Characters: Ianto, Jack.
Summary: Out on the rim of the galaxy, Ianto and Jack are searching for a missing spaceship.
Word Count: 1219
Written For: Prompt 024 – Starry Night at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC
A/N: Set in my Ghost of a Chance ‘Verse.
It’s always night out in deep space, and there are always stars to be seen, even on the very edge of the galaxy. Other far off galaxies are visible, floating in the dark, pinpoints and swirls of radiance, and when you turn round, facing back the way you’ve come, the whole of the Milky Way stretches out before you, or it would if you could get enough distance to see it in its entirety.
As far as Ianto is aware, nobody has ever tried, or if they have, they never made it back to tell the tale, because it would take more fuel than any spaceship ever invented could carry. Maybe the Doctor could do it. Probably he could, and quite possibly has; he’ll have to ask Jack about that at some point, but not right now. Knowing where the Doctor has and hasn’t been isn’t exactly a priority at present. They’re not out here on a pleasure jaunt; this is a matter of life or death.
An exploration vessel came out here a little over eight Galactic months ago. It was scheduled to dock at Orginvy Station for re-supply approximately two Galactic months ago, but it never showed up and all attempts at making contact with it have failed.
The Mimulaic Federation wants to know what happened to their ship, which is perfectly understandable; its mission was to scout out potential new colony worlds, and it’s the only ship capable of such long voyages that they own. It will be several generations before they can afford to buy another one, and in the meantime they won’t be able to expand in their little corner of the galaxy. They’d like the ship back, naturally, but more importantly, they want the crew found and rescued if at all possible. They have family units back home, mates and young who miss them. The families of the missing Mimulans are prepared to mourn their losses if it comes to that, but not until every effort has been made to locate the missing ship; they refuse to simply abandon all hope for their loved ones, and who can blame them? Certainly not Ianto.
The Federation’s ambassador and several senior members of the government had tried for almost two months to find someone willing to venture into an unknown and unmapped region of space on a rescue mission, but ship after ship had turned them down, citing too much risk for too little reward. The Mimulaic Federation isn’t exactly broke, but they sunk a large proportion of their assets into the search for habitable planets, knowing it was a gamble, one it now appears they’ve lost, along with their ship and its crew.
Ianto and Jack don’t do this kind of thing for the money though. They know how dangerous the Galactic Rim can be, having been out that way themselves mapping unexplored regions on more than a few occasions. They didn’t need any persuading to take on the task, not when there are lives at stake, so here they are, searching.
They’ve been out here just over two weeks, earth time; they began their search at the exploration ship’s last recorded position, following the course it should have been taking in order to reach Orginvy on schedule, and gradually expanding outwards from there. Space, however, is very big, and spaceships, even exploration vessels, are very small in comparison; this was never going to be easy. All the Wanderer’s sensors are at maximum range, trying to pick up any sign that a ship has passed through this region, but the trail was probably already cold long before they started.
Both men are well aware of how far from any possible assistance they are, but being immortal they have less reason to worry about it than most. The Wanderer is well equipped, with plenty of fuel, a large reserve of power cubes, several sets of spare parts for all the onboard systems, and enough food in stasis pods to last them for several years.
Air and water are constantly recycled, and they have the technology available to filter out anything that would be harmful to them from what they might find on the scattered planets out here if it becomes necessary to refresh their supply. It’s a bit difficult to store spare air, even compressed in tanks. It can only be squished down so far. Still, they can keep going for a long while before having to turn back, and they intend to keep looking for as long as possible.
Ten days later, Ianto’s on watch in the cockpit when he catches the faintest blip on one of the monitors, right at the limit of sensor range. He radios for Jack to join him even as he turns the Wanderer to a new heading and increases speed. The blip gradually grows larger and within a couple of hours it resolves into the shape of a spaceship, clearly visible on the Wanderer’s forward screens.
“Is that it?” he asks Jack.
“Sure looks like it, unless someone else got lost out here.”
As they draw closer the ship’s markings become clearer, proving beyond any doubt what they already believed; this is definitely the Mimulaic Federation’s missing exploration vessel.
They try to make radio contact, but there’s no reply; the ship is drifting, without power. That’s not too good, but the hull appears to be intact so things might not be quite as bad as they appear.
Drawing alongside, they dock with the forward airlock and board the hulk, prepared for the worst, only to get a pleasant surprise; most of the crew are alive, although not in particularly good shape. The captain was lost in the explosion that crippled their guidance systems, navigation, and communication, while two others were injured, one of them seriously.
The ship is poorly designed; too many of its vital systems are run from the same control panel, which is wrecked beyond repair, wiring, circuits, and delicate components fused together. It will all need stripping out and replacing, not a task to be carried out in deep space. The Wanderer is a workhorse though; she can handle the tow. As for the explorer’s crew, they’re welcome aboard and will probably be more comfortable in the passenger cabins than back on their own ship, where the life support is already struggling thanks to several power relays getting burned out in the fire.
When everyone is aboard and settled, the injured being treated by the automated systems in the Wanderer’s medical bay, and the grapples are locked securely to the crippled ship, Ianto takes the helm once more, setting course for Orginvy Station. The return trip will take at least three weeks, maybe four, but that’s okay, all that matters is that despite the odds being against them, the rescue mission has been a success; most of the crew will get to be reunited with their families and friends. That’s not always the case; many lost ships are never found, having drifted so far off course that search vessels have no idea where to start looking.
Pointing the Wanderer away from the Milky Way’s sparsely populated rim and towards civilisation, Ianto relaxes, leaning back in his seat and smiling contentedly as he lets the ship carry them all to safety through the endless, starry night.