The original race suggestion can be read on the Chucklefish forums, if you'd like some background on the Desulti;
http://community.playstarbound.com/inde ... lti.27321/
Here is the prologue and the first three chapters. I'll be posting the remainder tomorrow.
Fur Colour: Grey
Position: Chief Engineer
Background: Virbon grew up in a town on the outskirts of a major city on Tisetora, leading a comfortable yet unexciting life. In his teenage years, he discovered he had an aptitude for technology, which he utilized by moving into the city and studying engineering. While there, Virbon met an aspiring pilot named Amius, and the two quickly became close friends. Upon graduating, she offered him to join her on the ship she had signed on to. After some consideration, he accepted.
Fur Colour: Dark Orange
Background: As the daughter of a shuttle pilot, Amius always dreamed of becoming a pilot herself and exploring the universe. Having inherited her father’s knack for flying, she enrolled at the local university into a program to get her licence. Afterwards, she joined the crew of Captain Pridux, and talked her friend Virbon into doing the same.
Fur Colour: Orange
Background: Having decided to join the armed forces during her youth, Pridux enlisted into the Aerospace Force as soon as she reached recruitment age. After a fairly successful career that saw her rise through several ranks, she left the Force following an unspecified incident on a vessel she was stationed on. Despite this, she acquired a moderately sized freighter with the intention of becoming a freelance merchant. The crew she hired was somewhat inexperienced, but she saw their potential and was determined to ensure they reached it.
Fur Colour: Brown
Background: Tiroti was originally from one of the earliest Desulti colonies established. Something of an overachiever, he excelled academically despite sometimes struggling socially. Deciding to become a navigator, he travelled to Tisetora in order to find a crew. After being turned down a couple of times by different captains, he was given the chance to join the crew of Captain Pridux. He quickly found himself to be a welcome addition, and developed a sense of belonging.
Names: Sannul and Ultuf
Fur Colour: Orange
Background: Growing up in a remote mining town, the near identical twins were given a home education and worked at their family’s workshop for many years. As the business entered a patch of slow business, they decided to spend a few years working off-planet for some experience and money. After some time on a large mining vessel, they decided they’d rather work someplace quieter. After hearing that one Captain Pridux was putting a crew together, they found that that might just be what they’re looking for.
The ship sat ready in the station docking bay as I approached. It seemed like everyone was ready to depart. A couple of other Desulti, the ground crew by the looks of it, were packing up. It was a simple enough job; pick up a cargo hold full of unrefined ore from Delta Suvaris V, and return it to Tisetora for refining. The route we were taking was fairly long and wasn’t a particularly well documented one, but we believed it was safe nonetheless. As I approached the ship, our pilot Amius was there waiting for me.
“There you are, Virbon,” she said. “I was wondering where you got to.”
“Sorry about that,” I replied. “Lost track of time. Still, I’m ready to get going.”
I followed her onto the ship. We had been friends since we met at university, and have managed to work together since then. Being the ship’s chief engineer, I didn’t spend a lot of time on the bridge. But even so, I enjoyed her company whenever I could have it.
On the bridge, the captain was nowhere to be seen. Over at the navigation console, Tiroti sat checking the map of our route. He was the youngest member of the crew, still trying to get his space legs. But he was a decent navigator, and hadn’t let the crew down yet.
“How’s it going, mate?” I asked politely.
“Alright, I guess,” he said, turning his head. “Just want to make sure we know what we’re in for.”
“Anything along the route we should be aware of?” I asked.
“Not too sure yet. I’ve heard rumours about various things, but nothing that can be proved.”
“Don’t worry about ghost stories,” I said. “Chances are there’s nothing important around there.”
“Only one way to find out.” said a voice behind me.
I turned to see the captain walking into the room. She was a former Aerospace Force captain, and quite well decorated. But for some reason she left, and never told anyone why. But even then, her leadership was what kept the crew together. She sat down in her chair and turned to me.
“We’re ready to head out,” she said. “You’re going to be needed down in engineering.”
“Yes, captain.” I said, walking off the bridge. I eventually reached engineering to find Sannul and Ultuf talking about the rugby game last night. The two brothers were not exactly idiots, but not entirely competent either. They knew their stuff, but I just wish they’d stop messing around and actually do it right more often.
“Come on, fellas,” I said. “We’re on the job now.”
They moved to their stations with some half-hearted complaints. Standing at mine, Amius contacted me through the communicator.
“Alright mate, we’re taking off in one minute.”
I acknowledged, and made the necessary preparations. A quick check showed all systems were OK, so I proceeded to power up the engines. After the minute was up, I felt a rumble as Amius guided us out into space. From there, it was a simple matter of preparing the FTL drive for hyperspace. When everything was ready, I called Amius.
“Everything is A-OK down here,” I said. “Ready when you are.”
“Hang on a sec.” she replied.
I heard Tiroti and Amius speak about plotting coordinates. The captain also said something, but I couldn’t make much of the conversation. After about a minute, Amius spoke to me again.
“We’re clear of local traffic. Jumping now.”
I heard the drive begin to charge. A quick glance at the power levels showed everything was as they should. Before I knew it, we were in hyperspace.
Things were quiet after that. After a while, I decided to go get some sleep. We wouldn’t be arriving for a while yet. Leaving some orders with the brothers, I went to my quarters, lay down and closed my eyes.
