Ellie ducked her head as a spark flew in her direction.
Deary swore, but not at her. Unlike on the bridge, where exaggerated sparking and smoking were artificially generated to simulate damage in battle and give the crew a sense of urgency, the sparks in the bowels of the engine were the real thing. “Damn replicated piece. I’m going to have to replace this part before we can prep for the reticulators. Hand me a spanner.”
She looked in the toolbox he’d set between them. With his height, he was prone under the panel and reaching up, while she, with some hunching, could sit, so she was in charge of the tools. “Um…left handed or right?”
“Bah, there’s only one difference, and that’s marketing.”
She grabbed the red spanner and slapped it into his hand as if she were a surgical nurse. She was good at finding the right tools. As long as he didn’t ask her to use them, she was safe.
He grunted thanks and inserted the tool between some tightly packed wiring. As he spread them, she caught a whiff of burning plastic and ozone. “Plyers. Now, look under here. See that three-prong outlet? That’s where we’ll be adding the reticulators. Most laymen think crystalline unobtanium is the key to warp drive, but that’s just the power source. Anything equally efficient would work. The real key to warping spacetime is in the reticulating the spines.”
“Right,” Doall said because this was basic Academy stuff, and the narrator does now want this scene to be a monologue. “Each reticulator controls a portion of the spacetime warp – they’re both engine and navigation in that way.”
“Don’t interrupt yer elders, lass! As I was saying…” He paused to grunt as he reached in with two fingers to pull out the singed circuits. “…We mostly use warp drive to get from one place to another in the most direct route possible. Simple A to B. So we only need a set number of reticulators. But we can’t get to Filedise that way, and we can’t get there by a series of point-to-point jumps. We have to go to all the jumps simultaneously, and then we will be there. That’s why we need more reticulators to handle all the jumps. Give me a B4 circuit.”
She handed him the generic circuit panel. After installing it, its internal scanner would adapt the B4 to its new configuration.
“All right. This circuit is good. Now, we’re going to need to split these lines to make more connections for the reticulators. I’ll take the ones here and you do the three on the right, there. First, we’ll need to carefully remove the insulating sleeve.”
“Like this?” Ellie took her own spanner and reached in to find the blue wire. The spanner tip brushed against a glowing tube. Energy launched itself toward the spanner, the across the wires.
With a curse even the noxious battle race Gurcohsican seldom uttered, Deary pulled Ellie on top of himself as he pushed against the floor, propelling them down the Jeffries tube. Ellie her the swish-clang of the emergency bulkhead slamming down even before the siren went off. She glanced behind her. The spanner had been neatly sliced in half.
She looked back into the eyes of her superior officer.
“What part of ‘carefully’ wasnae clear?” he shouted.
With a squeal and an apology, she rolled off him. Their communicators beeped.
“Engineering to Commander Deary. Are you all right? We’ve got fire and damage alarms in your area.”
With a Herculean effort, Deary forced his voice into calm. “Aye. We had an energy surge. Human error. Did ye isolate it in time? Good. Soon as the fire’s suppressed, get a team in there. Doall and I’ll be taking the long way out.”
* * *
Ellie exited Engineering with her hair frazzled and slightly smoking, three broken fingernails and ears ringing from Deary’s yelling. At least he’d done it while they were making their way back to Main Engineering through the chompers.
On the bright side, he’d tossed her out into the empty hall outside Engineering before anyone saw her state of disarray.
She tapped her comms badge, grimacing as she smeared engine oil on it. “Doall to teleporter room. Dolfrick, is there any chance you could teleport me directly to my quarters?”
How the teleporter chief could make a single word sound like a funeral dirge was beyond Ellie, but she didn’t let it dissuade her. “I’ve got hair gel,” she sing-songed.
“You shall be destroyed and remade in your own image.”
“As long as it’s in my room. Thanks.”
It’s a good thing I order my product in bulk, she thought as the teleporter beam took her.
It’s been a crazy summer. In June, I helped my parents move from their home of 43 years to a new house near us in Florida. It was a lot of drama and downsizing and downsizing drama, and I will write a romcom about it someday. No sooner were my parents happily settled, than I got laid off. Then the worst flu of my life hit. As of August first when I’m posting this, I’m still coughing up my lungs, dealing with post nasal drip and desperately trying to keep my body hydrated and my bladder empty because let’s face it, I’m old.
The happy result, however, is that I’ve compiled the first Space Traipse story collection! If you want to know when it comes out, sign up for my infrequent newsletter.