compensators to correct the gravity generators.
“Okay, I have to put it on auto-pilot until our velocity matches the docking
bay. Just hope nothing fires on us.”
Blavet nodded. “Alright, you two go start
suiting up. I’ll join you in a moment.”
Janine and Elinog gave a small salute and
“So,” Allie asked after the salamen had
vacated the cockpit, “why did you send them ahead?”
“So they wouldn’t groan in disgust when I
did this.” Blavet grabbed Allie’s head and kissed her beak. “I love you,
remember that in case something happens.”
Allie blushed under her feathers. “I love
you too. Prepare for the worst all you want. We’ll be fine.” She squeezed
Blavet’s shoulder. “Now, go. I’ll join you after we’ve landed.”
The five crew members, including AB-775,
stood in the only airlock on the ship. Elinog carried a folding ladder with him,
the airlock was a couple of meters from the ground.
“Okay, last checks. Look over your partner’s
suit. Anything looks wrong check it. We don’t want anyone losing pressure. We
don’t know if there’s any air on this station. A slow leak is a slow death.” Blavet
started looking over Allie’s suit again. After a few moments of checking seals
and hoses everyone gave the all clear. “Cycling airlock.” Pressing a few buttons
on the console Blavet initiated the airlock sequence. Air was being pulled from
the small room to be used to pressurize when they reentered the ship.
Once the airlock opened Elinog placed the
ladder in its slot and flipped it down where it slowly unfolded. “Ladder down.”
He started climbing down it, head-first. He had chosen a longer ladder, so it
would function more like stairs than a ladder. He turned to face the ship from
the bottom. “Alright, next.”
Allie, Blavet, Elinog, and Janine stood at
the bottom of the ladder staring up at AB-775. It was looking like they might
need to leave him behind. He couldn’t make it down the ladder and he was too
heavy to be carried.
“Fine,” Blavet said over the comm, “I
guess there’s no reason not to do this. The knowledge that I can do this could save
us.” He reached toward AB-775 with his hand and the bot started to float above
“Warn me next time. My sensors are going
crazy.” AB-775 complained as Blavet slowly lowered him to the docking bay deck.
Janine stared at Blavet. “You’re a telekinetic,
and didn’t think to tell your doctor?” She shook her head. “I take it you two
knew?” She looked at Elinog.
“Yes, but he told us not to tell you
except in emergencies.” Elinog shrugged. “It didn’t occur to me to say
something, being in critical condition.” He looked at Allie. “I assume you were
too emotional to say anything.” It was obvious he was making a statement more
than a question and Allie just nodded.
Walking between them Blavet started heading for the nearest airlock. “I was born in warp. I can do things. Now is not the time to discuss this, agreed?”
Elinog was starting to get used to his new
legs and was able to start working on maintenance with Janine. He was a little
slower with only one set of arms, but he was working through it.
“Janine, can you hand me a crescent wrench? I
don’t seem to have the right size wrench.”
There was a rustling sound and then Janine
passed the tool to Elinog. “There, hon. Do you need me to work on anything
“No, unless you want to start testing
sub-systems. Nothing else is in need of repairs now.”
“Hey, I finished growing another batch of
skin. Do you want to get it applied tonight?”
The sound of a bolt tightening echoed out of
the crawl space. “Got it! What did you ask? A skin patch?”
“Yeah, do you want it applied tonight?”
“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do.
Sometimes I think it’s better not to have them until I’m used to this, though.
These legs bang around a lot.” There was a dull thud. “Ow. See?”
Janine chuckled. “That’s what the skin’s for.
To help you get better control over them.”
“Right. Sure. Let’s do that tonight.” Elinog
inched backwards out of the crawlspace. “Maybe until then we can work on those
replacements for my lower arms. I’m getting some phantom pain.”
Janine’s large eyes rolled. “I gave you meds
Pulling himself out of the crawlspace the rest
of the way Elinog nodded to her. “Yeah, but at the rate you prescribed them
we’re going to run out.”
“The fungus is growing fine for now.”
“Right, but once we get to where we can’t cut
off more I’ll go cold turkey. I’d rather ween off now.”
Janine nodded. “Makes sense, I’m just worried
– – –
Now that Blavet’s ribs were healed Allie let
him fly while she and AB-775 worked on cleaning up the signal. It had major
distortion and with every pass they found they had filtered out something from
the signal and had to start over sections.
