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Last Updated     October 6 2018
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Dealing With
     A Fixer-Upper

Death Minus 21 Days

Image captured inside the INS Regina Storm     After a huge amount of work, the crew of the Hotel California had finally gotten to the tipping point.  Coming to grips with 'what their situation was', they had to move on to what they could do to survive, much less escape.  While working, they'd also rescued the lone survivor from the carrier INS Regina's Storm, to everyone's surprise.  All that was done with the crushing understanding that the IMS Hotel California was a dead ship.  Even her life support was only expected to hold out for another twenty one days, and could very easily fall short thanks to unexpected failures or other events.  In fact, they knew it would change when they had to finally cannibalize the California's systems to bring the drifting Coronal Flare back to life.

The morning began with Fesic, Rol and Emkir being the first crew to wake up.  Emkir considered how few of his normal morning activities he could do with the little that remained of the California's systems.  With even water management limited, Emkir grabbed alcohol wipes and worked to scrub himself down.  In his stateroom, Rol quickly dressed and went out into the ship's common area.  They'd set up a refresh and recharge station for their vacc suits and armor there the night before.  Fesic sniffed and thought the air "tasted" a bit stale while going through what he could of his morning routine.  Because of the air quality, Fesic decided to try and keep his breathing under control until he could find out what was happening?

Getting to the recharge station first, Rol stopped short when he saw all the lights on the station were dead.  First thinking, 'that's not good', Rol checked the station's power connections.  Seeing those connections were all correctly set and secure, Rol looked around to check some of the other systems in the compartment.  A number of them were on battery or 'power saver' charges and others were just out.  Rol realized he'd have to have Aali check into what else had gone wrong?  Emkir was just finishing up his morning prep, which he'd taken slow and carefully to not wake up Aali, when someone started knocking on their stateroom door.

Emkir answered the door and Rol told him it seemed there was a problem with the vacc suit charging station.  Emkir muttered a few quiet words of annoyance, mostly to himself even if Rol could hear, while considering what he could do to investigate so Aali could get more sleep.  The problem pulling his mind off the coming day and focusing on the moment, Emkir realized something else his nose had been trying to tell him since he'd woken.  Looking Rol in the eyes, Emkir's nose wrinkled as he said, "Oh.  I seem to be smelling old farts in the air too, so maybe we should take a deeper look at the ship's systems, just to see what's powered up?"  Emkir mumbled a bit about what could possibly be done before he realized he'd have to wake up Aali.  Rol agreed, and waited outside the stateroom.

Hoping to wake her as gently as possible, Emkir moved to the bedside and knocked on the wall above Aali's head while almost chanting, "Honey?  Honey?"  When Aali woke, saying she was up, and asked, "What?" Emkir said, "We have a problem.  There seems to be a loss of power on the ship and we don't know where the failure is."  Nodding, Aali said "Alright" as she came more awake and said, "Give me a few seconds."  Nodding, Emkir stepped back to give her space and pointed while saying, "The clean wipes are on the bed."  But, as she got up, Aali also smelled the stale air and realized one issue had to have been a failure in the patched and struggling remains of their ship's life support systems.  That leant her actions more urgency while she got out of bed, cleaned up as she could and dressed.

After getting dressed, Aali grabbed her tool kit and got moving.  Her sudden exit, wielding a large tool kit, from the stateroom surprised Rol, who'd been waiting for word from Emkir.  When she stepped into the passage with Emkir following behind, Aali told both men, "Come with me."  The two fell in and followed Aali, who moved aft to hit the hatch down to the cargo bay so she could get to the engineering section.  Along the way, Fesic stepped out of his stateroom into the lounge and saw the three moving before he could step over to check the recharge on his combat armor.  While the station had died, his gear had well more than fifty percent of a charge and he had more than enough air in the system, so he armored up.  He then went after the three to get Aali's attention, and was told by the engineer to follow along.

Leading her small parade, Aali told them all the issues were wide enough spread that the problem had to be in the engineering section.  She was quietly annoyed because she couldn't use her stent and comms links to mentally reach the ship's computers, thanks to the damage.  Most of her systems were either dead or down to save power consumption.  Still, she kept that to herself because it would be meaningless to rant about the situation to the others.  They moved to the engineering section as Aiden began to wake in the ship's med-bay.  He and Terin had been bunking there since the jump bubble had deformed during the misjump and the alternate physics of that "other universe" had warped and twisted the walls, floor, ceiling and contents of Aiden's stateroom and half of Terin's.  It had also affected part of their cargo bay.

Like Rol, Aiden also went to check his vacc suit to confirm it had recharged from the day before.  And, like Rol, Aiden realized something on the charging station had failed.  Suddenly stopping and paying even more attention to the situation in the ship's lounge, Aiden realized the life support system had failed.  Knowing the situation was bad but he'd seen worse, Aiden didn't panic.  He'd seen much worse during the war and lived to have nightmares about it.  As if it were almost expected of him, Aiden did say "Well, Shit!" in a voice that was firmly calm and even held a bit of humor despite the situation's seriousness.  Beyond that, the only emotion Aiden would have admitted to that moment was to have been mildly annoyed.

Not aware yet who might be awake, Aiden moved to the door to Aali and Emkir's stateroom and knocked.  Nothing happened because Aiden hadn't been outside his stateroom when the chief engineer had led her party below decks.  After burning what he thought was a good enough wait, Aiden sparked up his comms and tried to reach Aali that way.  Sadly, she'd left her stateroom so quickly, and with so much on her mind, that she'd left her comms behind.  Neither had Emkir, Fesic or Rol brought their comms.  So, All Aiden got back from his query was dead static.  Accepting Aali wasn't in her stateroom and he'd not seen her in the lounge, Aiden started off to the engineering compartments, to see if she was there?

After getting to engineering, the others watched as Aali checked the ship's power plant, which seemed to be working as well as could be expected with the damage.  She then checked the power distribution boards and wiring to see everything there was working to her satisfaction.  So, power was being sent out to the still working systems aboard.  With the mystery deepening, Aali started giving instructions to the others.  Having them check for alert lights and valid or invalid process alarms on various electrical components, to see where there was or wasn't power?  She logged into what was left of the engineering computers and tried to run diagnostics.

Tracing the fault now became a hunt as the others moved along power conduits and trunk lines, searching for any clues.  While Rol and Emkir did their best not to touch anything they weren't told to while working, Fesic had the skills to search out specific connections and power distribution nodes.  He ran what tests the electronics had in-built to them or used hand-held devices to run other tests.  While they worked, Aiden entered the main engineering compartment and called out, "Hello?"  When Aali and some of the others answered him, Aiden came over to ask, "I take it you figured out the life support is down?"  Aali agreed, saying, "Yeah, we also saw there was a problem with the suit recharge station."

Aiden nodded, and admitted he'd seen that too.  He also asked how he could help?  Knowing Aiden had no electronic or engineering skills, Aali added him to her 'follow my orders and look where I tell you but don't touch' detail.  They worked while Aali began to worry that the problem might be outside the engineering spaces.  If that was the case, finding the fault would become a lot more difficult.  With power out to multiple systems on the upper deck, they'd have to start ripping out panels in compartments and passages throughout the deck trying to hunt it down if it was outside engineering.  That would stop their work trying to find a way to jump home.  At the same time, they'd be forced into vacc suits when the air aboard became less and less breathable.

It would also slow down all the work anyone was doing, and they'd have to worry about recharging suits much more regularly.  So, if she couldn't get things working, recharging would have to be done in the one cutter with working life support.  Aali was very relieved when Aiden happened on a power distribution node which looked like it was dead.  Checking the node, Aali and Fesic confirmed it was fried, and Aali verified the board fed power to upper deck systems.  From that, it was a simple task to confirm that board fed the life support systems and the node from which they drew power for the recharge station.  Aali was ready to bet the extra load the jury-rigged station's additional power draw may have caused the failure.  An annoying secondary test confirmed life support had been knocked entirely down when the upper deck system failed.

Looking At the Larger Problem

     Aali and Fesic examined the failure and Aali saw she'd have to bypass the distribution system.  That meant she'd have to remove the burnt distribution node and directly bind and fuse the wiring together, which was entirely unsafe to begin with.  But, she had no spares, and that meant just as many real options.  The danger was that a second oversized draw like the recharge station had caused would start a fire aboard, rather than simply burn out a node built to fail as it had for safety reasons.  Not happy, all Aali could do was to carry on and post a 'droid nearby at all times to act as a fire watch guard.

The other bad news was that she'd have to shut the ship's power plant down and then work to dissipate residual power in the system before she could make any repairs.  Shutting that down meant all remaining light and all artificial gravity and other services aboard the ship would be down at the same time.  And, it meant she'd have to risk that more hidden damage could cause those few still-working systems to fail when she tried to power things up again.  Still, it was "do it" or stop breathing, so Aali had no options.  The best news was that Aali had Fesic and 'droids to work with her once she knew the job and cleared the unskilled people out of her way.  And the others could still act as gofers or provide extra hands as needed.

Starting by very carefully bringing the power feed from the plant to a trickle before shutting the power plant itself down, Aali had Emkir, Rol and Aiden go about the ship shutting down or disconnecting anything they could from the power system.  That way, there wouldn't be as many sudden or intense draws when they restarted the power system.  Still, there were systems they could not shut down or disconnect, so they knew the dice would have to be rolled.  One thing everyone knew about, but had reacted to, based on their own emotions when it actually happened, was that turning off the power turned off, "Everything".  Including all internal lighting and the ship's gravity.  That made those without engineering skill even more nervous because they didn't know what they could or could not safely grab for a hand hold, to safely move about the compartment?

When the lights went out, the androids each lit up their chassis-mounted flood lights to cover the immediate area.  Even better, Aali had bought three flashlights just in case an event required them.  So, with the lights out, Aali quietly said, "Nobody move but me." and began working her way over to the storage to grab those.  Aiden knew he'd had one secured on the bridge, but he wasn't ready to try and work his way up to that compartment without any other lights or gravity to get it.  Soon enough, Aali had the lights and had turned one on as she returned to the group and handed out the other two.

Mikah woke in her stateroom while the team was working in engineering.  While there wasn't any significant movement creating inertia from the ship itself, human bodies did tend to move while sleeping.  When she woke, her own sleeping movements meant she found herself "adrift" above the bed she shared with Zimzod, and floating less than an arm's reach from his body even though she could see nothing.  Zimzod was still out cold as Mikah realized the situation was "not good"!  carefully reaching out while making sure not to create any spin by her actions, Mikah's fingers gently contacted Zimzod's body.  Guessing the ship's power had failed entirely, Mikah knew she had to at least get to a bulkhead so she could figure out where in the geometry of the stateroom she was?

Still, she had a decent guess because the compartment wasn't nearly that large, and she could make a plan.  The next thing Mikah did was listen for any sound at all.  Whenever anyone was aboard a living ship, some systems were always running in engineering and those constantly created some level of background hum and vibration.  Anyone who'd spent any significant time in space knew that, and the background vibrations were something they never felt or noticed...until they all stopped.  While Mikah couldn't tell if the vibrations had stopped, she certainly heard dead silence.  Meaning things were very bad.  Very very bad!

Realizing she'd have to resort to "the basics" where any movement at all would generate an equal and opposite force, Mikah slowly and carefully reached out to feel for a nearby bulkhead.  She didn't find that, she also very slowly and carefully reached out to touch Zimzod and grab his body.  She was careful because she didn't want to create any spin or inertia "before" she was ready.  But, once she had pulled Zimzod close to her, Mikah guessed at where they might be in relation to the bulkheads of the nook where the bed pushed into the stateroom walls and did her best to bring her feet and hands up to a single thrust point.  Gauging her movement to give her "a little" inertia, because the stateroom wasn't that large to start with, Mikah gently pushed off of Zimzod's sleeping form.

For the brief seconds of transit, Mikah lost all sensation of any motion, because there was simply nothing she could sense or feel to tell her anything was changing.  She wasn't even moving nearly fast enough to feel her passage through the air.  Still, she moved her arms in what would have been, if there had been light and anyone to watch, a very graceful set of moves to reach out in the direction she was sure she was moving.  That was thanks to good instruction and years of experience.  And, very quickly, Mikah felt contact with a bulkhead.

Now, it was time for Mikah to guess.  She had no clue what was "up" or "down"?  She also knew she'd have to "bounce" herself at an angle to target any other surface, because she couldn't feel a grab point as she came in contact with the bulkhead.  If the angle she bounced herself into was down towards the bed, she could grab hold there.  If not, she might be aimed at the not too distant ceiling, floor or other walls of the space, or the very close back of the sleeping nook in the stateroom.  Any wall she hit wasn't likely to have a grab point, but any furniture she hit would, so direction was important while speed still had to be kept minimal.  Moving too fast without vision could end up in collisions and nasty injuries.

Using her fingers only, and angling her hands as she could based on her guess, Mikah "bounced" from the bulkhead into a new vector, and hoped she'd only added a slight amount of speed.  She was pleased when the short glide brought her into contact with the bed.  There, she could grab hold of the bedding and then the bed frame.  That told her not only where she was, but let her move in a stable manner from hand hold to hand hold.  The bad news was that neither she nor Zimzod had any portable light sources in the stateroom, so getting organized to go out and see what the ship's problem was would have to be done entirely by feel.

Reassessing the situation briefly, Mikah knew Zimzod likely hadn't woken when he drifted into whatever he did, because she'd not pushed him hard enough, she didn't hear a "thump" and she didn't hear him wake up and react.  Still, there had been a very soft sound with the impact and, thanks to her own 3D senses, Mikah had an idea where he might have floated next.  Added to that, the compartment just wasn't a very large space.  So, holding firmly with one hand, Mikah explored the space around her, gently sweeping her other arm until she came into contact with Zimzod's drifting body.  After making sure Zimzod's drift was stopped, Mikah decided to get dressed before doing anything else.

Thanks to years of training and many many shipboard drills and emergencies, Mikah had been well trained to have her gear and clothing properly stored in the drawers and cabinets provided for that in any stateroom.  So, she knew both where they were and what was in what space to grab?  If she had cared to think about it at all, Mikah was sure she was grabbing mismatching colors and items, but fashion was the last thing on her mind.  She worked carefully in the dark to get dressed.  Done with that, Mikah again reached out to grab Zimzod because it was time to wake him up and get the program moving.

