The Shaman of Karres – Snippet 33

When they were done searching, Goth collected her bag from the junk they’d just piled back into the little cabin they’d tried to lock her into… And then had second thoughts. She took her clothes out of that bag, put them into Pausert’s mother’s ship-bag and filled hers with some of the stuff lying around. Then she went back to cabin belonging to “the Boss,” whoever he was.

As Forz had made Felap clean it generally, as well as just clean up the glass, the stateroom was now less dusty and more pleasant. Goth soon found that “the Boss” had a comms link to the bridge and the mess, with a one-way vision set. She could watch and listen to them, without leaving the comfortable cabin. It was locked, now. But, as Goth had the key-bar, that wasn’t a problem for her.

One of the first things she learned, sitting and listening to them, was just how they passed across the frontier. It was a huge area of space, and a clever — or lucky — skipper could avoid coming in detection range of Imperial Space Navy ships. There were patrols, and their routes were randomized and secret. The sector was renowned for several invading raider fleets having attacked worlds of the Duchy of Galm, as well as considerable smuggling, and was thus heavily patrolled.

Apparently that secret could be bought, and had been. The Bolivar dropped into orbit around a dead sun and waited among the frozen worldlets for a patrol to pass — a patrol they knew was coming, and where it was going to. There was no need to dodge the watchmen, when all they had to do was corrupt someone who knew what the patrol routes and times would be. Thus the Bolivar passed across that poorly defined bit of space that divided the Empire from the star-swirl toward the galactic center, into an area of dead worlds, blasted ruins, and poorly mapped stars.

The ship was doubtless heading for one of them. It was, judging by the crew’s wary behavior and the readiness of the ship’s guns and missile pods, plainly somewhere they thought was dangerous. That might be wise, but Goth decided to help them hurry up. Power to the air-recycler was controlled by a simple cut-off switch, to allow it to be removed or worked on. It was up in the power conduit access near the engine-room. Goth could have built one, but she settled for simply switching the circuit to the indicator light that showed it had power. Normally it glowed when it had power. Now, it glowed when it didn’t.

That of course did not apply to the ship’s own air monitoring system, which started flashing warnings. “Captain, we’re getting air-quality warnings,” said the nervous crewman on watch, waking the sleeping captain with a call to his cabin on comms. Goth couldn’t hear his reply, but it was enough to have him calling various other crewmen from their beds, including a rumpled Forz and Felap. The two of them and the ship’s second engineer started checking. They soon found that the air recycler was without power.

“Oh. Well. That’s simple then. We’ll just give it an alternate power source,” said Felap. He sounded quite relieved.

That got him slapped on the ear from the second engineer. “You’re as dumb as a dung-grubber, Felap. Do you know how much power that takes to run?”

“Uh. No.”

“Well, I do. We’ll have open the conduit hatch,” said the engineer, hastening in that direction

So they did, as Goth watched from no-shape. “Well, that’s got power,” said the engineer, looking at the happily glowing tell-tale light. “We’ll have to open the conduit. There must be break somewhere.” He was grumpy and worried at the same time, as well he might be. It was a horrible, awkward job, as Goth knew from helping Captain Pausert, but the ship couldn’t run long without recycled air.

As soon as they got started on that, Goth flipped her switch. It would take a little while before the air quality was back to normal, and the air quality warning stopped. None of the three working on undoing the bolts and moving the panels and testing the current induction went to check the recycler again.

Goth ‘ported the power-wrench when Forz put it down, and changed its direction setting and torque so it tightened instead of loosened. So the next bolt he put it on tightened and snapped with a scream of metal — and a scream of rage from the engineer. “You idiot! Now we’ll have to drill that one out and we don’t have time on our side!”

He hit Forz, and Forz hit him with the power wrench. And Goth got knocked into the wall by the captain coming down the gangway at a run — and hitting both of them. And kicking Felap for good measure. Goth took her bruises away and left them to it.

She was listening on comms when Forz — with a swelling black eye — reported to the captain on the bridge. “I don’t know what we did. We opened the conduit up, and by the time we got to the recycler room, it was working again.”

 “I was about to call you. The air quality warning lights has been flicking out. So it’s getting back to normal.”

“There must be a short or a break somewhere that we fixed accidentally. It’s worrying, Captain,” said Forz, sounding scared enough for Goth to almost feel sorry for him.

But not sorry enough not to wait until he was fast asleep, when she disconnected the monitoring system input. All the ship-repair she’d learned from Captain Pausert and Vezzarn was proving useful. As she knew it would, that had the control panel flashing dire warnings and sounding an alarm, because as far as it was concerned the ship was becoming an airless vacuum.

The crew all went running for the airlocks, for the space-suits. The ship’s automatic doors hissed closed, sealing Goth off on the bridge. The yelling and panic were pretty noisy even by the Leewit’s standards, Goth thought. The Leewit would have been impressed by the swearing, too, when Forz couldn’t remember the access code to open the bulkhead doors. The captain had to put in the over-ride from the bridge, and Goth learned that code too.

The engineer, seeing the recycler power light off, had promptly flipped the switch, cutting power to the recycler. Goth plugged the air quality monitor back in — which, seeing as the recycler only been off for moments promptly stopped the alarm. Skaz and Jines in the meanwhile, in total panic, had climbed into the airlock, ready to abandon ship… out into the airless vacuum of space. Fortunately for them, they couldn’t remember the outer airlock code and had demanded it over the intercom — and were getting a bawling out by the captain instead.

The bulkhead door opened and Goth walked down to where the engineer, his second and Felap –who was more hindrance than help, as usual, were frantically opening the conduit covers again, as the air-recycler wasn’t running because it had no power. Goth let them get all of it opened up, before flipping the switch again.