Characters: Ianto, Jack.
Word Count: 2357
Summary: The Happy Wanderer is drifting, powerless, in space. Jack and Ianto must figure out what’s wrong and fix it, but they’re in for an unpleasant surprise.
Written For: spook_me 2018, using Torchwood, Monster From Space, and this pic.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. Think of the fun I could have with them…
A/N: Set in my Ghost of a Chance ‘verse.
So here they were, powerless and going precisely nowhere. It was inconvenient, certainly, but not cause for alarm just yet. Spaceships didn’t lose power for no reason though, so obviously there was a fault somewhere in the main propulsion engines. Just a short time ago the ship had been travelling at sub-light speeds, approaching a system of three planets orbiting a red dwarf star, but now it was more of less dead in the water, or more accurately, dead in space.
Internal power was usually supplied as a by-product of the engines. It took surprisingly little energy to run the essential systems: the artificial gravity, air circulation and reclamation, lighting, heat, food storage, waste recycling, and the control panel electrics. The first auxiliary generator had kicked in when the engines had cut out, and they had plenty of power cubes to run it, and it’s two failsafe backups, for several months if necessary. Not that either Jack or Ianto believed it would come to that. Spaceships were designed with enough redundancies and backup systems that any problem short of them blowing up could be solved readily enough by the crew. All it took was time and materials.
Right now it was simply a case of finding out exactly what and where the fault was before they got on with the task of fixing it. Their cargo hold was full of spare parts for every onboard system, and with raw materials for use in the machine shop; they could replace, make, or repair just about any part they might need. It was nothing they hadn’t done before during their travels together.
For this trip Jack and Ianto had taken the Happy Wanderer far out onto the galaxy’s rim to chart an as yet unexplored sector, so they’d stocked up on everything they might need before leaving inhabited space. Ianto had been very thorough, making lists and checking them several times to make sure they didn’t forget anything important. So thorough in fact that the backups to their backups had backups! Jack had laughed at that but Ianto, who never failed to think ahead, had just shrugged and said it never hurt to be prepared. When they got back to known space they’d be able to sell off anything they didn’t use for a healthy profit. Such items were always in demand among the planets out on the rim because so few ships travelled out that far.
Way out here in the unknown, where the stars were widely scattered, planets of any description were few and far between, and inhabited worlds even more so. Despite having been exploring the region for almost seven weeks Jack and Ianto had yet to find life of any description, or even a world where life could potentially develop. There were asteroids aplenty, teeming with all kinds of valuable minerals, but the closest thing to life they’d found so far was a desolate world which their instruments indicated had, at some point probably millions of years in its past, been home to a thriving ecosystem. Some kind of natural disaster, possibly a long ago collision with a rogue comet, had obliterated all life, leaving behind just a barren, pitted globe orbiting its sun. Given the conditions there, it was unlikely new life would ever evolve; the planet was about as dead as it was possible to get. Still, that made it a good candidate for terraforming and since they were the ones who’d found it and charted its position they’d get commission on any deal that was made for it. If they ever got back to tell anyone about it.
Although their ship was powerless and drifting on the currents of space, Jack and Ianto were in no immediate danger; at their current negligible speed the system they were approaching was still a couple of weeks distant, even if inertia kept them moving in its general direction. With the engines out they were making very little headway, and if worst came to worst, the manoeuvring thrusters would probably be enough to steer them away from danger. Nevertheless, that didn’t mean they could just sit around doing nothing about their situation. They had repairs to make and the sooner they got started, the sooner the job would be done and they could continue with their explorations
“Right, better get suited up,” Ianto said, leading the way to the spacesuit locker nearest to one of the engine access tubes. There were several such lockers situated throughout the ship, each containing two full suits with rechargeable internal power packs and built-in air supplies, readily available in case of a hull breach. Deflector shields knocked away most space debris before it had a chance to get anywhere near the hull, but occasionally something would slip through and punch a small hole, causing depressurisation and a loss of atmosphere so it was important to have ready access to emergency gear no matter where in the ship you happened to be.
“I’ll take a tool kit and universal scanner and have a look. You suit up but stay here; that way once I get some idea of what the problem is you can fetch whatever replacement parts are needed and bring them with you.”
It was a sensible plan, but then Ianto’s plans were usually grounded in common sense. That didn’t mean Jack had to like it though.
“I should go…” he started.
“Why? You went first last time, which means it’s my turn. Besides, I’m just as immortal as you are; the Doctor confirmed it. We’ll be in contact the whole time, and you should be able to see everything I see through the helmet cameras.” The cameras were a new addition to their equipment and this would be the first time using them in an emergency situation, but they’d checked out fine on several trial runs while Ianto and Jack had been giving the ship a thorough going over before embarking on this trip. Ianto didn’t foresee any problems.
“Fine,” Jack grudgingly agreed. “Just keep your mic open and talk to me, okay? We’re a very long way from any kind of assistance, just the two of us in the middle of nowhere, so if you run into any trouble, come straight back.”
“Yes, mother.” Ianto rolled his eyes. “Now help me suit up and then I’ll help you.”
