Blasting Off March 5, 2019
In the year 2291, the illustrious captain james hooke and the crew of the jolly roger vanished into uncharted space.
Today, Wendy Darling received their transmission.
Still reeling from the shock of her childhood hero being alive and well, Captain Wendy Darling is appointed the mission of a lifetime: find the lost crew of the Jolly Roger and bring them home. But on the ageless planet, time is finally running out, and Wendy must decide who to trust– the legendary captain, or his mysterious mechanic, Pan– before darkness consumes them all.
Frantic sirens shrilled in Peter’s ears as he yanked copper wiring from the underside of the control bay. The door to the command center’s hatch dangled open, revealing a tangled web of severed blue, yellow, and white cords. Exposed wires spat angry sparks at his face in protest.
Earsplitting keening from the machinery space alarm over the Jolly Roger’s loudspeakers throbbed in his head, confirming his sabotage was working. Just a few more cables and the ship’s central navigation system would shut down, taking the steering and autopilot along with it. Hooke would have to do some fancy flying to maneuver out of the bind Peter had put him in. There was no doubt the renowned captain could do it, but it would take all his focus and energy to stabilize the vessel.
Peter would use that to his advantage.
A garbled electronic tone buzzed through the tiny communication implant in Peter’s ear. Even though the device was secured against his eardrum, he could barely hear it over the deafening blare of the Roger’s alarm.
“You know I won’t understand a word of what you’re saying until I fix your audio biometrics, Tinc.” He tossed an exasperated glance at the nanobot flittering impatiently over his shoulder. The tiny machine responded with another unintelligible message, but the red sparks erupting from her tiny body gave him a good idea of what she was trying to say.
A wry smile danced on Peter’s lips. He winked at his Technological Interface Nano-Companion, who he called Tinc for short. He had been assigned the nanobot when the Londonierre Brigade had given him his Maintenance Tech orders, per company policy.
Unbeknownst to the Fleet, however, Peter had made some of his own modifications, providing Tinc with much more sophisticated coding than the standard model, along with a rather snarky attitude. It was one of his favorite things about her.
Tinc garbled what Peter was sure was a slew of colorful language before she dove into the box of wires. She disappeared into the tangle of cords for a moment before she flitted back with a thick black cord in tow. She flew in front of Peter’s face, her polycarbonate wings tickling his freckled nose like an obnoxious gnat, and jangled at him again. His eyes widened when he saw the cable, but he fell into an easy grin as he severed it with his switchblade.
“Nice catch,” he said offhandedly. He swept his hand across his forehead, brushing away the wild auburn strands tickling his eyelashes. “I was wondering when you’d find the cable.”
Peter flashed a roguish grin and dropped his knife into the cargo pocket of his jumpsuit. Tinc whirred in his ear, but flew alongside him as he dashed down the hall.
“Warning: External force field detected,” a smooth voice crooned over the cacophony of the screeching alarm. Peter slowed to listen to her announcement. “For your safety, please secure your position in the Residence Hull. Warning …”
Peter swore and turned to his bot. “What force field? I thought we were in the clear!”
Tinc hovered in the air, buzzing excitedly. Sparks shot out of her wings, the way they always did when she got worked up, making her look more like a fairy from a children’s book than the advanced mechanical device she was.
Peter raked his hands through his hair. “I know it’s not your fault” He grimaced. “But this could complicate things.” He racked his brain to visualize the map he’d seen in Hooke’s quarters earlier. The quadrant they were in was safe, he’d made sure of that. What external force field was she talking about?
His eyes widened as he remembered.
“Tinc, what was the territory next to the Krawk Nebula?”
He didn’t need the answer. The map in his mind was clear as day. “The Uncharted Sector.” He swore again. But the ship shouldn’t have been anywhere near the borders of the Nebula. The course they had charted went through the middle of the Nebula, not the outskirts. So, what was the problem?
“Warning. External force field detected.”
“External force field.” Peter smacked his forehead as understanding dawned. “The Uncharted Sector is pulling us in!” He dragged his palm down his face in exasperation.
Of all the dumb luck. The ship was being pulled into the gravitational field of an Uncharted Sector and nobody had noticed because he had disabled the ship’s navigation system.
“For your safety, please secure your position in the Residence Hull.”
“Shyte.” He couldn’t go to the Residence Hull. Hooke had to know what he had done by now. He’d be keelhauled for sure.
