Day Two of being dead in the water was remarkably similar to Day One. They had to make do with dim lights and cold food, so as not to divert any precious power away from the essentials. Somebody had to keep an eye on the emergency beacon at all times, in case they got a hit. They did so in shifts, though Zane usually volunteered to do it while everyone else slept.
Everyone spent their time in different ways, although typically speaking, most of them stayed in the common area of the living space–it was better to conserve energy instead of diverting it to different rooms.
Jayna spent a lot of time looking over navigational charts. Despite everything being fully automated, she still carried quite a few of them in paper form. She’d shown Mari how the wormhole network operated in an effort to assuage some of her fears.
“There’s more terraformed worlds than I ever could have imagined,” said Mari, looking over the chart. “And yet, there’s still just so much… emptiness.”
“There is, but luckily, there are big paths of not-empty. We’re on one of these not-empty paths,” Jayna said, tapping their current route, or as close to it as they could guess.
“Right,” said Mari, nodding.
“Now, we’re probably drifting a little bit,” said Jayna. “But we’re not so far off in the middle of nowhere that we might as well depressurize the ship now and get it over with. Our odds are pretty good.”
“…but it’s not a sure thing,” said Mari. “Right? You don’t need to reassure me.”
“It’s never a sure thing,” said Jayna, shaking her head. “Nothing in space ever is. But, yeah, there’s a chance that this really doesn’t work and in seven days we’ll be in the same place we are now. The ironic thing is, someone may get our distress signal long after we’re dead.”
Mari laughed. “I feel like we owe it to them to leave something more interesting to find than our dessicated husks,” she said. “Maybe I’ll just start carving something into the hull. ‘Mari Naoki Was Here. Her Life Was Mostly Dull, And Then Very Briefly Really Interesting.’”
“Or maybe ‘click here for live nudes?’” Jayna said, waggling her eyebrows suggestively as she took a swig from one of the opened bottles on the table.
Mari laughed again. “…Hey, Jayna?” she said.
“Mm?” said Jayna, as she topped herself off.
“If it comes down to the wire and there’s no rescue in sight, I’m dropping by your bunk.”
Jayna cocked an eyebrow at Mari, then smiled. “That’s fine with me, little one,” she said.
“I’d considered asking Ash,” Mari added, “but I get the feeling he’d make kind of a big feely thing out of it. I don’t want one last human connection. I want orgasms. Got me?”
Jayna gave a thumbs-up as she drained her mug again.
Day four of being dead in the water was not as similar to the first three. Ash had started to come up with some rather harebrained strategies of trying to extend the emergency beacon, and had spent most of his time jokingly cursing the good ship Songbird.
Mari was taking her turn watching the signals, so Zane was helping Ash out. He was unusually lucid, though he looked a bit paler than usual, his eyes a bit more sunken.
“I don’t think this one’s going to work,” said Zane. “There’s… the theory’s sound, but I just don’t think it’ll go off, not without a bigger external power supply.”
Ash sighed. “Maybe if I lit a piece of the wing on fire we could use the thermal energy,” he chuckled, moving a few wires around on the power device.
“One time, I hallucinated that the whole ship was on fire,” said Zane, staring off into the distance. “It wasn’t so bad, actually. The fact that none of you were screaming was a pretty good indicator that it wasn’t really. It’s not normally so clear.”
Ash gave a humorless little chuckle. “You’re surprisingly… together, considering,” he said. “Not mixing pills again, are you? You know how you get, when-”
“No, no, nothing like that,” said Zane. “I just… y’know, it’s not the first time we’ve got close to getting our ticket punched. But the way I figure…however we end up going out, it’s better than being left to rot in a ditch. So any way you slice it, I win.” He managed a sleepy smile. “Whatever happens, we’re in this together, right?”
“Right,” Ash said, looking out one of the windows. “One way or another.”
Zane nodded. “Mari’s been up there for awhile,” he said. “I’m going to go relieve her.”
“You sure you don’t want to put your head down for a bit first?” said Ash.