Grabbing Zimzod by the most convenient extremity, which turned out to be one of his legs, Mikah put a bit more energy into her move as she pulled down hard against her grab point and swung Zimzod towards what she was certain was one of the stateroom walls.  And while she made sure not to put too much energy into the swing, there was enough for a quiet but satisfying "smack" and grunt when Zimzod made contact.  Just after the grunt, Mikah barked, "Get up!" as Zimzod reacted with the confusion anyone newly and suddenly woken would.  That was added to by the surprise as he found himself adrift with no reference points or ability to make sense of the situation.

Mikah couldn't see what gyrations Zimzod had gone through or how much spin and inertia he'd given himself when he suddenly reacted to being woken that way.  She did know he'd been trained but spent many fewer years aboard ship in his life, so he was likely to be slower to realize what the situation was?  Not willing to wait for him to get himself organized, Mikah took the quickest route she knew and relied on his military background.  So, she started barking orders at him.  And Zimzod did react on a level that was ingrained and automatic.  Snapping that the gravity and power were out, Mikah ordered him to get dressed and ready for damage control.  Still adrift, it took Zimzod some time, as it had Mikah, to orient himself and get to a firm hand hold.

Now awake and in control, Zimzod asked, "Why are the lights out?"  Mikah dryly asked with a bit of a chiding tone in her voice, "Have you noticed there's no gravity?"  Zimzod snarked back, "Yeah.  I'm good with that."  He then added, with a bit of a leer in his voice, "Wanna have some fun?"  Letting more annoyance color her voice, Mikah answered, "No.  I think there's something seriously wrong."  Accepting that, Zimzod still told her, "You really know how to ruin a guy's morning." though he made sure his tone made it the joke he intended.  Mikah simply hung there in the darkness and flatly answered, "I know.  Awesome, isn't it?" with a nasty grin despite the fact he couldn't see that.  Her tone left Zimzod no response except to get himself dressed while she started making her way out of the stateroom and down to engineering.

Drama In The Dark

     Mikah moved, and Zimzod eventually caught up with her while she worked the hatch just aft of their staterooms.  That would lead down, into the cargo bay from which they could get into the engineering spaces.  Getting into that space, both could see beams of light moving around through the compartment.  Moving carefully, the couple made their way to where Aali was working with Fesic and the androids while Rol and Aiden hung in the zero-g nearby.  Putting as much 'calm' and 'relaxed' in her voice as she could, Mikah asked Aali, "Is something wrong?" in a conversational tone.  Just as conversationally as Mikah, Aali answered, "No.  Nothing wrong at all.  Nothing to see here."  Zimzod grunted, "Then, I didn't get enough sleep last night." in a mock annoyed tone.

Ignoring that, Aali asked, "Have you noticed how the air smells?"  Mikah and Zimzod nodded and Aali added, "And, you noticed the lights were out and the lack of gravity?"  When Mikah nodded and leaned harder on her patience, Aali explained they had woken to find the life support was out and the recharge station she'd jury rigged was dead.  Then, she told Mikah they'd traced the failure down to a power distribution node which had burned out.  After Aali told them she'd shut down the ship's power plant to fix the damage, Mikah said, "OK.  Tell me what you need me to do?"  That helped Aali, because Mikah had some electronics training.  Not as much as Fesic, but she could help more than the others.

Still, Aali, Fesic and Mikah knew it would be several hours until they could complete the jury rig and make it work as safely as possible.  Especially without the fail-safe 'burn outs' of the distribution node.  The work continued while, in the stateroom she'd been assigned, Jocelynn woke to find herself drifting free in the dark.  In those brief seconds before her brain fully engaged, a small voice inside her head muttered, 'I must have died after all.'  But then, she got her gears in synch and snapped into 'Marine Emergency Mode' and decided something was seriously wrong here.  Wearing the panties and tank top she'd slept in, Jocelynn figured it was too dark to worry about anything other than finding out what was wrong?  By feel, Jocelynn got into the under-boots she'd had on in her battledress and left her stateroom heading for the engineering section.

Moving through the lightless passages and compartments of a strange ship, because she'd never really been given the 'grand tour' of the California, Jocelynn did vaguely remember the path from the cutter.  Eventually, she found a hatch that led below decks, where she'd been told the bulk of the engineering compartments were. Through that, she made her way into the compartment.  When she arrived, Jocelynn saw the beams of a number of hand-held lights and, without a thought, happily rushed to join the teams already working on the problem.  Without considering the situation more completely.  Jocelynn moved up until she realized just how well lit by portable lighting the space was.  Only then did she consider how little clothes she actually had on. 

Sadly for Jocelynn, her thoughts moved slower than events while Aiden had been looking around for any other signs of trouble.  He caught sight of her swimming through the space in zero-g, and it took Aiden a moment to realize just what he was seeing?  That was because Jocelynn was very new to the ship, and the tank top and panties she wore made her appear to be nearly naked!  Surprised, he reacted by muttering an audible "What the...?" while swinging the light in his hand to catch her in its beam.  Aiden's eyes were stuck on Jocelynn.  And when others heard his comment, the other two flashlights followed his and Jocelynn found herself targeted in the spotlight.  A nearly nude target in the spotlight.

Suddenly floating in the compartment in her sleepwear, with her hair in a braid floating behind her, Jocelynn realized there was nothing left for her to do but brazen it through.  Verbally, Rol recovered first as he gazed at her floating in the flashlight beams and said, "And, good morning to you too." with an almost 'come hither' tone.   Fesic snickered, "It's getting a bit nippy in here." while Jocelynn couldn't miss the direction of his gaze, more toward her chest...  Despite the fact she was wearing a tank top she knew would reveal her curves in ways that might draw less than pleasant attention and thoughts.  Jocelynn reminded a part of her mind she'd have to kick his round ass square sometime in the future.

Responding to Fesic's comment, Zimzod joked, I don't think so.  Her headlights aren't flashing." with a leer on his face.  But his gaze had shifted to the gunner as he threw the verbal barb.  Answering both Fesic and Zimzod, Aiden muttered, "No.  Though I must say, my mood has drastically improved."  Still, the moment didn't last very long because any veteran of any Imperial service had to have become used to co-ed "everything", from quarters to communal showers, etc...  There really was nothing new here, except that Jocelynn was a new member of the crew.  So, her appearance was a novelty.  Breaking the moment, Jocelynn looked at Aali and asked how she could help?

That snapped Aali back into 'work mode' and admitted she actually had as many people and 'droids working on the wiring as she needed.  So, she told the others to hang out and stand ready in case they needed any extra hands.  Hearing that, Jocelynn started to think, 'maybe, its time I should get some pants on'.  Still, she decided to wait a few moments to make it not overly noticeable when she left the group.  Fesic and Aiden, who were the only crew to have grabbed their comms, and, while they worked, they heard Terin's voice when the navigator asked, "Hello?  Has anyone else noticed there's something wrong here?"

With Aali, Fesic and Mikah busy working on the electronics, Aiden told Terin they had a power problem and were working on it in the engineering compartment.  With a tinge of annoyance in his voice, Terin said, "Cool!  Didn't anyone think to knock on the stateroom doors and warn anyone about this?"  Aiden snapped that, with things as bad as they were, Aali and those awake had to get on diagnosing the problem ASAP.  While that conversation went on, Jocelynn decided it was the perfect distraction for her to fade away and go get dressed.  Still, the conversation ended very quickly and Terin realized everyone else seemed to have gotten moving, and he had to play catch up.  Even if he was going to be moving very slowly, moving from handhold to handhold in the zero gravity.

Looking around, several minutes after cutting the line with Terin, Aiden started to think ahead.  And some part of his paranoid mind equated the eventual return of power to possible explosions and other dangers.  So, he asked Aali and the others, "Before this thing is fixed and we turn the power back on, should we all be in vacc suits?"  Mikah considered the question from a different direction and realized the air would soon get less and less safe to breath.  Because of that, Mikah ordered those not working the problem to go above-decks and get into their vacc suits.  Then, she told them to bring vacc suits to those working in engineering too.  Because the androids had flood lights, those heading above decks to suit up took the three flashlights with them.

What came next was a combination of movement and mistakes starting when Terin got into motion.  He'd grabbed clothing and gotten dressed before grabbing his comms again.  Having been essentially told off by Aiden, Terin realized he had to move.  Getting to the door of the med-bay, since his stateroom had been half-wrecked like Aiden's had, Terin started carefully moving, handhold to handhold, to get into the passage leading aft, to the below decks hatch.  Terin was about a third of the way down that passage, slowly moving along, when Jocelynn reached the hatch he was headed for from the other direction.  She hadn't heard the end of the conversation with Terin when she left, and didn't know how that had all panned out?

That meant she swam up through the hatch and grabbed a handhold, to propel herself down the completely dark passage toward the stateroom where her clothes were.  Visibility was even worse, because the lights the others had in engineering had destroyed any adjustment her eyes had managed to the darkness.  Knowing that, she kept herself close to the side of the passage, so she could run her fingers along the passage wall and grab handholds to control her drift.  Moving much faster than Terin, who couldn't see her just as much as she couldn't see him, Terin was barely more than two steps further along when Jocelynn blindly slammed into him.  That threw him back as her body became entwined with and wrapped around his.

Each knew they'd encountered something "soft", with only the other person's "ooff!" as a clue to what had happened?  Thanks to Jocelynn's inertia, her limbs were thrown forward along her path of travel.  Terin was the one forced back when he folded around the flying object that hit him, and threw him back.  Hitting Terin face first, Jocelynn's head and shoulders were pushed "up" as Terin's torso was forced back at an angle when his legs dragged behind.  His right shoulder was also pushed back as Terin lost hold of the wall and he began to spin clockwise.  Reaching to grab what, or who, had hit him, Terin's right arm came down around Jocelynn's rising left shoulder to grab her by the back.  His left hand, however, came up trying to grab something", and firmly caught hold of Jocelynn's right breast.

Even more unfortunately, for Terin, he could only think to say, "Well.  This is nice", with a plastic smile on his face.  In a voice she was surprised came out with as little acid as it did, Jocelynn said, "You could at least buy me dinner first."  Desperately trying to come up with a snappy answer, Terin joked, "Well, you being a marine and all, I guess I'll let you get on top if we do."  Stuck in a flying ball, Jocelynn knew she had to stop their drift before she could put Terin through a wall.  So, she reached out her left arm to drag along the side of the passage until she felt something she could grab.  That sudden anchor point pulled her arm taunt and then swung the couple to the left and into the wall, Terin first.

Thanks to the fact their movement had been further down the passage, the inertia was deadened rather than bouncing them off the wall.  That meant Terin was slammed against the wall at the end of the passage and then slightly crushed by Jocelynn's body.  Still holding onto her tightly as the only anchor point he had, Terin was just starting to realize exactly where he had hold of her.  He was also starting to realize just how little clothing it felt like she was wearing.  It was then that Jocelynn pointedly told him in growled words clipped off, "You can remove your hand now.  Before I do."  And she stressed the word "I" in a tone which made it clear just how badly things would go if he didn't do so.  NOW!

The moment looked like it could have been drawn out except for the sudden light that caught them in the passage.  Having left the work in engineering to get their vacc suits on and bring the others their suits, Aiden, Rol and Emkir had climbed out of the hatch and Aiden thought he'd heard voices.  When he turned his flashlight on the passage and grunted, Rol and Emkir brought up their lights to see what seemed to be Jocelynn pinning Terin to a passage wall in what looked like a very intimate pose.  And while they couldn't see Terin's hand as he dropped it from her breast, they could see there was 'no light between the couple'.

Thanks to the light, Terin could now see for a fact exactly how little Jocelynn had been wearing too, and could make out the color rising in her chest, neck and face.  Before he could stop himself, as Jocelynn saw him glance down with obvious interest, Terin said, "This is even a nicer view." while he obviously tried to force his growing leer into a smile.  With that, something snapped in Jocelynn's thoughts and she started reviewing the likely results of kneeing the man in his groin and how she'd have to control her vector after the act?  What she really wanted to do was head butt him and turn out his lights for a half hour or more, but that was less likely to end well.

Accepting the facts, Jocelynn fell back on a standard null-grav combat tactic she'd learn in training and set herself.  With all that happening in the less than half-second after Terin shot off his mouth, Jocelynn snapped her right knee into his crotch as hard as she could.  Acting almost as she hit him, she snapped her arms up above Terin's shoulders to add inertia to the push she'd gotten from kneeing him.  The wall strikes also balanced out her vector of travel before she ended up in a spin, so she was propelled directly back across the passage.  "Bowing her torso" to eat any inertia as she very gracefully shifted her hands and feet back, Jocelynn caught herself like a compacted spring as she hit the far wall and sprang back at Terin while the others watched from the end of the passage.

Despite her training and experience, Jocelynn didn't come off the wall as well as she wanted to, which cost her both velocity and accuracy in her aim.  On top of that, Terin was actually still floating in space, having become a human ball collapsed around his injured groin.  As a result, Jocelynn managed to reach him with her knee in position to swing a second strike which connected to Terin's left shoulder, sending him spinning off into space after he bounced off the wall.  Having wanted to hit him in the head, Jocelynn couldn't spin accurately enough given her speed and the short distance, so her strike connected and Terin bounced back against the wall.  Then, his spin created a counter-directional bounce as the ball which was Terin started flying down the passage towards the three observers near the hatch.

Seeing that, Jocelynn barked a short laugh and sheered, "Corner Pocket!" while grabbing a handhold and stabilized herself.  Not caring any more about Terin and thankful for the light which showed her exactly which door to reach for, Jocelynn moved off to get dressed.  Behind her, she heard someone she thought might be Aiden saying, "Welcome to what's left of the Hotel California.  You really are one of us."  She only replied over her shoulder, "I'll talk to you once I've got some clothes on."  With that, Jocelynn did her best to wrap herself in whatever remaining dignity she could and left the passage.

Without missing a beat, Aiden answered, "Don't go to any trouble", but he wasn't sure if she'd even been listening at that point.  Or, if he was glad she might not have.  Not having any zero-g maneuvering skills or the strength to even try to straighten out his body 'just yet', Terin wasn't really even aware of what was happening around him as he reached the trio of crew near the hatch who caught him, stabilized him and then left him drifting in a fetal ball until he recovered.  Not without a number of snickers at his expense about his choice of girlfriend...

