Welcome to another free read Wednesday!
We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.
Each week, the contributing members write a chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!
Time to see what condition the engine room is in.
Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
Several scans to test the integrity of Pakko’s patch on the hull were performed before Arad overrode the emergency protocols to reestablish the atmosphere and drop the bulkhead separating them from the engine room.
Balling up a fist, Pakko gave Arad a gentle tap on the shoulder. “Told ya the weld would hold.”
“I’ve already seen people blown out into space. I’m not looking forward to a repeat.” Arad shuddered.
“I hear that.”
The rupture hadn’t been large, but ragged lines in the metal webbed where the air violently escaped after the shot. The breach was sealed, but Pakko planned to weld additional layers from the inside as insurance. With images of the Midas Ascending crew’s deaths in his mind, the extra work couldn’t happen too soon.
Arad, Pakko, and Yosei—the techs between the two ships—assessed the damage. Anything not nailed down had been scattered when the air voided. Some container doors barely hung on their hinges. A lot of debris was either too large to fit through the breach, or the atmosphere emptied before it could be blown out. The result: the entire engine room was a wreck.
“Ya know, those pirates were awful precise. They hit you just hard enough to keep you from running. Seems a bit above the wage scale for those types.” Pakko sounded like he’d been fed more conspiracies from Vosh again. If only the bear wasn’t so accurate. Protecting the existence of the remaining designer DemiShou continued to be Arad and Roku’s first priority over the Ansariland’s restoration.
Thankfully, Yosei appeared to be immune to Vosh’s stories. “Not if they wanted to salvage the ship. The Ansariland’s not new, but it has some valuable modifications. It could be sold for a decent price to the right people.”
“Pirates didn’t waste much time explaining themselves,” Arad groused. This line of questions needed to end before the story details revealed something he wanted to stay hidden.
Clearly, Pakko hadn’t been briefed. “Why didn’t they tag the jump drive? That would have made more sense.”
“The jump drive’s shielded. It doesn’t show up on any scan we’ve made. They wouldn’t have known it was charged, and then bam! Gone. Beautiful tech, and so not standard equipment.” Hands on her hips, Yosei let out an awestruck snicker. “This is totally a smuggler’s ship.”
“Not anymore it’s not.”
Once the ship could travel again, Arad had already been scheming on how to support themselves. The Nightingale was giving them a helping handout, but he couldn’t count on that for long. Keeping Roku under a low profile would be paramount. A starship needed funding and delivering cargo back and forth wasn’t the worst option. At least this time without the DemiShou trafficking. He would not be the next version of Torrins.
Arad walked away from the other so he could see the powered down engine up close. A lot of hours had been spent doing maintenance on this beauty. It was a shame to see it in such condition. The ship deserved better. A pity it took the deaths of the crew to give him access to the schematics to understand the nuances of the engine specs.
He ducked under a fuel line whose seals had been spared from First Commander Bard’s attack. It was a precision strike. Otherwise, half the room would have been missing and he’d be staring into the vacuum from here. Whether he’d admit it or not, Pakko was right about the shot only intending to cripple the ship, no matter what threat Bard had made.
“I narrowed the problem down to the flow regulator.” Anything Arad could do to steer the conversation back to repairs would be a good thing.
“And you would be one hundred percent right. I’m still impressed you figured that out before we fixed your sketchy sensors. Nice work.” Yosei squinted at her pad, as she zoomed in on the scan image. “I’m seeing all sorts of internal fractures. Explosive decompression must have junked its alignment and cracked it. If you try to reinstall this and fire it up, this baby’s probably gonna explode.”
Arad’s breath caught. “Is it repairable?”
Pakko took a peek at Yosei’s findings and frowned. “‘Fraid not, but I think we got a spare we can fix up.”
“We don’t have any money for that.”
“It’s the old one we replaced last season. It’s growing dust. Besides, Hodge said to do what we needed to get you fixed as long as it doesn’t gimp us.”
Arad groaned. “I’m not sure.”
“No charge. Honest. And I’m gonna do it anyways, so you’d better get over yourself. I like new projects.”
“Sorry. I’m not used to people being generous without expecting favors.” Only the clergy ever gave charity in Grey District and even that had its cost. It was how Arad found himself hustling rather than being in debt to abusive zealots. Floating in space may have been a far cry from Grey District, but he didn’t like owing Hodge and his crew more than he already did.
“Yeah, well, you quashed that idea already and now I have to do it to be a nice guy.” Pakko sighed, talking at the ceiling to himself as much as anyone else. “I know it not happening, but the four-way wrestling match would’ve been epic.”
Arad didn’t say a word. Some ideas were better ignored than acknowledged.
Making gagging noises, Yosei continued her work. “Anyway… It’ll need some modifying, but we can do that. We’ll have to synthesize a few minor parts to reconfigure it for the Ansariland’s specifications and recalibrate the operating system to recognize the new part, but it’s doable.”
Hopeful relief sprouted in Arad’s chest, threatening to bloom. “How long will that take?”
“A few days.”
A few days was a small price to pay to get his life started up again. Maybe his suspicious nature read the scene wrong for a change. Arad sure hoped so.
Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
Be sure to check out the other Wednesday Briefers!