Jeth glanced down the row of crew cabins at Celeste and Shady emerging from two of the rooms. They stared at him with matching stunned expressions. Farther down the row, Milton and Vince stood in the doorway to sick bay.
“Did that noise come from up here?” Jeth called. He was careful not to look at Vince, afraid of the comprehension he might see on his face.
“No,” said Celeste.
“Check the other rooms,” Jeth said. Then, swallowing back fear, he continued up the stairs to the bridge.
He froze mere steps into the room as the cracking sounds echoed again, punctuated by a flash of light so bright it blinded him for a second. When his vision cleared he saw that four perfectly symmetrical holes had appeared across the front of the nav station control panel. Each was the size of his fist. Panic rose up in his throat at the sight of them. The nav station monitor was dark, the system offline.
This couldn’t be happening. He charged over to the nav station and started pressing buttons. Then he slapped it with the palm of his hand, desperate for the screen to power on. Without a functioning navigational system they could wander around lost in the Belgrave forever, never finding their way out again.
Jeth heard footsteps behind him and several gasps of fright.
“It’s just like the Donerail,” Vince said, his voice a low, ominous rumble.
Jeth turned to look at him, his terror a wild animal thrashing around inside his chest.
“We need to get out of here,” Vince said. “Before this ship is torn apart.”
BUT AVALON WASN’T GOING ANYWHERE.
Jeth had known it even before Flynn crawled beneath the nav station to take stock of the damage. He stood by, watching Flynn’s feet twitch back and forth as he worked and bracing for the worst. Only a few short minutes had passed since the holes appeared, but each passing second felt like hours.
“Crap oh crap oh crap,” said Flynn as he crawled out from underneath the nav station. “We are so screwed. I mean, screwed-screwed. Like, get-into-the-lifeboats-’cause-this-ship-is-going-down-screwed.”
“Flynn,” Jeth hissed, crossing his arms. “This isn’t the high seas. This is the middle of space. We don’t have any lifeboats, and we don’t need panic. We need solutions.”
Flynn stood up, glaring. “I’m not a miracle worker, Jeth. We’re light-years from the closest outpost or relay, and without a nav computer we can’t calculate a safe path for the metadrive to jump us. Which means we’re stuck here. Forever.”
Jeth scowled, trying to ignore all the worried faces watching him right now. The bridge was entirely too crowded with everybody congregated there. “Thanks for enlightening us with the obvious. I’m sure we all feel better now.”
“Well, good,” Flynn shouted. “Glad I could help!”
“Why’s that boy yelling?” Cora said.
Sierra shushed her. The two of them had been the last to arrive, and they now stood nearest the door, next to Lizzie, who was still clinging to Viggo. She didn’t look like she was going to be able to help, and, given Flynn’s attitude, it didn’t seem likely a solution was going to come from him either. There might not be a solution.
No, there had to be.
“What about the shuttles?” said Shady. “Can we use the nav systems on them instead?”
Flynn shook his head. “They’re network systems. Won’t function if the main one’s down.”
“Oh,” Shady said, rubbing his chin.
“Tell me something useful,” said Jeth.
Flynn took a deep breath. “The good news is that whatever made these holes missed the memory banks, so the Explorer program your mom designed is still intact. But I can’t repair the main unit without parts. The stuff’s not broken, it’s gone.” He waved at the holes, a desperate look on his face. “How’d it even happen?”
“I’ll tell you how,” said Shady. “It’s the Belgrave. This place really is haunted. Or cursed or something.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Lizzie.
“I’m not,” said Shady. “You didn’t see what happened to the Donerail. It’s—”
“Shut up, Shady,” said Jeth. “That doesn’t matter right now.”
“But it does,” said Sierra, stepping further in. “If you want to keep this ship intact, we need to find a way out of here.”
Flynn grunted. “Now who’s enlightening us with the obvious?”
Jeth grimaced—Flynn had a point. Still, Sierra had been dealing with this for some time. Maybe she or Vince knew something helpful. “I take it you have an idea?”
“Yes. We should be able to find replacement parts on the Donerail.” Sensing a protest, she addressed Shady. “Last we checked the nav unit itself isn’t damaged, just some of the external wiring into it.”
Flynn took another deep breath. “Well, okay then. Let’s 0 do that.”
“You think you can?” said Jeth. Please say yes, please say yes.
Flynn nodded, looking considerably calmer.
Jeth exhaled as some of the pressure that had been squeezing his chest eased.
That was until Lizzie said, “But what if it happens again before we’re done?”
A vision of Avalon riddled with holes flashed in Jeth’s brain, making his stomach clench. The feeling only worsened when he pictured what those holes would do to the crew if they were in the wrong place the next time it happened.