Stepping Past The Last Disaster

     After distributing to everyone their vacc suits or, in Zimzod's case his battledress, Aali announced it would likely take the rest of the morning to past mid-day to jury rig the new power connection.  Told that, Rol broke out more of the MRE's the crew were using for meals in the absence of any way to cook or prepare real food.  Over and again, it was agreed they would survive with varying degrees of enthusiasm for wanting to survive while actually experiencing the "meals".  Having helped deliver the suits after getting into his, Aiden decided they had enough air in the ship for "now", so he didn't seal his suit and saved his PLSS.  He also chose to set his alarm and sleep for five hours, because he'd use less oxygen that way.

Also done delivering vacc suits, Emkir stayed below decks to help if he was needed.  Now dressed and into her battledress, because she didn't have her vacc suit, Jocelynn returned to the engineering spaces to ask Aali some questions. She also noticed Terin had recovered and was drifting near the group.  Begging Aali's pardon and saying she didn't want to step on Aali's toes, Jocelynn first suggested they might need to get the one cutter with its dead life support system repaired.  Jocelynn then said that when they needed to transfer parts from the California to the Coronal Flare, they would need havens with life support and the needed power to work and live from until that was done.

Aali admitted that was a good point which she said had been mentioned but not considered earlier by the crew.  Drifting close by, Terin agreed and pointed out the cutters could also become recharge stations for their suits, because they'd seen what had happened trying to use the ship's systems.  No one seemed to pay attention to the wide berth he gave Jocelynn while he spoke, or even spared a thought why that was?  Nodding at Terin's point, which she had thought to bring up, Jocelynn was glad she wasn't the only one, being a stranger among a strange crew.  Jocelynn also mentioned that they'd need both cutters when they had to start moving fuel over to the Flare to make her jump-capable.

Having that suggestion dealt with, Jocelynn next asked permission to start working on moving the three ships closer together and tying them up, to make it easier for the crew to cross between the wrecks.  Aali admitted that was a pretty high priority, but said they had to decide how to do it?  They would especially need cables long enough to do the job, which they didn't have.  Saying that, Aali also told Jocelynn it was OK with her if the marine took charge of it, but she needed to clear it with Mikah too.  Thanking Aali, Jocelynn turned to Mikah, who called Zimzod to join the conversation.  Zimzod agreed with the idea when he first heard it, and Mikah liked it too.

Since Zimzod, Jocelynn and Rol were also not needed for the electronic repairs in the California, it would give them a job to handle which would advance their escape plans while the electronics work was going on.  So, Mikah approved it and volun-told Rol he was helping.  While they were settling those ideas, Terin suggested that they could use the cutters if the work on the California's life support took too long.  Asked what he meant, Terin clarified that they could use the docking passages from the cutters to mate them to either ship once they got the second cutter's life support fixed and blow the clean atmo from them into the yacht they were docked with.  People agreed that was an idea but Aali pointed out they'd need to be careful to not burn out life support systems not meant to support that large a space.

Rol also repeated that they could keep the one cutter running and use it to set up their suit recharge stations.  Terin nodded while Rol polished his idea.  Aali was nodding and considering the power requirements, and suddenly came to a realization.  Stopping the others, Aali admitted the power draw from the jury-rigged recharge station may well have caused the power problem they were fixing at the moment.  That meant moving the recharging stations wasn't a "maybe", but a "must do" after the ship's power was brought back to the point it could be.  It also added urgency to getting the naval cutter's life support up, as a "Plan B" against any possible damage to their own cutter.

Finally, Jocelynn also said she'd like to go searching for her former quarters in the Regina's Storm and see if any of her gear even still existed?  Mikah laughed and said that wouldn't be a problem because Jocelynn obviously needed clothing if that morning was any example of her situation.  Mikah also suggested Jocelynn consider looting any other staterooms for clothing if she knew of any former crew from the carrier who might be of a size with her.  Shrugging, Mikah pointed out the former crew wouldn't complain any after all.  Still, there was suddenly a moment of silence for the many people who's deaths were not deserved under the circumstances.

The plan to start working started coming together and Terin volunteered to be their pilot if they needed one, because he wasn't needed on the California.  Of course, that didn't last long when Zimzod and Jocelynn pointed out he didn't have zero-g skills, so they'd have to carry him around the carrier if he came.  And Jocelynn made it very clear unfortunate things could happen to the navigator if she were carrying him....  Mikah also made it clear Jocelynn and Zimzod were to make sure no one would waste time on treasure hunts for things they didn't need.  Especially since Terin wanted to go along.

Terin ignored Mikah's comment but suggested he wouldn't have to be tethered and carried.  But when Jocelynn said she'd be the one to carry him in tones suggestive of her possible treatment of him, Terin asked if he could be tethered to someone else with a look at Rol and Zimzod.  Looking back at Terin with an evil sneer, Zimzod said "Sure!" and made it clear he could use a dead weight to swing around when he needed to change his vector.  When neither idea gave Terin a good feeling about his unbruised future with the team, he shot an appealing look to Rol.  Rol simply suggested they hog tie Terin to make it easier to carry him and keep him "safe".

Getting past the jokes, those not working on the electronics or in engineering sat down to hash out the best way to move to and explore the strike carrier?  The options were to use their suit systems to make an EVA leap from ship to ship or have Terin pilot them over in one of the cutters.  Jocelynn disagreed with having Terin, or anyone pilot them across, because she disagreed with using the cutter's fuel.  Still, Jocelynn did say it would be best to have a pilot standing by in case they were needed in an emergency.  That decided, they started talking about how to move the ships, and realized they first had to look for cables to use to move and tie up the ships.  There were none aboard the California and they thought where wouldn't likely be any aboard the Regina's Storm.

In the end, the three decided they'd do an EVA leap from ship to ship and someone would stand by to fly a rescue mission with one of the cutters in case that was needed.  On the carrier, they'd let Jocelynn take some time to look for her own gear while they searched for cables to use to tie up the ships after they were moved.  The rest of the details would be decided after they got the cables they needed, or saw they wouldn't find them after all.  From that point, the question was where they might find any cables on the carrier, and for that, they looked at Jocelynn.  She and the marines weren't technical or flight support, but had been used a time or two as strong back's and beasts of burden.  From what she remembered, Jocelynn suggested they try the flight deck.

A Leap In the Dark

     The decisions made, Rol, Zimzod and Jocelynn geared up.  They knew the "leap" would take them roughly an hour from one ship to the other.  The biggest remaining question was which part of the carrier to target when they jumped?  They knew they wanted to search the ship's flight deck, or what was left of it after the mis-jump, mutiny and fighting.  They also knew the flight deck actually ran the length of the ship, because the launch tubes had run down the length of the ship's forward "neck".  So, they spent some time going over the last times the crew had boarded the wreck to decide where to target.

Reviewing their options, the three decided to target a hole that had been found on the second deck, which had been blown out of the ship from the flight deck, two decks down.  They also planned to tether each to the next because only Jocelynn and Zimzod had battledress with EVA thrust systems.  So, Rol's course corrections would rely on pulls from either one of the others.  They also decided they'd spend two hours searching for the cables, and anything else.  They expected the entire operation to take four hours, unless they found any reason to extend it.  Finally, with Terin in the fully operational cutter on standby, the trio made the leap and mostly drifted their way across the gulf to the destroyed carrier.

Despite the controls on the battledress, their landing aboard the wreck was a bit off.  While they still landed amidships, as they'd planned, they ended up grappling with fittings on the exterior of the second deck.  During the leap, Zimzod bounced Jocelynn a set of deck plans for the carrier he'd recovered from the book Rol had bought.  He also warned her they were based on publicly released information on the original class.  That meant class-wide changes, upgrades and specific changes or post-battle repairs made to "this ship" might mean the deck plans were no longer accurate.  Getting aboard, they'd decided to stick together rather than split up.

Getting down to the flight deck was a more exciting issue, so they made their way into a blast hole which was the obvious result of an internal explosion.  Reaching the flight deck, they saw the place was a complete mess.  There were wrecked craft and the remains of exploded craft drifting all through the space.  Not to mention the vacuum-exposed remains of quite a number of former crew, who either died when their vacc suits or combat armor had been ripped open or who had died when the ship was ripped open because they'd not been in sealed gear of any kind.  What it didn't look was promising.  And, to Jocelynn, it looked a million times worse.

They'd shown Jocelynn the damage before, but that was from a distance.  She saw it directly through her visor when the jump neared its end, while the wreck grew and grew...  During that, the reality of it all hit her even harder.  The deaths became even more real to her.  Lucky for her, she'd had most of an hour to deal with her feelings during the jump.  But here, aboard and on the flight deck, it hit her again and ripped the scabs apart fresh and new.  Jocelynn didn't know what had happened to her friends and team mates individually, or specifically, but each of those dead bodies managed to individually represent her dead.  And the only armor she had left was to simply go full-bore marine and get through it.  She'd seen her people die before because she was an Imperial Marine.

The first step was to do a 'walk down' of the entire deck looking for anything obvious.  Also, to look for any surviving and marked storage that could contain what they were looking for.  Or, that could hold something they could use to make their work or search easier.  That was in areas where the deck and bulkheads had not been blasted away or explosively shredded.  In some cases, the wrecks of fighters and service craft were shoved against the bulkheads and in others the main floor of the flight deck was clear to move through.  But, after the walk through they'd found nothing obvious.  So, it was time to start pulling things apart to search, and they thanked the stars there was no gravity.  That would make moving the wrecks easier.

They decided to work methodically, from the aft end of the deck, where fighters and small craft were recovered or received immediate service.  With that, they worked as a team to slowly clear and search each of the service panels and supply cabinets on the deck.  After just more than an hour, Zimzod lifted and threw aside the remains of a marine assault cutter.  Clearing the cabinet, Zimzod ripped the doors open and was finally rewarded with the sight of two coiled lengths of cable and a collection of tie downs.  Calling the others over, they pulled all the cables out and found the longest were three hundred meters long.  Which wasn't nearly long enough to use to tie the wrecks together at their current distances.  Unless they found longer cables they realized they'd have to use the cutters to push the wrecks together like tug boats, and then use the cables to tie the ships up.

Grabbing the cables, Rol had the idea of looking for oxygen containers and other supplies while Jocelynn reminded the others she wanted to search for whatever remained of her quarters.  Nodding, Rol admitted they could look for any obvious supplies while they went looking for Jocelynn's gear.  Sparking up the deck plan file Zimzod had, they talked about where her quarters had been and where they'd passed through on earlier visits.  It turned out they hadn't gone into that section because it was obviously a block of enlisted quarters and didn't seem likely to have any supplies they needed at the time.

Talking about what had been searched for, Zimzod mentioned the armory and Jocelynn showed him where that should be on their map.  Zimzod said they'd gotten as close as they could get to that point before being stopped because the only thing they'd found in the space was a huge hole.  That whole section of the ship appeared to be 'Gone'.  Rol mentioned he'd be leery of touching any weapons they found anyway, because of what had happened aboard the ship.  And while he didn't explain what he meant, neither did Zimzod or Jocelynn ask.  What Rol really hoped to find were oxygen bottles or spare PLSS packs.  From there, the group went to see how close they could get to where Jocelynn's quarters had been.

On the way, they ran into a number of annoying blockages and were sometimes forced to climb to the next deck up or down, and then return to the deck they wanted.  Also, along the way, they passed a few "emergency stations", which were mostly empty because the carrier's crew had grabbed desperately for any way to survive.  But, they did find breath masks, which would protect someone's head and lungs for a very brief time, until they got to another pressurized environment somehow.  Mostly, they would be used in conjunction with space balls, so a survivor could get in with the vacc suit they didn't have time to get into right then.  After they were secure in the ball, they'd have up to six hours before they had to be in a vacc suit or sealed and pressurized armor.

Some of the stations still had some untapped breath masks and rescue balls, which the trio took.  Jocelynn said if they could find her quarters and gear, they could likely get a duffel bag or two to load up with what they found before returning to the California.  Finally, after an hour of grim exploration which added more and more doubt what they were looking for had survived, they reached the block of quarters in which Jocelynn had lived with three other marines.  Along the way, they'd collected of masks and space balls.  Looking at the entrance to her quarters, they could all see the entry open hatch was no longer even closed to square.

From outside, it seemed the deck and bulkheads had obviously suffered significant damage and were twisted out of shape.  Looking in through the twisted door, they could see the deck had been warped upward from right to left.  The ruin of the deck covered just more than half the entrance!  Gazing in as best they could, it seemed the bulkhead that had contained Jocelynn's locker and gear might have been uplifted as the deck twisted.  It might also have been entirely crushed up against the deck ceiling and have been destroyed.

Not sure what their options were, Jocelynn figured "what the hell" and moved up as she ratcheted up the multiplier on her battledress exoskeleton.  Then, she stepped up, grabbed a flange of the offending deck flooring and tried to bend it out of the way a bit.  But no matter how hard she tried, it didn't move at all.  Accepting that, Jocelynn and the others chatted about the situation before she decided it was time to play a game of 3-D limbo and hope she didn't get pushed against anything so sharp and piercing that it could puncture her armor.

It took some minutes for Jocelynn to get through the remaining gap into the space, and she found about two thirds of the space still available.  Still, the space within resembled a fun-house twisted, bent, crushed and transformed walls, floor and ceiling.  While Jocelynn said she had no issues with the guys following her in, there was no reason for them to slide past sharp and twisted metal.  So, she looked around and scanned with her suit's sensors while she tried to puzzle out what had been where?  Finally, Jocelynn decided she saw a set of panels which were surprisingly intact and which "may" have been the panels containing her locker and gear.

Stepping up and taking a breath, Jocelynn realized the power was out so her electronic lock was dead.  That left her with grabbing the fold out locker handle and using her battledress enhanced strength to rip the locker door off its mountings.  The first yank ripped the handle out, but also pulled a bit of the door panel loose with it.  That let Jocelynn reach in and grab the door panel itself, and rip the entire facing off the locker.  Inside, Jocelynn could see what was left of her clothes and uniforms thanks to the small spotlight on her armor.  And, she could see, near what had been the floor of the locker, the secured 'personal items' drawer.