Allie climbed the ladder into the cockpit.
“So, cap, you haven’t impacted any warp-stuff. I’m proud of you.”
“Still want to try flying through one of these
clouds, though. Have you and AB-775 found anything interesting yet?”
“Interesting, yes. Intelligible, not yet.”
Allie sat in the co-pilot’s seat and leaned back. “So, Elinog seems to be doing
“Yeah, thanks to Janine. I’m glad that zarx
recommended her back on the station.”
“I wish one of them would take a shift at the
controls, though. I want some time with you, too.” Allie flipped the controls
over to her console. “Go take a break. Bring me a coffee pod back, too.”
Blavet stood and stretched. His short tail
still felt wrong. “Maybe once Elinog has his arms Janine can outfit me with a tail
extension. Feels wrong to be so short.”
“I don’t think we have enough parts on the
ship for that. It’s a different thing than arms. Requires a lot of motors and
joints.” Allie cocked her head. “During your break maybe you can listen to the
signal AB-775 and I worked out so far. He doesn’t have thaumatish in his
languages, and I really don’t know much of it.”
“Is it in thaumatish?”
“It’s in some language we don’t know. It’s
worth a shot. Now go get me that coffee pod.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Blavet started climbing down the
ladder. “Wait, when did you become Captain?”
“When we started dating.”
– – –
AB-775 sat in the corner of the cargo bay near
a console, crunching data. The screen showed several languages rushing across
it. Each in turned red and disappeared from the screen. At the top a readout
read: Languages Tested: 98, Approximate Matches: 0
“AB,” Blavet approached from the corridor, “how’s
the search going.”
AB-775’s cameras lit up and he stood up. “Ah,
Captain. I’m using the ship’s language database. Haven’t found any matches yet.”
“Let me listen to the transmission. Allie
thinks I might know the language.” Blavet pull earbuds from a pocket and
plugged them into the console’s sound port.
“If it’s in the database I’ll be able to pick
Blavet shook his head. “There’s a couple
languages in my head that aren’t in the database. Trust me.”
“Okay, Cap. Feeding it in. I’ll have it on low
volume, tell me if it needs to go up.”
A slow, lilting language flowed into Blavet’s
ears. It was distorted in places, but it sounded familiar. “Hmm. Sounds like
maybe a dialect of Shiltarin or Drestalik. Maybe a combination of the two? Have
you checked those yet?”
AB-775 paused his search algorithm and tested
the two languages. “No, they aren’t quite a match. It contains words both
languages don’t have. Maybe a third language?”
“Okay, I’ll keep listening, but I’m not sure
what else it could be. Resume your search.”
The display updated: Tested Languages: 100,
Approximate Matches: 2
“Random language selection, then?”
“I find you tend to discover correlations faster
“Carry on, then.”
Blavet nodded and unplugged his earbuds.
Shoving them in his pocket he looked around the cargo bay for Janine and
Elinog. “Hey, do you know where our salamen are?”
“Thanks.” Blavet walked off toward the
corridor. “Oh, and alert me immediately if you decode the transmission.”
AB-775’s camera’s light’s shut back off.
Blavet walked down the corridor and heard some
cursing from the medical bay. He paused at the door and knocked. “Is this a bad
“Shast! That’s sharp!” Elinog complained. “Oh,
Captain. If you’re fine with seeing me get cut up by another crew member, come
The doors whooshed open and Blavet saw Elinog
strapped down and Janine holding a fresh skin graft down on his leg. “Doesn’t
look all that bad to me.”
“It feels bad. She says she can’t give me
painkillers first. Needs me lucid.”
Janine scowled at Elinog. “I gave you a mild
painkiller. You’re the one that wanted to conserve medicine.”
“Okay, you two. Stop bickering like an old
married couple. I wanted to ask about the state of the ship.”
“We were not bickering!” Elinog and Janine
said in unison. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Blavet shook his head. “So, ship status
“Sorry, Cap.” Elinog grabbed his datapad. “There’s
nothing major wrong. Some systems are getting corrosion faster. Probably
because we’re in warp space. The exterior of the ship probably needs more
plating.” Elinog motioned at his legs. “It’s a job for two mechanics, but we’ll
need to modify a suit. My legs are a little too wide now.”
