Two Ships. One Chance To Save The Future.
Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue—until they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years in the future.
The Gallion’s chief engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the tale of the Fortunate Five, who ended the war with the Felen. When the Gallion rescues a run-down junk freighter, Ozakka is shocked to recognize the Five’s legendary ship—and the Five’s famed leader, Eldric Leesongronski, among the crew.
But nothing else about Leesongronski and his crewmates seems to match up with the historical record. With their ships running out of power in the rift, more than the lives of both crews may be at stake…
Research Vessel RV ZC-2812 ZeyCorp Gallion
Shaan sat at an empty table in the Gallion’s canteen, staring at the urgent message alert blinking on her bracelet. She weighed up the consequences of ignoring it like she’d ignored the first one, and the second. But this was Director Barnabyn’s third message, and after three would come the voice-call. She didn’t want to wait for that, not with the Director of Administration in such a foul mood.
She sighed and fished in her pocket for her ZeyCorp badge, wiping a smudge from one corner before she clipped it to her collar. The company logo gleamed brightly over her uninspiring title: Facilities Coordinator. Shaan hardly ever bothered with the badge unless she was leading a formal tour, but the captain’s directive had been clear: full uniform, at all times. Everything had to be kept in perfect order for their diplomatic visitors.
As if a Felen Ambassador would care about a corporate badge. Shaan couldn’t understand what the Ambassador was doing on a ship like this in the first place. The Gallion was a mobile research facility for hire, a corporate science ship that delved long months into deep space so the researchers who paid for ZeyCorp’s services could run experiments. The decks usually teemed with people: scientists and their entourages, interns, engineers and equipment techs. But between rotations, there was a turnover when the ship was nearly emptied. Now, the Gallion was stripped down to its core crew, and the only guest apartment in use was the one occupied by the Ambassador.
The Ambassador was on the way to a summit in mainspace, and ZeyCorp had leapt at the opportunity for one of their ships to ferry a Felen dignitary. A hundred and fifty-two years had passed since the Peace of Etraxas and the end of the war, but Felen were rarely seen by human civilians. Diplomatic matters were normally conducted out in the border sectors—not on corporate science ships.
The week before the Ambassador’s arrival had been filled with frenzied preparations. Everyone in the Gallion’s core crew got a lesson in Felen diplomatic protocols, and Director Barnabyn had insisted that they all recite the list of rules aloud.
Always address the interpreter, never the Ambassador directly.
Do not walk beside the Ambassador.
Do not turn your back to the Ambassador.
Do not touch the Ambassador.
Do not eat or drink in front of the Ambassador…
Shaan had repeated the protocols to Barnabyn’s satisfaction, then promptly deleted the list from her lightpad. She intended to avoid the diplomatic visitors altogether. Even though she usually led the ship’s tours, on this occasion Director Barnabyn wanted to take care of every detail himself, and Shaan had barely tried to feign disappointment.
This would be over soon. The Gallion wasn’t far from its next scheduled stop, where more crew and new researchers would come on board. There, the Ambassador would disembark, and she’d never have to think about any of this again. Soon.
That is, if the ship’s engines ever started working again.
Shaan pushed the thought of the Felen Ambassador from her mind. She tapped her bracelet to acknowledge Barnabyn’s message, then called the nearest lift and descended to the Engineering deck.
Some small part of her still hoped that the Engineering team had overlooked something obvious, that this engine malfunction wasn’t as bad as it seemed. But hours had passed since the incident, and the ship remained disconcertingly silent. No one had uploaded an incident report yet, much to Director Barnabyn’s chagrin.
Shaan emerged from the lift on the upper level of the Engineering deck. There was no one in sight. The consoles that controlled the ship’s scientific arrays were switched off, and the oblong meeting-table sat empty, its projection surfaces dark. She walked to the edge of the upper deck’s outcropping, looking over the rail into the Engineering pit.
Arranged around the lower level were more semi-circular banks of workstations, each with a garish purple seat that swung out sideways. Most of those seats were empty, too, and only a half-dozen consoles were in use. The engineers were engrossed in scrolling columns of glowing diagnostics, and no one looked up as Shaan walked down the stairs into the pit.
About the Author
Ren Hutchings is a speculative fiction writer, writing mentor, and history grad. She spent most of the past decade working in game dev while also plotting twisty space novels. She loves pop science, unexplained mysteries, 90s music, collecting outdated electronics, and pondering about alternate universes. Ren always drafts out of order, and almost everything she writes ends up involving a dash of time travel.
Rebellion Publishing: https://rebellionpublishing.com/product/under_fortunate_stars/
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