That drawer "looked" secure and undamaged from the outside, but she could see where the section which contained hanger-stored uniforms and clothing items had been "bent" so the left wall of the locker sharply jutted across the space and had severed some of her clothing while pinning the rest firmly.  Rol said, "At least your Uniforms have been pressed", as he saw the mess thanks to the video being broadcast from her battledress.  Annoyed at that, Jocelynn ignored the quip.  Again, Jocelynn ratcheted up the strength enhancements and tried to bend the metal pinning her clothing and got nothing but sweat for her effort.  While her 'class A' was slashed, Jocelynn was able to remove her decorations from the blouse and stow them.

Working on ideas, Jocelynn was able to gently work on, twist and pull the one shipsuit farthest from the pinning metal, on the assumption it was pinned against flat metal.  After working at it for a number of minutes, Jocelynn was rewarded when that shipsuit came free.  She was also able to recover, from a bent and badly warped set of shelved cubby holes, her duffel bag, underwear and footwear.  But, the next shipsuit she worked out came out almost half severed.  And she could see it wasn't repairable.  Next, it was time to see if she could open the lock box with her personal valuables.

Carefully grabbing the drawer handles with her battledress gloves, Jocelynn first planned to apply slowly increasing pressure to see if she could pull the entire drawer loose?  When that didn't happen, she ratcheted up the strength again and simply ripped the front facing off the drawer so she could reach in and sweep everything from inside the space out to float above the deck.  Before she swept the space, though, she looked in it to see part of the back end of the locker had been ripped away.  And since she only "really" wanted one thing from the locker, that drove a stake of ice through her heart.

From the visual, she could tell her mechanical tool kit was gone.  After she swept out the drawer, the one thing she spotted immediately was the holocube.  Grabbing it right off, Jocelynn could tell it was damaged, but she'd keep it and pray it could be repaired, or the data inside it recovered and transferred.  After that, she reported success to Zimzod and Rol and Zimzod slipped into the space to help her, because they were going to rip open the other three lockers and see if they could find anything else that would help them?  So, she and Zimzod went looking for helpful gear.  And more importantly, one of her roommates was a female who's body had been close in size to Jocelynn, so she could get some 'close but not exactly' clothes until they reach a port.

At the very least, they got three more duffel bags.  Outside of that, they found a collection of moderately valuable personal items but nothing to email home about.  Jocelynn did manage to grab Sgt. Karglen's ship suits and even some casual slacks and blouses.  She knew the stuff wouldn't fit 'perfectly', but it would do.  After that, the three agreed it was time to start working their way out of the wreck and getting back to the California.  While they still looked, they figured going back the way they came was at least a route they knew.

It was almost an accident that they found a 'Ready' section where vacc suits had been stored.  Each of the PLSS units was a standard Imperial military 24-hour unit, and the ten units were fully charged.  Happy with that discovery and very glad they were in zero-g, they were now loaded down with a collection of massive cables, 10 PLSS units, a duffle bag of Jocelynn's gear and another duffle bag of breath masks and space balls.  So, movement was now "Really slow".  Considering how loaded down they were, they decided to call over to the California and have Terin pick them up rather than do a jump while dragging all the gear.

Getting Down To Work

     It took nearly half an hour for Terin to cross the distance between ships and locate the hole from which the three emerged.  They helped by flashing lights to guide him in after he'd gotten close to the part of the wreck they'd said they were waiting in.  Making the leap from the wreck easier, Terin depressurized the cutter and opened its cargo door to give them a larger target.  When Terin joked that the taxi had arrived and was Cr 50 a head, Jocelynn snapped, "You got to grope my boob so I think we're even."  Rol just told Terin he could make the scout a "special meal", like he'd done for Munarshu before.  Zimzod laughed at that.

They commed Mikah and the others while coming back to the ship, to report on the supplies they'd found.  They told Mikah they'd start working on tethering the wrecks together after getting back.  While they returned, Aali and her team were just finishing up their electronic bypass work.  So, for the moment, everyone waited and Aali warned them this might not resolve the issue.  She also said the failure might have caused more damage they didn't yet know about.  Outside the ship, Emkir had grabbed the cutter with working life support while Terin was helping the others haul in what they weren't leaving on the cutter.  But, the cables were staying aboard for the work of pulling and securing the wrecks together.

They'd also woken Aiden, since he was their best pilot and they had to be careful however they proceeded in moving the wrecks closer to each other.  After Aiden geared up, and found out he'd drawn the naval cutter because Emkir had been awake already, they prepared to start moving the ships so Zimzod, Jocelynn and Rol could use the cables to secure the wrecks closer together.  After they got moving, the plan was for the cutters to move in close so the three could hop onto the nearby wreck.  The three would then use the cables to tie the wreck to both cutters, letting the pilots tow that wreck in close and use different thrust vectors to control their drift.

Having the first yacht close to the carrier's hulk, the three would untie the cable ends connected to the cutters and then use those cables to secure one end of the yacht to the carrier.  After that, they would move out to the other yacht and repeat the work to move and secure the second yacht to the carrier.  Finally, the three would make their way to the unsecured ends of each yacht while the cutters moved in to carefully "nose" the ends of the two wrecks together so the three could secure their ends together.  After that, Zimzod, Rol and Jocelynn would run 'lead cables' between hatches and holes so anyone could grab a cable and make their way from wreck to wreck.

The long and exhausting hours carrying that out were tense and there was at least one point when Aiden nearly got his cutter caught in a pinch between two of the closing wrecks.  Still, they eventually finished the work without losing any paint to scrapes.  Rol also got some excitement when he almost missed his handhold at the end of a jump.  While he'd still had hold of his cable end, the possibility of being pulled back from the end of his drift into a mass of sharp and shredded metal could have ruined his whole day.  Lucky for him, Rol did manage to snag hold of his target at the end and make his cable fast.  By the end of the work in the late afternoon, the formation resembled a giant letter "P" drifting in space.

Meanwhile, On The Coronal Storm

     After her "very fun" morning repairing the surviving electronics on the California, everyone crossed their fingers while Aali carefully restarted the ship's power plant.  When that didn't fail or explode, and even got close to its post-misjump high power mark, Aali opened the power feed to the distribution splitter.  When nothing else failed because of that, she moved to the splitter and started opening feeds to the various parts of the ship.  Aali opened the feed to the conduit she replaced first.  And, with everyone standing close with fire extinguishers, they watched and managed to start breathing again because the replaced wiring didn't flare and burn, or otherwise fail.  After she'd returned what power they had to the California, Aali had to move to the Flare and play catch up with her day.

In the very few spare moments before he left on his "mission", Aiden had gone through the wreckage that had been his stateroom aboard the California.  That space, as well as half of Terin's stateroom, had been twisted and ripped apart by forces of physics outside their own universe when the jump bubble had deformed during their misjump.  After some work almost cleaning up the space more than hunting for surviving artifacts, Aiden had found a ring case that had been ejected from his stateroom storage spaces.  Opening that, Aiden found his lanthanum ring set with a Tellona diamond chip, which Zimzod had given each of the California's crew after Countess Ursara had cut the diamond for sale.  Aiden was also surprised to find the patchwork ACR he'd bought in Rhylanor.

Carefully, but quickly, Aiden checked the weapon and was amazed to see it wasn't damaged.  Added to that, Mikah was livid when they checked the California's cargo bay.  Looking through that space, they found the jump bubble had deformed there too.  While much of the space was intact, the newly repaired cargo door was deformed and all the hazardous environment suits they'd bought on Regina were damaged or destroyed!  Some parts of the suits were just "gone".  Disgusted with that situation, they could only shrug and move on with salvage and recovery.

Aali was ready to move to the Flare just before Terin got the call to recover Zimzod, Jocelynn and Rol from the carrier.  So, he could shuttle Aali, Mikah and Fesic to the Flare.  When she arrived there with her assistants and a few androids, the 'droid's floodlights lit the place up and Aali realized how much of a mess that yacht's engineering spaces were in.  With the portable lighting, it didn't take long for Aali to announce the yacht's maneuver drive had been "slagged".  All the scouts knew that didn't matter because they only had to jump to the Inthe system and start broadcasting a signal GQ.  If they were close enough in-system, help would come to them and if they weren't, they'd be much too far out for anyone to help them anyway.

Still, they knew the California's maneuver drive worked, and they could spend extra time on-station if they had the life support and wanted to.  They could disassemble and shift the needed parts over to get the Flare's drives going. But Aali didn't recommend bothering because they didn't need the manuver drive.  Ignoring that, Aali could see there were some parts of the ship's power plant that needed replacing, even without taking it apart.  That, alone, made her worry how much more damage she'd find when she disassembled the system?  The good news was that she knew they could likely replace some of the parts from the Hotel California.  Still, that meant they'd have to power down and kill that ship to do it.  So, it was a last gasp move if they couldn't find other replacement parts.

Aali was concerned that any parts they found aboard the carrier would have been built for much larger plants, and would need to be sized down or connected through jury-rigged power leads which would have to be reliable throughout their "escape jump".  Of course, they could all guess what would happen if a jury-rigged connection failed mid-jump?  That was added to the obviously damaged and destroyed jump capacitors and whatever she found was dead when she disassembled the jump system, not to mention the life support system.  Aali was sure they could take capacitors from either the carrier or the California, though she worried she couldn't really properly test them at all.  Sadly, that would take a ship yard.

On top of the work she'd have to do in the yacht's engineering spaces, Aali knew the high tech instrument consoles on the bridge would have to be replaced and they'd have to test and possibly re-run data cabling and wiring to get power and computer data to the bridge.  Not to mention her concern about the survival of the ship's computer...  Still, Aali could start taking pictures of the two pieces from the power plant she needed and start off the scavenger hunt with those not helping her or working to secure the wrecks together.

Aali thought about who was available because almost everyone was busy until late in the afternoon.  Past that, Aali, Mikah and Fesic would continue to spend all their time working on the Coronal Flare.  The others could be broken up into "scrounger teams" and assigned an engineering android each, to search the carrier for possible replacement components.  Mikah had already decided they'd be working twelve-hour days, to get the most work done while not over-exhausting themselves.  Considering their people, they decided the teams would be Aiden and Jocelynn, Rol and Terin and Zimzod and Emkir.  That way, each of the teams would also have a cutter pilot if they needed to move large freight to the Flare.

When Aali started announcing that, Emkir made a passionate suggestion that they should loot any working systems from the California, because she was a dead ship.  Aali reminded them they couldn't loot anything until they knew they needed it.  Taking the time to assign people to disassemble things randomly could wind up wasting time if they didn't need those parts.  So, they couldn't disassemble the California's life support and power plant until the last of all.  Before doing that, they had to get something with life support up and running along with other services.  As that talk wound down, Jocelynn also said they had to start figuring out how to move fuel into the Flare if they could get it functional.

A number of the crew tried to jump in on that, and Mikah was finally forced to jump in and shut everyone up when the conversation threatened to become an uncontrolled multi-sided argument.  Raising her voice and shouting everyone down, Mikah angrily snapped that they needed to set priorities.  In the pause, and still angry, Mikah said again, "We have to set priorities!  We have to save our fucking lives right now!  We don't have the time to worry about the future if we're not going to live to it!  OK?  We have to get the life support running on the Flare and get that ship powered up before we can start thinking about all these extravagant things that we want to do."  In a pause Mikah took for breath, Aali threw in, "Right."

Picking back up, and still in an angry tone, Mikah snapped, "OK?  Everyone has got to concentrate on focusing on what needs to be done NOW!"  And she delivered that word as if she were making an attempt at a verbal assault.  As a number of people answered, "Right", Mikah continued, "Not on day twenty one."  When Terin stepped in and asked what Aali needed them to do, Aali said she'd identified two parts which they needed to start looking for on the carrier. She said they could see if the parts on the California could be used when they could shut that ship down, but that was a last ditch option.  That made it clear finding replacements on the carrier would be the best option.  Of course, they still had to finish up what they had been doing before they could start that.

By late afternoon, the cutter pilots and zero-g spacers were finishing up tethering the ships together and could take a break before spending the last four hours of their work day searching the carrier.  On the Flare, Aali and her team would work on disassembling the power plant to see how much internal damage had been done to the system?  Mikah reminded the teams going over to the carrier to investigate and not ignore the wreckage of the small craft on the carrier because they might have some of the needed parts.

After they had rations for dinner, and before the teams moved off, Terin asked if they might want to split the teams up onto different schedules to have people working around the clock?  He first suggested that meant there could be constant repair and search work going on around the clock.  But Zimzod reminded to him they only had one engineer, so the repair work would only happen while Aali was awake.  Terin then suggested it would save on the energy they'd have to use, but was told the Hotel California would be burning the same amount of energy no matter what.  And the scrounger teams would be using the same amount of power in their searches too.

Suddenly pretending he was a mind reader, Aiden suggested Terin meant saving on the power drawn by trying to recharge all the vacc suits at the same time.  Terin grabbed onto that interpretation of his words, but half the team reminded him they'd already decided to move the recharge station to the cutter with a working life support system.  So, that wasn't a worry anymore.  With all his points soundly answered, Terin accepted that his idea had no value.  The scroungers then moved off to the carrier while Aali planned on concentrating on the Flare's power plant first, then its life support.  With those working, she hoped they'd have time to deal with the jump drive, bridge, computer and other systems.

In the four hours searching, teams again went right to search the carrier's wrecked flight deck.  Focusing more on the wrecked small craft, the android assigned to Terin and Rol's team eventually focused on a smaller shuttle which had been slammed into some unidentified structure and been bent almost in half.  The crew compartment had been crushed in as the craft was twisted.  But the 'droid identified the aft section of the shuttle because it might still have its drive systems intact.  After a more detailed examination, the 'droid also produced enough data, after scanning it with a portable densometer, to suggest the interior of the shuttle might still be pressurized.

That meant the life support components could only be used if they could be recovered without depressurizing the space first.  If their sealed cartridge was broken, exposing some of the critical systems to vacuum would make them useless.  Not sure how much effort it would take to get into the shuttle's remaining interior, Terin decided they should call Aali and let her knew what they'd found.  Considering the wreck, Aali said it would take some time with heavy cutters to burn through the shuttle's hull and get inside.

And if they did any cutting, they'd have to seal the area they'd be cutting open because they didn't have anywhere they could move something that large that was pressurized.  And cutting it open in a vacuum would completely void the internal space.  Rol suggested they could use the salvaged space balls, by cutting them up to make a larger sealable space in which they could work.  But not everyone was convinced that would work.  Listening, Zimzod imagined Rol and some others in a giant space ball "bubble" when something went wrong and it burst, blowing them, screaming, all over some large cargo bay as it expelled air.  He smiled because it was a fun thought.

