It took light around 13 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars on average, and that time depended on the position of the 2 planets. For their expedition, the planets were at 75% of their maximum distance. The hyperspace travel was supposed to be at a speed of 10c, or 10 times the speed of light, and last a little over 100 seconds. Unfortunatly, not even 40s into the trip, something happened. They were moving seamlessly through hyperspace when the ship was suddenly jerked to the side. Or rather, was violently flipped to the side, causing many people to scream in surprise, fear and a bit of pain. If not for the inertia negation system, they would have been killed by whiplash alone.
"What the fuck was that?" shouted Katie as she was fighting to regain control of the ship.
"We're thrown completly off course!" shouted Pavarti, as her station displayed several warning and error messages.
"We couldn't have hit something" said Dean, looking confusedly at his monitors. "Or were we hit?"
"Wrong" replied Harry as he looked over his monitors with intense concentration. "We went through a space distorsion within hyperspace! Parvati, I need-"
"Harry, something is dragging us" Katie interrupted in a panic.
"The external pressure is increasing" alerted Wayne.
"... Oh shit" replied Harry with ashen face. "We're caught in a massive gravity well."
It took a second for it to register in the minds of the bridge crew, and realise what was going on.
"Full power, Katie" he started a small voice.
Katie didn't respond, she just reacted, pushing the lever of both the sublight engine and the FTL drive power to the limit. But she was a second to late to move away from the gravity well. Instead, the ship jumped right throught it at fast speed. The next second, they were thrown around in their seats, most of the people inside screaming in pain and fear. The same thing happened in all the travel cabines of the Marauder. The bridge was constantly shaking, and people were slowly gathering their wits, surprised to still be alive.
"Katie, reduce the power! Stabilise the ship!" shouted Harry. "Wayne, Susan, report!"
It took a few seconds for them to answer, as the constant shaking made it difficult to read.
"The hull is holding, but the frame is reaching its limits. We lost most of the external sensors, and the flight engines are severly damaged. The inertia negation system of the greenhouse is half fried and operating at 40% capacity. The others are operating at maximum capacity and a step away from being overloaded. If that happen we will be instantly turned into soup. There are a lot of moderate damages over many equipments and subsystems, but overall ship functionality is maintained."
"We have several injured people, but nothing severe so far."
"Fuck! It's worse than flying a broom in a tropical storm, Harry! I barely have any control! We can't stay there!"
"I'll take control of the FTL drive! During the next lull in turbulences, I'll take us out of hyperspace."
Harry activated the Merging System. It was a ward that was connected to the various sensors of the Marauder, and relayed the information directly into Harry's brain. It was in practice an additional sensory organ that allowed Harry to feel the ship. Because of the amount of informations, Harry couldn't do much else at the same time. But in their current situation, Harry had to forgo leading his crew. He needed to feel the environment to find the opportunity to leave hyperspace. Trying to leave while the ship was out of control and subjected to random spatial anomalies was asking for disaster to happen. Most of these spatial anomalies were shadows of celestial bodies, meaning that leaving hyperspace would send them straight into said celestial bodies at relativist speeds.
Anyone else looking at Harry at that moment would think he was zoning out in the middle of an emergency. He had to adjust to what he was feeling, then be on the lookout for the signs of a lull in the storm. He only had a split second to act, and that instant came after 20 long seconds of tense silence. The transition from a shaking environment to a completly calm and still one was so sudden that even Katie was surprised. The other sudden change was the low gravity on the bridge.
"Pavarti, calculate our position and find us a place to park. Susan, if Demelza and Kyle can fly, send them out in the scout and the starwing. We lost many sensors, we need to know accuratly what's out there. I want all available technicians starting to work on repairs. Send Radek here if possible. Wayne, start working on replacing these sensors. Dean, I want the weapons on standby, keep a vigilant eye on our surroundings. Lavender, I want to know if there are traces of modern or advanced communications out there. Dean and Lavender, you report to Amelia."
With everyone given their tasks, Harry checked the datas of the trip to get an idea of what had happened, and possibly spot other issues that weren't apparent yet.
"Zelenka is coming, and both Demelza and Kyle are on their way to the hangar."
"Harry, I don't know exactly where we are at the moment, but I can tell you that we are far away from the solar system" said Pavarti in a grim tone.
That made everyone pause for a moment, but they resumed their tasks. It was a possibility they were all well aware of. A known risk when they decided to come on that expedition.
"What about the Home Compass?" he asked with some anxiousness.
The Home Compass was his countermesure against getting lost. It was a magical giroscopic compass that, instead of pointing toward the North, pointed toward Earth. Since celestial bodies had long range magical effects despite space not being a good medium for magic, Harry guessed that 2 items strongly linked to each other would have the same kind of effects on each other at great distances. The compass was magically linked to a beacon buried deep into the ground of the British Isles.
"... It seems to be working!"
"Then it's not as big a problem as it seems" he replied absentmindedly. "The FTL drive worked as intended for the most part. With some calibrations we can handle the kind of perturbations that threw us off course. The situation isn't nearly as bad as what it seems you're thinking" 'I hope.'