Climbing out of bed, I paused to look out the window. Was this even our destination? I didn’t think Delta Suvaris V had a gas giant, or a red sun either. I climbed out of bed, crossed my cramped quarters to the locker and dressed hurriedly. If we were making a detour, the captain would let the crew know. Slinging my tool satchel over my shoulder, I walked into the corridor. I had a bad feeling about this.
Seemed like the sudden departure from hyperspace had woken Amius as well. She was also dressed, leaning out of her quarters and looking down the corridor. I was convinced now something was wrong. If we were really at our destination, she would have been on the bridge, being the pilot and all. She turned and noticed me, scratching her head.
“What’s going on? Have we already arrived at DS-5?” she asked.
“Dunno,” I replied “If we have, no one told me.”
She snorted, and stepped into the corridor. There was a sudden rumble, and the lights dipped. The normally constant rumble of the engines had ceased, but the noise coming from the vents indicated the life support was still working.
“Bloody hell.” I heard Amius mutter from the darkness.
As quickly as they’d failed, the lights promptly returned. I gulped when I realized the engines didn’t. The alarm system engaged, deploying a klaxon in case somebody hadn’t been keeping up with current events. Amius and I both decided that we should get to the bridge, and hopped off down the corridor.
When we got there, Captain Pridux was standing behind Tiroti at the navigator’s station. While the captain was scowling at the readouts, Tiroti looked more scared than anything. Poor kid. Deep down, I didn’t think he was ready for a deep space voyage. They both turned to look at us.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked.
“The bloody stardrive dropped out on us, that’s what.” answered the captain. “And now other systems are screwing up.”
“Have you heard from engineering yet? Maybe they can fix it so we can-”
“Those dumbarses couldn’t fix the stardrive if it was still working!”
The intercom emitted a burst of static, before the voice of Sannul droned out over it.
“Uh… Virbon? Chief, we could use some help down here…” he said. Off in the distance, I heard his brother Ultuf yell something along the lines of “FIRE! FIRE!”.
I walked over to the intercom, gave a brief acknowledgement and went for the corridor. As the captain and Tiroti turned away, I heard Amius whisper to me.
“Hey…do you think you can fix the drive?”
“Maybe,” I said “I’ll need to take a look.”
“Right. Be careful down there, OK? Don’t get your fur singed.”
We shared a smile, and went our separate ways. As I walked down the corridor, the moment replayed itself in my head. We had been friends for many years, but sometimes I wondered if more to it than that. She’d never really said anything to show she was interested in me, so I left it at that. Normally it didn’t bother me, though. Normally.
I could smell the smoke from engineering long before I reached it. Thankfully, Ultuf seemed to have gotten the fire under control. Sannul was standing at an open access panel, cursing at various components.
“Sannul? Damage report.” I said, walking over to my console. Sannul turned, banging his head on the open panel in the process.
“Power failure to the stardrive,” he explained, rubbing his head where he’d hit the panel. “Now the primary power is about to give out.”
Sure enough, the readouts told the same story. Not long before, there had been a sudden dip followed by a significant surge in the main power supply to the propulsion systems. The failsafe had been automatically deployed, dropping the ship from hyperspace. But even then, other systems were suffering similar power issues. The primary power system was definitely on its way out, and I wasn’t sure if I’d seen anything quite like it.
“Any idea what caused it?” I asked.
“No clue,” Ultuf replied, glancing over a readout “Might have been an anomaly in a system we passed through. Maybe a nebula or something.”
At least the stardrive wasn’t broken, like I had feared. There was still a chance we could get out of this. I sighed, turning back to the readouts. We needed to sort out the primary energy system before more damage was done. As it was, the lights had already begun flickering again. I brought up the communicator to the bridge.
“Captain,” I began “Looks like we need some time to fix the primary energy systems, before anything else fails. We’re going to have to go to auxiliary power.”
I heard the Captain sigh. We both knew there was no other option.
“You know what to do,” she said. “Go for it.”
I acknowledged, and went about engaging the secondary power. To ensure maximum longevity, I diverted only as much power as I dared to essential systems; engineering, life support, gravity, lighting. While they wouldn’t function as well as they normally would, it was better than drifting in the cold and dark without any air.
I turned my attention to the main power supply. After spending the better part of an hour analysing various subsystems, I could begin to see where the immediate problems lay. It would take some time, to say nothing of any other problems hiding in wait. Leaving some orders with Sannul and Ultuf as to where to begin repairs, I returned to the bridge to inform the captain of the situation.
She sat in her chair, quietly listening to my report. She occasionally piped up to ask a question regarding certain details. Given her background in the Aerospace Force, I think she was used to keeping a level head in a crisis. To her, it was apparent we had picked up some local energy fluctuations. Normally we were shielded from that sort of thing, but at the same time the shielding was not infallible.
“We have no other choice,” she said. “We’ll get the power system back online, and go to DS-5 for full repairs. You know how long it will take?”
“No,” I admitted. “But auxiliary power will last us two weeks at the most. I don’t know about the supplies situation, though.”
“We should have enough for a couple of weeks, but we should begin rationing. To be on the safe side.”
I nodded, and she dismissed me from the bridge. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Amius glance at me as I left. I returned to engineering, and got to work.
After a good many hours down in engineering, I returned to my quarters to unsuccessfully get a couple hours of sleep. Before I knew it, days began to pass, and the repairs went much slower than anticipated. As soon as one part of the system was repaired, it was as if we found something else that needed to be fixed. I wasn’t sure how long our supply of spare parts would hold out.