Terin examined the wreck for hatches and portals, but the only intact hatch was the personnel lock, up front on the left side.  Unfortunately, any parts they might need would be from the shuttle's engineering section, in the craft's aft.  And they'd have no way of getting from the front to the aft through the crushed section.  Emkir added on to Rol's idea, to use the space balls and build out a space to work in, attached to the boarding tube from one of the cutters.  But he was reminded that would suffer even more of the issues they'd run into just cutting up the space balls.  Still, Rol admitted that would give them more space to work in.

After a lengthy discussion over the comms, with Aali and the rest of the crew, on how to try going about cutting into the shuttle's aft spaces, Terin and Rol decided to see if they could figure out how to seal a space to cut the craft open without depressurizing it?  So, that took up the rest of their planned twelve-hour work day.  While this happened, Aiden and Jocelynn had decided to search the carrier's engineering spaces.  That would be difficult because the systems had been distributed on multiple decks and some of the spaces had been seriously damaged.  Especially the jump drive compartments, which had been blasted when one of the carrier's cutter bays was blasted by explosions.

Unfortunately, in addition to those hazards and roadblocks, Jocelynn couldn't say what sections of the space housed the ship's power plant?  Ironically, despite the heavy odds against it, they did find the carrier's power plant and were able to work with Aali to identify one part they might be able to use.  Of course, that chance was a low one, because the device part they'd identified was much larger than the matching part on the yacht.  In fact, the part on the carrier was just more than five times the size of the one on the yacht, so there would have to be some serious jury-rigging done to use it.  Making that graphically clear, Aiden lay down next to it to show the scale of the piece.

Aali also saw a number of other issues with using the part.  First, the unit was a "distribution cap" and they'd have to make power runs to connect the power plant to the unit, which wouldn't fit on the yacht's plant.  Then, they'd have to cut find and shape something non-conductive so they could use that block as a "cap" to secure the rest of the power plant.  And, they'd have to strap the unit from the carrier down so it didn't move and break the power runs.  Eventually, Aali decided it would be a 'part of last resort' because of all the issues, and told Jocelynn and Aiden to tag its location so they can get back to it and keep searching.

Finding Something Special

     While Terin and Rol scouted the obvious wrecks on the flight deck, and Jocelynn and Aiden went hunting in the carrier's engineering compartments, Emkir and Zimzod made use of Zimzod's battledress to move wreckage and wrecks away from the flight deck walls to continue the search for tools and parts storage Zimzod, Jocelynn and Rol had started.  Eventually, they came on what looked like an opening to a small passage or corridor.  Clearing it further, the two looked into the opening and realized it was a small craft bay and the fighter sitting in it had actually been locked down and was intact!  Emkir quickly sparked up his comms to call Aali as Zimzod further explored what turned out to be a craft maintenance bay.

Realizing what Emkir was reporting, Aali asked if the bay was large enough to get the shuttle into?  Emkir had to admit he wasn't sure.  The bay might not be large enough, especially because of how the shuttle had been bent.  But the fighter was there, so they had an intact craft they could start with.  After Aali had Zimzod broadcast the vid from his battledress, she realized the bay could be sealed and they could then try to find something to pressurize the space with.  Then, they could try to open the fighter and get at its life support system to pull out the active components.  Aali also said they had sealable component storage boxes in the bay, so they could store anything safely enough to transport.

Given how late the report came in, Mikah realized it was too late to start rushing into a recovery attempt at the moment.  Breaking into the conversation, Mikah told them to tag the location so they could get to it and then spend the rest of their time moving into the space any gear they needed.  They knew they needed something to pressurize the space with after they sealed it, Zimzod said they needed the extra PLSS units they'd collected earlier, but those were in the cutter still, and too far away.  When they started talking about getting into the fighter, Emkir said they had to find a cutting wheel or torch, but was reminded the android had an in-built cutting torch.

They had to move things that were too far away at the time into the bay.  Emkir and Zimzod made sure they could close the bay so it could be sealed before returning to the California.  The other teams had tagged their finds too, and eventually everyone made their way to where they'd tied up the cutter to return to the ship and sleep.  By the time they arrived at the Flare to pick up Aali's team the engineer estimated she'd disassembled two thirds of the power plant for examination and had identified a few more parts they'd need to replace in that system.

Back at the California, everyone helped Aali set up the suit recharge station in the cutter before they all did what they could to clean up and then sat to relax for a bit.  One idea Emkir asked about was if Mikah had drugs in her kit which would keep them awake and alert enough to work longer.  Mikah said she did, but didn't want to start using them yet, making it clear she knew there might be a time when it would be needed.  Just, not yet.  Especially since they might keep a person awake but would hurt their awareness, mental faculties and reduce efficiency and safety.  Aali also mentioned that mistakes could destroy parts they needed, so no drugs would be better.

Terin wanted to know if the parts in the fighter might be too small to work for their needs?  Aali explained that the "part" needed was actually one or more sealed cartridges of an algae-like lifeform which could grow to fill a system once it was installed.  But, the cartridges aboard the naval cutter and yacht had been compromised due to long term exposure.  That was why the sealed and intact fighter was so good a chance.  So, it might not provide much at first, but it would grow over time.  After an hour or so discussing their plans and hopes for the next day, Mikah set a common alarm for the ship and they went to sleep.

A Comedy Of Errors

     After they woke, cleaned up to the extent they could and ate their rations, Aali said she planned to spend that day completing the break down and investigation of the Flare's power plant.  Mikah said two of the scrounger teams should work on the fighter while the remaining team continued looking for other parts.  Jocelynn stepped up and said she and Aiden would continue searching the carrier while the others worked on the fighter.  When they discussed getting the fighter open, Terin asked if the 'droid could power up the craft?  Aali said she wasn't sure and Terin suggested he grab the portable fusion plant from his survival kit to see if that worked?  The others nodded and Terin went to the ship's locker and grabbed that while they prepared to get moving.

Mikah decided to use the naval cutter to fly Aali, Fesic and herself over to the Flare while the others got organized.  The teams going to the carrier to work on the fighter also organized the ten PLSS units in the cutter, to use them to pressurize the bay after they sealed it.  Taking the time to plan, they spent extra time making decisions and gearing up before the team heading to the carrier got moving.  When Terin pushed to be sure they could possibly resell the PLSS tubes, Zimzod suggested the Navy might want them back.  That was a none too subtle reminder they were going to arrive in the Inthe system and be swarmed by navy rescue and support crews.

Still discussing things over comms, Aali suggested they open only a few of the tubes at a time, and see how well the bay held pressure?  That would tell them if there might be damage to the bay which would let the pressure leak out.  Eventually, Terin, Rol, Zimzod and Emkir got themselves into the repair bay and did their best to manually close and seal the bay doors.  After checking the door closure to be sure it was as tightly sealed as they could get it, the four started by opening three of the PLSS tubes.  The pressurized air very quickly emptied out into the space and Terin suggested they wait to see if the five psi held that level or dropped?

After five minutes, the level didn't change at all, so they opened two more tubes.  After those drained into the space, the total pressure in the bay came up to eight psi, so they opened another tube.  That got them to ten psi, and Rol suggested they wait another ten minutes to be sure they weren't losing pressure through a slow leak before getting started.  After waiting, it appeared the pressure dropped to nine psi and they worried they had a slow leak from the bay.  After that, they discussed ways to try and find the leak.  Terin even suggested unsecuring his helmet briefly, but realized his vacc suit would depressurize and he'd have to wait until it repressurized even after he re-sealed his suit.

Checking the bay for any fluids or other items to use, they saw tools there, but no powders or fluids because those were not standard supplies in the bay.  Thinking of other ways they could test for the direction of a leak, rather than getting the work done while they had the pressure they needed, Terin suggested breaking into the fighter and cutting a swatch from the fabric of the pilot's seat, then suspending it in the null-g environment to see where it might be pulled?  When others reminded him they didn't want to expose the fighter until they could preserve the life support components, he said it would be fine because they had nine psi at the moment.  Of course, that also meant it would be good to actually do the work and use the remaining PLSS tubes to keep the pressure up until that was done.  But Terin missed that idea entirely.

Also ignoring that, Rol suggested they use a vacc suit patch to do the same test.  When the others agreed to wait five minutes after he released a patch, Rol did his best to carefully set one floating with no inertia.  Sadly, Rol's attempt sent the patch spinning off in a direction he couldn't tell indicated the leak or how he'd mistakenly sent it flying.  Before Rol could try again, Terin offered to try and Rol stood back as the navigator grabbed the patch and they then discussed who might be better able to release it to float without unwanted force?  Wasting even more time, rather than even doing something valuable, like measuring the loss of pressure over time to figure out how much time they might have, the two tried to figure out what else they had which might be easier to use to test for a leak?

Pretending he was a genius, Terin decided to hold the suit patch close to the join of the bay's hatch, then run it along the join line as close as he could.  He'd hold onto the patch's very edge and watch to see if any possible leak pulled the patch close?  Sadly, that only covered the bay hatch's join line, and told him nothing while a slow leak wouldn't have exerted any real pull.  And, they knew from the time it took to drop from ten psi to nine psi was ten minutes.  Still, as foolish ideas went, it did waste even more time.  After that, the others stood around while Terin racked his brain trying to come up with even more ways to waste time doing nothing and losing more pressure in the compartment.

Coming up with a whopper, Terin called Aali, because he could be wasting her time too.  He asked her how long she thought it might take to remove the live support components from the fighter?  Sadly, she couldn't see the fighter, and didn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of all possible fighter designs.  And no one had identified the fighter class for her even if she did.  Or even tried to get video of the interior of the fighter, to show her in case she could guess.  Aali pointed out that, without any information on the fighter, she couldn't know answer him.  She did ask how many more PLSS tubes they had?  Pausing before allowing facts to intrude on the conversation, Terin said they'd used six and had four more.  He then added that it had taken ten minutes to drop from ten to nine psi.

Sadly, no one recognized that very important fact before he was asked if the pressure had dropped any more?  Looking at the readout he had on his HUD, Terin saw the psi was now at eight, and said "Yes".  Of course, he didn't consider how long it had been since it had dropped from ten to nine.  And, it had certainly been more than ten minutes since that point.  Sick and tired of waiting for the others to do something, Zimzod said, "If we open the remaining tubes, it'll get us over fourteen psi.  That way, we can get the work done", in an angry tone.  When they looked up at him, Zimzod complained they'd only lost two psi while they'd spent thirty minutes arguing.

Still testing Aali's knowledge of the situation after having given her no data what so ever, Terin asked Aali if they'd have enough time to get the components if they opened the remaining tubes?  Aali could only shrug and say it would if they did the work fast enough, which was certainly no answer at all.  But it matched the lack of any data she'd gotten from them.  Still, that was enough to get the team out of their circle jerk and into motion, and they agreed to open the remaining tubes and get the work done.  Finally, the pressure topped off at nineteen psi.  Only then did Terin start to connect up his portable fusion reactor to the fighter, because having done so while they talked and experimented would have wasted less time.

While Terin did that, Rol actually popped his helmet and tried to listen, in hopes to hear the leak.  Sadly, the same facts about slow leaks that would have prevented Terin's patch from being sucked up against a possible hole would also not have created a whistling sound or even a hiss.  Not that any fact like that would have intruded on this comedy of errors.  Still, Terin did manage to get his portable unit running and connected to the fighter.  With that, the small craft lit up with its systems in stand by mode.  Slapping the pilot access panel, Terin and the others watched as the cockpit canopy rose.

Doing What Could Be Done

     Now they had the fighter's cockpit opened, they got their two androids into the space to find the correct panel and start working to recover the parts.  In the bay, they grabbed some of the readily available component storage cases to be ready to safely store any parts the 'droids recovered.  What the 'droids found was that the life support had to be accessed through an external panel on the port side of the fighter.  Getting the androids out of the fighter, Rol used his skills to back them up as they removed the panel and disassembled components, digging into the fighter's systems.  Largely, the humans were there for no more than handing parts out of the way as the 'droids removed component after component.

After half an hour more of work, the androids produced one active life support cell.  Grabbing that carefully, they secured the cartridge in a secure component case.  After that, they reassigned the androids to work on the fighter's aft, to see if they could get components from its power plant and maneuver drive systems?  With the 'droids breaking out their plasma cutters to cut into the aft section of the fighter, Terin looked for any sign of a compressor, to see if he could re-fill the PLSS tubes?  When he didn't find a compressor to save the air, they considered that it would take some time for the androids to finish their work.  Accepting that, and making sure the 'droids would reach them on comms when they were done, the two teams decided to head out and continue scrounging for more parts.

While that happened in the fighter repair bay, Jocelynn and Aiden had returned to the carrier's wrecked engineering compartments.  Eventually, they came on an array of jump capacitors and Aali confirmed they would eventually need those, but she wasn't ready for them.  When Aali was about to have the team tag the location to return to, Mikah said they might want to have their 'droid start freeing the capacitors from their mounts so they'd be ready to move when the time came.  Mikah said they could even redirect the other two androids after getting done in the fighter bay.  When Aali agreed, they set their android to the work and went to continue searching for parts.

The hours passed aboard the carrier, and everyone was notified, from time to time, by one of the 'droids in the fighter bay of each part which was recovered.  The notices each came with a catalog number and image for each piece that could be fully identified or a picture and "relative use" projection.  The first parts were from the fighter's maneuver system, but were most likely too small for use in the Flare.  Eventually, they reached the fighter's power plant and started recovering parts which were nearly as much smaller as the part they'd recovered from the carrier's plant was too large.  And, where the larger part might bleed off too much power if used, the smaller parts might not be able to handle the power feed and could simply flare and burn up.

Aali considered using multiple pieces of the main distribution cap, to reduce the amount of power and the risk, but figured she'd have to shave down one cap layer by layer.  That way, she could map "how" the component distributed power and then create her custom wiring grid.  But, the more she considered that, the more she realized cutting and mapping the cap might well take much more time than they had.  So, she decided to rely on the hope they'd find more parts.  Still, that was not happening at the moment and Aali decided to have the teams start moving capacitors because the teams were reporting less discoveries.  Agreeing to do that, Jocelynn, Zimzod and Rol became the movement managers as they carefully shifted the capacitors to the Coronal Flare.

