Four days of dim lighting and stale air, and they were no nearer a solution than they had been at the beginning of the crisis. The Hermus was in a stable orbit, but the crew were crammed into the common areas, life support was being diverted from unoccupied areas to other critical systems and to charge the reserves. If the second engine went offline, those reserves would be the only power source until they repaired either of the engines. Prallan walked into Engineering, nearly stepping on several people. In the corner, he saw Lily bundled into a sleeping bag. He walked over to her and gently shook her should.
"Give me five more minutes or I will hit you with a flow calibrator." She muttered in her sleep.
"Remind me to not let you bring any engineering equipment to bed with you."
Lily opened her eyes. "Is it something important? I just pulled a double and this bulkhead isn't comfortable."
"I just hadn't seen you at all in the last two days, and wanted to check on you."
"I am tired and cross. Let me sleep." She closed her eyes and quickly fell back asleep. Prallan smiled at his wife, and walked over to what appeared to be a large pile of scrap.
"Lieutenant," Captain Rickler said, nodding to him. He was standing in the middle of the pile, talking to Chief Wurstol. "The Chief was just telling me that this collection of crap is Engine One."
"I will take her word on it, sir, the last time I saw it it was still in the nacelle."
"We took it apart to diagnose the problem." Wurstol said, picking up a badly scorched piece of metal. "This was a photon flow regulator. The engines we are supposed to have don't have them, the same concept is built into the design. They put things like this on experimental engines so they can tune and tweak them until they find a good flow rate, then they build that into the design itself."
"So your hunch was correct, we had an experimental engine?" Prallan asked.
"Yes, sir. It was only a matter of time until this part failed. It probably stopped working properly after our jump into Spica, and burnt out completely four days ago, which caused the engine to overload."
"If you replace the regulator, can you get the engine working again?" The captain asked.
"Its not that easy, sir. The regulator I could build out of spare components and materials, but the engine's core was damaged, along with a dozen other parts. Rebuilding it in a spaceyard with the right materials would take a few days. Here with whatever I can scrounge would take weeks. Even then, the new regulator could fail at any point, leaving us in the same situation."
Rickler set his jaw firmly, thinking hard. "I don't want this to happen in the middle of a battle. Other options?"
"We have one good engine. I want to build an enhanced version of it...two actually, a new one and enhancements to the other one. I can salvage what remains of this engine's core as the base of the new engine, and build the rest out of materials we have on hand, all except the inducer coil."
"What do you need that we don't have?" Prallan asked.
"Litanium. The inducer coil has to be made of it. This one is shot." She kicked a part with her foot. "The molecular composition is too broken down to refine into a working coil. I need fresh Litanium. Luckily, the planetoid we are orbiting has a deposit of it."
"How are we going to get it? We don't have any shuttles. We have two drop pods, but we wouldn't be able to get them back once launched." Prallan said.
"We will need to land the ship." Rickler said. "On one engine, running on backup power."
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