Mera sat at his station, watching the slow spin of the heavy water reactor as it spat out brackish waste fluid. As the water cascaded through the generator, he had another problem to solve: one of power.
The ship had always been furtive while hopping through space: making random jumps like a fly being preyed upon. The engines were growing torpid with old age, jumping less often and not as far, with progress deteriorating by the day. The only way to fix things was to take them offline for refurbishment, which left the ship stationary and open to attack.
The go-ahead had been given, budgeted to two hours: it generally took the Alliance ships at least three to find them at rest stops, so two hours was plenty. Mera shut down the reactor; as its spin slowed, he opened the engine casing and saw the problem immediately.
Some of the waste water had crept into the engines, evaporated with the heat, and left salt deposits encrusted around the antimatter injectors. This would take more than two hours to fix; the ship would have to land on a safe planet for a full overhaul of the injector matrix.
Mera closed up the casing, and fired up the reactor. Nothing happened: the reactor had itself seized with salt. The catch was that the Jump engine needed power from the reactor: without the Jump drive, they'd never get to a planet before Alliance hordes were crawling over them.
Now they were screwed.
Article dated: 9th Nov 2010