After hours of work, Aali had finally gotten down the molten core of the Flare's power plant and finished her list of needed parts to rebuild the system.  In addition to the two parts she'd known she needed, Aali found she needed five more internal parts that had been burned to slag.  Linking to the 'droids over their comms, Aali updated the search lists and the 'droids checked their lists of parts recovered as well as what to find.  Of course, Aali was notified right away that the 'droids had found some of the parts in the fighter's power plant.  But, she still had to worry about the size and power transfer capabilities of those parts, so she told the androids to continue searching the updated lists.

Still, Aali did some research with her hand computer while she, Mikah and Fesic took a break after finishing with the power plant diagnostics.  To her surprise, Aali found she could actually use two of the parts from the fighter despite their small size and the power throughput ratio.  That meant she had two replacements and one potential jury-rig.  So, she only needed four or five more parts to resurrect the power plant.  Another worry was that one of the parts was rated to handle a maximum load of one hundred and twenty percent of its normal load.  And the maximum load the Coronal Flare would produce would reach one hundred and ten percent of that load.  That meant they would be regularly running in the "warning zone" and could easily slip into the danger range or worse.

After Aali told the others what she'd learned, Terin suggested they could move the androids to cut up the bent shuttle they'd found.  When he was asked why, he said that craft might have a larger plant and other systems than the fighter did, so they might handle more of a load.  The others agreed it was worth a try if they didn't find something else.  Mikah didn't agree, because she wanted the shuttle's life support undisturbed in case they needed it.  Reminded they still might need more life support components to get both the naval cutter and Coronal Flare's life support running, Terin said he and Rol should look for the carrier's life support systems to see if there was anything that could be recovered?  When the others agreed, he and Rol went off to the ship's engineering spaces to search parts of that which Aiden and Jocelynn hadn't reached.

Relying on the deck plans they had, it took Rol and Terin an hour to work their way through the wreckage to the space the deck plans suggested they should search.  Sadly, for all the effort Rol spent getting Terin to that space uninjured, the compartments they reached had been blasted apart.  Having hoped to take pictures for Aali to identify, and with 'droid still working on the fighter, they ended up spending an hour more getting out of the space they'd reached without getting injured.  At one point during the work, Rol realized something in one of the wrecked compartment walls looked "odd".

First, the flattened and crushed object just seemed to have a hint of a familiar shape.  Changing his visual mode to infra-red, Rol could see a hint of reflective heat differences from their suit lights.  Examining them closer, Rol realized he was seeing what had been the stock of a laser carbine or rifle.  From what he could tell, it had been crushed into the wall.  Along with its owner.  Returning to the others, Rol and Terin went back to moving capacitors.  Of course, that work was limited to the speed at which the one android cut capacitors from the array.  Not that they could move them very quickly either.

By the end of the afternoon, they had managed to cut loose and move three capacitors to the engineering spaces of the Coronal Flare.  After that, they needed two more capacitors to replace those destroyed or damaged on the ship.  Having finished ripping apart the Flare's power plant, Aali began researching the power distribution pieces to figure out how she would have to create custom wiring to jury-rig the possible replacements they'd found.  She planned to spend several hours doing that.  This would not only tell her how it could be done, but estimate if the various units found could handle the power load or, if the larger one would absorb too much power.

While Aali did that, Mikah and Fesic knew they had the skills to start working up the capacitors which had been delivered.  In the end, they managed to get one of the capacitors mounted and wired by the time Aali determined she could use the larger of the distribution units to replace the dead part from the Coronal Flare.  The other two parts should work with the understanding they were pushing the stress loads at one hundred twenty percent of its rated capabilities.  They'd also have to shape a chunk of something from non-conductible material to work as the "cap" and secure down the rest of the system, then cut channels for the jury-rigged wiring Aali would create.

While they did that, Mikah told the others to go and recover all the parts the androids removed from the fighter, and to carefully separate the two parts Aali said she could use.  At the same time, Mikah, Fesic and Aali planned to spend the rest of the evening installing two more of the capacitors while they hoped the others would recover and deliver the last two more needed to replace the last of the Coronal Flare's destroyed capacitors.  Finally, Aali planned to spend the last two hours of her day working with the recovered life support cartridge and the naval cutter.  Her plan was to dock the craft to the Hotel California so it could be pressurized.  Then, she would install the component and see if the cutter's life support came back to life?

After moving the capacitors, the scroungers worked as helping hands until they were finally sent back to the California to recover from their day.  The three scrounger androids were brought back to the California to recharge.  By the end of their work day, Aali and her team had the two capacitors installed and she started disassembling the life support system on the naval cutter after getting done on the Flare.  Thanks to the modular design of naval small craft, to make repairs easier, Aali was able to quickly swap in the life support cartridge.  Sadly, that sort of system would not automatically spring to one hundred percent.  But, she confirmed the power readings were good and so she said to leave it to the morning and then check the system's status.

Before they racked out for the night, the crew discussed progress and needs.  One of the things which had been forgotten was to look for a recharge station for Jocelynn's battledress.  That was put on the schedule for the next day.  Sadly, the place where all the carrier's battle armor would have been stored, called "the morgue", had been blasted away.  So, finding a charging station would be difficult.  Aali then set a plan for the next day to investigate the Flare's life support system and possibly move on to the ship's jump system after that.  She planned to ignore the maneuver drive unless they really had extra time.

Scrounging More Hits And Misses

     With everyone awake and going through what they could of their morning routines, one of the positives was that they could shower again.  That was because what power and life support they had was working again thanks to Aali's jury-rig the day before.  Sharing their meal bar rations, Aali carried her mug of caff while she wandered to the docking tube connected to the naval cutter.  There, she ran a number of tests and announced the naval cutter's life support system was repaired and working one hundred percent again!  Thanks to the fact the cutters each had a fresher and small kitchenette aboard, they could actually live on the cutters for a while if they got desperate.

Still, those systems would burn out after too long if fully relied on.  So, while it wasn't a long-term survival option, they could move into the cutters and start ripping parts out of the Hotel California if they got desperate.  That meant they had more options now than they had before.  Mikah made it clear she still wanted to get the power plant up and running aboard the Coronal Flare before they did that.  That also meant they could pull the needed life support components from the Hotel California if they had to.  Fesic also told Aali that he would start working to test electrical wiring runs aboard the Coronal Flare, because those would have to be tested and repaired if they were to use the ship.

Aali nodded, because that would take a lot of pulling panels in the passage floors and ceilings so he could check both the power runs and the data cabling.  Because there were literally kilometers of wiring throughout the ship, that would take some time and should be started on.  Thanks to the modular nature of starship design, that would take about forty eight hours of straight out work which could be done in parts as possible.  For the second time, after Mikah had told them to hold off on it, Terin asked Aali if she might need anything off the crushed shuttle, and he showed her the images he'd captured.  Aali admitted they might find some better fitting replacements for what they had, and they could find other parts she still needed for the power plant.

When Aali said that, Terin suggested to Rol that they should start by having their android cut up the shuttle's drives to get at the power plant.  Rol agreed, even though they both knew it would take the 'droid a huge amount of time to cut through the exterior hull of the craft to get to the plant.  Overhearing that conversation, Emkir asked if they couldn't use a breaching charge to get into the shuttle instead?  Mikah, who'd also heard the conversation and decided they didn't necessarily need any life support from the shuttle even if it had survived, said she didn't think anything inside would survive if they did that to get into the shuttle.  Rol answered that, telling Mikah it wouldn't destroy anything if properly placed.

Since Rol was one of their demolitions experts, Mikah accepted that and Terin got excited because it would save them searching without a 'droid for the entire day as their android worked to cut into the shuttle.  Zimzod said, with a laugh, that he was less excited because it wouldn't blow up Terin too.  That got a laugh from everyone except Terin.  In the meantime, Terin hadn't heard Zimzod because he was ranting about going into the ship's locker and grabbing a charge to use.  Terin did get a laugh when it turned out the breaching charge he'd grabbed from the ship's locker turned out to be Fesic's.  Still, they had two more if they turned out to be needed.

After everything was set up, the teams made their way across to the carrier or the Coronal Flare to start working.  On the flight deck, Rol and Terin made sure everyone remained clear of the area while Rol set up the charge and made sure he had a remote connection.  Then, they made sure they and their android were out of the way before Rol detonated the charge.  Watching using a mirror Terin had pulled from his survival kit, they saw the hull section erupt from the shuttle.  That was quickly followed by clumps of human remains which must have belonged to the corpses of crew who'd had been caught in the space.

Waiting until the debris finished flying about and settled, the two men carefully made their way into the limited remaining space in the shuttle.  Doing that, they saw that one corpse, if there had been more or not, hadn't only been trapped in the shuttle by whatever event twisted and bent it, but an arm had been caught in the bent metal of the cabin.  They also found signs there had been a second person caught in the shuttle, who it seemed may not have died because of the events which crushed the shuttle.  So, their fate had been even more unfortunate...

Rol and Terin checked to make sure the interior hadn't been blasted apart before letting their 'droid move in to start removing panels and digging into the craft's systems.  Still, disassembling multiple systems to get to the parts they needed and then completely disassembling the shuttle's power plant would take most of the day to do.  While the 'droid started to work, Rol and Terin went back to the repair bay to get component containers to have ready when the 'droid started recovering power plant parts.  The hope was that any recovered parts they could use would be closer to the scale needed for the yacht than other parts they'd found so far.

The android started pulling parts from the plant and Aali started getting pictures, which made her happier.  The parts being found would only have to be pushed to one hundred percent of their load, instead of one hundred twenty, if she could use them.  The 'droid also identified a part Aali figured could be used as an analog for one of the parts she still needed.  So, she'd only need two parts for the power plant if that one worked out.  There were also a number of other parts she had to go through, to see what she could do with them?  Aali also found she was going to get a collection of parts from the shuttle's comms and maneuver systems too.  She figured some of those could be stored against possible need because they'd have to scream for help in Inthe.

Given the information and parts she was receiving, Aali was developing a plan for getting back to the living universe alive.  Still, it wasn't a plan she was entirely happy with.  Her best chance at all was to carry out a 'one for one' swap with parts taken from the Hotel California after shutting that ship down.  But, she and Mikah didn't want to do that until they had the power and possibly the life support running on the Flare.  So, that was the option of last resort even if it was their possible best option.  Aali was also worried about any possible damage the California's life support electronics had and to what extent? 

With Rol and Terin working on the shuttle, the other teams had been scrounging through the morning and mid-day sections of their shifts.  Emkir and Zimzod found spools of "spare wiring" in a wrecked tech supply room, and reported that back to Aali.  She'd been very pleased with that because the slow and steady work on the yacht was bound to turn up sections of wiring which had to be replaced.  With that, Emkir figured they'd move the spools right over to the yacht while they left their android to scavenge.  Aiden and Jocelynn's job was to spend the day disassembling the rest of the carrier's power plant in search of parts.  Even though Aali was certain the components might be too large to use.

Because removing the parts would take so long, and the 'droid only needed humans to move parts, Jocelynn took the time to search for access points to the carrier's fuel tanks where the passages and compartments have been ripped open.  Especially after she went back to the Hotel California to get a portable densometer for the work.  Over the time she spent working, Jocelynn only found three tanks which contained fuel between returning to help Aiden and the android.  Still, each of those tanks held 5 tons of fuel, so that was a good start on their needs if she could figure which fuel port connected to them?  A "real winner" would lead to one of the pump systems which fueled the fighters and small craft.

When they had time to have a meeting, even only over comms, Aali updated everyone on her progress.  She also said that while she was ready to start work on the Flare's jump systems, she wanted to concentrate more on Fesic's work with the power and data conduits aboard the yacht.  Fesic reminded them all he'd been targeting the most important runs, but they all knew he was doing it in his spare minutes helping Aali.  So, that was a job that would take a good deal of time.  Aali said she was also concerned about testing the ship's computer but admitted that would only come after the power was on.

Jocelynn excused herself and asked Aali if it was still too early to start talking about setting up a fuel transfer system, without mentioning her work so far on that.  Aali said that, on the one hand, it was never too early because they would have to syphon fuel.  On that note, they knew they could reverse the flow on the cutter fueling station in the cutter bay aboard the California and syphon off the one ton of fuel remaining in their normal space tankage.  What would eat a large part of Aali's time, would be ripping into the hull of the California to connect the ship's jump fuel tankage to its normal space tankage, so they could drain what was left of that ship's fuel.  Aali knew she could assign androids to get the work started, but it would still possibly take a day or so to do.

On the carrier, they could hope to find some stations to fuel small craft and reverse one of those too.  Of course, they'd also have to make sure they connected to tanks which still had fuel in them given the damage to that ship.  The other issue they'd face was that each of the cutters would fill up on a 'one ton' total, so they'd be able to transfer just under a ton with each trip.  And, considering they'd need to have five tons of fuel for normal space and ship operations along with forty four more tons for even a single parsec jump, they might be ferrying fuel for quite some time.  The good news was that, if enough of the fuel systems were intact on the carrier, it should have 7,500 tons of normal space fuel.  And they'd not have to modify the fuel tanks.

When Terin brought up the idea of using the cutters to push the California into a position where they could link its fuel system to the Flare's, he was reminded they were dealing with liquid hydrogen.  If they wanted to run tubing down the fuel system of the California, they'd have to find some way to seal it perfectly under the conditions in which hydrogen remained fluid.  That meant both temperature "and" pressure.  On top of that, they'd have to provide or create a pump that functioned under those conditions and which they could move into the middle of the process.  And, finally, they'd have to make sure their hand-made system maintained pressure while the fuel was pushed into the tanks of the Flare.

Finally, they decided to send a team to the carrier with a portable densometer to test for fuel.  That begged the question how much fuel the Coronal Flare had aboard?  Then, Terin started devising all manner of complex ways to rip open the yacht to go in with a densometer and test the tanks.  He was yapping away about ripping open parts of the Coronal Flare until Zimzod snapped that they could wait until the power came up and use the ship's systems to find out without wrecking the yacht.  At the same time, Jocelynn said she'd work on trying to find fuel tanks which were connected to the fighter deck, where there were already systems in place and they could just fly the cutters in to get the fuel.

When evening finally came around, the crew knew what they needed as far as parts for both the power plant and the Flare's life support system.  She now planned to concentrate on the jump system the next day.  Aali also had an idea how she might go about jury-rigging some of the needed parts.  Terin again wasted the crew's time pushing for the idea of shutting down the Hotel California so they could raid the parts from that ship for an "easy" answer.  But Aali put him down, again, reminding him those parts had been significantly damaged and might not like being removed from the California.  And if they did that and the parts failed, they'd be stuck with NO ship.  So, Terin was firmly backed off for now.

