Jack was over the moon. Not literally, or not yet, but he wasn’t discounting the possibility, not now he had this wonderful new toy to play with.
It was only a small craft, about the size of a luxury coach, perhaps a little longer and about twice as wide, with stubby wings for atmospheric flight that could be retracted once it was out in the vacuum of space, but he could see very little damage despite its rough ride through the Rift. That made sense: spaceships were designed to handle pretty much anything that got thrown at them. They were built from state-of-the-art metal and ceramic alloys and had deflector shielding that could handle anything from a fleck of space dust up to a small asteroid. As long as a spacecraft such as this one was intact when it entered the Rift it was almost guaranteed to come out the other end the same way.
“Isn’t she a beauty?” he exclaimed, beaming excitedly at his team.
“Not very aerodynamic, is it?” Owen criticised, looking the ship over critically like he knew what he was talking about. As if!
Jack scowled at his medic. “It doesn’t need to be. It could be shaped like a brick and it would still fly. No air in space, remember?”
“Yeah, well I’m a doctor, not an astronomer, physicist, whatever.”
“We noticed,” Ianto commented dryly.
“Up yours, Jonesy.” Owen stuck his tongue out.
“No thanks; I have standards and you don’t even come close.”
“Hey! Spaceship!” Jack reminded his bickering team members, trying to drag their attention back to his prize.
Ianto nodded. “So it is. Very nice, Jack.”
“Suck up,” Owen muttered, pretending to cough.
“What does it take to impress you people?” Jack complained. “It’s a genuine, fully operational spaceship, it’s even still in one piece! Best thing the Rift’s ever brought us and you’re looking down your noses at it!”
“We’re not, Jack, honestly,” Tosh assured him. “It’s just… Well, like you say, it came through the Rift. Even though it looks fine we can’t be a hundred percent certain it’s undamaged until we’ve given it a thorough examination. Perhaps we shouldn’t get our hopes up just yet.”
“But it’s Cavellian! I studied the specs for ships like this back in my Academy days, I know every inch of these babies, every circuit, every rivet and bolt, every readout and switch; I could assemble one from scratch in my sleep, with the right parts and tools! The Cavellians are among the best spaceship manufacturers in the universe. Their ships are practically indestructible; they come with a ninety nine-year warranty and this one looks brand new! There’s not a mark on her; she might have just come off the production line yesterday!”
“Or from another planet sometime in the future.”
Jack glared at Ianto. “You’re splitting hairs.”
“I don’t mean to. Tosh and I just think it would be prudent to give your new toy a complete service before we embark on any pleasure jaunts. You know, make sure it has enough fuel, that the artificial gravity works, and that there are no loose wires or leaks anywhere. Would you normally just jump into an unfamiliar spaceship, flip a few switches, and take off into the unknown without giving it the once over?”
“No, I suppose not.” Jack’s face fell and he sighed sadly, watching his dream of taking off into the black for a quick spin around the moon and back before breakfast fade away.
Ianto clapped his hands together, smiling. “So, let’s get started.”
“Now?” Jack’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“No time like the present, unless you have somewhere else to be. The sooner we check her out the sooner we can see about moving her to one of our warehouses. It’s not like she’ll fit in the back of the SUV; at the very least we’ll need to get her off the ground long enough to load her on the back of a truck.”
That put the smile back on Jack’s face again like a switch had been thrown. “Right, let’s get the airlock open and we can take a look inside!” He pressed a few buttons on his wrist strap and in moments there was a faint hissing sound and a hatch on the ship’s side opened. “I’ll give you the grand tour! You’re gonna love it.”
Jack went in first to check there was breathable air inside; there was just a slim chance that whoever this ship had belonged to didn’t breathe the same mix of gasses as humans did. Then the airlock cycled again, and the others followed him inside, stepping out into the body of the craft.
Just like the outside of the spaceship the interior looked pristine. It even had the spaceship equivalent of the new car smell.
“Like what you see?” Jack beamed at his team. “This is sort of the common room, where the crew and any passengers would spend most of their time.” There was comfortable seating for half a dozen people, built in tables that could be folded flat against the interior walls when not in use, and something that looked like it could be an entertainment system of some description, a bank of switches, buttons, and dials below a sort of screen. “The cockpit is in the nose.” He gestured to his right. “Aft is the galley and then the crew cabins.”
Jack headed that way, leading the team through a sliding door into the galley, which Ianto guessed was most likely fully automated, and through a second sliding partition into the rear of the craft where three small cabins were arranged on each side of a narrow central corridor where they had to walk in single file. Each cabin was approximately ten feet by eight and contained a surprisingly comfortable looking bunk with cupboards and drawers beneath, a desk and chair against the opposite wall with a smaller screen above it, and in one corner what appeared at first to be a closet but in fact contained a shower cubicle and toilet.
