UT10 Tales of the USS Bluefin - "Ten Hours"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by TheLoneRedshirt, Jun 28, 2016.

  1. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    [​IMG]
    Tales of the USS Bluefin

    "TEN HOURS"


    Author's Note:

    It has been two years since I last wrote a sentence about the Border Cutter, USS Bluefin, and her crew. My interests flowed into other areas and, as I recently resumed writing, I have delved into other stories and characters in the vast realm of Star Trek. In observance of the 10th Anniversary of United Trek, a group of writers of which I have the privilege of being a member, I decided it was time to re-visit the aging Border Cutter and tell a tale that goes back to their roots. Hopefully I can still do justice to Captain Akinola and company.

    This story takes place approximately six months after the events in the (unfinished) Bluefin story, Trajectory.
    -TheLoneRedshirt

    Stardate 55088.6 (2 February 2378)
    USS Bluefin NCC-4458


    The First Hour

    Captain Joseph Barabbas Akinola sipped absently from a cup of tepid coffee as the stars on the main viewscreen streamed past. The Nigerian C.O. was beginning to feel the effects of nearly 24 hours without sleep. The lines that creased the dark skin of his face were joined by pronounced bags under the somber brown eyes. The caffeine merely fueled the acid churning in his stomach and his already sour mood.

    The Albacore-class border cutter was at yellow alert with first and second watches active. A recent flourish of pirate attacks in the sector had put the Border Service on high alert. Added to the challenge of dealing with the pirate insurgency, ion storm activity was at its highest peak in nearly a decade, making the already treacherous Molari Badlands a frightening maelstrom of ionic bursts and monstrous gravity waves. In the past two days, the crew of the Bluefin had been involved in three rescue efforts of which only two were successful. The loss of the third ship which had blundered into a force-five ion storm, losing power and ultimately its shields, life-support, and the lives of her crew, had been a tough blow for Akinola and his Border Dogs.

    The cutter rocked as a gravity wave caught them at an oblique angle, eliciting an audible rumble through the ship. A petty officer traversing the upper level of the bridge found himself grabbing the pit rail for balance.

    “Mind the shear, helm,” ordered the Captain as he expertly steadied his coffee cup.

    “Aye, sir,” remarked Lt. Bralus, the Bolian helm officer.

    “Mr. Bane, can we expect more of this?” queried Akinola.

    “’Fraid so, Skipper,” replied the Australian Operations Officer. “There’s a ripping ion storm off our port bow, bearing 310 mark 28. Intensity is currently force three but conditions are ripe for it to intensify. Chances are high we'll encounter more as we near the badlands.”

    “Give us a wide berth around the storm, Mr. Bralus. Five degrees to starboard and maintain speed.”

    “Five degrees starboard, aye.” The Bolian made a quick input into the helm and the cutter obediently responded.

    The turbo-lift doors opened and Commander Inga Strauss, Executive Officer of the Bluefin, stepped onto the bridge. She received a friendly nod from the handsome Australian at Ops and she returned a subtle smile before stepping down into the pit to join Akinola.

    “I’m ready to relieve you, sir,” she said. “How’s the ‘weather’?”

    “Abominable,” Akinola replied. “We just steered away from a force three storm. If we take much more of a pounding, we’ll be the ones needing a tow.”

    Strauss cocked an eyebrow at her Captain. “Really, sir?” she teased, “That attitude hardly exemplifies the ‘can-do’ spirit of the Border Service.”

    Akinola stood and rolled his neck as his knee joints popped audibly. He favored the petite Commander with a wry grin.

    “You’re right of course, XO. Now if you’ll excuse me, your crotchety old commanding officer needs food and a few hours of sleep to get his head screwed on properly. But call me if anything serious comes up.”

    “Aye, sir. Enjoy your breakfast.”

    Akinola grunted in reply. Ever since they had lost their cook, Tony Merino, to Starbase 10, he had been forced to eat from a replicator. While not a Luddite, he had a visceral dislike for technology that took over areas of life he considered to be the domain of people, not machines. Food topped that list.

    As he approached the turbo-lift, the doors opened and Senior Chief Solly Brin exited. The tall, broad-shouldered, red Orion inclined his head as he passed Akinola.

    “’Morning, Skipper.”

    “Senior,” replied Akinola. “How are things below decks.”

    “Ship shape as always.”

    “Hmm,” murmured Akinola, dourly. “Someone is full of himself.”

    “Careful Skipper, you’ll hurt my delicate feelings.”

    Akinola snorted and shook his head at his old comrade in arms. “I didn’t think Orions had feelings.”

    “Oh, yes sir. In fact, I was hoping you would join me and the other NCO’s in the armory at 1900. We’re having a poetry reading. I understand there will be wine and fermented dairy products.”

    Akinola took a sip from his now cold cup of coffee, his face expressionless. “That would be cheese, Solly. Man your station, Senior Chief.”

    “Aye, aye.” The burly Orion made his way to the tactical station as the lift doors slid too with a muted hiss.

    As the turbo-lift descended, Akinola chuckled to himself. “Poetry. That'll be the day.”

    * * *

    Ore Carrier SS Forty-Niner
    Molari Sector, bound for Klaamet IV


    Engineer Tyna Miller was worried.

    For the third time in an hour, the port nacelle nearly went into shut-down as internal sensors indicated a harmonic imbalance in the warp field. She had managed to flush the vents each time which stabilized the problem but only temporarily. Now she was getting master warning lights on the inter-cooler itself.

    She silently cursed the ore carrier’s owners, The Paleon Consortium, for their propensity to defer maintenance nearly to the degree they also overworked crews in violation of Federation safety statutes. Forty-Niner’s main drive had not seen a proper overhaul in eight years, three years beyond the allotted maximum. It was a minor miracle that they had not faced an inspection stop from the Border Service, which would have earned them several fines, multiple citations, and an involuntary tow to the nearest station.

