The crew of the Gentleman Scoundrel were gathered in the first class lounge, seated around one of the dining room tables. Aru Vakh sat at the de facto head of the long table, with Ruku on his right. She had an overhead projector and several transparencies at the ready. At that moment, however, Ipa Sam had the floor. She stood at the foot of the table, with Sagkal and Zag on her right. Kanto Cura passed out fresh cups of coffee to all seated before taking the open seat next to Ruku Mat.
“The main danger of a code 515 is destruction of the spacecraft.” Ipa said. “If that happens, the debris will spread out to fill the entire orbit. As close to the system’s primary as the Cutter is likely to be found, the junk band would vaporize in a matter of days. Until then, any ship jumping through a rabbithole into this system is at risk of being destroyed upon arrival.”
“How big a risk is that, really?” Aru Vakh asked. “I don’t fancy ordering us alongside a catastrophe.”
“It gets worse the longer the cutter stays in the area of the search grid. Rabbitholes can be found as close as a star’s corona -the Cutter may not be that deep in the stellar well, but it’s close enough in to make finding it at this range impossible. Until we get an accurate fix, I can’t give an estimate on how long before the cutter loses containment.”
Vakh turned to Ruku, “How are we coming on getting that fix, Mat?”
“Uh, the computer’s running the search pattern now...sir.”
“Oh! Uh...the closer we get to the primary, the easier it will be to find the cold spot.” Mat pushed an errant curl out of her face. “The sensor array was damaged during the fight with the last cutter so...:”
Sagkal shifted on his stool. He had brought the unsecured furniture from his quarters so as to protect the first-class seat from his spines.
“Cutters: Almost as plentiful as hydrogen out this far.”
Vakh regarded the Sloak. “This is a Janoi cutter. They’re a bit more advanced than the Imperial versions, Sagkal.”
“Normally that’s true,” Kanto Cura said, earning a narrowed gaze from Vakh, “but the teletype says this is a regular Type-20 patrol craft. They’re a couple of generations behind Janoi standards. That’s a bad sign.”
“How so?” Zag Essuru asked between sips of coffee.
“The Janoi usually sell their older standardized design to the Empire under lend-lease. The ones they keep are mostly used as experimental platforms.”
Zag rolled her eyes. “Wonderful.”
“Back to what we know for certain,” Vakh said. “What is our status? Will we risk damage that close to the primary?”
“If we keep either the nose or tail facing the star at all times, we’ll be at no risk. The NegMat will repel any harmful particles. As for heat, the hotter we get, the colder the NegMat gets, so it’s effectively impossible to overheat as long as we keep nose or tail on target.” Ipa looked at Zag Essuru. “We can maneuver a bit, but if we face our broadside to the star, we’re at risk of cracking up from thermal shock.”
“That won’t happen,” Zag leaned back in her chair, “I’ll make sure of that.”
“Is there any chance of the crew being alive?” Aru Vakh asked Canto Kura.
“Very little. The NegMat may keep the reactor and hull from overheating, but the life system uses conventional radiators. Since the five-one-five message explicity mentions radiator systems failure, the crew will most likely have died from heatstroke hours ago. Unless, of course, there are Sloak on the crew.” Kura grinned at Sagkal.
“Needless to say, Sagkal,” Vakh said, “you will be our man on point.”
“There could be Giru left alive,” Ruku Mat spoke up. “you know, if there were any…”
“That’s true.” Canto Kura conceeded. “A Giru could handle heat up to sixty degrees without long term effects. They could be suffering from dehydration by now, however.”
“So, a Giru would be able to handle the heat?” Vakh considered Ruku Mat.
“Yes, sir. No problems.”
It was that moment when Ruku Mat realized the rest of the crew was looking at her.
Zag Essuru answered with, “She could access the computer a lot easier…”
Sagkal nodded. “And she’s small. She could fit into spaces I can’t”
“Wait a minute -”
Ipa Sam gave the protesting woman an appraising look. “She could even pilot the Cutter’s gig, if it came to it.”
“It’s settled then.” Aru Vakh said. “Ruku Mat and Sagkal will be our salvage party to the Cutter.”“Aw, man…”