"Stupid jovian piece of shit," Arctarine said, floating in space and surveying the damanged engine of her freighter.
"You know what they say about the Jupiter shipyards," Kudret said, his voice crackling a bit over the radio.
"What's that?" she asked, watching Very Important Pieces of her neutrino engine float off into the void of space.
"Like the planet itself, the engineers value quantity over quality. Lookit how big that damn thing is. And count the number of things worth visiting there, even including the alehouses of Europa."
"That doesn't really make me feel any better," Arctarine said. "I'm still a freightmistress without a functional ship."
She pressed a button in her boot with her big toe, which activated the motion sensors in the arms of her suit. She flexed her fingers and it activated the positional thrusters on her spacesuit. The insurance company would want to know what hit the engines before they'd pay to replace it. And probably pay out only enough to replace it with another Jovian engine. These things couldn't withstand an aphid flying into the cooling fins, let alone anything as large as what they had hit.
A black, grainy film encrusted the bent and shattered fins. Their delicate lattice had been turned into metallic mush. Arctarine flew closer. The black film was familiar, somehow.
"Oh god," Kudret said, having manuevered in behind her.
"What?" Arctarine asked.
"Spoor? Like poop? That's impossible, there's only one creature that lives out in this-"
Kudret nodded, his bulky spacesuit bending very slightly but Arctarine could still see the fear in his eyes.
"Back inside! Back inside!" she said, blasting her thrusters and grabbing Kudret.
Kudret had the same idea, and together their thrusters hurled them at the airlock with enough force to knock the air out of their lungs as Arctarine hit the button to cycle the air.
"What are we going to do?" Kudret asked when he'd taken off his helmet. "We can't get away. We don't have an engine on that side. We'd end up spinning in circles and that won't help. The Quasarhawks love to chase prey."
"We have to try," Arctarine said.
As they approached the bridge, the radio detector began to shriek, followed by the xray detector.
Kudret slid into his seat. "The Quasarhawk is closing fast!"
"Firing the starboard engine!" Arctarine yelled.
The ship began to move. It had tremendous inertia from its enormous hold, full to the brim with cats on their way to the Numba Sector, where a spacemouse problem was wrecking the harvest of spacecorn.
The neutrino turbines whined, strained, and screamed. The fins grew white-hot as they tried to dump the excess heat so that the containment fields didn't fail.
Kudret hit a switch, and the viewscreen switched to an xray view. The Quasarhawk was long, spindly and the stuff of nightmares. On xrays they appeared as ghostly, skeletal birds with long, hooked beaks and glowing red eyes. Their eggs were laid at the center of black holes. The enormous compressive pressure was required for Quasarhawk sperm to be pushed through the superdense egg case, and it took a vicious, angry spacebird to fight its way out and escape the impossible pull of a blackhole.
The Quasarhawk circled the freighter as the frieghter itself circled an imaginary drain. Kudret gripped his control panel. Arctarine experienced a suddenly flash of inspiration.
"Kudret," she said, "please give me the life support signs of all of the cats in the hold."
"What?" Kudret said, his attention divided from his impending death.
"Please display the lift support signs of all of the cats in the hold."
"Okay," Kudret said, pressing a few keys. The glowing red eyes of the Quasarhawk were replaced with an enormous field of miniscule, animated oscillscopes, each showing the heartbeat of a cat.
The freighter shuddered, once.
"What was that?!" Kudret asked.
"The Quasarhawk retreating," Arctarine replied. "Our certainty of knowing that all those cats were alive was enough to repel the Quasarhawk because no Quasarhawk is entirely certain that it should exist. One of Heisenberg's lesser papers that was ignored until the first Quasarhawk chomped up a science vessel when it got too close to a Quasarhawk nest. I guess my one semester of college wasn't entirely wasted."
The Moral: sometimes it's more fun to only skim an article on Wikipedia.