“I worked with what I had.” Janine finished
applying the new skin. “Ok. This will hurt.” She pulled out a suture device and
set it on its way.
Elinog bit his lower lip and motioned at
Janine to continue the report.
“Right. So, there’s a little bit of radiation
from warp space, but it’s usually not a problem. We’re getting a larger dose
than usual, so the plating is for that, in addition to the corrosion.”
Blavet pulled out his
datapad. “Do we have the material for that?” He started scrolling through a
list of parts.
“Not in inventory.
We’d have to take off some interior panels and plate them with lead.” Janine
sent a file to Blavet’s tablet from her own. “These are ones that aren’t
important to the function of the ship.”
The list was shorter
than Blavet expected. “Ah, mostly ceiling panels and the wall panels in the
cargo bay. That’s not enough for the whole ship, though.”
There was a beep and
green light emanated from the suture tool. Janine pulled it off and checked the
stitches. “Ok, good to go.”
Elinog nodded at
Blavet. “Yeah, we were thinking we could try to mine an asteroid, but even if
we could the smelting would be problematic. We can’t process plates that big.
We’d use really small ones.”
“There’s also the
problem of no mining equipment on the ship.” Janine sighed. “Our collision
lasers aren’t made for mining.”
“Well, hopefully we
won’t need the plating, but get started. I’m hoping we’re getting close to the
signal. We’ve identified two possible language roots but need at least a third
to make it out.”
Janine nodded. “Hopefully
it’s not someone who needs help. We’re in no shape for that.”
interjected, “if they need help and have a wrecked ship we can use it as
“Right, let’s cross
that bridge when we get to it. Once we get out of here we still have a job to
do.” Blavet turned to leave the med-bay. I’m getting some rest. You should too.”
He started to walk away then turned back. “Oh, and Janine? You have next shift
at the stick.”
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.”
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.”
A small, pinkish vine climbed the landing strut of the shuttle. It disconnected from the ground and hid in the mechanism for retracting the strut. When it came time for takeoff the vine went unnoticed. Once the lander was securely attached to the ship the vine searched for a way onboard. It had only a limited time before it died of exposure to hard vacuum, and barely found a way to activate the airlock in time. It shed the dead outer layers of its cells and searched for the pantry. It needed to gain strength for the next part of The Great Plan. Continue reading →
“You know the likelyhood of the first planet we visit being The World of Souls is astronomically small, right?”
“I know, but I’m going to send the pictures to Elinog to check.” Blavet hit send and the tablet showed an icon of an ancient cell tower with a red x over it. It read ‘signal not found’. “Oh. No signal in the cave. I guess we can finish in here first.”
“No, go out and send the message then continue getting samples. I’ll get a few more while you do that.” Allie returned to picking mushrooms and getting samples of other flora.
Nodding at Allie’s sage advice Blavet returned to the mouth of the cave. Once there he sent the message and waited for Elinog to respond to him.
– – –
There was a beeping noise coming from Elinog’s comm as he extricated himself from Janine. “Hold on. Gotta get that. Probably the boss calling to see if we’re still hard at work.”
Janine grabbed her clothes off the floor of the shuttle and hurriedly put them on. “Or they’re on the way back. They were rounding it off with a cave somewhere.”
The screen on the comm took a moment to light up. “I might need to grab a new one from the rack. This one’s a little laggy.” He opened the message from Blavet. “Whoa. Those are some big scratch marks.”
Elinog’s shirt collided with his face and during the struggle to get it off of his giant, salaman eyes Janine took his comm. “Those may be more than scratches. Get dressed. We have some cave walls to examine.”
“Fine, but we continue this later.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Janine tossed the comm back to Elinog, her bulbous fingers sending it in a weird spiral.
– – –
Allie splashed water at Blavet from the stream in the center of the cave. They had been waiting around for half an hour and she was getting bored.
“Oh, that’s how you want to play it?” Blavet pulled his water bottle from his satchel and held it, cap towards her. “Don’t make me do it!” Allie splashed him again. “You’ve done it now!” He took the cap off the bottle and started chasing after Allie. “Get back here!”
By the time Elinog and Janine arrived on the scene both Allie and Blavet were soaked with water and lying on the floor of the cave, exhausted.
Taking in the scene Elinog decided to just start setting up the lights. “Hey, we’re here. I’ll start setting up the lights and you guys go help Janine. We brought the lander over, it’s all fixed up now.”
