19. Save Thyself

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Pentaethymethalyne-metalliod, commonly called “liquid hell” because of it’s extremely hot and explosive reaction with oxygen, non-reactive with nearly all chemicals and compounds, the stuff hates oxygen. One single molecule of oxygen will spell disaster every time. Therefore, after a short life as a weapon of mass destruction Pentaethymethalyne-metalliod was banned from Earth. It was quickly accepted as a rocket fuel, but it took several deadly explosions to finally isolate it from oxygen. The only safe exposure was in the combustion chamber. Very little oxygen was needed which was ideal in deep space and speeds of near-hyper could be reached. Also special fuel tanks were created to direct any explosions away from the ship structure. Legal tanks had a “rip seam” and extra plating on the vessel-side of the tank. Luckily the The Three Zees had such tanks and only one blew up, leaving them with a engine and fuel.

There was a ruptured oxygen line spraying liquid into space. That, in itself, could cause problems but there was a fuel leak caused by a out-of-spec line which froze and burst. This set off alarms and the techs left the equipment room to don suits to go out and fix the leak. That saved their lives. The force of the explosion drove the tanks’ shock-absorbing struts through the hull and ripping the equipment room in half. The life support systems saved the ship from total loss of atmosphere by slamming bulkheads closed and isolating the suited techs. They quickly rednecked a connection to an air line but were helpless to help the crew.

Tori and Cindi were slammed hard into a wall, knocking Cindi out leaving Tori with a broken arm. The gravity gyro was destroyed as well as the primary power cell, so they were floating in almost absolute darkness. Life support equipment was straining due to a hull breach not contained by the bulkheads. As trained all crew members gathered at the med center for a head count and an assessment of injuries. Quickly, they realized they were short three techs and they all were injured to some degree. They put slap patches on the leak but the oxygen was depleted and they had to shut down the main system and don suits to attempt to get the engine started.

You can’t feel yourself tumbling without gravity, mused Tori as she fumbled with the stabilizer system in an attempt to stop the tumbling ship. After several attempts she managed to bring the ship to a stop. Zoey and Lori had experience with star maps and concluded they were maybe 10,000 nautical miles from the Alice Marie. They had no power and no way to get their engine online, but they weren’t moving. The three techs on the outside came to the same conclusion and were trying to swap the live harness with the operable engine’s harness. The task was nearly impossible since they were in shadow and had the wrong tool kit. Once this was accomplished they squeezed themselves against the ship and waited to see if those inside would get the ship moving. When the engine control panel lit up on the bridge everybody was surprised but relieved. Zoey started the ignition process and all crew members went to the med center since it had the only operable life support and gravity. Their ship was heavily damaged and a fuel system problem kept them at ¼ speed but the The Three Zees were headed back to its mothership.