“We’re going to have to take control of the ship before Hooke wires more lies back to Control.” Who knew what his old friend had already told them. Peter grimaced, wondering if everything James Hooke had done was all for show. After nearly ten years of working with the famous Captain, he hoped not. But when you’re nine and someone plucks you out of the disease-ridden gutters of New London to give you a place to eat and sleep, you don’t really ask questions.
An impatient buzz from Tinc shot through his ear, pulling Peter from the grayed city streets of his past to the steel vessel of his present. She was going down quick, and she wasn’t happy about it.
“I know, Tinc.” Peter scowled. “But we severed the wires…” His brain whirred through all the possible outcomes of the scenario he had put himself in. None of them was pleasant. Worst case, death by an explosive inferno of doom; best case, survive the force field catastrophe long enough to be skinned alive for mutiny.
An assault of garbled tones sounded in his ear as Tinc hovered in front of him with sparks of violent red hues cascading from her wings. He had never seen her that upset.
“I know, Tinc. But we don’t have a choice. If we don’t, the ship will—” His words cut short as the ship lurched, forcing him to brace against the wall to keep from falling over.
“Perfect,” Peter muttered after the turbulence subsided. He hated working under pressure. He scanned the corridor and crowed in glee when he located the Personal Interface Panel. Every Brigade ship had its own artificial intelligence cybernetic system installed onboard.
Aside from the Navi, it was the tech that controlled most of the ship. There were bound to be parts Peter could repurpose to repair the wiring he’d disabled.
He reached for his switchblade and placed it securely between his teeth. The break in the panel was directly above him, a good five feet overhead. He’d practically have to fly to reach it.
No matter. He’d done worse before.
Gripping the blade in his jaw, Peter dropped back, then ran toward the wall. Before he hit, he jumped and used the curved wall as a springboard to propel himself up. He leaped, extending his arms toward the hydro-piping that ran along every major corridor in the ship.
His hands clasped the cool metal, and with a satisfied smirk, he tugged himself to the roof and settled in. The tight cords of his muscles bunched, pulling his wiry frame into the steel rafter beams.
From his perch, he had perfect access to the paneling. He grated his knife against the rusting screws to pop them loose. The heavy metal piece fell to the side with a loud clang, exposing a ripe crop of wires to harvest. Tinc flitted around his hands as he worked, offering her central lighting system as a freehand flashlight. Her intricate wings lit like a firebug, casting the small space in an ethereal glow. The lighting reflected off the ship’s interior and danced on Peter’s face.
Peter worked furiously, blocking out all outside distraction. Soon, the grating alarm was nothing more than static in the back of his mind as he combed through the tangled cording. The heat radiating from the humming electronics formed beads of sweat on his brow as he clung to his perch. Carefully, he removed a small black box nestled deep inside the maze of wires and let out a loud whoop. With a quick slash of his blade, the tiny treasure box was freed from its prison. He cradled it to his chest as he dropped to the floor.
“I can’t believe we found one,” he breathed, observing the pirated piece of machinery. It was a Personal Interface Cross-Electro Positron, often called a pix.E for short. “Most newer models don’t use these anymore. The tech got swapped for the Virtual AI Models.”
Tinc jangled indignantly, as if the use of advanced cybernetics personally offended her.
“Not many people know how versatile it can be,” Peter explained. “Most of London’s finest didn’t have to raid junkyards for parts to use for their training supplies.” He gripped the tech. For such a small box, it was surprisingly heavy. If his survival didn’t depend on the Roger’s functionality, he would have been tempted to salvage it for later.
Disappointed at the wasted opportunity, Peter sighed. It didn’t matter how great the tech was if he was dead. “Come on Tinc, we don’t have much t—”
The lights in the corridor flashed and the machinery alarm was replaced by an even more obnoxious emergency alarm. The vibrations thrummed in his bones as the warning blared. The ship lurched again, more violently than the last time, sending him sprawling. As Peter fought to stand, he realized he had felt vibrations, but it wasn’t the alarm. It was the shaking of the Roger as it was taken hold by the Uncharted Sector’s gravity field.
Peter glanced worriedly at Tinc before yanking her from the air and stuffing her into his pocket as he fled for the safety of the maintenance hull.
“It’s too late,” he whispered. “We’re about to go down.”
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