Hoping To Be Over The Hump

     While the crew ate their breakfast meal bars, Aali told Mikah and Fesic she would be concentrating on ripping apart the Flare's Jump sub-system.  She reminded Mikah and Fesic that they had to get the last two capacitors installed in their spare time instead of testing the wiring.  While the scrounging teams had decided it was much less likely they'd find any more power plant parts, they were told to try.  And, they were reminded there might be life support sub-panels they could hunt for.  Mikah also reminded them to scavenge the small craft wrecks even more to see what they might find? Jocelynn said she and Aiden would work on finding fuel tanks which might be connected to the pumps on the flight deck.

The teams moved into their day and Zimzod and Emkir found the carrier's name plate.  That led to a discussion, on the comms, over whether or not they wanted to take that to add to their collection?  While some suggested it might annoy the Imperial Navy, the reason they eventually chose not to take it was that they had never owned the ship and they didn't kill it.  Still, if they were not absolutely desperate, Mikah wanted to be sure to recover the other ship name plates they'd mounted on the Hotel California's bridge wall.  Mikah also said they'd take the California's name plate if they could. 

Jocelynn and Aiden spent their day working into the neither spaces of the carrier, where fuel tanks were placed near the flight deck.  They hoped not only to find tanks with fuel but also trace them back to pump stations on the flight deck.  Eventually, over the entire day, they managed to find and trace three tanks which would give them 15 tons of fuel if they could power up the flight deck's fueling pumps.  That was good news even though they didn't know how much fuel the Flare had already?  But fifteen tons was almost a third of that ship's total needs for a single parsec jump.  At the same time, Emkir and Zimzod found nothing important after their day.

Terin and Rol were tempted while wandering through what seemed like officer's quarters, but even Terin was able to resist the lure of free stuff.  He was helped by his memories of Mikah's warning that people wasting time would be shot rather than allowed to waste resources.  Aali spent her day ripping into the jump sub-system while the scroungers worked, and was surprised to find it mostly functional, beyond the capacitors.  The system had also passed much too much power through the jump governor, which was a very critical component.  So much so that the governor had been fried.  In fact, it was when the governor fried that too much power had been demanded from the capacitor array to fill the sudden demand to the lanthanum grid.  It was that power demand which started frying them too.  Aali also knew the governor on the California had also died, so that would have to be added to the next days' scrounge list.

After all the team's work and Aali's discoveries, they returned to the California and more bad news.  Already exhausted, the crew found California's life support had failed again.  After the growling and complaints, Aali got out her tools and went to work to see if she could find out what had failed this time?  Aali discovered the 'even worse' news was that the system itself had failed this time.  To keep things from boiling over, Aali, Mikah and Fesic worked on the system while the others rested and recharged their vacc suits and armor on the cutters.  By this time, Jocelynn and Zimzod were taking turns recharging their battledress suits on the one charging station moved from Zimzod's stateroom to the cutter.

The bad news got worse, as they worked, when they found partly fried components were starting to more critically fail.  It took Aali and company three hours to get to the root of the issue and start trying to bypass or fix it and then another two hours to get the system back up to the level of functionality they could.  But after that, Aali told Mikah the system would only work for another week.  And that was only if nothing else went wrong with the system or if no other failing system caused more damage to what was left of their life support.  Considering their situation, Aali muttered that it just might be time to decommission the Hotel California after all.

Agreeing with Aali, Fesic said they hadn't found anything else that would have been closer to the parts they needed than the very oversized components from the carrier.  And those might be large enough that there would be a power drain just because of heat-loss while charging components.  When Terin asked Mikah if they should start harvesting parts from the California, Mikah told him, "It's up to the engineer" in a tone which begged, 'Why are you not getting this??'  Mikah did ask Aali if they'd still be able to use the life support parts from the California in the Flare.  Aali told her they would be able to transfer them but they weren't sure how long they'd last thanks to the new damage.

Aali said they should hunt on the other craft and the Flare for the kinds of control boards that had burned, and which would replace the damaged unit?  Specifically, Aali told the scavengers to go back to the fighter and wrecked shuttle again the next day while she tested the control board from the Flare.  Something she hadn't yet done because she hoped they could have done a 'one to one' swap from the California.  Accepting that, the crew settled down to relax a bit before going to sleep.

A Mix Of Good And Bad

     After the morning's quick meal and conversations, Aali went right over to the Flare to start testing the life support control board.  Terin and Rol returned to the wrecked shuttle to completely disassemble and recover any remaining parts from that craft's life support section while Jocelynn and Aiden did the same with the fighter.  Terin and Rol got to the shuttle knowing the interior panels had been ripped open already.  They also knew the biomass cartridge was most likely dead since they'd left it exposed to void.  It then took three hours for the android to reach the system and disassemble it.

After testing the electronic components themselves, the android sent the data to Aali to consider.  Not only did she have to consider how much damage the 'droid reported, but she had to worry about the amount of power it needed to channel.  Lucky for Aali, this wasn't a jump drive component and the electronics wouldn't be handling sudden or massive gluts of power.  Still, the load limits would be tight, and Aali was only certain the board they got from the shuttle 'might' work, even though it wasn't damaged at all.  Aali still told them to bag it and bring it in.

Investigating the fighter, Jocelynn and Aiden knew the life support system had already been partly disassembled, to get to the cartridge through an outside panel.  It took their android much less time to recover the component they were after and start testing it.  Sadly, after it did, the 'droid updated Aali with a report that the component was 75 percent likely to fail if they tried to use it.  On the Coronal Flare, Aali spent her first morning hours setting up the life support parts she'd pulled the day before and testing them, to see what she could learn about their condition.  Having planned to use the Hotel California's Life support almost whole, the damage to that made the condition of the Flare's electronics important.

From what Aali could see, there had been some burn damage.  That bothered her because, like the androids, she really didn't have the full systems needed to properly test the electronics she'd pulled.  Still, that gave her the partly damaged system from the California, the partly burned and minimally tested boards from the Coronal Flare and the board from the shuttle that "might work".  Not very exciting when Aali knew they'd be committed after entering jump, and have to find some way to survive the full week.  And that would be if they didn't misjump and end up in jump space longer...

Still, Aali knew that if each of the boards failed, they'd most likely fry themselves and not the rest of the system.  So, Aali decided on an order of installation where she would try the one unit first, to see if it failed?  Then, they'd either use that, if it survived, or try the next.  Either way, she planned to start with the pieces from the California first and then burn through the spares as needed.  At least Aali knew she had three possible circuit boards to burn through if they all worked for some time, so there was hope.  Still, they could no longer count on any spare time and Mikah announced they'd shift to eighteen-hour days until they could get the Flare jump-capable.

After Aiden and Jocelynn finished with the life support unit, they returned to hunting for full fuel tanks.  They also spent more of their search time tracing any tanks they found back to the flight deck fighter fueling pumps.  While they searched, they found a number of tanks which appeared to be connected to the jump sub-system.  When Jocelynn commed the others to talk about testing the pumps, they suggested using Terin's portable fusion generator to test one or more of the pumps on the carrier's flight deck.  Rol suggested they could test the pumps by seeing if any hydrogen came out when they sparked it up and opened the valve?

Realizing that Aiden and Jocelynn would need his fusion generator to test the valves on the flight deck, Terin went to the California to get it.  After the hours they spent tracing tanks, Terin hooked his tank to a valve they thought was connected to a tank with fuel and spun it up.  Connecting power to it, Jocelynn opened the valve and got positive fuel feed!  Sharing a few cheers, they dogged down the valve again and marked it to use after getting the cutters in and lined up.  Still, that still meant they had to set up a system to get the fuel out of the cutters and into the Flare's tanks.

Of course, that only meant the pump was attached to a tank which still had fuel, but that didn't mean the tank was full or connected to another tank with fuel after draining the first one.  To do that, they first needed a pump and a power source, to build something to power the pumps moving fuel to the cutters.  When they brought that to Aali and Mikah, Mikah reminded them she'd bought a "crew level" survival kit and individual kits.  And the crew level kit had a portable fusion generator too.  So, they could use that one to build some kind of pump attached to the Flare's jump fuel port.

While they were at it, Terin said they'd seen the fighter had half a ton of fuel in it when they powered it up.  Hearing that, Mikah asked about the wrecked shuttle but Aali told her that wasn't likely to still have fuel.  Larger space craft and starships had fuel cells within their hulls.  And the shuttle's hull had been battered and bent like a pretzel, so the fuel system had likely been compromised.  About that time, they got a call from Emkir.  He and Zimzod were scrounging for the power plant parts and added the jump governor to their list.  After working their way through a lot of wreckage, they managed to find the carrier's governor.  Only, it was much larger than the unit on the yacht.

Emkir and Zimzod called Aali, who asked them to shoot some video of the unit.  After examining the governor, Aali told them to bring it back anyway and Emkir started calling to ask if anyone could help?  While Zimzod could have carried it, thanks to his battledress, it was large enough they'd need help maneuvering it.  Getting done with work on the flight deck, Rol and Terin volunteered to help and made their way to where Emkir and Zimzod were.  Together, they got the component back to the Flare.

While they did that, Aali considered the finds her scavengers were bringing.  The truth was, she was still a few parts short of a possibly working power plant.  They had a number of parts she hoped they could survive with, as far as the life support system went.  Still, the jump system needed a governor, and Aali worried about jury-rigging the over-sized unit while she also knew they had to install the last capacitors.  Added to that, they still hadn't tested all the power and data cable runs much less replaced the workstations on the bridge, and in engineering.

From having talked to the scroungers about what they'd seen aboard the carrier, Aali knew there were a good number of undamaged workstation consoles on both that ship's bridge and flag bridge.  So, Aali knew they needed to get that done too.  Of course, they also had to get power up so they could get Emkir to hack and test the ship's computer.  Just powering up the computer could take half a day with the proper power feeds.  Considering how little she'd been getting from the old lists, Aali decided it was time to tell the teams to start scrounging consoles starting the next morning.

Aali also told Fesic that he had to get on testing the wiring runs full time starting the next morning.  Rol asked if that meant it was time to decommission the Hotel California and start scrounging parts from that ship?  After a pause, Aali and Mikah admitted it was time that they had to.  That was especially true because they still didn't have some of the parts needed to get the Flare operational.  So, when they finally got back to the ship and discussed where they were in putting the Flare back together, Aali and Mikah gave everyone their orders for the next morning.

Lights Off And On

     Aali had the Flare's systems disassembled so they were ready when she got any parts the teams had found.  She then started with the capacitors while Mikah and Fesic concentrated on the yacht's wiring.  After that, Aali planned to start designing her jury-rigs, for when that planning was needed.  Rol and Terin went to the carrier to harvest any workstation consoles they thought might be working.  While they only needed ten to twelve of them, they brought back fifteen just in case, and spent more of their later day working to replace the damaged workstations on the Flare's bridge.  Finishing that, they replaced the consoles in the engineering compartment's workstations.

On the Hotel California, Aiden stepped up as the ship's last command pilot and typed in the key-strokes to power down the ship for the last time.  After that, he made his way back to the engineering spaces to join Jocelynn and help their android take apart the ship's power plant.  This was especially key, because they had to hope there were enough parts which could still be used to get the Flare's plant running.  Without that, they were going nowhere.  But the only "human" jobs were to receive parts the android removed and bring them across to Aali on the Flare, for her to install.

Zimzod and Emkir had crossed to the California, to harvest what was left of the ship's life support system exactly as Aali showed them.  They were especially careful to harvest the algae cartridges, to use in getting the Flare's support systems up.  That work, above everything else, was being done 'extra-carefully' because it was critical those parts survive.  Before the work, they'd also crossed to the repair bay on the carrier, to get sealable component storage boxes to be absolutely certain.  While they all worked, each team reported back to Aali what they were recovering even before they moved it.

The good news started with word they could use the replacement parts pulled from the California to get the Flare's plant working!  Still, Aali knew she'd have to jury-rig the power distribution component so they were not "in the clear".  The over-sized unit couldn't be cut down and the additional mass of metal in the wiring might dangerously dissipate the power flowing through it or worse.  Still, Aali detailed a 'droid to do its best to clean up or refurbish the power connections and visible traces on each piece to improve their chances.

After Aali finished with the capacitors, she wanted to jump right on getting her jury-rig done, re-building the power plant.  Meanwhile, Fesic and Mikah were pulling panels up off the ship's passage floors, or down from their ceilings.  While working, they were very happy there was no gravity because it was easier to "toss" parts across sections of the ship where there sections of the decking or walls were no longer there, or where wiring and behind-the-wall structures were exposed.  Each time they could identify a run, they would pass tone through the length of cable.  Where they didn't get a clean power light from the tester, they'd stretch a length of new power or data line from the spools which had been found on the carrier and secure down new lines.

Generally, replacing the wiring meant mating up connections and then placing a 'fuser' over the point where the two wire ends ran over each other.  When they then activated the fuser, it would heat itself up to the point it melted the two wires together and also self-sealed the metal connection which had been made.  Still, they had to make sure the individual wire strands in each cable tip were correctly lined up and aligned.  Then, they had to re-test every run to make sure it was properly repaired.  They also had to make sure there was enough give in each run so it wasn't too tight and did not risk being ripped out under stress.

Finished with the plant, Aiden and Jocelynn joined Zimzod and Emkir, who'd come to help them after finishing with the life support, and offered to help wherever they could.  That was mostly helping Mikah and Fesic with running replacement wiring.  Emkir actually started helping Terin and Rol finish up putting new workstation consoles in place and wiring them into the bridge and engineering positions.  Getting closer to the end of their day, when Aali finally sparked up the power plant, everyone cheered.  After hitting the seventy five percent point, Aali felt confident enough to open the power feeds to the engineering computer and see if she could get that system running?

Aali was finally ready to flip the switch and try to start up the Coronal Flare's power plant.  Before she did that, she made sure all the power distribution switches were turned off, so no power would be fed to any of the ship's systems until they were sure they wanted to test those.  The plant did have an on-board capacitor, so the power created would not have been lost, and could be used later.  This would also tell her if the ship's normal space fuel tanks still had hydrogen in them or if they were dry?