As one would imagine, things went downhill for the crew. Meals were rationed, and the heating and lighting were on reduced capacity. That meant we were left cold, hungry and in the dark. I could even swear the atmosphere was thinner, as I found myself out of breath more often than normal. But as many times as I checked, the atmospheric life support systems will still functioning fairly close to normal. I was beginning to think I was imagining it. My sleep was constantly troubled, so it wouldn’t have surprised me.
On the sixth day of being stranded, I went to the mess hall to get some dinner. After preparing my ration of what was supposed to constitute a meal, I turned to see Amius sitting by the window, staring out into the stars. I went over and sat beside her.
“How are the repairs coming?” she asked, after a while. I swallowed what I was eating and replied.
“Not as well as we were hoping. But I reckon we’re starting to get somewhere.”
She nodded, and looked back out into space. I could tell something was on her mind. And whatever it was, it was making me feel uneasy.
I finished my meal after a while. I briefly considered taking the tray back, but just moved it away and stayed with Amius. I leaned forward a bit and clasped my hands together, thinking of something to say. Eventually, she broke the silence.
“Are we going to die out here?” she asked.
I didn’t know what to say. If anything, I was afraid that telling her about the repairs hadn’t exactly been reassuring for her. I didn’t want her to worry about it.
“No…no, of course not,” I said, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. “We’ll be fine. You know we will.”
She sighed, and put her hand on mine.
“But what if you can’t fix the power? We’ll be stuck out here. We’d run out of supplies and power, and…”
I felt her grip tighten.
“Look at me,” I said, and she did. “Am I worried? If I didn’t think we’d make it, I would have told you. I’d never lie to you.”
She smiled. “I know. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we’ll pull through. Sorry I was getting a bit…panicky…”
“It’s OK,” I said softly. “I don’t blame you for it. It’s been getting to everyone. Even I haven’t got a good sleep in since we got stranded. But all we need is to keep going.”
She nodded. “You’re right. Honestly, I’m really glad you’re here, mate,” she said, beginning to sound more like her usual self. “But speaking of sleep, I might have a lie down.”
“Have fun.” I said, as she stood up. She turned to walk away, but then turned back to me.
“Ah, before I forget,” she said. “Could you look at the heater in my quarters? I think it broke this morning, and it’s freezing in there.”
“Sure, I’ll have a geez.”
I followed her to her quarters and stepped inside. Sure enough, it was far colder than it should have been. A quick inspection of the heating showed it was indeed broken. It looked as if it had been in a bad way before we were stranded, but spending so much time on reduced power must have killed it off. It would need replacement, and that would take time. I also didn’t know if we had the materials necessary to fix it. But I wasn’t about to let Amius go uncomfortable, either.
“Yeah, it’s buggered,” I said. “Going to need replacement, which might not happen for some time yet. You might need to borrow someone else’s room.”
“Better than going cold.” she admitted.
I noticed a photograph by her bed. It was of us, back in our university days. We were both a few years younger, standing by the front of the campus. It didn’t seem like there were any events on, so it seemed like something one of our friends decided to take. Still, it brought back memories.
“You can have my quarters if you want,” I said absent-mindedly. “I can find someplace else to sleep.”
I would have been happy enough with that arrangement, but then she answered me.
“Or we could share.” she said.
I didn’t want to make any assumptions about it, so I chose my next sentence cautiously.
“I…umm…are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “I have a sleeping bag around here someplace. One of us can sleep on the floor.”
I felt a bit strange with the whole idea of sharing a cramped little room with her, but shook it off. Amius opened her locker and pulled out the sleeping bag. She tossed it to me and gathered some of her clothes and belongings. I couldn’t help but notice that included the photograph of us together. A smile crept across my face, but suddenly I realized something.
“Why do you have a sleeping bag on a spaceship?” I asked.
“In case I want to camping,” she said. “I heard there is a nice forest planet in the DS system. I thought about visiting it after we arrived. I may even get there yet. You can come with me, if you want. Sound good?”
“I might just take you up on it,” I replied. “When we’re out of this mess.”
She smiled and nodded. She finished gathering her things, and followed me to my quarters. I let her unpack, and moved some of my stuff out of the way. There wasn’t much room for the both of us and our belongings, but I didn’t mind so much. I think we could use each other’s company at a time like this.
I rolled out the sleeping bag and climbed inside, to try it out. It was fairly spacious, and could probably fit Amius inside as well. But I didn’t want to ask. Instead, we just sat around talking for a while, to take our minds off being stranded. At first we talked about our experiences on the ship, then back on Tisetora, and finally beyond all that, into what mysteries lay amongst the stars. I’d always known that one of the reasons Amius wanted to be a pilot was to explore the universe, even if it wasn’t as big a deal for me. I became an engineer when I found that I had a knack for technology, and figured that being a ship’s engineer was a good way to apply it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy travelling around the galaxy, but I generally had other things on my mind.
Eventually, the conversation trailed off. We were both tired, so I turned down the lights and climbed into the sleeping bag. I didn’t bother zipping it up, in case I needed to get up and go down to engineering later.
“G’night, Amius.” I said.
“Night night, mate.” She replied.
I lay there for some time, thinking. My thoughts were all over the place, about being stranded, about space, about Amius. I wondered if she minded sharing my quarters with me, but it was her idea to begin with. Either way, I was just glad she was safe. I shut my eyes, and tried to clear my head.
