Chapter 20 Gaklut
The ship was a little jerky as they left the ship bay, but Walter steered it without a problem. He had opted to bring a skeleton crew, since this was to be a quick grab and run operation.
Dustin watched from a back console as everyone worked in silence. They programed two jumps to get there, so that they couldn't be traced back to the station. As they went to jump, there was a clunk. Walter's head snapped up, then they jumped.
Everything was fuzzy around the edges for a moment, then everything snapped back to where it was supposed to. An alarm started going off, as the ship sat motionless in space. None of the markers that should have been around them were there.
"The jump was unsuccessful. I'm running diagnostics to figure out what happened," said the woman at the engine console.
"Thanks, Sherry. Trey, any idea where we are?" asked Walter calmly.
"I'm not finding any of these star patterns in the database," answered Trey, the navigator.
"Keep looking. Stars don't just randomly move around." Walter moved to another console to check something else.
"It looks like the engine had a hiccup and blew a rod. If we can't get it back in place, we're stuck here." Sherry looked up with a frown.
"Wait, the engine has a rod?" asked Dustin.
"Well, no. Not exactly," she said, turning towards him. "But this piece here, needs to be pushed back into place." She pointed at the screen, and Dustin moved over behind her to study the picture.
"It's going to take hours for that to cool sufficiently for someone to get close enough to put that back in place." Walter shook his head and moved over to help Trey figure out where they were.
"I'll handle it, just figure out where we are so we can get back on track," said Dustin heading towards the hall. The airlock wasn't too far.
"Wait! I don't have a suit for you to wear!" shouted Walter.
"I don't need one," he replied.
Stopping outside the door, he took a breath.
'PED, change me into a space safe evolution. I also need to be able to handle high temperatures.'
Dustin started to shrink. Scales started covering him, and when he was done, he hit the button to open the airlock door. He clung to the surface of the ship as he made his way to the engine access panel. He could have sent his nanobots to try and fix it, but he wasn't sure how they would function in space. It was easier to just do it himself, rather than risk losing any. Pulling the panel open, he slipped inside. The heat from the engine was radiation.
(INITIATING EVOLUTION TO PROTECT FROM RADIATION AT THESE LEVELS.)
Nodding in sudden understanding, he moved to push the rod back into place.
(TOO MUCH EXPOSURE TO THE RADIATION, EVEN AFTER EVOLUTION TO PROTECT AGAINST IT, CAN CAUSE IRREPARABLE DAMAGE. PLEASE HURRY)
Dustin slammed the rod in place, then moved to leave. There was another clunk behind him, and he turned to see the rod out of place again. Slamming it back, he watched as a piece that was supposed to hold it in place, rotated in its normal revolution, and spit the rod back out along a broken spot. Thinking for a moment, he sent out a stream of nanobots to use as parts, and had them weld themselves in place. It successfully held the rod in place, and allowed him to escape the massive doses of radiation.
'How much damage did I take?' he asked the PED as he moved back along the ship.
(NOTHING THAT CAN'T BE HEALED WHEN YOU EVOLVE BACK FROM THIS FORM.)
As he reached the airlock, another ship jumped next to them. He floated there, holding on with one hand, as he studied the ship. He had never seen that design before. He wondered if Walter had.
Returning through the airlock, he changed back to his normal form, and headed to the bridge.
"I'm telling you, we jumped here by accident when our engine malfunctioned."
"If you do not leave our space before time is up, we will open fire upon your ship." The words were obviously alien in nature, but the computer was able to translate them into the common language so they could understand.
"Thank you," Walter said, closing the communication channel. "What language was that?"
"It was similar to the Gaklut, but that race is clear on the fringes of our universe," said Sherry, confused.
"Oh, God!" said Trey, looking up when she said that. "I've found where we are!"
"Well?" asked Dustin and Walter at the same time, in annoyance.
"We're in the middle of Gaklut space! It will take a minimum of twenty jumps to get us back to where we need to be."
"How the hell is that possible?" asked Walter, coming over to confirm his readings.
"Does it matter?" asked Dustin. "These guys say we need to get out of their space, so we need to get moving!"
"It's not that simple," said Walter, shaking his head at what he saw on Trey's monitor. "Our engine can only make a few jumps at a time before we need to refuel it. We might be able to get out of Gaklut space, assuming they don't blow us up before we do, but then we'll need to find a planet to refuel, and we don't have any of the necessary tools to refuel with."
"Then jump away from these idiots before they blow us up, scan for a planet that has the fuel we need. If we don't find any, we can jump again, and scan again." Dustin didn't see a problem that required they get blown up right this minute.
"All right, I'll plot a course." Walter moved over to his own panel, and started typing furiously.
The ship turned and prepared to jump, while Sherry kept a close eye on the engines. They jumped without a problem, and arrived in a system that didn't seem to be colonized.
"We only have a few minutes before they follow us and attack us for not leaving completely," Walter said.
"Scanning," said Trey, hunched over his monitor.
"The engine is at half fuel. We can make one more jump before we'll need to refuel."
"What caused us to be shot all the way out here?" asked Dustin, looking out the screen at the sun and planets of the system before them.
"The only thing I can think of, is that we must have hit a black hole, or bounced off a gravity well, during the jump," said Walter thoughtfully.
"Wonderful." Dustin leaned back in his seat, annoyed. The universe itself was trying to kill him.
"I found one! I'm sending the coordinates!" cried Trey excitedly.
"Got it, and plotting a course." Walter punched in the code and they jumped before the Gaklut could arrive to shoot at them.