“Nah, I’ll be fine,” said Zane, as he made his way back up.
Ash was not convinced, but he stayed focused on the task at hand.
Day Six of being dead in the water was nothing like the first five.
Card games got too difficult to focus on after the first few days, even following Zane’s suggestion of ‘reverse strip poker’. The complete lack of all of the little noises that Songbird constantly made while she was in motion was starting to get to the crew.
Zane hadn’t left the beacon since he’d relieved Mari, even though Ash and Jayna had both offered. Jayna was sitting on one side of the table, idly painting her nails. She looked up at the oxygen meter and grimaced slightly. It was lower than she’d like.
There was little conversation going on. There wasn’t much to say at this point. All they could do was wait. And so… they waited.
It was a little after midnight on the seventh day. Zane sat at the cockpit, watching. He didn’t even look ‘round when Mari walked in and seated herself next to him.
“Hey,” said Mari.
“Hey,” said Zane. “Are you actually here?”
“Unfortunately,” said Mari. “But then again, would a hallucination be upfront about being a hallucination?”
“You’d be surprised,” said Zane.
They watched space drift by in silence.
“Kind of makes you feel small and insignificant, doesn’t it,” said Mari.
“Not me,” said Zane. “It makes me feel… peaceful. No matter how much pain we endure, stars keep shining, planets keep turning, and space, in general, just keeps on being space. I find it very calming.”
“Huh,” said Mari. “I never really thought about it that way. I guess I’ve always-”
She was interrupted when something went ping. She looked down at the console. One panel was illuminated.
“…am I hallucinating that?” said Zane.
“No,” said Mari.
Zane instantly looked more alert, mashing the panel hard.
“This is Songbird sending an SOS,” said Zane. “Repeat, Songbird sending out an SOS. Unknown vessel, do you read me?”
After a few minutes, the static cleared away into something recognizable. “Good morning, Songbird, this is Steel Rider, we have your coordinates–what is the state of your ship?”
“GUYS!” called Zane, leaning back. “WE’VE GOT A HIT!” He turned back excitedly.
“Steel Rider, we’ve got a serious Code Red out here,” said Zane. “We’re completely dead in the water and in desperate need of repairs. Is there anything you can do for us? Maybe give us a tow to the nearest… anything, really? We can compensate you for your services.”
There was a moment of silence as Ash and Jayna made their way into the cockpit.
“You’re in luck, Songbird,” said the voice. “We’re a salvage crew. We might just be able to fix you up right where you are.”
Jayna smiled. “Fantastic–we’ve got a few dampeners busted, so it’s not an exterior issue. You won’t need a walk suit or anything like that.”
“Well shit, we’ve got a fresh set of dampeners here with us. Sit tight for… mmm, looks like eight hours, Songbird. We’ll get you set up.”
“Much obliged, Steel Rider!” Zane said. He spun around and punched the air. “We made it!”
There was a round of cheers from Mari and Jayna. Ash… looked somewhat dubious.
“Disappointed by our impending not-death, Ash?” said Mari.
Ash shook his head. “No, I’m very glad it’s just…” he looked back at the emergency beacon. “Just they didn’t ask for the schematics of the ship. How do they know which dampeners we have… if they don’t even know what our ship looks like,” he murmured.
“They said they were a salvage crew, yeah?” said Mari. “I’m sure they’ve got all sorts of junk in their trunk, there’s gotta be something that you can make fit, right?”
Ash ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, right…I’m going to, um, make sure our life support is where it needs to be. You guys stay by the emergency signal in case they signal back for the schematics,” Ash said, moving back to the engine room.
“I’ve got this, Zane,” said Jayna. “You can relax now.”
“I’ll relax when Songbird’s up and running again,” he said, smiling. “I’m alright. Really.”
That settled, Ash made his way back down to the engine room to start preparing, while Mari and Jayna went back down to the common room. They shared a look.
“So I guess the orgasms are out, hmm?” said Jayna with a smirk.
“For now, big girl,” Mari replied, patting Jayna on the back. “Check back with me the next time we’re all about to die.”