After a while, I heard something move on the other side of the room. I figured it was just Amius, so I didn’t look over. But then I felt the side of the sleeping bag open, and she slipped inside next to me. I shuffled over a bit, and we lay there back-to-back. Sometime later, she rolled over. Fast asleep, she slipped an arm around my waist. I smiled, and put my arm atop hers.
For the first time in days, I slept peacefully.
Some hours later I eventually awoke, feeling quite refreshed. Amius was still beside me, holding me. I didn’t want to disturb her, but I figured I should see what was happening in engineering. I managed to reach my communicator without getting up, and promptly checked for any messages. There was only one from Sannul, and I read over the transcription. Playing the audio would probably wake Amius.
“Everything is fine down here, chief,” the message read. “I reckon we’re actually making progress now. The Cap has been down here, making sure we don’t slack off. No need to rush, so you and your sheila can have a lie in. I’ll let you know if you’re needed.”
I winced, and briefly wondered how he knew. Someone might have heard us talking, or something. Even so, I was relieved that things were going relatively well down there. I put the communicator back, and rolled over to face Amius. Nothing better than to wake up to a friendly face, I figured.
Sometime later, she stirred. Opening her eyes, she looked at me and smiled warmly.
“G’day,” she said.
“Morning,” I replied, returning the smile. “Got a bit lonely last night, did you?”
“A little,” she admitted. “I figured you wouldn’t mind.”
“Of course not. To be honest, it was quite comforting. I hadn’t slept so well since we were stranded.”
“Glad to hear it.”
She pulled me closer, and wrapped her arms around me in a hug. At first I hesitated with surprise, but I soon found myself putting my own arms around her. We lay there for a while longer, holding one another. After some time, a gentle beeping started from my communicator. I reached over and answered it.
“Hey mate, it’s Ultuf. Sannul reckons we’ve made some progress down here. You might want to come down and have a look.”
“I’ll be right down.” I replied, and turned the device off.
“Well, it was fun while it lasted,” said Amius, climbing out of the sleeping bag. “I should head up the bridge. Tiroti and I were going to send a probe to the nearby asteroid field. He thinks there might be a derelict or two we can loot for supplies.”
“Sounds like a good plan,” I said, going to my locker and getting my tool satchel. “We’re starting to run low on spare parts, and we could use some more food in case we’re out here for a while longer. How is Tiroti holding up, anyway? Haven’t seen him in days.”
“Not well. I think being stranded has made his nerves get to him. He’s been a bit depressed lately. But the captain and I try to cheer him up.”
“Let’s hope it helps. He’s a good kid, but just not ready to deal with a situation like this.”
I trailed off, then paused. There was something that had been nagging me since Amius climbed into my sleeping bag, so with a sigh I turned to look her in the eye.
“Thanks for last night. It really meant a lot to me.”
She smiled, and placed her hands on my cheeks.
She nuzzled her snout against mine for a moment, and went out the door.
“See you later, then.” She said, waving to me over her shoulder.
“Looking forward to it already,” I admitted. I was still in shock for a moment, but soon shook it off. Once I had everything I needed, I went down to engineering.
The brothers were standing near one of the system status monitors, talking amongst themselves. As I approached, Sannul turned to me.
“Hey chief,” he said. “Have a look at this.”
I was already planning on it, so I began reading over what was on display. According to the diagnostics, the main power system was almost functional, and the stardrive was also beginning to shape up again. Only a couple of subsystems needed work before we could reengage the connection between the two. I ran a few calculations in my head, and realized something.
“Do we have the parts to fix this?” I asked Sannul.
“I ran an inventory,” he said. “We don’t. There are a few components we’ve run out of.”
He handed me a datapad containing a list. Most of the items were specific to the stardrive. But unfortunately, it would seem we’ve managed to go through our spares. Normally they wouldn’t be too difficult to acquire in inhabited territories, but out here was a different story. Our best bet would be looting the parts from a derelict. I went over to the communicator, and called Tiroti.
“Hey mate,” I began. “Have you and Amius launched that probe yet?”
“No,” He snapped. I could make out something different about his voice. I figured it was to do with what Amius had mentioned. “We’re still making our preparations. Why?”
“We need some replacement parts. We’re going to have to try and salvage them from any derelicts you come across.”
“I’ll let you know if we locate any wrecks. But there is one other thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“If you’re going to salvage the wreck, we’re going to need to get closer. Do you think you can get the sublight drives online sometime soon?”
Sannul checked the readouts, and leaned in towards the communicator.
“We’ll need some time, but if we can hook it up to the auxiliary power we should be able to get it up and running in a couple of days.”
“Alright,” Tiroti replied, with a slightly calmer tone of voice “Call if there’s anything else.”
He closed the connection. I was starting to get a little concerned about him, but I hoped Amius and the Captain would be there to make sure he’s OK. I also made a mental note to speak to him in person at some point. I turned to the brothers.
“Alright,” I began. “Sounds like we’re going to need to get the sublight engines online. Sannul, it sounds like you’ve been looking into this.”
“Yep,” he replied. “Ultuf and I had a bet going that we’d need to do it sooner or later. I won.”
“Well done. How far have the repairs come for them?”
“They’re not completely operational,” Ultuf said, consulting his logbook. “But we should be able to prep it for short-range travel. Not a lot, but better than nothing. We might have just enough parts to pull it off.”
I nodded, and turned back to the readouts.
“Sounds like a plan. Let’s get to it.”
