The Space Race

Entry by: Alobear

18th January 2016
The Space Race

“Are those capacitors here yet?”

Ebony looked away from the inner workings of the ship to see her captain’s boots approaching. They were tooled leather with a raven motif, and the metallic heels clicked on the concrete floor of the hangar bay. Ebony wheeled herself out from under the ship and looked straight up into an impatient face. The captain’s long, auburn hair flowed over her shoulders and down across her black flight jacket.

“No, Cap’n,” Ebony said, running her fingers through her own, cropped, greying hair. “The courier promised they’d be delivered before end of day, though.”

Captain Eliza frowned down at her. “They’d better be. This ship has got to be in tip-top shape in the next two days, or we won’t be able to enter the race.”

This wasn’t new information to Ebony, but she nodded gravely all the same. It was always best to let the captain let off steam, even if she mostly just hashed over the same topics again and again.

“Well, as soon as they arrive, I’ll get right on fitting them, don’t you worry,” Ebony promised. “I’ve cleared the whole week for repairs and improvements. There ain’t nothing going to distract me from this little lady’s needs.” She reached up and patted the ship’s hull.

“Glad to hear it,” the captain said approvingly. “It’s going to be all hands on deck to get our girl ready in time. Let me know if you need anything - I’ll be in the office.” She strode off, heels still clicking.

The Beatrice was not the fanciest ship in the docks but, to Ebony, she was by far the best. She was round and squat, with a double-armoured hull and spinning cannons. She wasn’t fast, but she was nigh-on indestructible and that counted for a lot out in space. Even the upcoming Gregori Sector Race wasn’t all about speed; of course, a ship had to get back first to win, but there were enough hazards and obstacles along the route that a slow and steady run might just be the best strategy.

“Hey, Shona!” Ebony called out.

After a couple of seconds, the Beatrice’s third crew member appeared from the other end of the hangar bay and jogged over to her. Her blue pigtails bounced on either side of her head, making her look like some kind of strange puppy.

“Yah?” she said, as she skidded to a halt next to Ebony. “Whaddya need, boss?”

Shona had not been with them long. She was only just out of school, and eager, but still quite very green. She made Ebony feel tired just looking at her sometimes, but Ebony couldn’t fault her enthusiasm.

“You remember that set of tools I showed you yesterday?” Ebony asked.

“Yah!” Shona said.

“Can you grab me the size six sprocket, please?” It wasn’t just that Ebony didn’t want to have to get up off the floor; she also wanted to test how much Shona had been paying attention. She never said much, which suited Ebony just fine, but she seemed to listen intently when Ebony was explaining things, and Ebony hoped the information was going in and sticking somewhere useful.

“Yah,” Shona said again, and ran off.

She was back within seconds, and Ebony was pleased to see she had selected the correct tool, which she handed down to her boss. The captain might be in charge of the money, and in command when they were up in space, but Ebony ruled the hangar bay, and could co-opt even Captain Eliza to help with maintaining the ship if it was required.

“Good,” Ebony said. “Now, do you want to learn how to check the fuel lines?”

They would be under pressure to get everything done for race registration, but it was important that Shona learn as much as possible, so Ebony was happy to take the time for training where the opportunity arose. On a small ship, it was best for all the crew to know as much as possible about all the jobs, so anyone could step into any role during a crisis.

Ebony and Captain Eliza had been running the Beatrice as a going concern for nearly ten years now, but this was the first time they had decided to enter the Gregori Sector Race. Clients had been a bit thin on the ground, lately, and the captain thought the race might be a good way to raise their profile. Past winners, and even some runners-up, had landed lucrative contracts from starry-eyed spectators before. They would probably get quite a lot of coverage just from being entirely new contestants, particularly given the type of ship they would be flying. Most competitors entered sleek, sporty craft, in the hopes that extra speed would get them through, so the Beatrice was going to stand out, all right. They would probably be in for some mockery to begin with, but Ebony knew people would be surprised when they saw what the Beatrice could actually do.

The race would set off from the Gregori space station in three days’ time, and the competing craft would then have three days to make it to the far end of the sector, swing around the furthest planet and then get back to the station. If they wanted to enter, they had to register no less than a full day before the race started, and the ship had to be ready for the pre-race inspection. The people who organised the competition were very strict on safety regulations and they checked each ship from top to bottom before allowing them entry to the race.

Their last contract had taken them through some pretty rough areas, and they had been forced to fight their way out of more than one sticky situation. The Beatrice had brought them all out unharmed in the end, but had suffered a bit in the process, so she needed quite a bit of attention. That had been Shona’s first trip out with them, and Ebony was pleased to see her excitement at space travel was undimmed by the danger they had encountered. It wasn’t an easy life, by any means, and Ebony had seen more than her share of battles and heartbreak along the way. But, with friends at her side, and a reliable ship around her, she would take on anything the universe would throw at her. Even the Gregori Sector Race.

She bent to her task once more, determined that the ship would be in the best possible condition come race day. This would be a whole new chapter for the Beatrice, and Ebony planned to be ready for it.