Starship repossession specialist Grimm and his crew, after their last botched repo, look forward to an easy and quick job, with their eyes on a much needed vacation as a reward.
Unfortunately, nothing ever goes as planned for Grimm. Caught between a salvager who wants the same ship and a bank that has him on a very tight deadline, Grimm must use every trick he knows to get the ship off station, intact and on time, while keeping himself and his crew alive.
: : 1 : :
Whenever you transition from one gate to the next, there’s always a chance something will go wrong. Power links fail, a fuel monitor decides there’s no fuel left, all the desks lose power. It happens. When you make enough jumps, something will eventually crap out.
“Captain,” Eddy, my best gunner and currently the duty navigator, said as we recovered from the transition to New Corbi, “we’ve lost navigation.”
She turned her delicate face toward me, her light brown hair pulled back behind her in a tail, and waited for me to give her an order.
I didn’t have an order for her, though.
“Just navigation?” I asked. “How do we only lose navigation?”
“I don’t know,” she said, then turned back to her desk.
“She’s right, Captain,” said Renaldo without turning to face me. Currently tasked with communications, he was quick to follow up Eddy’s diagnosis. With a crew of five, other than myself, they were all trained to do most jobs, and to back each other up. “All other systems and programs check out.”
I tried to bring up navigation on my own desk, but it wouldn’t come up. It was as if it wasn’t there.
I tried to bring up star charts, pinpoint our position. Nothing.
“Well, get us away from this gate,” I said. “We don’t want to be here when someone else transitions through.”
I felt the engines come to life, and the g increase.
At least we could move, but without navigation, we could end up anywhere. A gravity well might have ahold of us and we wouldn’t know it until it was too late.
I ran some diagnostics on the system. Normally, I’d have Alice do it, she of the uncompromised intellect and our resident synthetic, but it wasn’t her shift, and I wasn’t about to wake her.
The diagnostics pinpointed a dead cell in the memory array. Nothing as simple as the navigation software having been moved to inaccessible memory, or deleted. Nothing where we could recover it quickly.
I looked at my screen, then out at the stars. A planet orbited the bright blue ball of energy at the center of the system, a docking facility orbited the planet, and our target was sitting somewhere in that docking facility. The records showed it idle for the last three months, and the delinquent hadn’t even been in the system.
Two mil waited for me when I delivered that ship to the bank, and I was stuck in the system with no way of finding the planet or plotting a course to it, even if I could find it.
“Why the hell couldn’t it have been gunnery or something we don’t need on this trip?” I asked no one in particular.
No one answered me.
The back of my head started to ache like it always does when I’m under too much stress. Seemingly a thousand doctors had tried to fix it. Not a one of them had.
I checked our part inventory to see if we had a replacement memory cell.
Well, maybe we could bring it up from the backup, though I wondered if there would be enough space without the dead memory cell.
I palmed the comm on my desk.
After a moment, the comm came alive, but she left the video off.
“I want you to tell me that we have a backup of the navigation software.”
“We do, you know that.”
“I just wanted to confirm.”
“A memory cell failed during the transition, and it appears to have been the one with the navigation software on it.”
“That’s a problem,” Alice said.
“I know. We’re stuck if we can’t navigate. Can you reload it?”
“No,” she said.
“Captain,” she said. “The navigation cell also held all the chart data and everything else necessary for the navigation software to do its job. All that software and data use up almost the entire cell. There’s no other place to put it.”
“We can’t just delete something else? Maybe move it around?”
“If you can think of something we don’t need,” she said. “What would you want to get rid of? Communications? Weapons? Maneuvering? Life support?”
I looked out through the screen at the blackness of space, the stars beyond the system, the blue ball of gas at the system’s center. We couldn’t get rid of any of those things. Communications would leave us unable to talk to anyone, and, despite what I had said aloud, forgoing weapons would leave us defenseless. Out here, within shouting distance of the Fringe, I wasn’t going to do that. Maneuvering? Life support? Not a chance.
There was another option that would get us there, and I didn’t want to use it. The only other choice was to call for a tow. I wasn’t about to do that.
“Shit,” I said. “Do we have enough room to back up all the customer data?”
“We back that up all the time,” she said.
“No,” I said. “All the customer data.”
“Including the files from Elliot? The ones we’re not…”
“Yeah,” I said, cutting her off. I didn’t want her mentioning the data I’d been collecting about the weapons we had inadvertently learned about on our last repossession job. “Everything.”
“I shall see,” she said. “If there’s room, do you want me to do it?”
Eddy turned and looked at me, blinked, and smiled. If only I was interested like she was. I sometimes think that was the entire reason she signed on. Most ships have a strict anti-fraternization policy. Not mine. I live on the Grim Repo, and I’m not about to deny myself real relationships.
Not that I had any at the moment. My last real relationship blew up in my face, and only recently, I discovered she was a Fed the whole time.
“Captain,” Eddy said, “Another ship transitioned in behind us. They are hailing us, asking if we need help.”
Eddy must have taken over communications while I was talking with Alice, which meant that Renaldo was running a deeper diagnostic on the ship.
“Tell ’em we don’t need any help.”
She turned back to her desk.
I wasn’t about to take charity when our problems were my own damned fault.
If I hadn’t taken that last memory cell—I swear we had another for our secondary computer system—we’d be up and running by now.
I just had to hope there was enough room to back all that data up.
Fortunately, system docking stations never looked at backups unless they suspected criminal activity.
Security on New Corbi shouldn’t have any reason to suspect us of criminal activity.
We were there to repo a starship.