After some planning, we got to work. Normally the sublight engines would already be connected to the auxiliary power as a backup in case the primary failed, but the connection had been damaged in the power surge. We had enough parts to restore it, by replacing the damaged components. To save on resources, the focus was on restoring the components vital to the engines’ operation. They wouldn’t be able to function as well as usual, but if we only needed to manoeuvre to the nearby asteroid field, we should be fine. We still had plenty of fuel anyway.
As I suspected, the repairs went on over a couple of days. I spent as much time as I could in engineering to get them over and done with. When I got tired, I’d go sleep for a couple of hours. Amius was usually there as well, considering our regular shifts coincided (or at least they had, since though everyone’s schedules were a bit irregular after being stranded). We’d have something to eat, and talk for a while before we went to sleep. But we didn’t spend the night together like we had previously.
After three days, we finally got the engines online. With some co-ordination with the folk on the bridge, we managed to manoeuvre the ship closer to the asteroid field. We wouldn’t enter it just yet, until we could confirm the existence of a derelict. Amius had kept me up to date with what was happening with the probe. The launch had been uneventful, and they were systematically searching the field. However, they had picked up something on the long range scanners that looked hopeful, and would look into it today.
A few hours later, as I was going over some performance logs from earlier, received a call from Amius telling me that they had found something. I left the brothers to make some efficiency adjustments before they went on their downtime, as I went to the bridge. They seemed to have become somewhat mellowed lately. I could appreciate the fact that they realised the gravity of the situation, though admittedly things were starting to look up. If we could find a wreck, we might be able to loot enough supplies to sustain us until the primary power and stardrive are back online. I realized that we may well get out of this yet.
Stepping on to the bridge, I found Tiroti at his station, with Amius watching over his shoulder. The captain was nowhere to be seen. As I approached, I saw that they were watching the video feed from the probe. Amius turned to me.
“Just in time, Virbon,” she said. “Take a look at this.”
She indicated something on the screen. Even though the feed was grainy, I could still see that the probe was in the nearby asteroid field. But what Amius was pointing at didn’t look like an asteroid.
“Is that a derelict?” I asked.
“I think so,” answered Tiroti. “It’s not of Desulti origin, but it’s better than nothing. I’m going to try and get the probe closer and see what’s going on.”
“Alright,” said Amius. “I might go get something to eat. You boys want something?”
Tiroti mumbled that he wasn’t hungry, but I accepted her offer. As she went off to the mess, I knelt down next to Tiroti.
“So, how are you holding up?” I asked.
He sighed, and his shoulders sagged slightly.
“I’ve been better.”
I thought back to a few days ago, when I was speaking to Amius. I’d never seen her so sad, and I was beginning to see the same thing in Tiroti. I was beginning to realize how right I was in saying that being stranded was having an effect on us all.
“Haven’t we all?” I began. “We’re going to get through this. If all goes well, we can get some supplies and parts from the wreck, and we can get out of here.”
“That’s what everyone keeps saying,” he muttered, turning his head slightly. “But that’s assuming there is anything useful on the derelict. What if there isn’t? Do you think there’s going to be another just sitting there, waiting for us? Of course I want the derelict to have what we need, but it might not. Then there’s nothing we can...”
He stopped, and hung his head.
“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give you an earful. It’s just…I don’t know…”
“It’s alright,” I said. “I understand where you’re coming from. In fact, Amius was worried about it not long ago. You’re not the only one.”
He turned his head to me. “I didn’t think any of this would happen. I’ve never been this far into uninhabited space. I should never have let us take this route.”
I patted him on the shoulder. “You couldn’t have known what would happen beforehand. Nobody blames you, and you’ve never let the crew down.”
He nodded, and reached towards the console.
“I…I might get a closer look at that derelict.”
I let him cool off. Maybe speak with him some more later, if he needed it. As he took up the controls to direct the probe, Amius returned with two trays of food. We sat down on the floor to eat while Tiroti continued to operate the probe.
“Where’s the captain?” I asked.
“She went to her quarters earlier. Didn’t really say why, but she said she would be there tomorrow when we board the derelict.” She replied.
Nodding, I scooped up another spoonful of food. I had been hoping to let the captain know how things were going, but I figured I could see her tomorrow. That, or she speaks to Sannul or Ultuf in the meantime.
After a few minutes, Tiroti turned to us.
“Umm…the derelict seems to be undamaged. And the escape pod has been jettisoned.”
“Maybe they got stranded as well, like us,” Amius said “The same thing that took us offline could have affected them as well.”
“Strange,” I muttered, walking over to Tiroti to check the video feed. He was right. “Maybe there’s some internal damage. Or they were affected by the same thing that thing was that took us offline. But even then, why abandon the ship? There’s nothing they can land the escape pod on around, is there?”
“Not really,” said Tiroti, checking a scan of the sector. “Just some larger asteroids deeper in the field.”
“Why would they use it, then?”
“You’re asking me,” he snorted. “Maybe we can piece things together when we board it.”
The situation was intriguing. If there was something in the local system that could interfere with energy systems, maybe another ship had come across it. But what got me was that even if they used the escape pod, they could never have made it out. Where would they have gone, anyway? Worse yet, if they were here long enough, they may have gone through their supplies and not left anything for us to loot. I didn’t want to think that we’d share a similar fate as they had, but if we weren’t the only ones to get stranded out here…
“Guess so,” I yawned, resuming my place on the floor by Amius. “It can wait until then.”
Tiroti nodded, and got back to controlling the probe.
“Tired?” Amius asked me.
