Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
With an almost discernible sigh, the bridge ceased its seemingly endless attempt to shake the crew unconscious.Â Â Captain Jax waited until he was sure the worst was over before instructing the muscles in his body to unbrace themselves from his seat, and it took some time before those muscles began to obey.Â Â The space around him was filled with a haze of smoke and sublimated material that before the storm had made up control surfaces and various other parts of his ship. The giant view screen was dark, and as the fire suppression systems shut down, and the environmental control systems began to scrub the air, he realized that large portions of the bridge were dark also.Â Â Â Around him restraints eased, and tired bodies released themselves into the slack tethers.Â Â The immediate danger, at least, had passed.
‘Django, damage report.’ The captain’s voice carried easily across the cramped space, and he waited as the engineer struggled to coax a console to life. Reams of text chased themselves across the screen before flickering out only to begin again.
‘Engines are up, warp drive is down.’ Yellow fluid oozed from a crack in the engineers craggy forehead which he dabbed at absently with a sleeve as he continued. ‘We’ve all but lost the recyclers, the atmosphere reserve is online but degraded, estimated hours of breathable air – thirty seven.’ The captain instinctively began to slow his breathing. ‘The storms knocked out our eyes and ears sir, we’ve got instruments for navigation, but no visual.Â Â Our distress beacon is broadcasting, but only from the bow, and the long range sensor on the bow is alight, but it’s the only one.’
The captain slumped back into his chair, pushing the hair back from his sweating forehead. His eyes tried to focus on a point beyond the blackened display, as though expecting to see somehow through it into the void of space.
‘Ballistics are offline sir, the light spear appears intact’
‘Direct whatever energy we’ve got to the beacon and sensors, we need to find a ship.’ The crew began to execute his commands even before he’d finished speaking them.
Nearly a dozen hours passed before the long range sensor panel lit up and the comms officer, Sharak, broke the silence. ‘Sir, there’s a ship straight off the bow, quite some distance, but she’s parked and in our line of sight.Â Â She’s in a line to receive our beacon sir.’
‘Django’ The captains voice boomed with new found purpose ‘All ahead full, let’s catch up to that ship’
The engines wound valiantly to life, shaking loose bits of the bridge that had been tenaciously holding on while they’d sat at idle, filling the cabin with the clatter and dull thuds of falling alloys and polymer composites.
‘Sir – the ship ahead is in motion sir.’ Django struggled to read the flickering display in front of him. ‘We’re accelerating sir, and they’re matching our speed.’
‘We need to catch that ship and we’re a little low on options right now’ The captain knew it was pure luck a ship happened across their path and he wasn’t going to let it get away. ‘Bring the light spear up, fire a volley up his ass and see if we can’t take his engines offline.Â Â Mobility we’ve got, it’s his atmospherics I want. If he’s ignoring our beacon he’s brought this on himself…’
Sharak spoke over her shoulder ‘Captain, the aft transceiver array’s come back online, and there’s a ship back there, it’s broadcasting on the emergency channel but it appears encrypted sir, I can’t make out a message.’
‘Forget them, we’ve got our own problems, we’re in no position to help anyone else right now.Â Â If we can catch this ship and make repairs, we can think about going back later.’ The captain was leaning forward now, straining his eyes at the void of the view screen for some glimpse of the space outside, an image that wouldn’t come.
‘Sir… the ship behind us, it’s fired on us…’ Sharak was afraid, and her voice could do nothing to hide the fact.
‘Fired?Â Â Fired!Â Â We’re broadcasting a distress signal, what kind of bastard fires on a ship in distress?’ The captain, giving up on the dead display stood and wheeled on the comms officer, gripping his seat back to steady himself against the surging of the wounded engines.
‘Sir… the signal from the ship behind us.Â Â It’s not encrypted sir, I don’t know how I missed it, it’s inverted and sir,’ The comms officer’s voice dropped almost to a whisper. ‘Sir, it’s from our bow beacon.’
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