    Perhaps it was less a miracle than the fact that their Captain, Hoyt Goertzell, knew every off the lanes short-cut through the sector. Unfortunately, most of these involved traversing the badlands – dicey enough during normal times but downright terrifying during periods of high ionic activity.

    Like now.

    The harsh buzz of the inter-ship comm caught her attention. She removed her hearing protectors and moved toward the wall panel, hitting the comm button with more force than necessary.

    “Miller here.”

    Captain Goertzell’s voice crackled over the open channel. “Tyna, we need warp six and we need it yesterday. We’re going to slingshot around G-4225 and try to get ahead of this next storm.”

    The engineer blanched. “Hoyt, we’re about to lose the port nacelle! I can’t push her past warp four.”

    “Just give me factor six for five minutes. That will line us up with the event horizon of the star’s gravity well.”

    “If I give you five seconds at warp six the drive will implode. It's a long way to walk home, Hoyt.”

    “She’ll hold. Make it happen, Miller.”

    Goertzell cut the link and Miller slammed her palm against the hard gray bulkhead, stinging her palm.

    “Are you okay, boss?”

    Miller turned to face her assistant. Thurn was short, even by Tellarite standards. The magnifying goggles he wore gave him a comical, wide-eyed expression.

    But there was nothing comical about their current situation.

    “Thurn, I want you to prep the escape pods. I have a bad feeling we’re going to need them.”

    The Assistant Engineer merely blinked in acknowledgement, then ambled off to do his job. Miller liked that about Thurn – he was spare on words, especially for a Tellarite, but he was damned good at his job.

    She returned to the master systems display and the myriad controls for both the vessel’s impulse and warp drives. Far too many indicators were in the yellow. Two were already creeping into the red.

    “Frack,” she muttered to herself. Flipping up two protective covers surrounded by yellow and black warning tape, she gained access to the emergency switch to jettison the warp nacelles and also the control that would eject the warp core, should the worst case scenario appear.

    Taking a deep breath, she advanced the anti-matter flow and watched as their speed increased. Warp 4.5 . . . 5 . . . 5.5 . . .

    A warning klaxon sounded and she silenced it, as the trouble it indicated did not fall under the category of cataclysmic. There was a disturbing harmonic in the warp field that troubled her. As the indicator reached warp 6, she activated a count-down timer and set it for five minutes.

    Miller then closed her eyes and did something she had not done since she was a little girl on Proxima Beta II.

    She prayed.

    * * *

    USS Bluefin


    Captain Akinola stopped by the main mess hall and stared at the bank of food replicators with disdain. The units were housed where the old galley was formerly located. He missed the smell of cooking food and brewed coffee. The replicators, though efficient, lacked the comforting ambience of the old galley.

    With a sigh, he ordered scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, grapefruit juice, and coffee. A tray materialized with his breakfast order, complete with faux butter and faux jelly.

    Faux me, he thought, ruefully. He was beginning to behave like one of those old space-crazy boomers that lived their entire life on freighters and seldom had contact with other sentient beings.

    “Next thing you know, I’ll be talking to myself,” he muttered.

    He took his tray and crossed the corridor to the officer’s ward room. Lt. Commander Gralt was already seated before a bowl of what appeared to be strips of a pale vegetable slathered in a red sauce. The strong smell hit Akinola as he entered the room and his eyes began to sting.

    “God Lord, Gralt, what is that?”

    The Tellarite Chief Engineer did not take his eyes from the over-sized engineering PADD he was perusing. Through a mouthful of food he replied, “Kimchi. Best damn thing that ever came from your miserable, backward planet.”

    Akinola eased into a chair at the head of the long table. “Shouldn’t you wear a haz-mat suit eating that?”

    Gralt turned his porcine gaze toward the Captain and spoke, using his chop-sticks to punctuate his words. “You’re the one that told me I needed to branch out and learn more about other cultures.”

    The Captain winced. “Yeah, but I was talking about customs and manners, not weaponized food.”

    The Tellarite murmured something obscene in an obscure Rigellian dialect and returned to reading and munching on fermented cabbage. Akinola suppressed a grin and began to attack his breakfast. He was much-accustomed to the grousing of the crusty engineer as they had known each other for the better part of 40 years and had served together for nearly 30. Gralt had the dubious honor of knowing how to swear in nearly 27 languages, a feat that managed to instill awe in the veteran non-coms of the 7th squadron. Apparently it was Gralt’s only hobby aside from complaining.

    Noting Gralt’s attention to the PADD, Akinola asked, “How are we doing, Commander?”

    The Chief Engineer picked up that it was time for ship’s business. He lowered the PADD. “Besides micro-fractures in the nacelle struts, the starboard coolant pump acting like a jacked-up Yarliq on brain blast, and an over-stressed structural integrity field, we’re fracking great.”

    “That bad?”

    Gralt snorted in the Tellarite equivalent of a sigh. “Skipper, this is an 80 year-old spaceframe designed for 70 years of normal cruising. How many ion storms have we encountered? A hundred? A thousand? Not to mention taking more than our share of pot-shots from dozens of syphilitic mangy whore-bucket Orion raiders? Misbegotten deities, most of the primary plating on the ventral surface has been replaced because of battle damage.”

    Akinola nodded. “The Albacore-class was scheduled for retirement and moth balls ten years ago. The Borg incursion, Dominion War, and Talarian Incursion have delayed things a bit. The Sequoia-class ships coming on line will help but they’re not designed to take the pounding of the Albacore cutters. And the Forward-class that theoretically should take the pounding is five years behind schedule. USS Forward is still in bits and pieces at Utopia Planitia.”

    The Tellarite pondered this. “All true, of course. But keep this in mind . . .”

    “What?”

    “One of these days, something really important is going to break and I won’t be able to fix it.”

    “Let’s hope that day isn’t coming soon, Gralt.”

    * * *

    SS Forty-Niner

    The master display was beginning to look like a lit-up Christmas tree with a multitude of glowing red indicators. Engineer Miller could not recall seeing so many mal-function warnings at one time on the large L-CARS display.

    “Thurn, did you get the escape pods prepped?”

