Marta piloted the service ship directly toward the Dreadnaught Bergen. She even broadcast her trajectory to other vessels within firing range, so no one could say they “accidentally” shot her down. Seven harrowing minutes later, Marta hailed the client.
“Liso Ship Repairs on approach to fix the starboard engine, requesting permission to dock.”
A curt voice replied, “Permission granted, enter the stern fighter hanger.”
Marta retied her hair, which had fallen in a tangle, and landed as instructed. She opened the door and looked down the barrels of four plasma rifles and one stunner.
“I’m sure you understand,” the one with the stunner tried to look sympathetic, “but we need to confirm your identity.”
“Of course,” Marta fumbled in her coverall pockets for her work ID badge and held her wrist up to the security scanner. The little light turned green and the men all holstered their weapons. She exhaled and realized she’d been holding her breath. “I’m looking for Sergeant McGregor.”
A tall man with short black hair, rolled-up sleeves, and a frantic voice approached them. “That’s me, the engine is this way.” Without waiting for a response, he turned around and walked back the way he came. Marta jogged to catch up, the security team found something else to do.
“So what happened to the engine?”
“SDA cannons hit us, you may have noticed we’re in a battle.”
Marta’s lower lip twitched, but she avoided rolling her eyes. “Anything else to help my diagnosis?”
“Extensive damage to the fuel system, we had to shut off the supply before it all burned.” The barrage echoed as they hurried down the corridor. “Just through here.”
Marta turned the corner into the engineering department and her eyes widened. Sparking wires, billowing smoke, rising steam, and melting insulation stopped her momentum. Mechanics ran up and down the 20 meter engine, pouring coolant, siphoning fuel, and panicking.
“We cannot maneuver without this engine,” McGregor claimed. “The thrusters are useless, so we just turn.”
Marta inspected the damage, but she knew right away it was hopeless. “It cannot be repaired. Well, it could, but it would take days to replace all the parts and test it.”
“We don’t have days.”
She rolled her eyes this time. “I know, but if you point the port engine outward, your heading should stabilize. It won’t be the same as two operational engines, but at least you’ll fly straighter.”
“We’ve already adjusted the thrust as far as possible.”
“And you’re still turning in circles?”
“Then we’ll have to adjust it more.”
Marta commissioned a hydraulic jack, a concussive grenade, and every available crew member to reposition the port engine. The exhaust ignited the rear fairings and destroyed one of the observatory decks, but navigation confirmed they were flying true.
She held the invoice tablet out for McGregor’s signature.
“You didn’t fix the engine,” he argued, “and you caused quite a lot of additional damage.”
“I saved the ship,” Marta countered.
The Sergeant signed the screen and transferred the second half of his payment.
“If you win,” Marta said as she tucked the tablet into her bag and started back to her ship, “come by the shop and I’ll see about that engine.”
A massive explosion rocked the Dreadnaught and Marta slammed into the wall. Red lights flashed and alarms rang. The noise was unbearable. She staggered to her feet and ran three steps before a second blast sent the floor racing up to meet her face. Marta wiped the blood from her forehead and tried to refocus her vision. She didn’t even notice that the alarms had stopped, the lights went out, and she was floating.