Author : Connor Harbison

It was a bright and stormy orbit. Wave after wave of solar radiation buffeted the Barracuda, wreaking havoc with her electronics and damaging her solar sails. Captain Aguilar frowned at the display on the bridge.

“Sir, the mainsail can’t take much more of this. We had to bring in the mizzen, and the foresail is showing signs of strain too,” said Lieutenant Chen.

“Can we bring all the sails in? Just ride out the storm on this trajectory?”

“Negative, sir. Our outermost sensors are already fried. If we stay put eventually everything will shut down, first sail controls, then shielding, and finally life support and other crucial systems.”

“I see.”

Not an enviable situation to be in. Aguilar had only been in one other stellar storm of this magnitude. At that time Aguilar had been a midshipman, and there were more senior officers on which to rely. Now it was all on his shoulders; every soul aboard the Barracuda depended on the captain to see them to safety.

“Adjust the mainsail and foresail to catch the brunt of the stellar wind,” Aguilar decided. “Unfurl the mizzen as well. I want a full press of carbon.”

“Yes sir.”

Aguilar watched apprehensively as the carbon nanotube sails unfurled then adjusted themselves. Seconds later the entire ship began to change direction, running before the cascades of high energy particles ejected by the nearby star.

“Captain, we’re getting reports from the crew that the sails are tearing.”

“It’s not coming up on any of the displays.”

“The sensors that feed into those displays went offline hours ago. We’re relying on old fashioned word of mouth from the crew.”

“Very well. Inform them that the sails will stay up. Tell the helmsman to bring her four points to starboard.”

“Right away, sir.”

Lieutenant Chen carried out the captain’s orders, keeping his reservations to himself. Aguilar was unorthodox at times, but he always got the right results in the end. Chen hoped for his own sake, and that of the crew, that the captain knew what he was doing this time.

“Captain, mizzen is in shreds, foresail is almost the same. The mainsail is holding, but I’m not sure for how long. There are a dozen tears in it.”

“Fine, fine. Stow all sails. Get them out of this bombardment.”

Lieutenant Chen never knew how the captain could stay so calm in dire straits like these. He relayed the orders before looking to Aguilar expectantly.

“What now, sir?

“Now? We wait.”

The Barracuda was down to basic life support and communications by the time they picked up a friendly signal.

“This is Vanquisher Station, come in Barracuda.”

“Captain Aguilar of the Barracuda. We’ll need help coming in to dock. Our sails were ripped up in the stellar storm and we don’t have much in the way of control. Right now we’re just coasting on inertia.”

“You made it through that storm? A dozen ships must have been lost in that. We’re still repairing the station.”

“Well add another item to your repair list,” said Captain Aguilar. “The Barracuda needs to be made whole.

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