    “Yes, but there's a problem.” The young Tellarite replied, tension in his voice.

    Miller glanced over her shoulder then back to the master controls. “Talk to me, Thurn.”

    “The ionic radiation readings are much too high for us to launch them. The radiation shielding in the pods is not sufficient. We’ll cook alive if we abandon ship.”

    Tyna felt the strength drain from her body and she slumped wearily against the console. “Well, damn. That’s it, then. We ride this beast to the end, I guess.”

    “Sorry, boss.”

    She forced a smile. “Not your fault, Thurn. Run up to the bridge and see if you can get them to steer this barge someplace where we are less likely to hit a gravity wave and turn into a super-nova.”

    He ambled off to convey the message. She could have contacted the bridge directly, but that would have escalated into a shouting match. She wiped perspiration from her forehead. The engine room was getting beastly hot and her head was pounding. Best to keep her focus on . . .

    Multiple warning klaxons sounded and her eyes flew open wide.

    “Oh, dear God . . .” she whispered. The intercoolers had failed and the port nacelle was now trailing a stream of burning plasma. Making matters far, far worse, the auto shut-down system had failed.

    Of course it had.

    Her hand moved of its own accord to activate the nacelle jettison process just as an explosion rocked the ship and she was thrown violently against the console and then the deck. A cry of pain escaped her as she felt the snap of bone in her upper right arm.

    The Forty-Niner dropped out of warp, still moving at a blinding rate of speed, barely sub-light. To an outside observer, it would make an impressive but frightening sight as the ore-carrier burst into normal space in a bright flash of Coriolis radiation. A streaming plume of plasma burned white-hot in its wake. The ship itself had lost steerage and was at a severe 20 degree yaw relative to their flight path. Debris from the disintegrating nacelle sparked and tumbled in the ship’s wake like small fish following a whale.

    Gritting her teeth against the pain in her broken arm, Miller stood on the canted deck, the gravity coils obviously damaged and mis-aligned following the explosion. She staggered to the master control panel and her breath caught.

    There was a breach in the warp core containment field.

    Her mouth dry, she managed to croak, “Computer, how much time until containment failure?”

    Thankfully, the ship’s dull-witted computer was still on-line. With its typical, slow deliberation, it finally replied, “At current rate, catastrophic failure will occur in nine hours, seventeen minutes.”

    Cradling her injured arm as best she could, Miller moved to the warp core ejection control. Reaching into the recessed compartment, she grabbed and pulled the red handle, turned it ninety degrees, and drove it home.

    “Warp core ejection sequence enabled,” announced the computer. “Input command authorization code.”

    “Chief Engineer Tyna Hayes Miller, authorization Sierra Four Nine Tango Six Five Five. Eject, eject, eject!”

    Flashing red lights pulsed in the engine room. A cloud of coolant filled the warp core chamber. Miller felt rather than heard the report of the explosive charges that should have sent the core out into space and away from the ship.

    But though the warp core wobbled in the transparent aluminum chamber, it did not exit the ship.

    “Warning, malfunction to core ejection system. Outer hatch failure. Warning, malfunction to core . . .” The message repeated three times. Miller felt light-headed and there was a buzzing in her head. Part of her realized it was likely the onset of shock. Part of her realized she was hearing her death sentence.

    “Computer, provide update to estimated time of warp core breach.”

    After a moment’s pause, “Eight hours, thirty two minutes until catastrophic warp core breach.”

    The malfunction had cost them a little less than half an hour. Not that it really mattered.

    Feeling dizzy and nauseous with pain, she managed to make it back to the com panel. “Bridge, Engineering, anyone up there?”

    There was a crackle of static but no reply. Inter-ship communications were down. Fracking typical.

    Since there was a good chance the captain and helmsman were incapacitated following the explosion, Tyna decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. Fortunately, she could access the subspace transceiver from engineering.

    Staggering back to the control station, she sank heavily into a chair. Black spots formed before her eyes. There was a first-aid kit on the bulkhead, but first things first . . .

    She paused as one of the displays caught her eye.

    "No," she breathed. "No, no, no . . ."

    The display indicated that four of the ship's six life pods had launched. Whoever was on board those pods were already dead.

    "Aw, damn you Goertzell . . ." Tears traced down her cheeks. The Captain was hardly a close friend. He was stubborn, abrasive, and a cold-hearted bastard. But he was a shipmate as were the others, now most likely dead, cooked alive in tiny spheres of tritanium.

    But what of Tharn? He was too smart to have jumped ship. Hell, he was the one who picked up on the high ionic radiation levels. Surely he would have warned the bridge crew and the others?

    The explosion must have prevented him from reaching the bridge. Miller wondered if he was alive but perhaps injured. Right now, she had other pressing matters to attend to before searching for him.

    Activating the sub-space com system, she was relieved to see the first green indicators in her field of view for the past few hours. Adjusting the controls to all frequencies, she began to broadcast . . .

    “Any ship, any ship, this is the ore carrier Forty-Niner out of Delta-Vega. Our ship is disabled. We have casualties and are facing a warp core breach in about eight Solar hours. Any ship in range, please respond, our situation is desperate. Please help us!”

    She set the message to repeat and attempted to stand but fell back in the chair as her vision faded to black and she slipped into unconsciousness.

    To be continued . . .
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2016
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  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Yay, more Bluefin! And they're out doing what the Border Service does best.


    How I've missed these folks... :hugegrin:
     
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  3. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I was surprised to see this and I'm happy to see you writing about Bluefin again, TLR! I missed this ship and crew! More, please!
     
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  4. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    Great to see the return of the Bluefin. As always some nice character interplay between them (I'm now picturing a beatnik-esque Solly Brin at a poetry slam :lol:), and a great introduction of Engineer Miller. Plus you've got to love a ticking clock.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
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  5. Tribble puncher

    Tribble puncher Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Location:
    Washington, OK
    TLR: You're killing me man...... absolutely killing me.