It wasn’t that either of them really needed assistance, the suits were designed so that they could easily be put on in a hurry and without help, but when they had the time they preferred to double check each other, a holdover from the days when suits were big and clunky, with all kinds of padding and internal servo-motors. These days they were formfitting, and made of a thin, highly flexible material so dense that it was stronger than eight-inch think armour plating. There was a lightweight breather unit on the back, connected to an equally lightweight helmet by narrow hoses made of the same material as the rest of the suit. Gravity boots held the wearer to any surface, metallic or not, and a laser cutter, a versatile tool that could double as a weapon in a pinch, was clipped to a belt at the waist. The only thing about the new suits Ianto wasn’t too keen on was that the internal power pack was situated on the chest and while it wasn’t horribly bulky, it did make it look like he had a bust. That had been a bit disconcerting at first, but having worn the suits on quite a few occasions by now he’d got so he hardly noticed it anymore.
Suiting up took less than five minutes even with double-checking all systems were fully operational. Ianto pulled a tool kit and a universal scanner out of the locker and checked them over too before making his way to the airlock that led into the portside engine access tube. Hopefully the warning lights on the control board in the cockpit were right and whatever fault had caused the engines to shut down was on this side. If it wasn’t he’d have to come back out and go up and over the engine housing to the access tube on the starboard side, which would be a pain in the neck.
The access door hissed open and Ianto stepped through into the airlock as Jack manually shut and secured it behind him. He waited patiently while the air inside the small chamber was sucked back into the ship, then when the lights on the panel turned blue, he operated the outer door and glided into the access tube, where gravity was minimal and air nonexistent. The engine bay and access tubes were open to the vacuum of space, although the openings were relatively small and the force-field deflection shielding kept drifting particles of space debris from getting inside and causing damage to the complex machinery. It was all pretty rugged though, able to withstand considerable punishment. Strength and durability were important in anything protecting fragile beings from the inhospitable conditions that existed between worlds.
Sensing the lack of gravity, Ianto’s boots automatically engaged and pulled his feet gently down to the tube’s narrow walkway, imparting a sense of being the right way up.
“Everything okay?” Jack’s voice came clearly through the receivers in Ianto’s helmet.
“Fine, Jack; I only just left the airlock. I’m beginning scans now.”
Leaving his toolkit tethered just outside the airlock, so it wouldn’t get in his way during his initial scans, Ianto clipped his own safety line to a bracket, turned the scanner on, and began checking the systems set into the walls of the access tunnel, one section at a time. The fault, whatever it was, would probably be in one of the propulsion engines, but it made sense to be methodical in case the main problem was having a knock on effect in some of the other systems. The more information he could gather regarding whatever had caused the engine to shut down, the better equipped he’d be to fix it.
“Section A, panels one through eighteen, all systems clear,” Ianto reported into his mic. Moving forward a couple of steps he began scanning again. “Section B, panels one through eighteen, all systems clear.” He made his way slowly down the tube, relaying his lack of findings to Jack as he went. “Section H, panel one, there’s a small vapour leak. Looks like there might have been a short in the wiring. That’ll need to be checked…” He stopped speaking.
“Ianto? You still there?” Jack’s voice cut through the silence.
“Of course I’m still here. Where else would I be?”
“You went quiet,” Jack accused.
“Yeah, sorry. Thought I felt some vibration. It’s probably nothing. I’m going to open this panel, see if I can find the source of the vapour leak.” Turning off his gravity boots, Ianto pulled himself back along the safety line to retrieve his toolkit, re-engaged the boots, and plodded his way back to Section H. Securing his toolkit within easy reach, he knelt to unfasten and remove the panel’s cover, clipping the slightly curved metal grille out of the way with a couple of short tethers before bending to examine the problem.
“How does it look?” Jack asked, sounding impatient.
“Can’t you see through the cameras?”
Silence for a second, then “Bugger. Forgot to turn mine on, sorry.”
“Jack! You get on my case every time I go quiet for a few seconds and you’re not even…” Ianto trailed off with an exasperated sigh. “Never mind. Looks like there has been a short, and I think I see why. A drop of… something seems to have dripped through the grille and oozed around a connection. Are you seeing this?”
“Yep, my camera’s on now. The damaged wiring will need replacing; I’ve made a note…” He trailed off. “What’s wrong?”
Ianto had stopped moving, one suited hand resting flat on the divider between panels. His head tilted to one side. “Getting that odd vibration again. I could understand it if the engines were running, but they aren’t and none of the other systems would cause a vibration strong enough to be felt through the suit. It’s weird, almost like there’s something moving in here, which is ridiculous. I’m in almost total vacuum.” Ianto shrugged. “I’ll check into it as I go. Okay, make a note of this; we’ll need a couple of T47 connectors and a piece of six-millimetre heavy-duty insulation tubing as well. A thirty-centimetre length should be enough; we can cut it to exact size when we make the repair. Hopefully it should keep the problem from recurring in the event of more drips.”
“I can’t see any sign of a leak but we can double check when we make the other repairs. Might need to do a bit of soldering.” There was a soldering iron in the toolkit, with its own small power pack. “I would like to know what this substance is though, and where it came from if it’s not caused by a leak. I’ll take a sample for analysis. Most of it looks like it burned away when the wires shorted, but I think I can just…” Ianto scraped up what he could on the slender wand from a specimen tube. There were always a few in the tool kit in case samples of lubricants and other engine fluids needed to be taken to check for contamination caused by damage. Slipping the wand back into the small glass vial, Ianto snapped the cap back on and clipped the tube into a bracket on the inside of the toolkit’s lid, alongside the empties, sliding the protective cover back over them. “Should I put the panel back on here for now or leave it off?”
“Put it back; you might need the tethers somewhere else. I can bring some extras with me when I join you.”
“Good point.” There were a few others tethers of various lengths in the toolbox, but he might need all of them for tethering tools and other panels, depending on what other problems he came across.