(Sci-fi, mystery adventure.)
Captain Douglas Trussman made his entrance a few awkward moments later. He was a middle aged man, though he looked quite fit for his years. I had the sense he was competent but rattled, out of his element.
“I am glad you are all here,” he said, quickly. “We have a matter of great concern and potential urgency upon us, and we could benefit from your assistance. I cannot risk panic among the other passengers, so I need this to be kept private. Is this understood?”
“You are asking us to keep something private before we know what it is?” Xiang objected harshly. “What if I refuse?”
Trussman grimaced slightly. “I can have you arrested and confined, though I would hate to do it.”
“You can’t do that,” Xiang shot back. “I am not a member of your crew, only a passenger. This is preposterous!”
“As captain of a registered space vessel, I am fully within my authority to arrest anyone on my ship who presents a risk to her overall safety. I cannot afford to quell frightened passengers while we have greater concerns. I can also compel you to service aboard the vessel as I require. Please, professor, I am confident you will understand when I show you the state of our situation.”
The professor looked incredibly suspicious, even taking a half step back. She glanced at Pundel and me, as though we could offer some help.
“Professor,” Pundel said, trying to be reassuring, “the Captain has complete authority on the vessel. If you feel you are being mistreated there is a tribunal you can contact later on.”
“Thank you,” the captain said. “Now let me get to the heart of the matter. Jordan, please lead the way to the drive room.”
The ship was large enough for this to be a fair walk. Captain Trussman explained things along the way. “This ship operates by generating a barrier, a dimensional shield that protects the hull from direct exposure to this dimension. After that, we activate a dimensional module that shifts us to beta dimension. While we are here, the drive systems are useless. As far as we can tell, we simply glide while we are here, as though a wind or current was propelling us. The drive is not reactivated until we return to our own dimension, so we have excess power while we are here.”
We entered a room that looked like an engineering centre. It was a long room, and fairly spacious for a functional room. Several crew were bustling about, glancing at us as we entered.
“The biggest single use of power by this ship is made on our return from Beta,” the captain continued. “The dimensional module is an energy sop, in general, but worse for the return. Also, while we jump, the dimensional shield must be maintained until we have completely left Beta. The power requirement of the shield and dimensional module combined are about ninety percent of the Trailblazer’s capacity. Our power core was designed to handle this, with some excess.”
We stopped in front of the drive and power core, ship elements I was familiar with. Blast damage was plainly evident. Several panels were missing, and several more removed; a technician was busy testing connections at one of the exposed areas. The smell of sanitizing agents was in the air.
The captain turned to us, looking a tad less confident than moments before. “Which brings me to our issue: we are damaged and low on power.”
“What happened here?” Xiang asked, suddenly sounding less defiant. “How much power have we lost?”
I was too distracted by my assessment of the damage and concern over the sanitizer smell. A lot of the standard technical training and testing involved flash assessments of damage; it was designed to make you quicker at recognising and prioritising repairs when damage was not isolated. It became second nature to run everything through your head and devise a game plan.
The sanitizer also bothered me. Damage did not need quick clean up, especially not enough to notice the smell in the air. It was commonly used to make a quick clean up of biological messes. I had experienced fairly few deaths in my career, but enough to know how they were cleaned up. I immediately connected Jordan’s acting status as engineering officer with this recent clean up; which also answered the question of our summons.