“Yeah. It’s been a long day.”
“Want to head off to bed?”
Tiroti looked over his shoulder and gave us a funny look. He opened his mouth to say something, but Amius beat him to it.
“Not like that, Tiroti.” She muttered.
“If you insist.” He said, glancing at me with a smirk. He seemed to be a bit happier in himself, at least. I wished him goodnight, and walked off to my quarters to spend the night with Amius.
“Captain, I’ve found it,” I said, opening the nearest crate. “Looks like…”
I stopped. The crate was empty. Frowning, I opened another. Also empty. I figured that the former crew would have gone through these first, since they were closest to the door, so I tried some more at the back. But no matter what container I opened, they were empty.
“They’re…they’re empty…” I breathed into the communicator. “I…”
I was interrupted by a sudden burst of white noise coming from the ship. At least, that’s what I thought it was. It sounded almost like metal tearing. But before I could figure it out, there was static. Then nothing.
I tried to re-establish contact, but to no avail. Cursing, I kicked off from the nearest crate, back down the corridor. My crew were in trouble, and I needed to save them. I suspected an asteroid impact. If they were hurt…
I made it about halfway before the lights cut out. Ultuf had also boarded the ship, and managed to hook them up to what was left of their auxiliary power system. It had been a quick job, and doesn’t seem to have lasted long. I put my arms out in front of me, to avoid slamming into anything. Instead, I collided with Ultuf.
The lights flickered back on, but only at half their previous output. Ultuf had his back to me, unmoving but drifting away. Must have fainted from the shock of colliding into someone in not only the dark, but also zero gravity. I was a little rattled myself.
“Come on,” I said over the short-range comm, as I moved up to him. “There’s trouble back on the…”
I realized something on the back of his suit. The oxygen readout was at zero. The temperature was also very low. In that horrifying moment, I realized he was dead.
I turned the body over, and saw a face through the helmet visor.
It was mine.
With a jolt, I awoke in a cold sweat. It was dark, but my eyes soon adjusted, and the familiar surroundings of my quarters revealed themselves. I was in the sleeping bag, with a familiar back against mine.
“Virbon?” Amius murmured. “Are you alright, mate?”
After a few moments of heavy breathing, I replied.
“Yes,” I muttered. “Bad dream, that’s all.”
The image was still stuck in my head. I told myself it was nothing.
“It’s alright,” Amius whispered. “You’ll forget about it by morning.”
I wasn’t so sure, but I did my best to relax. After a while, I managed to get back to sleep.
Come morning, or the closest approximation we had running on ship time, the memory of my nightmare had mostly faded. As I had had breakfast, I still had an uneasy feeling. Amius was kind enough to hear me out, and assured me it was nothing. Deep down, I knew she was right.
Afterwards, we went up to the bridge. Only the Captain was there, sitting in at the helm. She was looking out the front viewport, lost in thought. As we entered, she turned to us.
“Virbon,” she said. “I’ve had Ultuf go down and make preparations for the boarding. I’d like you to go down to him, and go onboard with him. Have a look around, and try and find some supplies. When you’re ready, we’ll bring the ship in and engage the docking umbilical.”
“Sure thing, captain,” I replied. “Give me time to get down there and suit up, and then I’m good to go.”
“Very well. We’ll need some to move the ship alongside the derelict, so you can make use of that time. Go make sure Ultuf is ready as well.”
I nodded, and went back down the corridor. I had suspected that it would be Ultuf and I going onboard, since we were the most experienced in zero gravity. Not only would we have to get onto the derelict from a distance, but it was also unlikely that its artificial gravity was still online.
By the time I got to the airlock, Ultuf was already going over our equipment.
“There you are, Chief. Captain asked me to get everything together. Looks like everything is in order.”
“Good. Tell me, are you…I dunno, nervous at all?”
“Not really. I’ve been trained to do this sort of thing.”
“So have I. But I had a strange dream last night, and it made me wonder how well we’d go today.”
He slapped me on the shoulder.
“Ah, don’t you worry about that, mate. We’ll be fine. Come on, let’s suit up.”
As we got into our spacesuits, I could hear the engines start up. I could see some asteroids slowly moving past the window, so I figured we were moving into the field. Once I had my suit in order, I grabbed my equipment; tools, communicator, logbook, jetpack. I picked up my helmet, and turned to Ultuf. He already had his helmet on, and through the visor I could see his face. I took some small relief in that, as I put on my own.
“Ready when you are.” he said.
“Just need to wait for the Captain’s word.” I replied.
He nodded. We stood by the airlock door for a few minutes, before he turned back to me.
“So, how is it between you and Amius?” he asked, out of nowhere.
I was surprised at that.
“How do you and Sannul even know about it?”
“We noticed that her quarters were empty, and your door was shut. So, Sannul figured the two of you were shacked up for the night.”
“The heating broke in her room,” I explained. “So we decided to share mine. Admittedly, we did get…close, but that’s all there was.”
“So, you two weren’t making space joeys or anything?”
“No, we weren’t.” I assured him.
Thankfully, the Captain came in over the suit communicators before he could continue.
“Alright boys, we’re in position,” she said. “Open up the airlock.”
“Aye aye, captain,” I said into my mic.
Moving to the airlock controls, I closed the interior door. After a quick suit diagnostic for both Ultuf and myself, I began the depressurisation process. A red light began flashing and a warning alarm started up to signify this. I watched the dial on the console progress, until the airlock was fully depressurised and I opened the outer door.
