"I got this," Samick said, his teeth clenched.
"You got this?" Merrin asked through the comm system.
"I wasn't talking to you," Samick responded, sounding annoyed. "I was just saying it in general."
"Maybe that's so, but I heard it, and the question stands. Do you 'got' this?"
"I do, now leave me to it," Samick said as he unbuckled the zero-g screwdriver.
Space walks were never fun, but being sent out here to fix damage caused by micro debris was definitely on Samick's list of least fun ways of spending time outside of the ship. Getting hit by micro debris while in subspace had been even less enjoyable, but at least the damage had seemed to be manageable.
The problem, as far as he was concerned, was mostly that they should have been immune to debris like this while in subspace. At least, that's what the contractor who built the drive system had told them. Energix Systems didn't have the best reputation when it came to reliability, but when it came to bringing systems to market first they were definitely the party to partner with. He was starting to regret at least some of the choices that had brought them here.
Using the screwdriver, he removed the plating on the hull where the debris had hit. It hadn't gone through to the inner systems, but the damage was significant enough that he would have to find a way to fix it without actually having appropriate spare parts. Additionally, even though the damage wasn't a risk to them while they were just kinda ambling about, they couldn't go back into subspace like this. The damage would surely become worse and possibly risk hull integrity in a more significant manner.
"It's bad, Merrin," Samick said.
"How bad, exactly? On a scale of 1 to 10?"
"I'm not sure, but I'd say... A 7? I might have to come back in to formulate a plan to actually fix this, or possibly work around it."
"Goddamn Energix," Merrin said, the frustration evident in her voice. "So you're saying you don't, in fact, 'got' this?"
"I think I might not, in fact," Samick said, shaking his head to nobody in particular.
"Alright, come back in, we'll figure something out."
Samick attached the removed hull plate to his suit with a strap and made his way back to the airlock hatch.
The Juniper wasn't a big ship, and according to Energix there was a good reason for that. Supposedly, and Samick had reason to doubt their reasoning by now, a smaller ship should lower the odds of collisions exactly like this to almost infinitesimal odds. It was sleek, long and narrow, and while in subspace it would narrow even further, since it would be going so fast it would to the outside world appear like an almost invisible thread of metal.
But evidently, the scientists at Energix had overplayed their grubby designer hands. And they -- Samick and Merrin -- were now the suckers who had to pay for it.
Samick made his way into the airlock and hit the button to pressurize it. By the time it was done and he could take off the helmet and then the suit, he had formulated an opinion. One he was more than willing to share once he got out of the airlock and to the cockpit. A shimmer greeted him, the artificial gravity field that surrounded the cockpit so they had at least one space inside the ship with Earth-normal gravity.
"Lower the gravity field, please," he said as he waited outside.
"Gotcha," Merrin said, and Samick could see the field dissipate.
"We got screwed, Merrin," he said as he strapped into his seat's webbing.
"You're not wrong," Merrin said, as she pulled up the star charts. "We're about 14 light years away from Earth, and as far as I can tell, if we can't fix the hull, we're stuck going at thruster speeds."
"Which means how many hundred years, exactly?" Samick said, sarcasm dripping off his tongue.
"I'd say just over what our lifespan will allow. By a factor of 6. Approximately."
They were dead.
"Can we let Energix know?" he said.
Merrin sighed and pointed at the star chart, about halfway between Earth and their current location.
"That's the last comms buoy. We're well past where we could communicate with them."
"So now what?"
"Well, as it's been about a day and a half since we last slept, perhaps we should sleep on it and discuss our options tomorrow."
"We have no options to discuss, Merrin."
"Tomorrow, I said. Give it some time. Be creative, think outside of the box."
"Ugh, fine. But I don't think I'll be able to," Samick said, covering his face with his hands. "I don't know how to fix this."
"Give it time, man. If needed, we can take longer to come up with something. We're stuck here until we do, so while we've got rations and water, we're fine."
Samick sighed. Merrin had always been the more optimistic of them, but right now he felt it was unwarranted. He hadn't been that enthusiastic about taking this job in the first place, but they were a team, and she had been enthusiastic.
"It's something to put our names in the history books, Samick," she had said. "The credits alone are worth it, Samick," she had added. "Come on, where's your sense of adventure, Samick" she had finished it off with.
And he hadn't been able to say no. She had arguments, and he preferred not to say no to her. She'd been right enough in the past to deserve the benefit of the doubt. He was the more pragmatic of them, but he'd seen first-hand that his natural mood was more realistic, but also more pessimistic.
And definitely not more right, going by the average.
"Fine, you're right. We'll sleep on it," he eventually agreed.
"Good. I'll see you in 10 hours," she said, undoing her seat's webbing. "Do not bother me before then," she said.
He knew not to bother her before she had woken up properly. She had her own routine she had to go through, which was less efficient than his, but he did feel she was usually better rested than him. To each their own, he thought, as he mentally prepared for 5 hours of uncomfortable and erratic sleep, as he always had, and a few hours of getting shit done before she was ready to start the day.
It would at least allow him some time to come up with an actual way forward.
He read, he listened to music, he jotted down ideas, but nothing really gelled for him. By the time he was ready for bed, he was no closer to coming up with a solution than he had been the hours before. Frustrated, he turned off the light and attempted to get some rest. He'd wasted time he usually used for sleeping, and expected to be very tired once he woke up.
beep beep the alarm went. beep beep it repeated after he hadn't acknowledged the first set of beeps. He slapped the alarm display on the screen to snooze it.
By the time he awoke, he realized two things: it was far later than he'd expected, and he had had an idea in his sleep. He showered, mulled it over, considered the up- and downsides, and made his way to the cockpit. He assumed Merrin would already be there, awake and ready, and he wasn't wrong. The time he wasted before going to bed was the time she used in the morning, waking up.
"Morning," Merrin said as she pulled up another display. "I'm going through the ship systems, trying to find out if there's some way of fixing the hull."
"We don't have to fix the hull," Samick said.
"What? But it won't hold if we make our way back through subspace."
"It doesn't have to. We have space suits, right?"
"Sure, but how does that help?"
"Not initially, sure, but we've also have the gravity field here."
"Okay..." Merrin said, raising an eyebrow. "You're not suggesting..."
"I am. We alter the gravity field to not provide us with Earth-normal gravity, but to repel."
"Yes. Repel anything that would otherwise make its way into the cockpit."
"Okay, but the ship, it..."
"It wouldn't necessarily survive, no. Obviously, as we've found, it's not as safe from debris as had been claimed anyway, but by using the gravity field, we can keep us safe while we make our way back."
"We might not make it back to Earth," Merrin said.
She paused. Her face showed that she was piecing it together.
"I see, we don't have to. We just have to make it back to the comms buoy," she said, with a grin.
"Exactly. If we can keep the debris from killing us, but we make it back to comms range? We can get saved."
"And the space suits?" she asked.
"When we set the gravity field to repel instead of what it's normally doing, the air inside here will also get pushed out. We'll need the suits for oxygen and to keep the pressure survivable."
"That's insane," she said with a smile.
"Come on, where's your sense of adventure, Merrin" Samick said, smiling cheek to cheek.
"Alright, guess that's what we're doing," Merrin said.
"I'll adjust the gravity field, you set a course back to the comms buoy."
"Aye aye, you insane bastard."