In my recently published SF Adventure novel, Wreck of the Nebula Dream (see the book blurb at the end of the post), the heroine tells the hero at one point that there were rumors the ship had been jinxed by an accident during construction (much as rumors of similar things haunted Titanic). Before I get to the deleted scene, here’s that excerpt, with Mara speaking first:
“…Baktani & Fox was habitually behind schedule, and they’re notorious for cutting corners on safety. And I know something was hushed up at one point- people being transferred to other shipyards, people being paid off. Loxton ships cargo, not passengers, so we didn’t pay much attention.”
“What do you mean?” Nick snuck a glance at his wrist chrono, borrowed from Casey. Not long now. Better to keep her talking, not let her think about the time ticking down on our lives.
She laughed at him gently. “Don’t you know, it’s a centuries old legend in the ship building industry if someone dies while the ship is being built, the vessel is haunted? Cursed, some say.”
“Not the image you want for your big, luxury liner, I guess,” Nick answered. “Bad for public relations.”
“Well, if ever a ship was cursed, this would be the one,” Mara said, patting the deck.
Originally I’d written a short prolog for the novel, showing the reason the ship was jinxed, but current publishing wisdom says prologs annoy Readers for the most part soooo……I deleted the scene. Here it is now though:
“Come on, Frazet, you’re gonna cost the whole team its bonus, man.”
The foreman stood over him, mercilessly berating his decision. “You don’t finish installing that damn upper engine interlock adapter this morning, they can’t keep schedule for installing the engine itself either. Then the whole thing goes to hell, we maybe get fired – you’re critical path, man, don’t you get it?”
Methodically, Frazet continued fastening the closures on his zero grav construction safety suit. He didn’t look up. “Can’t install no damn adapter if I ain’t got one that works, Jonzile, now can I?”
Throwing his hands up in the air, the foreman glanced around at the rest of the crew for support. Mostly they avoided his eye. Lowering his voice and leaning closer, Jonzile asked, “How much out of tolerance is the adapter? I know the backup was a piece of shitty scrap but what about the main unit?”
Frazet considered. “It barely passed acceptance testing.”
“But it did pass?” The foreman was eager.
“Once. Out of three times I checked it,” Frazet said, reaching for his helmet.
Jonzile put out a hand, holding the helmet down on the locker shelf. “But it did pass, you’ll admit that?” His tone changed, became friendlier again. “Don’t you want the bonus? Don’t you need those extra credits, like the rest of us? Heard your wife was gonna have another baby. That makes four kids, right? On your wages, her not working, that’s a tight orbit.”
Frazet sighed. Jonzile’s right, things are tight. And just yesterday the company doc said there might be complications with this baby. The bonus would sure come in handy. And after all, as Jonzile kept saying, the part was within tolerance. Just over the line into the green. But that was all the manual called for, so why am I holding up the entire crew on this job? Sure, I can sign it off in good conscience.
Decision made, Frazet yanked his battered helmet away from the foreman and stood up. “Quit your complaining, would ya? We’ll make schedule today.”
Patting his shoulder, Jonzile nodded. “Good man.”
The immense spaceyards of Baktanir & Fox hummed with activity. Construction was ongoing for several military jobs as well as the Nebula Dream, designed to be the biggest, most advanced spaceliner ever. Dik Frazet was just one of thousands of sentients on the payroll that month, a skilled worker at all the trades involved in engine installation; experienced, careful, good safety record. Right after the midshift break, he finished the last connection holding the adapter device in place, where the new Yeatter hyperdrive engines developed especially for the Dream would fit.
Dik stowed his tools, moving gracefully and economically in the absence of gravity. Powering up his suit’s maneuvering nozzles, he transmitted the sign off for completion of the install, preparing to cross the yard back to the lockers. He needed some fresh supplies before switching to the next job on the new battleship across the yard.
Halfway to his goal, Dik couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he’d overlooked something, forgotten something, back in the half finished engine nacelle on the civilian liner. He finally swung around and returned to the site of his previous task. Taking out his field test kit, he ran a few checks on the troublesome adapter. It failed the first time, passed the second, was borderline on the third. Swearing to himself, Frazet made the decision to yank it out.
Critical path be damned, I’m not going to sign off on the install of an intermittently malfunctioning part and just hope for the best. Hell, my family might travel on this ship someday.
“Shoulda done this in the first place,” he muttered, working to undo the adapter from its fasteners. “Damn supplier must be on the take, substandard parts half the time, don’t work right–“
He knew he’d better report this decision to Jonzile first. The foreman was going to go interstellar when he heard the news. Frazet was worrying over the loss of the bonus, maybe even the job, if the team couldn’t make up the schedule.
He never even saw the massive engine swinging in above him, moving into its tightly fitted place in the nacelle, right on schedule.
The Company arranged a very nice funeral. Mr. Baruc Baktanir the 12th attended and personally gave Frazet’s wife a generous amount of credits to make sure she could return to her home world, far across the Sectors. Jonzile and the rest of his crew received their bonus, tripled, before being reassigned to other shipyards.
The accident was treated by the Sector’s media as routine, mundane, a common enough event in the perilous world of spacecraft construction. Basically a nonevent in a week when there were enemy incursions in the neighboring Sector and a major vid fic star was caught in bed with highly outlawed feelgoods and an underage co-star.
The Company was satisfied that SMT, the Customer, never heard about the incident. The strong impression was carefully cultivated that poor Frazet had been crushed by drifting debris in the middle of the spaceyard, nowhere near the hull of the Nebula Dream. Foreman Jonzile had been only too happy to sign off on that safety report, exonerating him completely in the loss of life on his crew.
But the rumors spread anyway, in the bars where the spaceworkers gathered after long shifts.
It was said the Nebula Dream was cursed….
So there you have it….Nick isn’t wrong about his uneasy feeling early in the voyage that something or someone may be haunting the Nebula Dream. Of course, I’m not saying that’s the only reason for all the things that go wrong, leading up to the disaster! If you want to read the novel and decide for yourself, it’s available from Smashwords , Amazon and Barnes & Noble at a Special 99 cent price.
The book blurb:
A reimagining of the Titanic disaster set in the far future among the stars…
Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.
All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.
But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?