I turned to Ultuf, who was securing our tethers to a rail just outside the airlock. He handed one to me, and I secured it to my suit. About 100 meters from the ship sat the derelict. It was a fairly sleek design, with a bluish hull. Up close, I saw that it was slightly larger than our own ship.
“Virbon,” said the Captain over the comm. “Can you see the airlock on the derelict?”
Looking closely, I could see that the airlock was not only on the facing side, but it was also open.
“Yes, Captain,” I said in reply. “We’re making the transition now.”
Carefully, I stepped out of the airlock and into space. Now out of the ship’s artificial gravity I began to drift. I engaged my jetpack and manoeuvred towards the derelict with some short bursts. About 10 meters away, I adjusted my trajectory back a little to slow down as much as I could. I grabbed the rails outside the darkened airlock, and managed to guide myself inside. I looked over my shoulder and saw Ultuf doing the same.
He remotely disconnected the tethers on the ship, and began feeding them over to the derelict. I took out my flashlight, and located the airlock controls. I pushed over to them, and saw that they were inactive. However, there was a power junction next to the console. Ultuf and I managed to use it to re-engage the airlock’s emergency power, which was enough for controls to flicker back to life. I was able to close the outer doors, but I couldn’t pressurise the airlock. It appeared that the life support system was completely offline. As such, I opened the inner door, and kicked off through it.
The interior of the derelict was pitch black. I switched on my flashlight, and shone it around. The smooth, grey metal bulkheads appeared intact, showing no signs of damage (as we saw from the probe). I was mildly relieved to see that the interior was nothing like in my dream. We were in a corridor, and I could see what looked like the bridge at one end. I grabbed the side the door, and propelled myself in that direction. Ultuf went off the other way.
“Might see if I can re-engage the power.” He said.
“Sounds good,” I replied. “I’ll have a look around the bridge. Let me know if you find the supply storage.”
Emerging onto the sterile bridge, it seemed eerily still. Much like our own bridge, there was a captain’s helm, a navigator’s station and the pilot’s seat, but there were also a couple of other stations I wasn’t familiar with. But with the power offline, the monitors and controls were blank and inoperative. It was in stark contrast to the well-lit centres of activity I usually associated with bridges. I realized that there wasn’t anything I could do here unless Ultuf could re-engage the power, so I pushed myself back down the corridor and into another room.
Shining my flashlight around, it appeared to be some sort of communal living quarters. A few loose items floated around freely between bunks; some clothes, a couple of documents, a vial of pills and a rotten banana. Nothing of use to me. On one of the walls sat a large poster. It depicted the face of an Apex, staring malevolently off the canvas. The word “obey” appeared below in block letters.
“Hey, Ultuf,” I said over the comm. “Something tells me this is an Apex ship.”
“Probably,” he replied. “When I found one of the engineers’ banana stash, I kind of figured that.”
“Any luck with the power?”
“Seems like someone did as we had, and re-engaged the auxiliary. It was a pretty shoddy job, and didn’t last. I should be able to get it back, though. I’ll get back to you in a few minutes.”
I was about to go back out to the corridor, but something caught my eye. Next to one of the bunks was a small photograph. I drifted over, and held it up for a closer look. In it were two Apex, a man and a woman, facing each other and holding hands. The man was wearing a uniform of some kind, and I figured the photo was his. If that was the case, did he survive? And what would happen to the woman? She may never know what happened to him.
It reminded me of the photograph Amius had of us when we were younger. I thought back to a few days ago, when she and I lay face-to-face. I’d always cared about her, but never as much as I had recently. I would do anything to ensure that we both got out of this.
I let go of the photograph, and let it drift away. Near where it had been, I noticed a logbook. I picked it up, and began reading.
…Billdale was able to bring the power back. The surge came out of nowhere. If we’d shut down the primary any later, it would have overloaded and possibly even destroyed the ship. At least the secondary seems to be working fine. I’ve told the crew that the mission objective still stands. The station should be in this system. It didn’t appear on any of our initial scans. I suspect it may be hidden in the asteroid field, but the surge hit shortly after we were able to scan it. If we can’t get the engines back soon, we may need to use the escape pod to reach it.
I might sleep now. Spiralcutter must be missing me now. When we get things back in working order, I’ll send her a message. Until then, I might need to get out my other logbook. This one seems to be running out of disk space, so it’s a good thing I brought a replacement. Capkong out.
As I was beginning to figure, it looked as if there was something in this system that affected the power systems of passing ships. Might have something to do with this station they were talking about. I flicked back a few entries to get some more details. Until the more recent entry, there was nothing out of the ordinary. The Apex appeared to have been systematically searching nearby systems. Before I could find out more about their orders, the lights flickered back on and the life support re-engaged. The artificial gravity seemed to have come back as well, and I crashed into the floor.
“There we go!” chuckled Ultuf, over the comm. “Found anything?”
“There’s a logbook,” I grunted, picking myself up. “And it mentions that these blokes also had their primary power taken offline. Also some mention of a station of some kind in this system.”
“Yeah? We can go treasure-hunting later. I think supply storage is down this end of the ship. Wanna come down and have a look?”
“Give me a minute.”
I slipped the logbook into my pack, and staggered back into the corridor towards the aft. I rounded a corner, and found Ultuf standing by an open doorway. He gestured inside, and I looked in to see a fairly large number of metal crates stacked up. I stepped inside, and approached the closest one. With some slight hesitation, I opened it.
