pods were fully loaded with dehydrated meal kits. They weren’t the tastiest things around, but all you needed was a cup of hot water and you had a filling meal. Since they had at least fifty escape pods and only a skeleton crew, it would buy them some time. Nathan didn’t want to use all of the escape pod rations for fear that they might someday need to use the pods for their intended purpose. So they had used EVA suits to access the escape pods in the forward section of the ship, which was still open to the vacuum of space. Until that portion of the ship was repaired, no one would be using those escape pods.

“What’s on the menu today?” Nathan picked up the meal pouch that Vladimir had dropped on the table in front of him, giving it a look. It didn’t appear terribly appetizing.

“Something with noodles,” Vladimir said. “But it is supposed to have meat in it,” he added as he set the small pot of boiling hot water on the table between them. Nathan peeled back the cover on the container and poured in some of the hot water.

“Anything is better than nuts and dried fruit,” Nathan insisted as he stirred the contents to thoroughly distribute the hot water.

“We hope. But it cannot be as bad as a meal-replacement bar,” Vladimir added as he stirred his meal.

“So, how go the repairs?” It was the first question that Nathan always asked, as it usually took Vladimir most of their brief meal period to explain everything he and his staff were doing.

“It is going. Everything that can be fixed is being fixed. But for many systems we will need to manufacture new components in order to repair them. We have several component printers and even some machining equipment stored in the hangar bay, but they have not yet been installed. But, we have propulsion and maneuvering, and we have most of the rail guns working. Even some of the ones that were not yet connected-they are also working- thanks to Danik and Allet.”


“The two rebel engineers,” Vladimir explained. “How do you call them, Karuzari? They are very good. They are working in the torpedo room now. They will have the port auto-loaders ready soon. Maybe even the aft loaders as well. The starboards tubes, however, they are badly damaged and will not be available for some time.”

“Oh, I was wrong,” Nathan said, his face souring as he took his first taste of his reconstituted meal. His face took on a sour expression. “Fruit and nuts are better.”

“Hey, at least it has meat in it,” Vladimir exclaimed as he began to shovel the reconstituted mixture into his mouth. “Although I am not sure what kind.”

“So these guys are that good, huh?”

“Oh yes! They even improved the power transfer to the rail guns, increasing their rate of fire by ten percent. They could boost it more, but there are other priorities.” Vladimir stopped shoveling food into his mouth for a moment, adding, “You know, our systems appear to be very simple to them.”

“Damn, this really is bad,” Nathan stated, not sure he could finish his meal kit.

“Stop whining. It is food. Listen, Nathan, you are going down to the surface of Haven, yes?”

“Yeah, that’s the plan.”

“What is it you are going to do there?”

“Try and get some food and supplies, and some intel if possible. Why?”

“I think I should go down there as well.”


“According to Tobin, there is a vigorous black market there. Perhaps I can find some interesting technology? Maybe something that would be of use to us?”

“You think that’s possible?” The idea had not occurred to Nathan.

“I think it is worth a look. We could use many things right now.”

“Aren’t you busy here?”

“Most important things are working,” he insisted. “And my people will continue working in my absence.”

“Yeah, okay. I don’t see why not.”

“I would like to bring Danik and Allet as well. They would be helpful in locating useful technology. Besides, it was Danik’s idea,” Vladimir admitted.

“Well, I’m not sure we can bring them both. There’s only room for six passengers on Tobin’s shuttle. And Jessica wants to take some muscle along. But I agree it would be a good idea. Maybe you can just bring one of them?”

“You were right, Nathan,” Vladimir admitted.

“About only bringing one of them?”

“No, this stuff is bad. Very bad.”

“Have you been sleeping in here?” Jessica asked, noticing the pillow and blanket on the couch as she followed Nathan into the captain’s ready room. “You have quarters, you know.”

“They’re all the way down on C deck. It’s easier to just take naps here,” he explained.

“No, I meant the captain’s quarters? They’re right down the hall.”

Nathan shook his head, his expression changing to one of trepidation. “No, too soon,” he protested, waving his hands slightly.

“Wuss,” she muttered as she plopped down on the couch. Just like everyone else on board, she had gotten very little sleep over the last few days.

“That’s Captain Wuss to you, Ensign.”

“Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that. Don’t you think your Chief of Security should at least be a lieutenant?”

“Why? You looking to be next in line for command if Cam and I get killed?”

“Hell no! Just looking for a raise in pay.”

“Let’s wait and see how long you keep the job.”

“What’s that supposed to mean!”

“What’s what supposed to mean?” Cameron asked as she entered.

“Nothing. How far out are we?” Nathan asked.

“A couple hours.”

“You guys get a chance to take a break and eat something?” Nathan looked at them both, seeing that neither of them indicated they had so much as left the bridge since their last meeting several hours ago.

“Well, see to it that you at least get some food into you,” he insisted. “Both of you. And stay away from the noodle and meat thingy. Trust me on this,” he added as he sat down behind his desk. “So, have we given any thought as to what we’re going to be shopping for on Haven?”

“Well, food is the number one priority,” Cameron began. “And one of the environmental systems techs suggested that we look for some seasonings and spices as well. He used to be a chef before he joined the Fleet. Makes sense that if we’re going to start cooking local food, we might want some local spices to go with it.”

“Yeah. Doctor Chen pointed out to me earlier that we are setting foot on an alien world, with a race of people that although human, could carry many diseases that our immune systems aren’t ready for. She suggested we take caution while on the surface. She also wants everyone who goes to the surface to report for a full medical screening when we get back. So I was thinking, we probably should go over any consumables we bring on board before we start eating them.”

“Agreed,” Cameron said.

“She also gave me a list of possible pharmaceutical substitutes to be on the lookout for as well,” Nathan continued. “Antibiotics, pain killers, basic stuff like that. They were stocked up to normal peace-time levels when we left. But with all the wounded, she’s already running out of the basics. Two people died because of a lack of antibiotics.”

“You really think we’ll find something out here that’s safe for us to use?” Cameron wondered.

“Well, they’re humans, just like us. So it stands to reason that they’d have similar meds and such. And since we’re already seeing evidence of superior technology in some areas, maybe they have better medicines as well?”

“One can only hope,” Jessica added.

“I don’t know,” Cameron objected. “It sounds kind of risky to me.”

“She’s not too keen on the idea either. In fact, I pretty much had to talk her into it. But we don’t know how

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