“Lovely,” Rue said to herself as she rubbed her temples. Maybe they would get rich, and if they did, that meant she could go back to school and be more than just a medic on a god forsaken boat out in the middle of no where. She’d be a real doctor on a planet with a nice house, and maybe even a tree.
With a sign, she turned on the comm. “This is a report from Medic Di Disqua. Everyone is going to have to double the exercise routine over the next few days. We will had an extra hour now, and two more after the mission to the ship. You will find a schedule on the central net. For all those who will be part of the away team, be sure to drink as much fluid as possible. You will also find a schedule of the physicals.”
Rue turned off the comm, and then sat at the small consol in her room. Nanites had to be listed in the central database, though she could also send a subspace call to headquarters for more information. It was going to take a couple hours for the signal to get there, and then get back with the information she requested.
Researching the possibility of nanites on the NOMAD Prime’s core database, Rue found the following entry:
“A nanomachine, also called a nanite, is a mechanical or electromechanical device whose dimensions are measured in nanometers (millionths of a millimeter, or units of 10 -9 meter).
A nanite is built by manipulating atoms and contains gigabytes of computer memory. It is small enough to enter living cells and can be programmed to do numerous tasks. Nanites are used for medical purposes and are designed to work inside nucleii during cellular surgery. When they are not used, nanites are stored in a non-functional state. When necessary nanites can be destroyed with a burst of high-level gamma radiation.
The microscopic size of nanomachines translates into high operational speed. This is a result of the natural tendency of all machines and systems to work faster as their size decreases. Nanomachines may be programmed to replicate themselves, or to work synergistically to build larger machines or to construct nanochips. Specialized nanomachines called nanorobots might be designed not only to diagnose, but to treat, disease conditions, perhaps by seeking out invading bacteria and viruses and destroying them.
Another advantage of nanomachines is that the individual units require only a tiny amount of energy to operate. Durability is another potential asset; nanites might last for centuries before breaking down. The main challenge lies in the methods of manufacture. It has been suggested that some nanomachines might be grown in a manner similar to the way plants evolve from seeds.”
Before she has a chance to send out more detailed research requests to the large data arrays on HoJo Ring, Captain Anora places a blanket Silence order on all unneccessary communications outside the ship and the survey modules.
“I don’t want to go dark,” she explains over the comm, “that would attract attention as well. But I don’t want any out of the ordinary communication with the Ring, or any other point outside our little universe. No calling your mother to tell her what we’ve found. no promising you’ll be able to pay of those gambling debts when we get home. Nothing but minimal comm traffic. Capiche?”
Her next duty was to go and check all the biosuits herself. If there was even a loose thread she was going to reject the suit. It took her a good couple of hours to make note of each suit. There was also a plan to write up regarding the Vaccines against various possible bio-terror materials. No one was going to be happy with the 8 different shots she had mixed, but it was better than having them becoming mummies.
The suits, one for each crew member on the ship and clearly marked with their names, are in good shape. Asteroid drifters tend to look after their gear. Even a pinhole leak during an extra vehicular activity would be certain death, and all of them work outside the steel cocoons of their vessels from time to time. It’s nature of being a rock jockey.
It took another hour to mix the vaccines. This was far above her pay grade, but then there wasn’t exactly a real doctor on the ship. She sent all the mixes through the tests, then decided to call Havas first. He tended to be good at complaining, and probably had the toughest system of anyone on board. After putting in a comm to him, she waited.
“Don’t worry, it will only hurt a bit, and I ran every test possible. So don’t act like I’m trying to poison you,” she muttered as she started the first shot.
It didn’t take long before she was done with her first victim. Just a few more to go.
“See that wasn’t so bad. I’d give you a lollipop, but I’m afraid the Captain said that would be demeaning.”
She gave a good natured smile. Havas might have been a sourpuss, but he wasn’t a bad guy. And when they girls outnumbered the guys 4 to one, it wasn’t like there was date night often or ever. And well, he was fun to get stirred up.
Havas is predictably grumpy about the vaccine she has prepared and the increased exercise routines she wants him to undertake, though he powers through them like an animal. He is very strong and fit. He’s ten or fifteen years older than Rue, but in the peak of health, and very active. From time to time he makes eye contact with her and she is certain she can see a smouldering lust in his eyes that could light up the Ring itself with its intensity, but he has never made an inappropriate comment or pass at her. Maybe he’s just waiting for her to let the floodgates open, just a little?
Robles, on the other hand, is always coming on — to her, to Cat, to Kala — but never to Dobbs or the Captain. he is quite happy to chatter and flirt on the laser comm as long as she would like, telling her things he wants to do to her that make her laugh and blush. Things that creep into her dreams and wake her up in a hot lather.
Next she called on the Captain, then the others on board. There were still the other pilots, but she could carry enough to give them what they needed before they suited up. Everything was in order, and Rue was pretty sure she had thought of at least 80% of the things that could kill them, and blocked 70%. There was still the unknown and the 10% sure she could do nothing about, but she was going to give anyone those numbers, not even the captain unless she was ordered.
When everything was done, she had just enough time to do her own exercise, before a quick dinner, and straight to bed. She needed rest just in case. Hopefully, everything was going to be a cakewalk, and all she was going to do was get to watch Kala jumping around like a jumping bean about her find. That and maybe get a few words into to Julio. It had been a long time since they had talked.
