Fiction Fragment Friday
This weeks entry is the beginning of a novel I started but had never finished. I reached a point where I realized I needed to roll back two chapters and rewrite. I never did it. I like the world building I did and I am thinking about returning to this project and rewriting it. This one might be a bit rough from an editing standpoint, but that is part of what these fragments are. Very raw.
The ship shook so hard I was afraid it would rip apart. For the second time in my 30 year career I was grateful for the regulations requiring seatbelts on all jump capable ships. “Mr. Harrison report.”
“We jumped into an asteroid field sir.”
“What? How is that even possible? The Drake system doesn’t have an asteroid belt.”
“I don’t know how captain, but we don’t seem to be in Drake. I’m dodging as many of the big one as I can, but we’re getting banged up pretty bad.”
I glanced down at the display on the armrest of my chair and saw a sea of red. “I think just about every alarm is going off. Ms. Pike we need the magnetic field up now.”
“Working on it Captain. I can’t get the field stabilized with all these impacts though.”
See that’s the downside of being Captain on a research vessel. You get access to all the newest technology, but most of it hasn’t been field tested yet. They brief you on how it’s supposed to work, but until you actually try it you never really know the limits. This was an example of that. The Observer was outfitted with tubes running through the hull that could generate a polarized magnetic field. It wouldn’t stop the large asteroids, but theoretically it should be enough to clear away any small objects. Of course it was intended to be turned on before entering an asteroid field and there wasn’t anything in the documentation about needing open space to generate a stable field.
I found myself second guessing my choice of ship so hard that I almost didn’t notice it wasn’t shaking apart anymore. I glanced down at the displays and saw various alarms flickering between yellow and red. The magnetic field light was not on at all. “Mr. Harrison not to sound ungrateful, but why are we not about to die anymore?”
“I had an idea Captain. I brought us alongside one of the larger asteroids. It’s blocking some of the small ones.”
“Good thinking Mr. Harrison. Ms. Pike; how is that magnetic field coming along?”
“It’s stabilizing now Captain, and it actually seems to be working.” She was smiling and I had to admit that we might survive this jump.
I reached down and touched the intercom button on my chair. “Attention all hands. This is Captain Donald Ryan speaking. We have jumped, but our arrival area was not clear. I want damage reports from all departments in 15 minutes. At that time we will assess our status and prepare to move out of the asteroid belt. Thank you all for your quick responses. Captain Ryan out.”
I turned to my helmsman. “Mr. Harrison I want to know how long it’s going to take us to get out of this Asteroid Belt. The moment we are out I want all your attention trying to figure out where the Hell we are.”
“Good work and fast thinking everyone. I’ll be in my office going through logs.” With that I unbuckled my seatbelt and walked across the bridge into my office. Many captains would have stayed on the bridge, but I know just how nervous I can make people by staring over their shoulders. For the good of the ship I try to give them space.
My office is a fairly empty room right off the bridge. There is a desk and a small round table for meetings. In the back is a door leading to my bedroom where I have my own private bathroom. It is all pretty small, but I have more privacy than anyone else on the ship and I am grateful for that. I sat at my desk and started bringing up system logs from right before the jump.
My background was in ship systems so there was a small chance that I could find something in the logs. I didn’t really believe that I would though. It was more important to keep myself busy so my crew wouldn’t realize just how worried I was by the jump. Being off on a jump wasn’t out of the ordinary, but jumping into a completely different system was unheard of.
After a few minutes I gave up on the logs and just sat back thinking. There were some power fluctuations listed just before the jump, but I didn’t really know if that meant anything or not. I sighed. I have a good crew and I needed to trust them. Still it just didn’t feel right knowing that the best thing I could do for my ship was nothing at all. The tension of not even knowing where we were was just adding to my ever growing frustration.
After fifteen minutes had passed I left my office for the bridge. It had been the longest fifteen minutes of my life. My three department heads were all standing at attention waiting for me. There should have been four, but my Chief Operations Officer had recently transferred and we had not yet found a replacement. “Mr. Harrison I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to speak for Operations again. Do you have the report ready?”
“Now let’s start with Systems. Ms. Pike?”
“All ship systems are online Captain. Medical reported that the worst injury was a broken arm. We were lucky sir.”
I nodded as a wave of relief flooded over me. There was bound to be bad news, but a report of no casualties is always the best news a captain can receive. I turned to a short man in his 20s covered in what looked like some kind of grease. “Mr. Lee does the Engineering department have good news for me as well?”
The man seemed to choose his words carefully. “Well Captain it certainly could be worse. We have minor hull breaches on decks 1 and 4. Since everyone was in jump position the hallways were empty and we were able to seal them. We did lose some oxygen in the process though. I have repair crews prepared, but thought you might want me to wait until we were out of the asteroid belt.”
“You do know me pretty well Mr. Lee. Anything else?”
“Engines are online, but we lost a few thrusters to the impacts. The ship is going to be a bit sluggish for Mr. Harrison.”
I glanced over at Mr. Harrison and could see that he was less than happy to hear this news. “Mr. Glass do you have any damage to report?”
“No sir. All supplies were secured and we shut the galley down before jump.”
“Excellent news. Now that we know the state of the ship Mr. Harrison I think it is your turn.”
“Yes sir. It will take us about an hour to get out of this asteroid belt. I modified my projects after Mr. Lee reported. At the moment I still don’t know where we are though. This system doesn’t seem to have a functional telemetry beacon and the asteroids are preventing us from getting a good read on star position.”
I sighed in what had to be a very noticeable gesture. “I was afraid that might be the case Mr. Harrison. It is possible that the asteroids are blocking the telemetry beacon, but I have a sinking feeling that you are correct in your assessment. I also expect that despite your not inconsiderable talents we will be in for a bumpy ride out of this belt.”
“You are probably right sir.”
“Unless anyone has anything to add I think we are done here.” I waited a moment, but no one spoke up. “Good, everyone please take your posts and notify me when your teams are all strapped in. Mr. Harrison please prepare your course and be ready to peal away from this beautiful rock we have been admiring on my word.”
Mr. Lee and Mr. Glass left the bridge as Ms. Pike took her seat beside me. I watched my chair display carefully as the various departments reported in and their icon’s turned green. “Well Mr. Harrison if you’re ready let’s get started.” Mr. Harrison took his position at the helm and in under a minute I felt the tell tale feeling that told me the ship was moving. We were underway, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something off about this system.