“All the comforts of home!” Jack declared. “What d’you think?”
“It’s a bit on the small side.” Gwen sounded dubious.
“We have our own spaceship, big enough for six and we didn’t have to pay a penny for it; what more d’you want? In this context size doesn’t matter,” Jack said firmly. “It’s plenty big enough for our needs.” He gestured to the bulkhead beyond the cabins, and the heavy door in its centre. “Propulsion systems are through there; we’ll take a look at those in a bit. First let’s check out the cockpit.”
So saying, he squeezed past everyone and marched towards the front of the ship, throwing open the cockpit door and striding through to drop into the pilot’s seat.
“Now this is what really matters!” He cast his gaze across the control panels with their screens and readouts, levers, switches, and little lights, all currently dark. It had been some time since he’s flown this particular model, but it felt like coming home. “Think of the places we can go now we have this!”
“What sort of range does it have?” Tosh asked, starting to get caught up in Jack’s enthusiasm as she slid into the co-pilot’s seat to get a better look at the controls.
“Virtually unlimited. It has a very advanced vortex drive, the Penambrex 590; with that we can travel fifty light years in a matter of days. The universe will be our oyster! And just wait ‘til you hear this baby! It’s not some clunky rattletrap like a lot of the smaller models; the noise reduction baffles are so effective she’ll sing you to sleep and the engines run as smooth as silk.” So saying, Jack reached for one of the switches, deftly flicked it to the ‘on’ position and… it came off in his hand. Jack stared at it, bemused. “Okay, that’s not supposed to happen.”
“Nice one,” Owen sniggered. “Haven’t even started it up and you’ve already broken it!”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ianto said from the rear of the group. “It’s not going to be an issue.”
“See?” Jack said, giving his lover a grateful look. “At least Ianto has confidence in my ability to fix it.”
“Ah, that isn’t quite what I meant, it’s just… I took the opportunity to have a quick peek at the propulsion systems and there aren’t any.”
“What?” Jack leapt from his seat so fast he almost fell into Tosh’s lap, making her squeak with alarm.
“Well, you did say it looked like it had come straight off the assembly line,” Ianto reminded him. “Seems we got one that’s not quite finished.”
Jack drooped with disappointment. “But I was going to take you to so many places! We could’ve had a great time with our own spaceship.”
“Never mind.” Ianto patted Jack consolingly on the shoulder. “Maybe an engine will fall through the Rift someday and you’ll be able to finish building the ship yourself. In the meantime you might want to do some work on the control panel so that bits don’t keep falling off when you touch them.”
At Ianto’s suggestion Jack perked up a bit. “Maybe I could get in touch with the Doctor, have him drop off the standard propulsion units for this model next time he’s passing, along with a fuel supply and some power cubes.”
“There you go!” Ianto smiled. “You’ve already got most of it; all it’ll take is a bit of time and patience and a few parts. It’ll give you something to tinker with at night instead of spending all that time brooding on rooftops.”
Leaning over the control panel Jack carefully fitted the switch back into its hole, patting it tenderly. “You’re right, as usual. I’ll get it done, however long it takes,” he promised, “and one day I really will take you all out into space. There’s so much I want to show you.”
“I’m sure we’re all looking forward to it,” Ianto assured him. “I know I am.”
“Yeah, just so long as you make sure first that all the switches and doodads stay where they belong,” Owen said. “I’m not going anywhere in it if there’s a chance of it falling apart in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think the AA does spaceships.”
“Not yet,” Jack agreed. “But it will in the future. Only for earth’s solar system though; most people take out their breakdown cover with one of the more universal companies.”
“You mean spaceships do break down?”
“There’s always that possibility with anything mechanical,” Tosh said, swinging her seat around. “No technology is completely infallible.”
“In that case the rest of you can go and risk suffocation. Think I’ll just stay right here on earth. Been nice knowing you.”
Ianto snorted. “When the time comes and this little ship is fully operational you’ll be begging to go with us. You won’t want to miss out on visiting alien worlds.”
Before Owen could retort Jack draped his arms around both men’s shoulders. “That’s a discussion for another time. Right now we have to get our new spaceship back to Cardiff were Tosh, Ianto and I can work on it. I know where we can get a truck…” He winked at Gwen who grinned back and pulled out her phone. “Ianto, know anyone with a crane?”
“I’ll get on that right away, Sir.” Ianto always managed to come up with whatever was needed.
Owen shook his head. “Good thing I always have Retcon in my kit. Got a feeling we’re goin’ to need it.”