The 8 hour rest felt nice, but when she awoke, they were all but there. After a quick shower, she got the rest of the vaccines ready. She just kept reminding herself exactly how easy this mission was going to be despite the bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“Reporting for duty, Captain,” she said as she entered the bridge to see the ship’s viewer showing the find. “Looks like an interesting ship. Hope it has fun stuff. Any orders before we depart?” she asked.
Keeping busy made the time fly and it seemed like only a few hours had passed when Havas announced that Survey One was alongside, ready to dock. Dobbs had set an course that intersected with the main ship a thousand kilometers before it reached the location of Kala Sui’s module. She matched vectors with Havas reading out a string of numbers and angles to her all the time, and they all felt the clang of her hatch dogging on to the outside ring assigned for her module.
Several moment later, having passed through the protocols for matching pressures and screening for toxins, the big blond woman strode onto the bridge. She stank. Twelve days in the module with no shower can leave its mark on you.
“Hit the showers, Dobbs,” grinned Anora. “No one wants you near them right now.”
The broad-shouldered pilot grimaced, but padded away in the direction of the fresher.
“Robles’ll join us at Kala’s location” reported Havas, checking his readings for the ten thousandth time.
“We’ll be there in forty seven minutes.”
“Got it!” called Cat from a sensor console at the rear of the bridge area. “It’s not much of a picture, but I can see it. Holy shit, she’s right. That’s a fucking alien ship, my darlin’s.”
The engineer threw the image she had obtained from the long range scanners up on the main screen. Fuzzy and blobby, shifting in and out of focus at this extreme range, they could all see, nevertheless, that this was a ship unlike any they were familiar with. As they watched in awe, the image grew and became more detailed as they moved closer and closer towards it.
Rue decided she would wait for Dobbs to take a shower before she gave her the shots. They really did smell after being stuck in those ships. The ship would be disinfected later. Right now there were other things to deal with. Rue had Dobbs report to the medical bay before she could go on the away mission. The thought of going over to the other ship made Rue nervous, it was bad enough being stuck in a bucket of metal that she trusted, she had no idea what was in that other ship.
Bex Dobbs took a long time in the shower, not unusual for someone denied cleanliness for days on end. Rue jabbed her full of antibodies and vitamins as she was toweling off, and the brawny woman yelped, then laughed out loud at the medic’s expression.
“Should see your face, doc!” she grinned as she paraded around the ship without a stitch of clothing on. “S’alright. I don’t bite –less you want me to!” The Amazon leered suggestively at the young woman, and Rue retreated quickly, unsure how much of the encounter had been rough humor and how much might have been poorly executed flirting. She was pretty sure that the Captain and Dobbs had a thing going, but even in these close quarters they managed to be discrete about it.
After shots were given, she reported back on the bridge. There was discussion about the best way to go into the ship. Rue walked up to listen, it was only when everyone turned to look at her did she realize there was a question.
“I’m sorry, what?” she asked.
“What do you think?” Cat said impatiently. “How do you think we should get on the ship?”
Rue gave a cough into her hand. “I’m not really qualified to make any suggestions about engineering. I would suggest whatever we do, we should suit up. Keeps any bugs that might be living in the ship at bay until we can detoxic the place. Besides that, I’m really not eager for a space walk, so if we can pull the ship up and just command the other ship to open up, I think that would be nice.”
The others just started at her for a moment, before they all started to laugh. Rue gave a fake smile, before she moved on to try and find the Captain. She wanted to finish giving her report in person, then suit up. If the team was really going to need her over there, then she needed to be ready for anything. This really wasn’t what she signed up to do, but you couldn’t exactly tell your Captain no when you were in the middle of space with no where to go.
“Captain,” she said when she entered the briefing room where the Captain was working on her plan. “Here’s my report on the nanonites. Overall, I think they aren’t likely to be either on the ship nor a problem for us, but I think the suits should mostly protect against most of them. Though they can slip through the lining. I am ready if you really think I should join the away team, though I’m happy to stay behind as well.”
“This ship is not a human designed ship,” Captain Anora said. “There seems to be very little in the way of a propulsion unit, while our deep space vessels are almost fifty percent engines. Which makes me think there are technologies we don’t understand at play here. Stands to reason there will be no breathable air on board, so we’ll only be able to go aboard in suits.
“In case there is something out there that might contaminate our ship, I plan to approach with one of the modules before we bring the Prime alongside. Sui and Robles will be back on board in about an hour or so, but they are not part of the team I’m going to send over.
“Cat. I need you over there to even have a chance of understanding their technology. And Doc, you need to go too — we’ll be looking at alien life forms, at least the bodies of them, and I need to know as quickly as possible if there is any bio-hazard over there. Bex will fly you over and she will provide the strong arm backup. I think she’s got a couple of illegal weapons hidden away somewhere, right, bruiser?”
Dobbs chuckled and nodded.
“Yeah. Couple of pop guns hidden under my bunk.”
“I know this is dangerous, ladies, and I’m prepared to double your stakes for being the ones to take the greatest risk. Normal crew share is two point five percent of salvage for derelicts. I’m going to up your share to five percent a piece, out of my own cut. And, of course, you’ll go down in the history books. They’ll know your names a thousand years from now. The first humans to board an alien vessel.
“Suit up, girls. I want you in Survey One within the hour.
“Bex, open the hatches on the module for now, right? We don’t have time to clean it properly, but that will get the stink out in a hurry.”
Anora looked at the others.