“Empty.” I said to Ultuf.
He moved to another, and opened it.
“Well, this one has things in it.”
He threw me a small sealed packet. Looked like rations of some kind. As I looked through some more crates, Ultuf contacted the Captain. She told us that Amius was bringing the ship alongside to dock, and asked us to manually engage the umbilical on the derelict.
I went back to the airlock, while Ultuf remained in engineering. On his word, I deployed the umbilical. I watched our ship mover closer, and deploy its own. With some minor course adjustments over a few minutes, the two joined with solid thump. I did a quick scan to ensure the connection was sealed. I waited a little longer for the acknowledgement from the ship, and I opened the outer door.
Sannul and Captain Pridux were in their space suits, standing in the airlock. They walked over into the derelict once the doors were open.
“Good job, Virbon,” said the Captain. “What’s the condition of the ship?”
“Auxiliary power is back online,” I began. “We have heat and gravity, but it might take some time for the life support systems to get the oxygen back. We did find the supply storage, and there seems to be a decent amount of rations left. You might also want to have a read of this, since it has some details of why these blokes were out here in the first place.”
I handed her the logbook.
“I’ll read over it later. First things first; let’s get those supplies onboard.”
So began the heavy lifting, but with the Captain’s help Ultuf and I started to get the remaining supplies back to the ship. We didn’t bother with the empty crates, which seemed to make up about half of those in the storage. The Captain thought the crew went through some supplies, and brought more of it with them in the escape pod. Sannul, meanwhile, went to engineering to look over their stardrive. Much to our relief, he believed that it was still operational (or, at the very least, salvageable).
Finally, after a fair few hours, we managed to get all the supplies onboard. The Captain estimated there was a couple of weeks’ worth there, so we should have plenty of time to finish the repairs. But suffice to say, we were all tired and sore by that point. I mentioned to Sannul and Ultuf that I would like to begin work on the stardrive the following day, before grabbing some dinner and going off to my quarters. Amius was already there waiting for me, sitting on the bed.
“I hear you did well on the derelict,” she said, as I sat down beside her. “I take it your nightmare didn’t come true?”
“It was fine. There wasn’t anything dangerous on the ship. Did find plenty of supplies, though. Should last us weeks.”
“That’s a relief. We would have gone through ours soon anyway. Any sign of the crew?”
“Sounds like they were looking for some kind of space station. Looks like they used their escape pod to try and board it.”
“Must have been close. Think we should look for it?”
“Probably not,” I admitted. “We always can pass the co-ordinates over to the Aerospace Force, and they can look into it. I don’t think we should risk our necks for no reason.”
I finished my meal, and returned the tray to the mess. When I returned, I saw that she was leaned back, looking over her shoulder out the window. I thought back to the photograph on the derelict. I resumed my place next to her, and I clasped my hands in front of me.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you something.” I said.
She turned to me. “What is it?”
“You know, we’re probably not going to be out here for much longer,” I began. “And I just wanted to say, I’ve really enjoyed your company. You’ve always been a good friend to me, but lately…I feel as if we’ve been closer than ever. So…thanks, I guess. It was nice that you were there for me.”
She smiled, and I could swear her eyes lit up slightly.
“It meant a lot to me as well, Virbon. I’m really glad that we were able to bring comfort to each other. Especially at a time like this. It’s actually been kinda fun.”
I nodded, and looked away.
“Listen to us getting all romantic,” I chuckled. “A little over a week in deep space, and we’ve been snuggling like crazy.”
She laughed, and rested her head on my shoulder.
“And is there a problem with that?”
“Of course not,” I said, putting an arm around her.
Shortly after, we lay down on the bed together. We cuddled for a while before falling asleep, facing each other. Come morning, I was relieved that I didn’t have any nightmares. After a quick breakfast with Amius, I gathered Sannul and Ultuf to go over to the derelict. The life support had restored the oxygen level by that point, so we didn’t need our suits. On our way over, the Captain stopped me. The brothers went on ahead while I spoke with her.
She told me that she had read over the entries in the logbook, but still couldn’t determine why the Apex had been seeking the station. She was also reluctant to try and find it ourselves, unless we were to search for survivors. But considering we had no indication that they were still alive, that may not happen. I had little to add, but still agreed with her.
Getting back to the brothers, we began to study the derelict’s strardrive. After a couple of hours of analysis of the Apex technology and comparison to our own, we determined what parts we needed to salvage (with Sannul’s “shopping list” as a guide). With that, we disconnected the drive from the power, and began removing the parts.
As we worked, I began wondering about the Apex stardrive. If they had been hit by the same anomaly that struck us, there must have been a reason that their drive was not affected. I put it down to the fact that our drive had been active (since we were in hyperspace) at the time, while theirs might not have been. It made me wonder what this anomaly was. Maybe something to do with the station the Apex were seeking.
Sometime later, the Captain came down to speak to me again. This time, she asked me to come to the derelict’s bridge. I followed her there to find Tiroti sitting at one of the stations, looking a bit shaken. With the power restored, the controls were now active.
“I was looking into their navigational records,” he explained. “But I accidentally activated their communicator.”
“There appears to be some kind of distress call,” The Captain added.
Tiroti tapped some of the controls, and the comm crackled to life.
“…to all ships hearing this, we are in an ab-*static*-ation inside one of the local asteroids and need help immediately. We’re…*static*…from what…*static*…If able, dock at the station so we *static* out of here…I say again, help us! Repeat, to all ships hearing this…”