“Your shirt’s on backwards.” Allie said as she rushed by Elinog to help Janine with equipment. “With those big eyes I would’ve thought you’d notice.”
Blavet grinned at Elinog. “So, we do all the work and you guys play?”
Elinog rolled his large eyes. “Oh, and you didn’t?”
“We just splashed water at each other. Nothing more. I can tell by the state your clothes are in that you did a lot more.”
“Stow it captain. We’ve got work to do.” Elinog tossed a light stand at Blavet. “These lights are a two person job.”
The light stand was deftly caught by Blavet’s tail and he began working on the lighting with Elinog. “Just keep your mind on the task at hand,” Blavet murmured.
“I said stow it!”
“That was to me, not you.”
– – –
Allie saw Janine straightening her light jacket before trying to lift up a large case. “This thing is heavier than I thought.”
“I think the gravity here is stronger than ship gravity.” Allie grabbed one end of the box. “Here, let me help.”
Janine picked up the other end of the box and they carried it into the cave. The writing surprised her and she almost dropped her end of the box. “Those look a lot different in the picture. Those scratches are not random.”
“Isn’t this going to just look the same as the pictures Blavet took?”
The box was gently set down next to a large stand with no lights on it. “No, this is a holo-cam. This should be able to register the depth of the scratches. Then we can run it through our database. If that comes up with nothing we’ll send it to SECO to have them check it.” Janine saw the questioning look in Allie’s eyes. “We’ll send it to them either way. I just want to see if we can send it with information. They may not tell us if they find something out. We’ll move on to the next solar system either way.”
Blavet and Elinog finished the last light setup and hurried over to help with the holo-cam. The device was larger than it probably needed to be. The technology had existed for centuries, but the size hadn’t decreased any noticable amount.
“This thing is large, but it’s pretty light.” Blavet was holding onto part of the holo-cam with his tail in addition to his hands.
“Yeah. It’s mostly just awkward. That’s why it comes with a stand like this.” Elinog carefully followed Janine’s lead. Making sure not to tilt the cam while Allie screwed it to the base.
Allie crawled out from under the holo-cam. “All done.” She handed a hex-key to Elinog.
“When did you take this?”
“When you weren’t looking.”
“Raven’s will be raven’s I suppose.” There was teasing in Elinog’s voice.
“I don’t expect lizards to understand.” Allie’s voice carried the same tone.
Janine sighed. “I know you guys are comfortable with each other, but those are still speciest phrases.”
The holo-cam took a few button presses to get started then the four of them stood away from the side facing the scratch marks. Allie made to leave the cave before it started.
“Hold on. Everyone who was present is supposed to be in any holo we send to SECO.” Blavet hooked his tail under one of Allie’s arms and pulled her back towards the holo-cam.
“Fine.” Allie faced away from the holo-cam as it took the holo, rotating slowly. “There. I was present.”
“Don’t like holo’s or something?” Janine asked as she sent the holo file to her datapad.
“They never capture my feathers right. Something about not having that fine of detail. I don’t like it.”
“Let’s pack up and get back to the Dominiot. If AB-775’s update is finished it will be simple to dock. Otherwise we’ll have to match speed first.” The holo-cam packed up faster than it had set up and the lights were easy to dismantle.
– – –
“Take us out facing away from the star. I don’t know how well the polarization works on this new windshield.” The shuttle lifted off of the ground slowly and started the assent out of the atmosphere. “I assume we’ll have no problem exiting the atmosphere this time?”
“If you’re asking if I messed with the flight parameters for the exit then the answer is no.” Janine glanced at Allie. “I assume that nobody else messed with the parameters themselves?”
Allie shook her head. “I don’t know an ampersand from a percent symbol. I couldn’t do that myself. Okay. We’re getting up to supersonic. We’ll be out of here in a flash.”
Janine glanced at Elinog. “So why did you fly down here when she’s the pilot?”
“Practice. It’s really annoying that she waited until I was piloting before she had you set up the turbulence.”
Blavet chuckled. “She probably considered it part of your training. You reacted instantly.”
“Why do you want to know how to fly?”
Elinog shook his head. “I know how to build a spaceship from pieces of other spaceships, but I couldn’t fly worth crap. Now I can fix ‘em and fly ‘em…most of them anyway. Sometimes I’m astonished at how counter intuitive control setups can be.”