    You start a story, get me hooked, get to the good part, then leave me hanging. I'm still wondering how trajectory will end. And now Orion, SB 66 and this. Aggggh. Between you, Bry and Gibraltar. I just don't know. You guys are literary sadists. (Seriously though, another great story going here.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
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  6. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Heh. "Literary Sadists." I love it. Sounds like a grunge rock band.

    Fear not, another chapter of SB66 is nearly done as is the next installment of Ten Hours. As to Trajectory, well . . . Never say never. ;)
     
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Sweet, Bluefin is back and as it good as ever, even after her the far too long absence.

    Great start here, terrific and funny dialogue all around, and looking forward to much more.
     
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  8. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    The Second Hour

    USS Bluefin

    Commander Inga Strauss, sat in the command chair scanning a PADD with a listing of current crew rotations. She was concerned that their on-going alert status was beginning to take its toll on the officers and ratings of the Bluefin. Fatigue affected everyone in time, even the Vulcans and Denobulans on board, which led to mistakes which could lead to disaster.

    She made a mental note to contact Dr. Castille, their CMO, to see if any crew members exhibited signs of physical or mental impairment. With their sister ship, USS Scamp, laid up at Star Station Echo with storm damage, Bluefin was covering more of the sector than normal and their patrol duration had been extended. The cutter Kittiwake was also on extended patrol but she was hours away at maximum warp. The Seventh Border Service Squadron was spread too thin and the aging Albacore-class cutters were being pushed beyond their limits. In her mind, the current situation was a disaster waiting to happen.

    Although the Dominion War had ended over two years earlier, the Fleet was still trying to re-build. As usual, the Border Service received the left-overs in all areas including ships.

    "Commander?" Ensign Maya Vashtee, Beta Shift operations officer, turned from her station to face Strauss. "We're picking up a weak signal. It’s garbled but I believe it's a distress call,"

    "Where away, Ensign?"

    The dark-haired Sri Lankan made several inputs into her controls, bringing the cutter's powerful sensor suite to bear on the signal. "Bearing 224 mark 10. I'm not yet able to determine range but I believe I've cleaned up the signal enough for us to understand, audio only."

    "Let's hear it," ordered Strauss.

    Vashtee complied and a burst of static came over the speakers. After a few moments of electronic noise, a voice came through. It was faint and distant but the urgency was clear enough.

    “Any ship, any ship, this is the ore carrier Forty-Niner out of Delta-Vega. Our ship is disabled. We have casualties and are facing a warp core breach in about eight Solar hours. Any ship in range, please respond, our situation is desperate. Please help us!”

    "Mr. Sarnek, set us on a course based on the bearing of that signal," ordered Strauss. "Ahead Warp 9. Maya, I need a range as soon as you can get one. Try to establish contact and let the Forty-Niner know we're in route."

    As the Vulcan helmsman and Ensign Vashtee set to their tasks, Commander Strauss turned to the red Orion seated at Tactical.

    "Senior Chief, get the rescue boarders prepped and on stand-by. Observe radiation protocols for each team member."

    The burly NCO was moving as soon as Strauss began to issue the order. "Aye, ma'am. I'm on it."

    As Solly Brin departed the bridge, she called a petty officer to the bridge to replace the Orion at Tactical. Retrieving her PADD, she called up the specs on the Forty-Niner and grimaced as she began to read.

    Shaking her head, she wondered, "How is that ship space-worthy?" followed by a second thought, "It isn't. That's the problem."

    She continued to read and her brow creased as she came across two more disturbing facts. The first was that the ship was owned by Paleon, an outfit notorious for skirting Federation commercial space statutes. The second was worse - the ship had last hauled Magnesite, a material that effectively interfered with transporters, making them useless. If the hold had not been effectively scrubbed, which considering the owners she doubted, they would have to rely on the Star Stallions to effect a rescue.

    It was time to bring the Skipper up to speed, though she loathed the thought of waking him. "Bridge to Captain . . ."

    * *

    SS Forty-Niner

    Miller felt a soft tapping on her cheek. Frowning, she mumbled, “Five more minutes, Mom. Please . . ."

    “Boss, wake up!”

    Her eyes fluttered open at the sound of Tharn’s voice. She wasn’t on Proxima Beta II, she was on the Forty-Niner and . . .

    With a groan she began to stir and attempted to sit up. Tharn restrained her with a gentle hand on her shoulder.

    “Don’t sit up too fast. I’ve set your arm best I could with a foam cast and gave you a pain reducer with the programmable hypo-spray in the first-aid kit.

    She was still woozy and her mouth felt like it was lined with cotton. Still, alertness was beginning to creep back. She peered at the Tellarite, noticing the welt on his forehead and a dried trickle of blood below his snout.

    “You’re hurt!” she exclaimed.

    “It’s nothing,” he responded. “Except for your broken arm, you seem to have avoided injury aside from a few bruises.”

    She managed to sit up straighter. Her arm did not hurt terribly, just a distant ache. Tyna smiled at her assistant. “Thanks for patching me up.”

    “I am glad we finally got an updated first aid kit. Very timely.”

    She struggled to her feet. “Yeah,” she agreed, then a thought struck her. “What of the others? Did you make it to the bridge before . . . ?”

    He shook his head ruefully. “No, the explosion knocked me off the ladder before I could reach them. I guess that’s when I got this.” He pointed to the knot on his forehead. “I must have passed out a few moments because when I came to and made it up to the bridge it was vacant. They had already gone to the life pods.”

    “More like death pods,” she said, morosely, and her throat tightened.

    He was silent for a moment. “I failed them,” he murmured quietly.

    “Hey, hey! None of that, Tharn. If anything, it’s my fault. I should have just contacted them from here instead of sending you.” Another thought. “Is anyone else left on board?”

    “Dmitri is in his cabin passed out. I think he slept through the whole thing.”

    Tyna actually smiled. “Damn fool drunk could sleep through a warp core breach.” That brought her back to stark reality. “Crap! What’s the time left before the core breaches?”

