The Omen’s bridge was quieter than it had ever been before. The mantra that Si always went through notably amiss. Nikolas paced back and forth, there was nothing he could do but to wait out the automated protocols, hope that nothing changed so significantly from Si’s initial predictions. If it had the consequences varied anywhere from being stranded in deep space to ship implosion, but to delay the jump meant they were truly stranded, with nothing and no one to protect them. While the shipping route they were on was well travelled, it was not so well travelled that they couldn’t starve before they ever saw planetfall again.
The moments were tense, at least for him, he couldn’t speak for the rest of the crew, nor for their passengers. It was unfortunate that he’d consigned these souls to their eventual rest should they fail, but such were the risks of space travel. Nothing these days was a riskless operation anymore.
He shut the shutters as the countdown began, the automated system taking over without the assistance of a navigator. 10…
It was nerve wracking, the moment before this jump. The fate of his ship in a now incapacitated navigator’s prediction.
“Void be kind to me and mine.” He cursed under his breath.
The sudden jolt of the ship wasn’t abnormal, but Si was always there to smooth things out. His vision swam and he had a pounding headache for a second, as his body was pulled through slipspace and ejected on the other side. He could feel the jolt of translation, a spasm in muscles buried deep, and he knew that things had gone about as well as they could of… He stopped, taking a deep breath.
A loud klaxon rang out. The lights of the bridge dimming to a faded red.
“Well, that’s just what I fucking needed.” He ran to the navigator’s console.
The power generation system was broken, at least Ion collectors for the drive. He grabbed the PA system, piping it to the engine room, where he hoped Victor was.
“Vic! I thought the Ion manifold was secure for the trip.” It was a few moments of tense silence as he awaited the reply.
“Sorry Cap, little busy.” He could faintly hear a wooshing sound, something not unlike a fire extinguisher being discharged. “Looks like something broke, I don’t know what the fuck, but it sure as shit didn’t break clean.”
“I’m coming down to help, are the solar collectors still operational?”
“Should be. Main genny’s still good to go too, so we got life support, just give me a few and I’ll get things under control.” He heard that wooshing noise again.
"Life support... Great, so at least the salvage crew has air when they come collect our corpses." He grumbled.
He cranked off the PA, turning back to the controls. First task was to see where this point left them. He opened the shutters, coming face to face with a massive star not very long from going supernova. The binary system had all but drawn themselves into a single grand star. It was only a matter of time, but if they got caught in the maelstrom it was a clean end for all of them.
“Oh, for fuck’s sakes, as if I didn’t have enough issues.” He jammed the button for the solar sails, then began encoding a distress message. It took a few minutes, but he was able to transmit a warning into the void, hoping only that someone would hear it in time.
Ship in Distress. Navigator injured by unknown phenomena. Need assistance, star going supernova. Do not approach Beacon 12-5K7-D575. Will advise if able to continue passage to Puerta Genese.
With that done, he quit the bridge, locking the door behind him. Something was up and paranoia was the word of the day. Along the central ridgeway, away from the bridge he strode confidently, though his thoughts were by no means sure. The dull red had faded, likely as Victor had turned things off or made the necessary adjustments.
Sliding down to the next deck and along towards the catwalk over the cargo hold, he spotted a figure, analyzing and watching the crowd, a beatific smile on his face. He turned to face the captain and suddenly that smile turned to something of concern.
“Has something happened captain?” The speaker asked, his eyes watered in concern.
“Aye, make sure you and your kin are safely stowed so I don’t have folk wandering the ship free-like.”
“Of course.” He said, as the captain passed him. A moment’s pause, then he followed behind. “Is there any way I can be of service to you Captain?”
“Stay out of my way.” He growled.
“Would it be prudent for me to ask my congregation if any have mechanical expertise?” he asked.
“Ain’t something you can fix, so keep your flock away from my engines.” The captain said, with a deep basso growl in his throat.
“Of course, I merely.” They had just hit the furthest edges of the quarters when the Captain whirled on the priest, interrupting him mid sentence.
“Look, I don’t care about you and your folk, long as you keep out of my way. Stay there and don’t let anyone wander. We’ll fix it and have you in Puerta Genese on the double. You want to help? Fine, I told you how ‘ready, stay. Out. Of. My. Way.” He punctuated each word with a deep rising growl and the helpless anger of a broken man.
He stormed down the tight passageway, exuding anger in the wake of the priest. It wasn’t that he hated priests, figured they were misguided more than anything, but this one was getting on his nerves. Pushy priests, that was the problem, and this one seemed to like to meddle.
When he hit the drive bay, the scene was borderline panic inducing. Several scorch marks scored the metal piping throughout the area, the lights had gone to emergency lighting, and the drive itself stuttered audibly through the casing. Victor was currently running through the areas with the best lighting, mostly getting rid of it with a fire extinguisher…
“VIC! Is my goddamned ship still in one piece?”
