The storm had finally broken, letting some stars out, and the air was as clean as it was cold. From the bridge, it was hard to believe the gentle ocean outside, spotted with reflections of the stars, had been tossing the ship like a child’s toy only twelve hours before.
Reinvo leaned over the navigation table with Ardlee and Metallo. Metallo had gotten a fix on the ship’s location once the stars had been visible. He’d taken four more readings since using every method known to estimate or pinpoint the location of the vessel.
The cold fresh air turned their breath into foggy clouds that floated around the table chart. Lieutenant Metallo held a bright oil lantern close letting them clearly see the charts. Metallo’s other hand held a compass calibrated to the graph’s scale key.
Crewman Nedlier was standing watch at the door, out of ear’s reach, making sure the three principle officers were left undisturbed.
“Lieutenant,” Reinvo said, his voice sounding ancient in his ears. The lack of sleep and hard day’s work gave it a hard crackling and dry tone.
Reinvo shifted his gaze from the chart to the stars. “That can’t be right,” Reinvo said.
“You’ve watched me take every measurement. I didn’t make a mistake. We are exactly where this chart says. One hundred and sixty-three miles from the edge of the world. If we don’t change course or speed, we are going to fall off of Terra in three days.”
“How can we have moved a thousand miles north in just two days?”
“The wind, ocean currents, and of course, those engines.”
The deck thrummed with the Vibrius’s engines churning away in engineering.
“Empresses bless us; I can’t see how the engineers can still be alive. They’ve been locked in a hot engine room without water or food for three days. And yet I can feel the engines burning hot,” Reinvo said mostly to himself.
“Maybe the Star Empresses are keeping them safe and well,” Metallo suggested.
Ardlee’s eyebrow shot up, and his doubting smirk at Metallo was the same look Reinvo gave Metallo as well.
“Lad, I believe in the Star Empresses as much as anyone. But, they don’t show up and keep a ship’s engines running.”
Metallo shrugged. “How do you suppose engineering is staying alive then?”
“I don’t know. But, we’ll get to engineering today and find out.”
“We best hurry about that, too. We need to reverse the engines before we cross the hundred-mile hub safety line. If we get too close, we’ll get caught in the edge currents.”
Neither Metallo nor Ardlee looked encouraged. “I don’t intend to simply go over the edge. We are further north than any ship has any business being. I don’t hear the edge falls and the ship doesn’t feel caught in the kind of currents the edge must have. We get to engineering and the machine shop. That’ll give us the tools and engineers needed to fix the rudder as well as control of our engines. Metallo, take another reading.”
“I’ve done three readings, and they aren’t changing.”
“Well make it four.”
Metallo saluted and without a hint of guile, said, “Yes, sir.” Grabbing his astrolabe, he headed out to the open deck.
Reinvo tapped the navigational mark representing the Vibrius. “We are in serious trouble.” He looked at the unmanned navigation wheel. The rudder wasn’t moving anytime soon without the proper tools.
Ardlee followed his look. “Aye, we are still clearing the galley compartments. It’s going to be at least two days before we can get to engineering. The men know time is running out for the engineers, and I can’t get them to take any rest.”
“Well, I agree with them. We’ll sleep later. Let’s see if we can speed things up,” Reinvo said heading to the exit.
“Aye,” Ardlee said, his tone encompassing all of Reinvo’s concerns.