    “A little under eight hours,” he replied. “We have thrusters but the impulse engines are off-line. That explosion ruptured the Deuterium feed to the manifolds and the reactor shut down. We’ve got battery power for about 14 hours,” he paused, adding, “Not that we’ll need it.”

    She made her way to the MSD, swaying only slightly as she walked. “Any response to our distress call?”

    “I don’t know. We seem to be transmitting okay but I’m not even getting background noise. The explosion must have taken out the subspace receiving array.”

    “Same song, different verse.” She wondered if every critical component was routed through the port nacelle.

    “Boss, I think I can rig a replacement antenna but I’ll need to go EVA.”

    “I agree we need communications, but I don’t want you out there in hard radiation.”

    "There's no choice. Since the company removed the drones and the work bee, it's EVA or nothing."

    "Yeah, a really good 'space-saving measure.' The drones and the bee weren't even in a space we could use to carry ore." She shook her head. "They probably sold them to shore up their flagging profits."

    “Airlock seems undamaged and the hardened environmental suits are okay. It should not take me more than twenty to thirty minutes and the suit will protect me from the radiation for at least an hour. Maybe I could check the ejection port for the warp core and see if there's a way to free it.”

    "There's no point, Tharn. I doubt you could free it before the radiation would get you. Besides, there's no way to launch it now. Even in zero-gee you couldn't get that much mass moving at a speed that would get the core far away enough to matter."

    The Tellarite considered. "I guess you're right, Boss. But I still think I can rig something so we can receive messages. There might already be ships en route to rescue us."

    She didn’t like it but there was no other option. With her broken arm there was no point pulling seniority and going in his place. “Okay, but thirty minutes is it, then you get your ass back inside – understood?”

    He nodded, his expression somber. “I’ll get my tools.”

    “And I’ll see if I can wake Dmitri. We could use another set of hands.”

    Tharn fixed his large, dark eyes on her. “I think my job will be easier.”

    * * *

    USS Bluefin

    Captain Akinola stifled a yawn as Strauss brought him up to speed.

    “We’re looking at five hours minimum at maximum warp to intercept, assuming they’re still in one piece,” said the blonde-haired Executive Officer as she passed a PADD to him.

    “No response to our hails?” queried Akinola, scanning the PADD.

    “No sir. We’re still getting the same distress call, though. It repeats every five minutes. They may be able to transmit but not receive.”

    The Captain settled into the center seat and rubbed his face in thought, feeling the rough stubble of beard growth. He’d neglected to apply beard suppressor but at least he’d brushed his teeth.

    “Other assets, Commander?”

    “We’ve sent out requests for additional cutters to assist but we are by far the nearest vessel, at least of ships that we would want to help,” she added, referring to the ominous possibility that pirates might take an interest.

    Akinola took her meaning. “Sharks smelling blood in the water.”

    She nodded. “A bit of good news is the Forty-Niner is in an area where there has been less pirate activity.”

    “Nobody said pirates were stupid, XO. Stellar meteorology indicates the chance of multiple ion storms in close proximity to that ship’s position. We could be looking at two or three force five plus storms converging within hours.”

    She winced. “Yes sir.” What else was there to say?

    “You know the credo as well as anyone. ‘We have to go out . . .’”

    “But we don’t have to come back,” finished Inga. “Not a very cheerful thought, sir.”

    He cocked an eyebrow and glanced at her. “Where’s that ‘can-do’ spirit, Mr. Strauss?”

    “Touche’ sir,” she replied with a smile.

    He stood, speaking loudly for the entire bridge crew.

    “Okay folks, we’re going to work this like any other search and rescue mission. Consider the variables up to worst-case and let’s have some plans ready for our rescue boarders. Assume we cannot use transporters and radiation levels will be in the danger zone. Our primary goal is to rescue the survivors and get the hell out of there before their warp core blows. We’ll consider that ship a loss unless a miracle occurs. Time is not on our side, so focus and get to work.”

    As the bridge personnel turned to their tasks, Akinola spoke to Strauss in a low voice.

    “You have the conn, XO. I’m going to the hangar bay to see how their preparations are going. Keep trying to contact the Forty-Niner. We really need to know what’s going on with the crew. Hell, they may already be dead.”

    “The thought had occurred to me as well.”

    He sighed and looked at the viewscreen. The swirling maelstrom of the badlands was approaching rapidly. “Regardless, we have to find out.”

    * * *

    Privateer Sujimox
    Molari Badlands


    Rynar Soames re-played the distress signal from the Federation-flagged ore carrier, Forty-Niner. The Human-Orion hybrid turned to the second in command, an Orion-Klingon hybrid female by the name of L'Shiv. She listened with a pensive look, her vestigial brow ridges furrowed in concentration.

    "What do you think?" He asked.

    "It is tempting, A'hmet, but time is the critical factor. What if they have mis-judged and their core goes critical sooner rather than later."

    "Plus, there is the matter of the ion storms that are converging."

    "That is most certainly a consideration," she replied, dryly.

    "Hmm, Yes. Still, it could prove lucrative. There's an old Human expression, L'Shiv . . . 'Fortune favors the bold.'"

    "Humans talk too much," she muttered, eliciting a chuckle from Soames.

    Soames and L'Shiv were the leaders of the corsair, Sujimox, a Zynarian-flagged vessel with a crew of twenty, most of which were outcasts and half-breeds.

    Zynar was a non-aligned world in the Alpha Quadrant which granted the equivalent of letters of marque and reprisal to ship's masters that could meet their rather exorbitant fee. Ostensibly, these ships were under the flag of Zynar but in reality the arrangement provided a degree of legal coverage to what was little more than "respectable" piracy.

    Rynar Soames preferred to think of it as aggressive salvage operations. That the crews of the ships were often still aboard was only of secondary concern.

    Soames did not consider himself a pirate. In fact, he loathed most pirates as he himself had escaped the clutches of Orion pirates as a child. He never knew his parents but suspected (correctly) that one of his parents was a Human captive and the other an Orion pirate. The irony was lost on him that he engaged in what even the loosest of legal interpretations would consider piracy. If he had a redeeming quality it was that he never killed unless in defense. Of course, he had no qualms regarding theft, kidnapping, and destruction of property.

