If you haven’t started reading this story yet, you can find part 1 here. Though, if you are all caught up, please continue!
Nell got her fake ID as promised and the crew of The Majestic spent the next two weeks hauling scrap metal and construction equipment from Mars to Luna, and occasionally to Old Earth, the humans’ former homeworld. Supposedly once a thriving planet, since the war with the Greyns over two-hundred years ago, much of Earth was now underwater and only a few patches of land remained where mountains once stood. Still, the humans had plans to slowly rejuvenate their planet and one day inhabit it again, and part of the machinery they were delivering was a means to that end.
Earth was pretty, what was left of it, but Nell had no interest in the planet one way or another. She would much rather be travelling through the jump gates and visiting more interesting worlds, but the pay was good and the crew had collectively decided they didn’t want to chance taking the Majestic through any gates until they had a competent engineer on board. Unfortunately, they’d had no luck finding one so far in the Terran system.
They were coming in to land at a scrapyard on Luna, Earth’s moon, when their need for an engineer suddenly became more than just theoretical.
“What was that?” Xendri asked as the ship sputtered and lurched to one side.
No warnings or alarms or anything gave Nell any indication of a malfunction. She gripped the steering column harder and tried to compensate for the sudden change of course. The ship responded to her commands, but barely. “According to these useless panels, nothing,” Nell exclaimed, her temper flaring, “but clearly that’s not the case!”
“What do we do?” Xendri questioned.
“Go down to engineering,” Nell responded through gritted teeth, trying to keep the ship from listing to the side, “and take a comm unit with you, I need to know what’s going on back there.”
Nell heard the pitter-patter of Xendri’s feet against the rusted metal floor as she hurried to Engineering, but she kept all of her attention focused on the task at hand. If I can just get us to the landing site…
“Uh, Nell,” Xendri’s voice came through the cockpit’s speakers. They didn’t have a ship-wide communication system installed yet, but they’d rigged a few handheld units through the cockpit for the time being. “It’s bad. As in it’s on fire, bad.”
Nell was a good pilot. She’d had plenty of experience on all kinds of ships, most especially Pentaurii ones. She knew what it felt like to be flying on one engine when there should be two. That’s what was happening right now. Except the engine didn’t just die, it’s on fire, which means the other one is in danger of catching fire, too. And so’s the drive core…and the fuel tank!
Nell tried to slow her ragged breathing, but the pounding in her chest beat a frantic rhythm and it was hard to concentrate over the sound. She squeezed her eyes shut for just a moment, trying to recall her days in flight school and all the lessons they’d given on what to do when things went wrong. Lean against the non-working engine. Course correct. Slow down and don’t tax your remaining engine. Cut the power and drift if you have to. Avoid entering oxygen-based atmosphere… Nell opened her eyes again and stared down at Luna, trying to pinpoint where she needed to land. Well that last part won’t be a problem, there’s no air on Luna.
“Nell, we’re working on trying to put the fire out,” Xendri informed her through the comm.
The ships’ fire-suppression system is supposed to do that. Nell picked up on what Xendri wasn’t telling her. Which means it’s not working and they’re having to do the job manually.
Nell tapped the comms button with the metal-coated tip of her tail. “Brace yourselves!” she announced as loudly as she could, hoping Xendri’s handheld comm would reach not only her, but also Vox and Quattro wherever they were on the ship. “This might be a rough landing!”
Angling herself on the right course, Nell cut the power to the main engines. That wouldn’t stop the fire, but it would prevent the second engine from going the way of the first. She relied on her maneuvering thrusters to course-correct as they headed toward the surface and found it was much easier to do so now that she didn’t have one engine struggling to do the work of two.
It was as inelegant as it was bumpy, but Nell managed to put The Majestic on the ground in one piece. Workers from the scrapyard thankfully caught sight of their distress and were on scene immediately with hoses spraying a fire-suppressing foam. Able to turn off the ship at last, Nell let herself breath in and out at a measured pace for a moment before she wiggled into her spacesuit and clamped the helmet shut.
Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of nine novels and counting, and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing with her friends.