The Hermus was lazily orbiting Vega IV, a small planetoid located on the fringe of the binary star system. Wurstol had sent him ten different reports on the interesting aspects of the interacting photospheres of the two stars, and theories as to why from settled Imperial space, they appeared to be one, slightly fluctuating, star. The radiation of these two stars was unusual, and it interfered with their detailed scans of the system. Two days of recalibrating had brought their equipment back to acceptable levels of quality needed for the mission. They had detected one other jump point, besides the one to Spica, so where they were heading after the surveys were complete was easily decided.
The bridge door opened, and Lieutenant Itran walked in. Prallan checked the time display on the command chair. The younger officer was early by about ten minutes. He had shown himself to be a good officer, despite having no Academy training. "Quiet day so far. Scanning this rock for another four hours, then moving on to the last one."
"Very good, sir." Itran said. "I am ready to relieve you at your leisure." The only thing Prallan could think of that irked him about the second officer, and that was that he hated standing around with his superiors. He preferred to be in charge, and seemed very unsure of what he should do with himself otherwise. His comment was a gentle way of saying 'Please leave the bridge.'
"If you want to be a command officer, you are going to have to get used to being around other officers, especially those above your rank." Prallan said it softly enough that none of the bridge crew would hear him. "I think you can survive ten minutes more with me."
"Sir, I can take care of the bridge for an extra ten minutes. What harm would come of you leaving a few minutes early?"
Prallan was about to respond when the lights on the bridge flickered, before going out completely. Red emergency lights lit up, and all of the consoles were rebooting. Prallan tapped the intercom button. "Engineering, we are experiencing a power failure on the bridge."
"Copy that, sir," Wurstol's voice came over the intercom. "We've had it here to. Looks like engine one has shut off. We are working on getting power restored using engine two, but we will have to kill all non-vital power usage. Give me ten minutes."
"As quick as you can, Chief." Prallan turned off the intercom. "Status, please."
"Weapons and long-range sensors offline, sir. I have short-range sensors only."
"I have partial thrust from engine two, no thrust from engine one. Maneuvering thrusters are intermittently online. Sir, I'm not sure I can maintain our orbit."
"How long until our orbit decays?"
"Ten hours, give or take. If I can get more power to the maneuvering thrusters or thrust from engine two I can put us into a stable orbit."
"Internal sensors are down across the ship. Life support is fully operational. Lifts are not operational, we have one that is stuck between decks, but I cannot tell if anyone is on it."
"Shields are not operational. Internal forcefield generators are also not operational. Sir, we are very vulnerable to micrometeorites and other debris."
"Triage your systems. Shut off anything we don't need. Priorities are life support, thrusters and engines until we establish a stable orbit, and then shields and internal forcefields. Get a team to the lift to verify if anyone is in it. I will be in engineering." Prallan walked to the door, which remained shut as he approached. "Someone wake up the Captain." He pulled the release latch, and pushed the door open, heading out into the corridor.
Engineering was a wreck. Wiring and components were pulled out of their housing, and a dozen crewmen were scanning everything in site. Chief Wurstol was having a heated argument with one of the male crewmen, until she noticed Prallan walking up. "Sorry for the mess, sir."
"If tearing apart all of engineering gets my power back, have at it." Prallan said. "What is our status?"
"Not good, sir." She nodded to the crewman. "Jenkol here thinks that they gave us a bad engine."
"A bad engine? How bad?"
"Well, sir," Jenkol said, shifting nervously. "Its like this, sir. Engine one, she doesn't look anything like Engine two. I never noticed it before, because usually we only service one at a time, and we've only done a couple bits of maintenance on the whole engine. She don't look anything like her schematic either, sir."
"Neither engine looks like the schematic. Engine two is a DLR-53, smaller than the TJ-40 that we are supposed to have, but a nice engine. Engine One is nothing I've ever seen. The design is similar to a TJ-42, but has a bunch of additional components strapped on. My hunch is the yard, in their rush to get this ship fitted, threw on whatever they had, leaving us with an experimental engine and a small one."
"How soon can you get Engine one fixed?"
"All of my experience is with fusion force drives. I understand the theory of the photon thrust drives, but I've never worked on one.."
"Don't we have an engine specialist? Surely they have worked on one before."
"That would be me, sir." Jenkol. "I'm a fusion force specialist, sir. I had a brief training on photon thrust systems, but nothing useful here, sir."
"Then I recommend you start taking that experimental engine apart and see if you can get it working again. First, though, get the conn whatever power you can to thrusters. We need to establish a stable orbit."
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