    "What would we find on an ore carrier?" Asked L'Shiv, "aside from ore."

    "You should know by now that the ships themselves often provide more treasure than the cargo they carry. There is always something useful to sell or trade." He did not need to add that sometimes ransoming the crew could be lucrative.

    She considered his words. "We could use the capital, A'hmet. The Zynarians will want payment soon to renew our agreement."

    He let out a long sigh. "Yes, of course they will." He pulled a communicator from his belt and opened a channel.

    "Choag, standby for full power to the warp engines. How fare our shields?"

    The reply from the engine room was muffled but clear enough. "The shield generator is working well enough. Do you anticipate trouble?"

    Soames smiled. "I anticipate causing trouble. I doubt a damaged and drifting ore carrier will give us any grief. We'll get in, have a look about, salvage what we can and get out. Why, we might even rescue the survivors. I'm sure someone would be willing to pay a finder's fee for their safe return."

    He flounced into the pilot's seat with a flair, eliciting a look of reproach from L'Shiv. Soames caught the look and fixed her with a manic grin as he flipped switches and the ship rumbled to life.

    "Loosen up, L'Shiv. If it wasn't dangerous it wouldn't be any fun." He advanced the controls and the corsair jumped to warp.

    To be continued . . .
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2016
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  9. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    The glorious Shetland Isles!
    I'm getting a horrible feeling about Mr Tharn, doing an EVA in the midst of harsh radiation.

    A ship in distress, a ticking clock, and now pirates in the mix, whatever next? :bolian:
     
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  10. Kuri

    Kuri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2016
    @TheLoneRedshirt Why do I feel I've just started reading something epic? :biggrin: Only got through one chapter so far (at work I get short, limited spells of reading) but like what I see so far. You introduce a lot of characters in that first scene. Dialogue sounds authentic. I instantly liked the Aussie :beer:.

    I wondered if you needed to do that bit of early infodumping on the "situation so far" as I sort of picked it up from the dialogues that followed anyway?

    Thanks for sharing... I'll be back.:cool:
     
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  11. Admiral2

    Admiral2 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Langley
    Gonna nitpick, but only because it's obvious and easily fixed:

    Soooo...how are they transmitting at all if their only transmitting array was taken out?

    Anywho, gonna stick with this because I like it when the Bluefin crew actually rescues people.
     
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  12. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Tharn must have hit his head pretty hard. ;) Thanks - fixed now.

    Me too. I felt like the Bluefin stories had drifted from their roots (one of the reasons I haven't written one in two years). The Border Service is basically the Federation's version of the Coast Guard, so I want to get them back to their primary mission.
     
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  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Okay, so now we've got a ship in distress, ions storms and add to all this a clearly criminal element. This is going to be fun.
     
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  14. Kuri

    Kuri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2016
    @TheLoneRedshirt Me again. Read chapter 2. Liked Millar - I've been toying with a similar engineer type character for an off-shoot story (will have to scrap that now curses!). Forty-Niner is a gloriously good name for a ship. I'm always on the lookout for inspiration for these - is it after the SF football team or the original prospectors?

    Anyhoo. Ulp. Engine overload in progress. How will this one go?:eek:

    A random thought. Your captain is Nigerian and has a fine, fine name. The time frame is totally out of sync, but I wondered if I may borrow this name for a character (maybe for his great-grandson) as an aside in one of my stories?
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2016
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  15. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Thanks! Forty-Niner is named for the prospectors of the original 1849 gold rush in California.

    Akinola is a fairly common name in western and Central African countries, so sure, go ahead. As to being a relative, Joseph Akinola has one daughter (estranged) who uses her husband's name of Okimbe, so any of his descendants are unlikely to bear his name.
     
  16. Kuri

    Kuri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2016
    Hi @TheLoneRedshirt Finished the first section! Wow, Forty-Niner is in dire straights! I'm guessing Bluefin will come to the rescue. Loved Akinola's get-off-my-lawn moment re: the newfangled replicators. I quite like kimchi myself, though. :bolian:

    I realise now I had a brainfart regarding Akinola's name - as my characters are in the 23rd century, it'll actually be your captain that is the descendant! Okimbe has a nice ring to it too, though. Hmmm. :vulcan:
     
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  17. Kuri

    Kuri Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2016
    @TheLoneRedshirt Hi it's me again I read part 2 so I'm up to date. I like the ticking clock and throwing the pirates into the mix makes things tense. The ion storm is interesting to me - maybe something I can use in the future too. Looking forward to the next bit!
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2016
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  18. Cyfa

    Cyfa Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2013
    Location:
    A gingerbread cottage on the North Norfolk coast
    Look. I've got things to do other than sit and read this gripping, funny, suspenseful tale. Why do you have to make them so good, TLR? I'm never going to get anything done (especially when you post more of The Implausible Adventures of Elvis Upp)!
     
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  19. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Third Hour

    USS Bluefin


    "We do this job because every once in a while someone is out there without hope, desperately praying for their life, and we get to be the answer." - Petty Officer 3rd Class Mario Vittone, United States Coast Guard

    Solly Brin strode briskly along the corridor adjacent to the hangar deck which housed the cutter’s two Star Stallions and trio of work bees. As he approached the entrance to the hangar, he saw Chief Deryx enganged in animated conversation with Crewman Sadeq Larijani. It appeared that the Denobulan NCO was tearing Larjani a new one. Deryx paused as Brin approached but he continued to stare daggars at the crewman.

    “What’s going on, Deryx?” demanded Solly.

    “I’m attempting to discover why Stallion two’s impulse unit is scattered across my hangar deck in a thousand pieces!” fumed Deryx.

    The Orion frowned. “Is that true, Larjani?”

    Crewman Larjani wore a pained expression. “Senior Chief, I was trying to get the engine back together but Ensign Vargas wouldn’t allow it.”

