Rebel Tribe: Osprey Chronicles Book 1
Lost in space, no knowledge of who she is. There must be a good reason that she pushed the engines and found herself in this situation.
VCS 01 (Osprey Chronicles) snippet
“Engine core critical failure imminent.”
Orange-yellow warning lights flashed from every screen. The command center was a cylindrical room, over eleven meters in diameter, with each flat end covered in monitors and control panels that were blinking in distress. The curved wall served as a walkway…when the gravity-spin generators were functioning.
They were not.
Scraps of smashed casing and ripped wires drifted in the zero-G environment. Dozens of small electrical fires raged across the consoles, eating up oxygen. The smog of ozone and burning plastic filled the air.
Near the center of the chamber, a petite woman in a silver flight suit dug through the guts of the fire suppression system, her legs wedged against a support strut to keep her from floating away.
Coughing and fanning away smoke, she slammed the butt of her multitool against a flow valve, knocking it open. Flame suppressant hissed from the tubes, smothering the electrical fires and filling the command center with an inert gas mix that made her lungs itch. There was a whoosh of dry air as the supplementary oxygen system engaged.
“Engine core critical failure imminent.” The sexless voice echoing around the chamber sounded disinterested, even bored.
Heart pounding in her ears, the woman shoved herself away from the fire suppression system and glided smoothly to the engine core interface.
“I heard you the first time.” She scanned the monitors, desperate for any hint of good news. “Give me new information.”
“Coolant pressure rising. System failure due to internal strain,” the voice said calmly. Then it added: “I told you the jump was a bad idea.”
“I don’t remember jumping,” the woman snapped. “I…I don’t remember anything.” The realization of this thought hit her hard. She knew she was on a ship, but where or why? She couldn’t recall anything. Not that it mattered now.
There were more pressing issues to deal with. Issues like not dying.
“Certainly,” the calm voice continued. “You commanded we jump through the wormhole despite numerous warnings on what wormhole travel does to the human mind and—”
“Vent all of the coolant,” she yelled.
“Not recommended. Thermal shock may damage the engines. Might I remind you, we’re trying to cool the ship. Not overheat it.”
“A critical flood will ruin the whole damn thing rendering this ship useless. Pick the devil you can live with. Vent the coolant!”
There was a beat of silence between the wail of distant sirens. Then: “That is not a recommended course of action. Aptitude monitors have determined that your judgment is impaired. Initiating control override.”
She glanced at the AI interface. The screen had gone blank, activating a nanny mode that would take hours to override. Until then, that smug voice would do what it thought was best for the ship.
“Like hell you are.” She thrust the plasma multitool over her shoulder and closed her fist, squeezing all four triggers at once. A lance of ionized plasma lanced through the air, filling the chamber with a fresh shower of sparks and cleanly slicing through the AI mainframe casing, taking the damn thing offline.
The sirens stopped.
“Override that, you pompous asshole.” She released the multitool and turned back to the engine controls. Every single emergency light flashed red. Coolant pressure critical. It might already be too late to save the engines, but if she didn’t try, the ship would be dead in unknown areas.
Venting coolant into space at these pressures, though, would generate one hell of a kick.
She snatched a restraint harness from the wall and shoved it over her shoulder. It surprised her that the memory-straps knew her shape and closed automatically across her chest.
She punched the valve activation controls.
The superstructure around her, already battered, screamed as a brutal pressure change blew its cooling systems clean, venting into the cold vacuum of space.
She slammed against her safety harness as the ship rocked. One of the straps caught her stomach, winding her. By the time she caught her breath, the pressure valve gauge had slid from the red zone down to the green. Engines damaged, but online.
She felt an instant of elation before the drifting multitool slammed into her face.
She startled awake with a sneeze that cut through a dead silence. Pain lanced through her nose, making her vision blur. By the time it cleared, a faint mist of bloody spray had drifted around her face.
“God damn it,” she muttered as a throbbing headache, the mother of all hangovers, pounded the inside of her skull.
She let out a shuddering breath and prodded her face. Her mouth and chin were sticky with blood. Her nose was swollen and tender. Hair, matted with blood, clung to her temples.
She squeezed her eyes shut, reaching for clarity behind the headache, but it wouldn’t come. She stared at the array of monitors and computer banks curving around her, willing them to spark some recognition. Nothing.
She swallowed a dry lump in her throat. “H…Hello?” She peered down, where an unlit access tunnel opened into the module. Overhead, a similar access tunnel curved out of sight.
She willed herself calm with a few deep breaths.
“Start with the basics,” she muttered to herself. “Where are you?”
Scanning the blinking monitors, she found nothing to tell her where she was. Then checking her memory as to what happened, she met with an equally useless answer.
She had no memory of anything before the fires.
“Okay, okay, the basics, remember. What is my name?”
She waited, but if she knew even that much, the awful headache buried it.
Reaching up, she opened the harness buckle on her shoulder. The straps slackened, letting her float free at the center of the chamber. Burnt wiring and melted plastic pockmarked the banks of computers stretching around her.