“You should’ve seen the control setup mom had. She used her tail for half the controls. When dad had to pilot while she was pregnant with me he had to have two copilots.”
Blavet and Elinog burst into laughter while Janine just stared at them. “Did your father lose his tail or something?”
“Oh, no. Sorry I forgot you didn’t know. I’m half-human.” Blavet motioned towards his eyes. “The biggest giveaway is my human eyes. See how I have visible whites and irises on all three of my eyes? Most Emrys have no whites and only a few have visible irises. Also, my tail is about 15 cm shorter than average.”
– – –
Allie hailed the Dominiot. “AB-775, do you read?”
There was a short pause then a short burst of static. “I’m here. The ship’s still intact. There were no close calls with asteroids or anything.”
Janine sighed with exasperation and started up a data link with the Dominiot. “Somehow that makes me more worried because you listed asteroids specifically.”
“Oh, that means there was. He’s a bot. He’s terrible at lying.” Elinog also had a data link with the Dominiot running. “Camera 12 sector delta.”
“Nothing I can’t fix. Some subsystems look like they need cycled, but I can do that from here.” Janine tapped on her tablet a few times. “Purge initiated.”
Allie commed the ship again. “Ok, we’re approaching for docking procedures. Can you take control?”
“Yes, taking control now. I hope you enjoy flight AB-775!”
– – –
“The ship database has nothing on the wall scratches. It detected a pattern, but no corresponding data is available.” Janine frowned. “Well, I guess I’ll just send it through to SECO.” She turned the cockpit holo to astrogation and started doing the calculations for the FTL jump. AB-775 assisted, happy to finally be out of storage.
In the cargo hold of the Dominiot Blavet looked at the scratches on a holo display. Something looked familiar. He reached into the control cluster and mirrored the holo. Then he turned it upside down. The scratches suddenly took on a meaning. He turned to face Allie who was watching him work. “It’s in Thaumatish. The rough translation is ‘Life’.” He turned back to the hologram, studying the scratches again. “I think either it’s referring to how lush the planet is, or this is the reason the planet is so lush in the first place. I have to send this data to the council.”
Allie shook her head. “Will they take it seriously?”
“I’m sure they’ll send someone to look into it before SECO can. Their bureaucracy will slow them down.”
“So we just keep moving, then? You’re not even curious?”
Blavet shut off the hologram. “I’m curious. I just know I need to focus on my assignment. I have my own reason for seeking out the World of Souls you know.”
The landing craft was filled with portable equipment for the short journey down to the surface of the planet. The whole crew came down for the landing, the shipboard navigation was keeping the ship in orbit and the rarely used astrogation bot was sitting at the controls in case of an autopilot failure.
“Hey, guys. Is the nav light supposed to blink purple when in orbit?” A metallic voice chimed over the landing craft speakers. “I may need an update but I don’t know how long that will take.”Continue reading →
“Well, that wasn’t a complete waste of time at least.” Elinog sighed as he fiddled with the tech he was installing in the Dominiot’s cargo hold. “We have wide coordinates that encompass enough uncharted systems that it would take an earth year to survey. And that’s if we’re lucky.” There was an acrid smell as Elinog cried out in surprise. “I thought I told you to turn off the power to this section!”
Allie looked at the switch bay she was leaning next to. “It is off. The problem might be the switch bay if you’ve got power.”
Blavet sighed. “I told you it wasn’t the flux buffer. Now the new one is shorted and the old one can’t go in until we fix the switch bay.” He turned the conversation back to the start. “So, I’ve been looking into it and we can get paid for every planet we survey in sector N1XZW. There’s some old spacer stories about misfortune befalling anyone who goes there. Anyone who has been assigned that sector was suddenly transferred to another sector within a week.”Continue reading →
Elinog, a purple and violet salaman with bulbous eyes dressed in mechanic’s overalls, spoke over the ship comm to Blavet. “You better come see this Blavet, the planet we were supposed to go to isn’t there anymore.”
Blavet sat up straight in bed and smacked the comm button with the heel of the hand at the end of his leg. His tail twitched anxiously, like a cat’s. “What do you mean it’s not there anymore? Is there debris?”
“It’s hard to explain, just get up here.” Elinog responded, then the static cut out as the comm shut off.Continue reading →