    Brin nodded in understanding. He tilted his head down the corridor. “Shove off, Crewman. I’ll deal with this.”

    Larjani inclined his head, obviously relieved, and beat a hasty retreat. Deryx was still fuming.

    “Frinxing nugget officers.”

    “Belay that crap, Chief Deryx. And why were you giving Larjani grief. It’s not his fault.”

    The Denobulan scowled. “Because I can’t chew out an officer and shufat rolls downhill.”

    Brin frowned. “Who stepped on your crank, Deryx? It’s not like you to take it out on the crew.”

    Deryx shook his head. “Ah, you’re right, Solly. I guess I’m wound up tighter than a Capellan Power-cat in a room full of Tribbles. But Ensign By-The-Book is seriously challenging my sanity. That frinxing newbie is a menace.”

    Solly shook his head. “Deryx, you’ve been an E-8 for four years. If you can’t work with junior officers, you’ll retire as an E-8. I expect more from you.”

    “But Solly, he . . .”

    Brin cut him off, his yellow eyes blazing. He leaned in as he growled with intensity.

    “But nothing, Deryx. It goes with the chevrons. If you're not up to guiding a fresh-from-the-Academy ensign along a proper course with respect and professionalism, you should seek another billet. I hear they’re looking for ‘Cycler Techs on Cold Station Two. Do you read me, Chief Petty Officer Deryx?”

    A mottled brown and pink flush spread across the Denobulan’s face but he answered with a curt nod. “Loud and clear, Senior Chief.”

    “Good response. Now, take care of the rescue-boarders . . . combat load-out, just to be on the safe side. If I know the Skipper, he’ll be down here in a few minutes to give everything the once-over. I’ll speak to Ensign Vargas.”

    “I’m on it, Senior,” replied Deryx curtly, though it was obvious he was still pissed off.

    “What? Did I hurt your feelings? Move it, D.”

    Deryx stalked off to the armory, his bearing hinting at the smoldering anger that emanated from him like ion exhaust.

    Brin scowled. He wasn’t really mad at Deryx. And he knew the Denobulan was professional enough to shake off the rebuke. Solly was more concerned about the degree of fatigue that Deryx exhibited. If a veteran NCO, a Debobulan who typically could go weeks without rest could show such obvious signs of stress, it did not bode well for the rest of the crew.

    “Fubar,” he muttered, using an ancient term he’d picked up from Captain Akinola. Fracked Up Beyond All Recognition. Turning his attention from Chief Deryx, he approached the double doors to the hangar deck which opened with a muted swish.

    Sure enough, Stallion Two was parked in the maintenance area, its impulse drive separated from the small-craft and secured to a heavy-duty repair stand. Parts of the ion-mass driver were stacked here and there, though in an organized fashion. A brilliant flash of light appeared from beneath the impulse block, indicating the use of a plasma torch. A pair of boots extended out from under the manifold. Brin had no doubt they belonged to Ensign Luis Vargas.

    He approached the Star Stallion and came within a few steps of the repair stand. He cleared his throat.

    “Mr. Vargas, may I have a word with you?”

    The young officer quickly extricated himself from beneath the heavy drive unit. He stood, regarding Senior Chief Brin with a grin. Vargas wore coveralls stained with conductive grease and scorch marks from the torch. His dark hair was mussed and his manner suggested he was pleased to see the senior NCO but also impatient to get back to work. He looked up at the much taller Orion.

    “Hi, Senior. Sorry, but I don’t have much time to chat. As you can see, I’m rather busy.”

    Solly Brin actually quite liked the young Brazilian officer. For one, Vargas didn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He never asked or ordered anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself. The kid was also a fast learner. But what really impressed the senior NCO was that Vargas did not seemed intimidated by Brin’s stature or reputation. The downside, however, was that Ensign Vargas tended to be a strict legalist when it came to regulations. Solly sometimes wondered if Vargas didn’t spend all his off-hours memorizing the arcane bits of directives and requirements that comprised Starfleet Regulations. Oh well, no one was perfect.

    “Yes sir, I can see that you have your hands full. That’s why I wanted to speak with you. As you know, we’re just a few hours out from conducting SAR-OPs and,” Brin gestured around, “Half of our rescue craft inventory is scattered across the deck.”

    Vargas scratched the back of his head as he glanced around. “True enough, Senior Chief, but regulations are quite clear – impulse engines of smallcraft must go through a class-one inspection and tear-down every 10,000 hours of flight time. Stallion Two, here, is well overdue. Besides, we have transporters and the other Stallion available.”

    Brin nodded with the patience accrued from years of dealing with eager but naïve ensigns.

    “That may be true, Ensign Vargas, but Captain Akinola insists that the mission at hand takes precedence over regulations, particularly during times of war. That means that all our assets must be available.”

    The Ensign frowned, puzzled. “But we’re not at war, Senior.”

    Brin glanced over Ensign Vargas’ shoulder. “The Skipper might take issue with that.”

    “Well, then, I’d be happy to discuss that with Captain Akinola.”

    An expression akin to sympathy formed on the burly Orion’s face. “Then here’s your opportunity. He’s standing right behind you.”

    Vargas’ eyes widened as he slowly turned to see the tall, dark-skinned C.O. of the Bluefin. Akinola stood, arms folded, by the repair stand. The Nigerian wore a neutral expression on his face but the fire in his eyes indicated that the C.O., a former non-com himself, was on the verge of an epic tirade. Brin knew that Ensign Vargas was now in treacherous waters far over his head.

    Akinola pursed his lips and absently ran a hand over the impulse unit before fixing his hard gaze upon the hapless ensign.

    “Mr. Vargas,” began the Captain in a quiet but dangerous tone, “I don’t care how you do it, or how many crew members you will need to get it done. But I expect this Stallion to be space-worthy and fully prepped within four hours. I do not want to hear about regulations. I do not want to hear any excuses. You will do this to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the command pilot. That is an order, Ensign.”

    Vargas straightened. “Aye, sir!”