“Ship? Yes” Came the panicked reply from the greasy figure silhouetted by the flames. “Engine, NOPE!”
A sudden flash of fire consumed him, before abating. He hosed down the place that started it with a long splash of fire foam. The blaze fell away quickly under his attention and when he finished with it he looked up at the captain.
“Hey Cap.” He said, somewhat amicably. “Told you I’d get it sorted.”
“Your eyebrow is on fire.”
“Figures.” He grumbled and slapped a hand over the offending eyebrow. Vic looked like a coal miner, his already tan skin now hairless and several shades darker, heavy smudges of grease coating the shirt he was wearing and scorch marks all across his faded jeans.
“How’s she looking?”
“Well, the ion manifold back pressured when it broke, so she just started venting things where she could. Turns out that’s here.”
“Ion manifold’s fucked. Gonna have to repair it outside, she’da been all fine, but it feels like we’re thousands of pounds overweight in slipspace. Something massive clinging to the ship or so.”
“Might have to do with the star going supernova outside.”
“Maybe, but I’ve never heard of it doing that before.”
He paused a moment.
“We’ll have to ask Si when she wakes.” He let his fears over that when being an if hang silent.
"So, what do we need?" The captain asked, trying to refocus his crewman.
"Uh..." He paused, looking around. "Welding kit, spare plate, driver set..."
"Ok." The captain stopped him, "Just hand me stuff. I'll be your extra hands."
"Didn't you say you were good with this stuff when I signed on?" He asked, skeptically.
"I said I could do basic repairs, I can run torch, I can't decouple and rebuild an ion manifold."
Vic grunted and proceeded to grab things from around the engine room. Several which had been strewn in awkward spots, abandoned and forgotten in the emergency. By the end of it the captain's arms were loaded with a variety of equipment, as were Vic's
"It'll get easier to carry when we're out of ship." He said, looking at the captain grunting under the weight.
"I..." He said, as he took a step under the load. "Am. Not. Built. For. This."
"Quit whining, I do this every day and I have the physique of a twenty year old twink whose primary physical activity is..."
"Stop, No, Don't want to hear it."
"Hauling myself in and out of an engine for maintenance." Vic said, a smile on his face. "Now captain? Whatever did you think I was going to say?"
The corridors were tight and it took all of the captain's effort to crane his neck and glare at the mechanic, currently hauling a set of tanks and a variety of tools over his shoulder as if it weighed nothing. That smug grin looked back at him and he grumbled a few words to himself.
"Didn't quite catch that Cap."
"None of your business, you dirty..." He got cut off as a loose wire caught on something behind him and pulled him from his feet. He landed in a heap, covered in materiel. He spluttered and cursed from underneath the pile.
"Need a little help there?"
"No, I got this." He grumbled. "Just get to the Lock, I'll be along behind."
Victor gently stepped over Nikolas, treading carefully between the small piles of plating and wires lying on top of him. As he passed, he grabbed one of the hefty hull plate repair kits and threw it over his other shoulder.
"Suppose there's some perks to not being a spacer, eh?"
"Just get moving!" He shouted as he worked to extricate himself from things and get back to his feet.
"No problem boss." Vic said merrily as he all but skipped down the corridor under the weight of the equipment.
The captain managed to stand, though it was an effort to pick up all the plates and such again, so he took the brief respite to stretch and work the kinks out of his back. That's when he heard it.
A light ticking. Like steel on steel. So little of modern starships had moving parts and in this area of the corridor, he shouldn't have heard anything but the thrum of the engines. It was out of place.
He grabbed his gun, it wouldn't help, but there was a reason he still used cartridge rounds. Popping a round out of the chamber he held it up in front of his face.
"Make thyself known." He incanted as his free hand returned the gun to its holster and began working through the sigils. The tapping stopped, but as the smell of gunpowder overtook his senses he could hear something else. He closed his eyes, his hand unfurling with the bullet still in his palm. Layered over his vision, where darkness should have taken him was a blood red view of the world. The steel walls were dull and almost black, but somewhere behind one there would be something red, brighter. He turned and faced as the bullet, warm with his body heat, spun in his palm to face the right. He shifted, facing that direction and there it was limned in dark red. It was cold, it's only heat seeming to come from the edges. It sat upon a glistening strand of almost golden light, a power conduit.
"Hunt and kill." He intoned as his vision returned to normal. He returned the bullet to the chamber, spinning it into the first seat and pointed at the shadow.
The shot was loud, a powerful blast in the confined space, but even louder was the horrific keening that followed. it felt like his eardrums would burst from the pressure, the noise drowning out his thoughts and resonating through the ship. Slowly, it faded away like the last wails of feedback from a dying comm.
"What the hell?" the Captain said, as his mind reeled and returned to sanity. From the hole he'd punched in the inner plating a black ichor dribbled.
"Someone is definitely messing with my ship." He growled, holstering his gun again, "And when I figure who, he's getting thrown out of an airlock straight into a fucking supernova."