The Computer Room sat just off the Cockpit, separated by a gas tight door to protect the delicate circuits from depressurization. Once it had closed behind Ruku Mat, she let out a shuddering sigh, leaned against the door and stared at the walls of the compartment. They weren’t proper walls - other than the terminal and its pair of monitors, all available space in the Computer Room was covered with racks of the magnetic cassettes that contained the essential ship’s programs. Three were loaded when Ruku entered; the standard guidance software, the COMAST operating system, and the charts of all interconnected Janus gates and the most recent update of verified rabbitholes.
The first thing Ruku Mat did after regaining her composure was turn up the thermostat in the tiny compartment. The second was to query the computer about optimal routes through the subsector to Ipa Sam’s theoretical refinery. By the time the screen warmed up and the display began scrolling useful data, the compartment’s climate control had reached forty-nine degrees and three percent humidity. In such heat, Ruku Mat’s normally pale, purplish skin flushed to its natural pink gloss. Ruku’s stooped posture relaxed into a languid curve as she shed her bulky jacket. Other than her quarters, this was the only part of the ship where she wasn’t freezing cold. She leaned back in the chair, which was large enough to nearly swallow Mat’s petite frame, and began to read.
Collating the endless lists of coded data for the star systems in range of the Gentleman Scoundrel’s one-lung FTL drive was a thorny problem. There weren’t many. This was the edge - often bleeding edge - of the frontier, and outposts that could be depended upon to uphold Imperial/Janoi standards of technology were few and far between. While a Merchant ship like the theirs could theoretically travel anywhere, damage and dwindling supplies limited the Scoundrel to only one or two rabbitholes off the Janus before they wouldn’t have enough to travel back. If they were willing to use the main drive’s supply of NegMat, they could travel farther, but that would mean their acceleration would drop below a gas giant's escape velocity.
Which would defeat the purpose.
Mat was still working on the problem in the baking heat of the Computer Room when the ship’s teletype system began to print, spitting out accordion paper from just above the screens. Mat sat up and snatched the first page off the printout.
**COMAST ALERT JANUS NETWORK UPDATE 55862107**
**URGENT URGENT URGENT**
**CODE 515 REPEAT CODE 515***
*CONTACT LOST PATROL CUTTER PC-1156 POSSIBLE RADIATOR SYSFAIL*
* LAST KNOWN POSITION CARMEN SYS JANUS NETWORK NODE 115*
*ALLSHIP BOLO ASSIST IF POSSIBLE*
**COMAST ALERT JANUS NETWORK UPDATE 55862107 END**
The tiny navigator spun the dial on the thermostat while punching the intercom button. “All hands, all hands, Code five-one-five is in effect. This is not a drill. Code five-one five is in effect.”The tiny navigator pulled on her heavy coat. Even though the temperature in the Computer Room was still desert hot, Ruku Mat was shivering.