    Akinola nodded. “Another thing . . . you seem under the misconception that we are not at war.”

    The young officer looked puzzled. “But . . . begging your pardon sir, the Federation is not at war.”

    The Captain allowed himself a hint of a smile. The smile did not reach his eyes.

    “Ah, of course . . . but that’s where the misunderstanding lies. I’ll grant you that the Federation is no longer at war. That’s true enough. But this cutter is at war all the time, Mr. Vargas. We’re at war with forces of nature that can shred starships down to their subatomic components. We’re at war with barbaric hordes that pledge no allegiance to nation-states but brutalize innocent people every single day. We’re at war with time itself as we race about to rescue people who are running out of air to breathe or being burned alive by radiation or fighting off pirates. It may not be a formally declared war, Ensign, but it is a reality we live with every day. If you’re going to survive in this service, Mister, you better get your head around that.”

    Akinola stepped closer to Ensign Vargas, regarding the young man not unkindly. Vargas stood at attention, his eyes fixed at a level even with the Captain’s chin.

    “You’re a good officer, Mr. Vargas. You’ve got potential and a solid work ethic. You know your way around a cutter and you treat the crew fairly. I even admire how you take regulations to heart. But as useful as regulations are in maintaining order and discipline, never let them override the mission. Understood?”

    “I . . . I think so, sir.”

    The Captain held the young man’s gaze for a beat longer before replying. “I believe there’s a fair chance you’ll command a ship of your own one day. When that time comes, you’ll have to rely on your own wits and experience. There won’t always be time to contact someone up the chain or cross-check a regulations manual. That’s called the burden of command. Remember that.”

    Akinola glanced around at the myriad parts that surrounded them. “Carry on, Ensign. You’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do. Senior Chief? You’re with me.”

    * * *

    SS Forty-Niner

    Miller made her way to Dmitri Stavros’ cabin. As she expected, Dmitri was passed out, half-in, half-out of his bunk. He wore only a pair of blue boxer shorts and one sock hung limply from his right foot.

    He was a hairy man, his broad back covered in a mass of dark curly fur. Ironically, the hair did not extend to the top of his head for his genetic history showed a predilection toward male-pattern baldness. He had some old-school tattoos made with actual ink. Miller could not read the Cyrillic letters but the semi-pornographic artwork provided the general translation.

    The Russian was snoring loudly, his meaty fist still grasping an empty bottle of something vile. Miller winced as her nose was assaulted by a mélange of sweat, sour feet, and alcohol. Apparently, personal hygiene was not high on Dmitri’s list of priorities.

    She kicked aside a couple of empty bottles and stepped toward the large man. Miller shook his shoulder, only to be rewarded by a snort and a garbled string of Russian curses. The snoring then resumed at an even noisier level.

    “I don’t have time for this,” she muttered and spied an obvious remedy. She picked up one of Dmitri’s boots, walked over to the sink and filled it with water. Returning to his bunk, she gave him another shake.

    He farted in response.

    “Oh, I am so done with you,” she murmured through clenched teeth as she tipped the boot over and poured the contents on the Russian’s back.

    The results were both immediate and gratifying. Dmitri roared and spluttered as he thrashed about amidst the sodden sheets. Finally, he managed to turn to seek out his assailant and he spotted Miller. His eyes narrowed.

    You! Why did you . . .”

    “Shut up and listen.” Her voice was hard and there was a sharp edge that gave Dmitri pause. He noted the cast on her arm, the cuts on her face, and the genuine fear in her eyes.

    “The ship is dying,” she continued. “You, Tharn, and I are the only ones left on board. Warp core containment is failing and we’ll go super-nova in a little over four hours unless we can fix it. The captain and the rest abandoned ship but they’re probably dead from radiation. Now, get your ass out of that rack and get to work!”

    Dmitri blinked and rubbed his face. “You’ve sent a distress call, yes?”

    “Of course I have. But we can’t receive incoming comm signals, so we don't know if anyone hears us. Tharn is outside trying to rig a reception antenna but,” she glanced at her chronometer, “his suit can only protect him another fifteen minutes before the radiation poisons him.”

    Bozhe moi!,” he exclaimed as he stood. Glancing around, he found a pair of coveralls draped over a chair. He quickly donned them, looked around for his boots, snatched the one from Miller’s hand, and tugged it on. “Do we have sensors?” he asked as he fumbled with the clasps.

    “Limited. We’re nearly deaf and blind, too. Get to the bridge . . . see if you can get anything up and running.”

    “What about life support?”

    “We’ll lose containment on the warp core before we run out of air. We need communications the most but I’d give my left ear for sensors. Hell, maneuvering thrusters . . . operating shields . . . anything would help.”

    Dmitri found the other boot under the bed and slipped it on. He ran a shaky hand through the remnant of hair on his large head. Miller absently wondered if the tremor was due to the alcohol or fear.

    “The others . . .” Dmitri began, a tremor in his voice, “are you sure they're . . . ?”

    “Dmitri, before everything went sideways, we were heading between two ion storms, force four and growing stronger. The radiation levels outside are strong enough to peel the paint off our hull. Do you honestly think an escape pod with a bare centimeter of Tritanium plating will keep them from boiling in their own skins?”

    The big man looked down at the deck. From the brittle expression on his face, Miller thought he was actually going to cry. Instead, he growled a few choice words in Russian, grabbed his tool pouch, and pushed past Miller en route to the bridge.

    Miller’s momentary sense of satisfaction melted away, replaced with a sense of shame. The Russian might be an ass and a drunk, but he was also a hard worker and well-liked by the crew. The deaths of his ship-mates would hit him hard.

    She wondered why she felt no grief. Maybe the pain-meds had dulled her emotions.

    Maybe she was just a bad person.

    The bitch is back,” she thought, darkly, as she left the stinking cabin and headed aft to engineering.

    To be continued.
     
  20. Tribble puncher

    Tribble puncher Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Location:
    Washington, OK
    Heeeey Bluefins back too! Nice little "setting the stage" chapter.
     
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