Above and to her left, she spotted a metal cabinet door painted with a red cross. Shoving herself against the harness support, she drifted to the cabinet and fumbled with the latches. The door swung open, revealing rows of neatly ordered medical supplies.
“Praise God in heaven.” She grabbed a packet of medfoam and ripped it open with her teeth. The mirror mounted to the inside of the cabinet door caught her eye.
She didn’t recognize the golden-eyed woman staring back at her. Blood plastered her short, tightly curled black hair to the left side of her skull. Her skin was bronze, except for where it had gone purplish-black over the crooked swell of her nose.
The concussion treatment, she thought, is mental and physical rest.
She chuckled and dabbed the sticky foam over her bloody scalp. She couldn’t remember her name, but she could remember basic first aid.
“One step at a time,” she muttered.
Where the medfoam touched her skin, it smoothed and hardened into a sterile lattice that would stop the bleeding and keep her wounds clean until she could get proper treatment.
“No gravity,” she told the mirror as she wiped the blood from her chin. “By the shape of the room, it looks like rotational gravity generators are supposed to keep people stuck to the sides. They must be offline. You know how gravity generators work. You’re on a spaceship. What are you doing on a spaceship? Where is the rest of the crew?”
No answer came to her except the throb of pain from her nose. She thought she recalled the scream of sirens, but if it was a nightmare or true memory, she couldn’t say.
Concussion treatment: Limit exposure to bright sounds and light.
Somewhere down the hallway, an alarm began to beep.
She pressed her eyes shut. It was a loud, steady beep—at three-second intervals, almost languid. Too slow to be urgent. It could wait.
She faced the woman in the mirror and glared at the swelling mass of her nose. No amount of first-aid analgesic was going to fix a dislocated nose.
“All right.” She set her jaw and hooked her legs around a support strut. She drew in one deep, sucking breath.
“What’s your name?” she asked the woman in the mirror. When the woman didn’t answer, she squeezed her eyes shut and brought her hands to her face, resting her thumbs along the bridge of her nose.
If she were dreaming, this would sure as hell wake her up.
“What’s your name?” She screamed, ramming her thumbs together. There was a sickening click of cartilage as her nose popped back into place. White-hot agony lanced through her face. She kicked, her boots slamming into the side of the console as she convulsed. The alarm abruptly silenced.
She panted, glaring at the golden-eyed woman, who was still an utter stranger. A few gulps of water from one of the sealed bottles in the cabinet made the pain retreat a little further.
She patted down her flight suit, looking for a personal computer, a commlink, hell, even a nametag would be welcome—but her attire was sleek, featureless, and without pockets. Even her utility belt was empty.
Something bumped her leg, and she looked down to see a drifting plasma multitool. She stared at it for several seconds. There was dried blood caked to the blunt end, decorated with a few curly black hairs.
I was holding it, the woman decided. I was about to do something.
She remembered, suddenly, the brutal pain of it slamming into her forehead—the smell of burning plastic, the unique singsong alarm of the… The coolant alerts.
She snapped the multitool to her belt and swung around, towing herself up the side of the command center to the engine core interface. Coolant pressure had fallen to zero. She had vented all of it from the main systems to prevent an engine flood.
Why would the engines start to flood? The idea alarmed her. She felt like she’d walked into the middle of a holo-drama. Something must have gone terribly wrong to put the engines in danger of flooding.
On the other hand, a system without any coolant would overheat in hours, a day at the most, merely from generating the minimum power necessary to sustain life support.
When she tried to switch over to reserve coolant systems, the system didn’t respond. She popped off the interface panel to see a mess of blackened, twisted wires. She cursed, pounding the wall with her fist.
The comm speaker beside her blurted static. She stared at it, then cleared her throat. “Computer? Anybody? This is…” She stretched, reaching for her name, but it didn’t come. “Do you copy?”
No answer. Overhead, one screen flickered. She pushed herself closer to see a blinking command prompt.
The computer core beside the screen was cracked neatly in two, probably damaged in whatever disaster had caused all the fires, but somehow the miracle of transistors and circuitry clung to life.
She cracked her knuckles and started typing. A quick hardware assessment told her the primary CPU had sustained damage, but the backup was in better shape. With some careful negotiation over broken keys and a damaged touchscreen, she sifted through the mainframe until she found the right paths to switch operations to the backup. A new prompt appeared on the screen.
Switching computer cores may change some functions. Proceed? Y/N
Any function was better than none. She couldn’t get a good diagnostic of the ship without a functioning central computer. She tapped the Y.
The screen went blank.
Static crackled through the comm speakers. She closed her eyes, praying.
The static clarified into a voice, mild and sexless, with the faintest hint of an accent she couldn’t quite place. Irish, maybe?
“Please stand by while system reboots. Initializing.”
The monitor in front of her flared to life.
“Good morning, S. W. Jaeger,” the AI said. “How can I help you?”
How did she come to be there, what is her mission, where is she going? Find out on July 28th, when Rebel Tribe: Osprey Chronicles Book 1 is released.