Crossing her fingers, along with most of the crew, Aali threw the switch and was happy to see an amber 'standby' light shine from the plant's console.  Slowly, she watched as the system worked its way back to life and started to perform!  Aali held her patience, if not her breath, and watched until the plant finally seemed to plateau at seventy five percent output!  That meant not only that the plant worked, but that they still had fuel in the tanks.  So, they were already doing better than the twenty to thirty percent they were getting from the California, where spikes rarely reached fifty percent.

Concerned about the remaining twenty five percent performance, Aali knew she didn't yet have any instrumentation in the compartment.  She knew there could be very little hydrogen in the tank, which could be a cause for the low power output.  There were also a few other addressable issues she could try if they were the case, and get the plant closer to full power.  If not, then she'd look at other means to get enough output to power the jump drive if she had to.  Still, it was time to spark up the engineering computer and see what she could learn?

Of course, most of the major engineering systems had been disassembled, but there were still many smaller sub or secondary systems Aali hadn't worried about, one way or the other.  Those would be small fires, if at all, if she could get the major systems working.  The most important thing she hoped to get from the computer would have been a fuel reading of the ship's normal space fuel tankage.  So, there was a huge amount of tension while the system slowly came up and Emkir was called forward to hack it with his special software.  When it did come up, Aali was not only satisfied with what data she was getting, but very pleased to announce they only had one ton of the fuel needed for a full month's power in normal space and needed three tons more of that.  She'd still need to get the bridge and main computer up to find out about the jump fuel?

When they talked about where to get the fuel, they knew they could reverse the pumps on the cutter bay aboard the California and pump fuel out of that ship's normal space tanks.  They also knew they could more easily get fuel from the carrier's flight deck until those tanks ran out.  They just didn't know how many tanks on the carrier they could access without having to rebuild some of the fueling connections?  And doing that risked damaging the tanks they worked on and losing fuel.  Lucky for them, Rol, Jocelynn, Zimzod and Fesic had the skills to work on that in addition to Aali.  So, Aali could consider that need the next morning.  But, with the Hotel California decommissioned, the crew had to make due with sleeping bags and other improvised comforts while spending the night in the cutters.

Gasses Of Different Sorts

     After a hurried breakfast, Aali got into her vacc suit and went to check on the overnight performance of the Flare's resurrected power plant.  That, and checking the rest of the functioning engineering systems would take two hours.  After that, her next objective was to fish through the spare parts and rebuild the yacht's life support, to see how well she could get it running?  While she got her day going, Aali had Aiden move the naval cutter to the Flare's air-lock and open both portals to start pumping clear atmo into that ship, making the work there easier.

After finishing what she could get done in engineering, Aali grabbed the component boxes with the various recovered life support parts, including the parts from the Hotel California.  It took her an hour, with androids to help, to evaluate, come to decisions and piece together the system.  Then, it was again time to cross fingers and see what happened next?  Aali first had to go back to main engineering and open the power routes to the device sub-section.  Then, with everyone holding their breath, she threw the switches and activated the system before leaning back on her heels to watch.

The first good news was that the system came up as expected and didn't fry right off the mark.  The system also "seemed" to be fully functional, meaning they have to wait thirty six hours before being able to take off their vacc suits.  Jocelynn suggested they might even pull their cutter into the cargo bay, to park it there and blow atmo from its system into the ship.  Aali warned them they had to be careful doing that.  Neither cutter's life support was rated to handle that much cubage and no one wanted one or both cutters to burn out.

Using them 'long term' could well burn out those systems.  To punctuate that, Aali had Aiden shut down the naval cutter's systems because they'd been blowing atmo for some hours.  Especially since they needed both cutters to transfer fuel.  Following that, they decided Aiden and Terin would fly the shuttles while they needed two others to man the pumps.  One on the carrier's flight deck with Terin's fusion plant and the other on the Flare's external fuel port.  That port was designed to accept fueling in space, so they didn't have to worry about losing the fuel they'd collected.

That meant they needed some sort of feed pipe and pump outside the ship, connected to the Flare's fuel port.  That would also mean the people handling the pumps on the Flare and carrier had to be trained in zero gravity operations.  Setting that up, they could pull one cutter in and fuel it up, then then fuel the next while the first crossed to the Flare.  And aboard the Flare, they had most of the fuel aboard pumped out, into the Flare's tanks.  That would also have to be shifted from the Flare's normal space to her jump fueling ports, because they only had one ton of normal space fuel tanked on the Flare.  That would power their internal systems to keep them alive until it ran out.

While they also knew there was fuel aboard the Hotel California, they'd have to find a way to evacuate that fuel first, before they could do it.  Doing that would take much more time than trying to fuel up from the carrier until it ran dry and they had no other options.  Setting aside the fuel in the California, Aali figured out they could close the valve on one of the pump stations on the carrier's flight deck and cut the pump station loose.  Then, connect the station to the Flare's fuel port and use the fusion power plant from the crew level survival kit Mikah had bought.  One problem was that they had to weld it to the Flare's ports, then cut them off again.

After talking it over, they decided they should take a few mechanical techs to the carrier to see how many fueling stations there were, and if they could remove one to fuel the yacht?  With Aiden flying and Terin aboard, Jocelynn and Zimzod were tapped to be the mechanical techs.  Emkir stayed back aboard the Flare to be ready when Aali decided it was time to power up the yacht's computer.  When they arrived, they found there had been ten stations, with five on each side of the flight deck.  More importantly, they found each was independently fed, so cutting one off its plumbing wouldn't cut off all the stations on that side of the deck.

Exploring the stations in more detail, each station had a cut off valve to stop the hydrogen flow in case of damage or maintenance.  So, they knew they could cut one from the deck to use they way they'd planned.  They could even take two, and weld one in place for each of the jump and normal space ports on the Flare.  Agreeing on their plan, the group aboard the carrier tested fueling stations until they found two that were dry.  They then sealed off the two valves on the pumping stations before supporting Jocelynn and Zimzod.  Those two sparked up cutting torches and spent the next few hours cutting away two of the station pump/valves sets.

Next, they loaded those aboard the cutter and flew them back to the Flare after stopping at the pumping station they'd already tested.  There, they hooked up Terin's portable fusion plant and fueled up the cutter.  Next, they returned to the Flare and everyone got ready to help Zimzod and Jocelynn weld the stations to the fuel ports.  Aali had explained that they could cut the surface covers off the ports because there was a pressure valve inside the line.  Only the positive pressure created as fuel was pumped in would force the valve open.  That meant it was safe to do what they planned.

It took another few hours to mount the feeds.  Then, Terin connected the portable fusion power plant from the kit Mikah bought to the pump connected to the normal space fueling port and they drained off most of the fuel from the cutter.  Leaving Jocelynn at the pump, Aiden flew them to the naval cutter, where Terin took the pilot's seat.  Then, the two cutters returned to the carrier's flight deck.  There, Zimzod hopped out and started fueling, first their cutter and then the naval cutter.  That was the way the next eight hours went as they first topped off the Flare's normal space fuel tanks and then moved Jocelynn to the jump port.

From there, they drained the tanks connected to two of the fueling stations while pumping.  By the end of their day, they'd shifted enough fuel to top off the normal space tanks and add twelve tons to the jump tanks.  During that, Aali managed to divert power to the ship's bridge and computer.  Then Emkir had broken out his secret computer cracker software and opened up the Flare's computer.  He waited until the computer fully came to life, and got a huge surprise.  The software, which had hacked every other computer quickly, took an entire half hour to do the job on this one!  So, their security was very good.

When the system came up, Emkir got a very pleasant surprise when he saw the on-boot splash screen for the Naasirka electronics megacorporation!  While their many inexpensive products were well known and widely sold, they were also best known for creating and selling the most powerful computer systems in the Imperium.  Expensive or not, the ship's computer was likely one of the best of its type.  Seeing that, Emkir commed Aali and said, "Aali!  We got a Cadillac!"  Not sure what Emkir was on about, she just responded "whoo hoo!"  With total control, Aali had found the ship had originally had seven tons of fuel aboard.

Thanks to the added twelve, that meant they needed twenty five more tons.  And, they'd drained or found drained, four of the ten fueling stations.  Another "convenience" Emkir found as he looked for the programs needed to start up the many ship's systems was a script called "Warmup".  When he opened it up and checked out what it did, it seemed like a single script solution to starting everything!  Then, Emkir found the computer had a voice interface when it started speaking to him!

By the end of the sixteen hour work day, Aali was moderately pleased and everyone was bone tired.  The Flare's Power plant was still running at seventy five percent, and the life support was pumping atmo as expected.  Aali knew she'd have to hope and pray those systems didn't fail overnight, but there was nothing more she could do other than hope.  The computer and bridge of the yacht were up and running and they still had to trace and test even more cabling.  With the fuel flights going, they could be ready to make their jump soon!  She still had to finish rebuilding the jump system and they had to collect up all their gear from the California to move it.  Emkir was concerned about getting that done before the ship started losing internal pressure and their bottles of booze started to shatter.

Ignoring that, Aali hoped they'd have a livable internal atmosphere in the Flare by the middle of the next day.  Aali felt she had to get the jump system done the next day, and needed Fesic and Mikah to grab spare hands and get the wiring work done too.  While Emkir could help with that since he was less busy with the computer, two sets of those hands would be busy with one hanging off the Flare's fueling port and one manning a pump on the carrier as Terin and Aiden flew back and forth shuttling fuel.  They hoped to ship twenty two more tons of fuel over the sixteen hours of work, and wondered if they could squeeze in those last three tons?

Still, they also knew safe was better than sorry.  With so many unknowns and questionable repair parts, smashing even more hardware when they were so close was not a good idea.  Especially because they hoped the atmo was coming up in the Flare and they expected to live in that yacht from that night, going forward.  Everyone also planned to find a single hour block of time to start moving their gear to the ship and claim a stateroom.  Mikah had already claimed the "Master" stateroom for herself.  "Just" herself, because you never knew if Zimzod might screw up?

Aali also planned to spark up the Flare's grav-plates and see how well they worked?  By mid-afternoon, Aali had gotten done with the jump systems and her test results looked good.  She still knew those didn't matter if something failed but it was the best she could do with what she had.  Not that she'd not pay a heavy price if she could get a repair ship to show up.  After that, she started powering up the grav plates to make everything easier on-board.  Of course, she had to coordinate with Fesic and Mikah on that as they worked.

After she seemed to have stable gravity throughout the ship, they took some time to let the ship's power grid settle in while checking for fried deck plates.  The few of those could be easily replaced from the Hotel California because they were standard tiles unless they were shaped to fit custom floor spaces.  Certain she wasn't starting fires with that, Aali powered up the ship's general power grid, and they again held their breath and waited for any flares or explosions.  One surprise from that was the sensation Emkir got from the chair he sat in while working on the computer.  Suddenly, the chair "conformed" and fitted itself to Emkir's body as he sat and he realized just how incredibly comfortable it was.  And, how damned expensive!  Single seats like that were known to cost over Cr 50k in some markets!

Taking another break to let the ship's power grid settle down, Aali checked with Mikah and Fesic to see how they were doing?  Judging that they were doing well, the four decided to cross over to the California and see if they couldn't gather their belongings into boxes and move them to the Flare.  Emkir and Aali had to spend more time packing because they had to pack more bottles so they would not explode in space during the crossing.  Since Aali was currently as happy with the jump drive, power plant and life support as she was going to get, she figured she could take a break for the first time since the misjump.  Aali wasn't going to worry about the maneuver drive, ship's weapons or even their sensors, even though those would mostly come up with the bridge and computer.

When the computers and bridge were up and running, the crews shuttling fuel took a break to move their gear too.  During that break, Aiden toured the bridge and was very pleased to find the workstation consoles were all touch screen technology and so were the ship's software systems.  So, he could personally configure his work spaces and switch positions consoles on the fly.  Everyone else who expected to have a bridge position was just as happy as Aiden.  Aiden's only concern was that a loss of power would take out all control from the bridge.  Of course, they were screwed if they lost the power because they'd also lose the computer.

Even more of a surprise for those who would work on the bridge, all the seats there worked the same as the one in the computer room did.  There was a little more time to explore the "over the top" and highly expensive fittings the ship had after they finished working and before going to sleep.  They also planned for the next day's work.  While they knew they had to get the rest of the fuel shuttled over, Terin pushed for grabbing a few extra tons, just in case.  Aali agreed, because it couldn't hurt.  They also planned to move all the common gear and things like the skids of weapon locker parts Zimzod had bought.  Another plan called for time to cut the name plates from the wall of the California's bridge wall.

One Last Day

     As the day began, Mikah flew the fuel cutter while Terin prepared to do his navigation plotting.  Aali finished up last minute items while everyone not working moved the ship's common equipment.  About to sit down and work, Terin suggested there might be enough time to do a little light looting now they had some free time.  The reaction he got was not based on the fact they'd just spent unending days working themselves to the bone.  What lit the fires of almost everyone on the ship was the fact that they'd be telling the Navy exactly where to find this ship.

That meant the Navy would very quickly see the conditions aboard, and know exactly what happened and who did it.  They also wouldn't have to go far to punish the idiots who looted what was essentially a war grave!  So, whatever the rest of the crew had to say, nothing compared to the danger Terin saw in Jocelynn's eyes.  Because Terin wasn't just talking about looting "any" ship.  He was talking about looting "Her" ship!  Stealing from the families and survivors of officers, crewmen and marines she'd worked with and come to know.  Some of them even having become friends or even family.  Jocelynn didn't say a word, but Terin knew they'd find him in little pieces if he tried anything of the sort.

Changing the subject, Zimzod brought up cracking open the X-Mail safe still aboard, and built into the cargo bay of the Hotel California.  He said it' be better if they cracked open the safe and returned with the X-mail parcels for the Wypoc system when they got to Inthe.  That would protect that cargo from salvage raiders.  And that would make it more likely they could get re-certified to carry X-mail if and when they had another ship.  Emkir had minor issues with being forced into making stops and was reminded they only had to carry X-cargo when they chose to go off the main trade routes, so Emkir backed off.

Where everyone is at the end of the session:

     Some of the crew were aboard the Coronal Flare waiting to take care of last minute items as
             Terin began his navigational plot.
     Mikah, Aiden, Zimzod and Rol are handling the last fuel flights.

Next: See the Getting A Huge Upgrade
Or read the Tale of the Coronal Flare