Chapter One: Orrin

“I suspect you may be the most intelligent member of our new crew mates,” I grumbled to the only other occupant of the engine room.

“Power transfer conduit is connected to the fold coil which is connected to output shaft coupling which is connected to…that doesn’t look right.”  I was pouring over the engine, trying to keep my head clear. 

The output shaft coupling was supposed to be connected to damper disc three that was connected to the output shaft, but for some reason, it had been moved and was now connected to damper disc two which had a more direct connection to the fold generator and the distributors.

We had been away from Katzul for days now, headed towards Qasar Space Station, and we couldn’t get there quickly enough.

We were forced to move slowly in order to avoid leaving behind a trail and to avoid leaving a big enough heat signature to be seen on a long-range scan. 

That meant that when I was sleeping, it was in short bursts, so I could wake up once an hour to monitor the engine’s output. 

And something wasn’t right.

I set down my tools, grabbed my tablet, and called up the AI to run a simulation on what the effect of this new connection was.  I didn’t like anyone messing with my engine. 

I had suffered that human, Maris, helping me rework things on my baby in order to change her output signature, but if she had messed with my output settings and made things worse, I was going to get her removed from my engineering bay.

Huh.

The AI came back with word that the new configuration was 8% more efficient than before and had been part of the signature rewrite process.  I flipped the tablet off, set it down, and studied what had been done. 

It was a more direct, and therefore, shorter connection which meant that the engine didn’t have to work as hard. However, my concern was that damper disk two wasn’t built for that kind of connection and would short out faster.  I took my notebook from my pocket, flipped to today’s page, and made note of what I had found and what I needed to do.

“I’d appreciate you telling Maris to keep her hands off my engine,” I grumbled.

Unfortunately, Persephone the cat wasn’t taking messages. Instead she sauntered over, rubbed up against my back with a loud purr, then curled up in her little space in my tool box.

Maris was an intelligent woman, probably the only one other than their doctor that I respected, but she was given permission from the Captain to mess with my engine, and I didn’t like that. 

I had built this engine and rebuilt it several times.  I knew this engine as if it were my own child, and this human woman, with no knowledge of the Shein NX-01-T engine or our fold technology, was going to tell me how to rewire it, reroute it, and rebuild it.

Not likely.

Her ideas had worked, I’d admit that.  But, then she was assigned to work in my engineering bay. 

Why? 

I already had my own crew, and they all knew not to mess with my engine unless they could guarantee that their work was going to be correct.  Then this human comes in and wants to do things that just can’t possibly work. 

You can’t reroute the post-stage fold tuner assembly back into the intake collector with a series of filters to filter out the impurities caused by the fold.  It just wasn’t a feasible action.  The heat alone would force the cooling units to work exceedingly hard, and we didn’t have enough spares to replace all of them.

Then, she wanted to rework my formula for dispensing the fuel.  Really?  How did that woman know anything about starship fuel? 

Speaking of fuel, while we weren’t running low, we certainly weren’t in an area to refuel.  There were three stations more or less along the way to the Qasar Station, all of them Dominion controlled. 

Well, there was a chance that one of them was pirate controlled, but no one knew for sure.  It exchanged hands at least three or four times a year in petty skirmishes.

However, if we were forced to run and use the engines at full for any reason, for any length of time longer than a few minutes, we wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to the station safely. 

We couldn’t fold there, which would guarantee our arrival, because it would leave too strong of a signature and anyone looking for us would know exactly where we went.

“Every solution brings more problems.”

Persephone had moved to my lap, and was now rubbing her head against the tablet, rousing me from my thoughts.

I blinked, realizing I’d been blanked out, staring at the screen for nearly fifteen minutes. 

I shook my head, got to my feet to stretch, which sent Persephone running in annoyance, and yawned until I could feel it in my toes.

There had to be a way to give us speed without leaving behind a signature.  I pulled up the blueprints of the engine and began cycling through different configurations, looking for efficiency, speed, and a negligible heat signature.

I had to find a way to fix this.  I couldn’t continue working the way I was, the crew couldn’t continue sitting around doing nothing, and I couldn’t handle another request for work from Maris. 

Not right now. 

Not ever, if I could help it.

I know you’ve been waiting for this one.. I’d love to know what you think!  Rogue Instinct is available for pre-order now!

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