"Shut it down, !" ordered Captain Zhong Yi Tan from his command chair. "Bring us back to normal space."
"I can't sir," replied helm officer Ensign Felipe Ramos, his finger dancing across his console. "Controls are not responding to my commands."
What in the bloody hell is going on? thought Captain Tan, viewing the blue wormhole like corridor his ship was travelling in via the bridge's main view screen.What was suppose to be a simple test for the new experimental slipstream drive on-board the newly christened GCS Illustrious was slowly turning into a nightmare. This isn't how I expected or wanted our maiden voyage to turn out. Not at all.
"Mr. Ramos, where will we end up if we maintain our present heading?" asked Commander Timothy Ferris, Captain Tan's second-in-command and the Illustrious' executive officer.
"I don't know, sir," replied Ramos, shaking his head. "Navigation systems are not responding. We're flying blind."
We need to get out of this, thought Captain Tan as he jabbed the intercom button on the miniaturised status display and command console which was located on his left, next to his command chair. "Bridge to Engineering, what's going on down there?" There was a moment of silence before someone responded to his query.
"I'm not sure, sir," replied the voice of Illustrious' Chief Engineer, Shariq al- Reza on the other end of the line. "All I can tell you is that the slipstream drive is drawing more energy from the main reactor than it should."
"Shut down the drive, Shariq," said Tan.
"I've tried, but it's not responding to any of my commands."
"Have you tried using the manual override?" asked Commander Ferris.
"I have," replied Shariq. "But it still won't shut down. It looks as though someone has locked out any means of shutting the drive down."
Shariq's words sent a chill down Zhong Yi's spine. Could it be that someone has sabotaged the Illustrious' slipstream drive? If so, who would have done so? And why? But now wasn't the time to answer those questions. Right now, they needed a way to return to normal space.
"Is there no way to shut down the drive?" asked Tan, hoping his Chief Engineer had a solution to the problem.
"There is one way," replied Shariq. "But it is risky."
"What is it?" asked Tan.
"I could channel more power from the main reactor to the drive to the point where it is about to suffer a catastrophic system overload. If the safeties are still operational, the drive will shut down to prevent the overload. But if it's not, we could start a chain reaction that could destroy the entire ship."
That's a really huge risk. But it's a risk we have to take, thought Tan.Otherwise we won't be able to return to normal space.
"Overload the drive," ordered Tan without hesitation.
"Are you sure, captain?" asked Ferris. "This is a huge risk we are taking."
Tan looked to Ferris who had a look of concerned etched on his face. "We have to. It's the only way to return the ship to normal space."
Ferris nodded. "Very well, sir."
"I'm starting the overload process now," said Shariq over the intercom. "You might want to brace yourself."
"Acknowledged," said Captain Tan before relaying Shariq's warning to the rest of the crew via the ship's internal communication system.
After a few brief moments, Captain Tan could feel the deck plate below his feet begin vibrating. Lights and consoles on the Illustrious' large circular bridge started to flicker on and off, indicating that the power from the main reactor was being drawn away to the slipstream drive.
"Slipstream drive approaching overload threshold," reported Shariq over the open intercom.
The deck plates started to vibrate more violently with every passing moment. Come on, hold together. Don't let me down.
"Captain, the slipstream is starting to destabilise," reported Ensign Ramos.
Come on. Just a little bit more, thought Tan, seeing the tunnel the ship was travelling through beginning to fade away.
"Slipstream drive is beginning to overload," reported Shariq. "Cascade failure is imminent. Multiple ship systems are also beginning to overload."
"Everyone brace yourself!" ordered Captain Tan.
Consoles on the bridge started to overload one by one, sending sparks flying into the air. In response, coolant gas started to fill the large ovoid bridge. The vibrations of the deck plate also started to become more violent. Without warning, the ship jerked forward, hurling Tan and the rest of the bridge crew from their seats and to the ground. The last thing Tan remembered before passing out was him hitting the deck and seeing multiple bridge console bursting into flames.
Tan coughed violently upon regaining conciousness. The Chinese captain found himself lying on the floor, surrounded by acrid black smoke as well and staggered to his feet before scanning the bridge. The bridge was badly damaged. It was no longer in the pristine state it was when it left Earth. Its walls were scorched with burn marks, damaged and exposed wires hung down from the ceiling, and the bridge was bathed in the red glow of the emergency lights. He looked to his left and saw Timothy lying face down, his neck at an unnatural angle. Tan knew he was gone, and that there was nothing he could possibly do for his second-in-command. He then made his way to the helm and navigation station and to Ensign Ramos who was slumped over his console. He proceeded to take the young Mexican officer's pulse, but couldn't find one. He too did not survive. Tan looked to the bridge's flickering main view screen in front of him and saw that the ship had returned to normal space. Thank God we're back in normal space, but what was the cost?
"Status report," said Tan, hoping that someone, anyone would reply him. "Status report!"
"Damage and casualty reports coming in from all decks, captain" reported a familiar voice before coughing.
Tan turned to the direction of where the voice came from. Even with the smoke that filled the bridge, he could see the familiar figure of Lieutenant Rynvel Shrir. The tall Xellarian security officer was crouched over his tactical and security console. And it was obvious to Tan that the Xellerian had lost one of his two antennas which was a prominent feature of his species besides their pinkish purplish skin and forehead ridges.
"What's our position, Mr. Shrir?" asked Tan, walking up to the tactical and security station which was located on the starboard section of the bridge, next to the ship's master display system.
"This can't be right," said the Xellerian aloud, shaking his head as he continued to look down at his flickering tactical console.
"What can't be right?" asked Tan.
"According to the sensors, we're nearly 130,000 light years from our last recorded position." Shrir . paused for a moment. "We're in Sector Gamma."