"You asked for me captain?" said Zelenka as he entered the bridge.
"Yes. Take a seat and review the data I'm going to send you."
"Amelia?" Lavender tentatively called.
"I saw... There is something out there" she replied, while discretly giving him a knowing look.
Once again, silence descended on the room as everyone paused in what they were doing.
"Dean, stealth. Pavarti, is there an asteroid nearby? Anything we can hide behind?"
"Nothing. We're in interstellar space."
"Lavender, warn Demelza and Kyle. Minimum power, no active scans. Susan, anyone who isn't doing repairs is to return to the flight cabins. The others must be ready to return there as well at a moment's notice. Wayne, how much stress can the inertia negation systems handle at the moment?"
"Not a lot. They can work at 50% power for less than a minute at best."
"With the state of the flight engines we won't be able to make many high Gs manoeuvres anyway" interrupted Katie.
Harry sighted. He just wanted to test his new ship, and make some adjustments before going into a potentially dangerous place. Instead, he was literally thrown into a potentially dangerous situation. Much more dangerous than what most of the crew was aware of.
While combining magic capabilities with scientific and engineering knowledge allowed himd make leaps in technology, it wasn't enough to develop a fully functional FTL drive in such a short time. Even with analysing portkeys and apparition travel. They used magic, not science. No, the element that allowed him to develop FTL was extra-terrestrial. In autumn 1998, he had gone to the United State to make some research on space travel and consult some experts in the field. It was during his stay there that he encountered an alien hidding among the general population.
The alien was some type of parasitic hybrid snake-worm creature, who had taken a human host and completly broken its mind. He was called Setesh, and was from a race named the Goa'ulds. They were a space faring species that controlled a significant part of the galaxy, and that was around 8000 years ago. They conquered the planets of the primitives civilisations by masquerading as gods using their advanced technology. Those that resisted, or were considered a threat because of their technological level, were destroyed.
In the past, Earth had been one of their colonies, under the control of their supreme ruler, Ra. The seat of the colony was in ancient Egypt. The humans had proved to be quite convinient hosts for the goa'ulds, thus many of them were shipped off world. Many of the religions that appeared on Earth were due to these goa'ulds. However, something had happened in the past, and the goa'ulds left Earth. Setesh was one of the few goa'ulds left on Earth, and that was because he was emprisonned in a stasis jar. Said jar was found and opened by a treasure hunter in the early 70s, freeing him.
Setesh had been the leader of a few sects over the years, changing hosts when things became inconvenient, or if he found a better one, living luxuriously yet discreetly. He had made use of a goa'uld drug to brainwash women and use them as loyal servants. He had witnessed Harry performing magic in a park, and had tried to take him over. He failed, and the experience almost killed them both. It was during that attempted possession that Harry aquired some knowledge from Setesh. About advanced technology, the stargate network, and the general state of the galaxy 8000 years ago. Among the crew, only his lovers, the carrow twins, Carson Becket and Amelia Banks knew about his encounter with aliens while on Earth. And at the moment, Harry feared that the Marauder had entered goa'uld space.
"What can you tell me about the signal you detected?" Harry asked.
"It seems to come from some kind of beacon" Lavender replied. "It comes at regular intervals, with the same structure. The origin of the signal is quite some distance away from us, but not too far. It was already broadcasting before we even arrived here, and it's most likely automated."
"So, whatever it is probably hasn't detected us yet" Amelia added.
"Can you decipher the message?"
"I don't know. Probably?" Lavender replied, unsure, concentrating on the datas she received. "In fact, I think I can" she answered confidently as she started to work on the composition of the signal. "There are paterns in the signal that are quite similar to what we use... Very similar, as if we used the same basic method of communication" she finished, dumbfounded.
The people on the bridge were now half-focusing on Lavender as she typed on her console. She was about to decipher a signal from an extra-terrestrial civilisation.
"It's an audio message, within human hearing range" she continued. "Putting it on speakers."
Admist the crackling of statics, a voice was clearly heard. A human sounding voice, speaking in an unknown language. While everyone was surprised to hear a human-like voice, Harry wasn't. After all, the goa'uld had taken many humans from Earth during the time they controlled it, so he expected to meet other human civilisations in the galaxy. He was able to relax a little, but was still wary, and a bit confused. The language he was hearing was clearly not goa'uld, so the person speaking wasn't from a civilisation that was ruled by the goa'uld. Or maybe, like on Earth, the goa'uld had for some reason abandonned their planet, and they had continued to developp on their own. There was a third possibility, though Harry believed it to be the least likely.
"Wait a minute!" Lavender exclaimed. "It sounds familiar..."
"Greek" Pavarti said, surprising everyone on the bridge.
"I'm not sure, but I think it does sound a little like that" Amelia agreed with a frown on her face.
"That's not all. I think there is also some hints of latin" Lavender added. "Most of our spells incantations in Europe and America are based on latin."
"I think it's more complicated than that" Pavarti said. "We need Padma and Sue Li here. They are the only ones in the crew proficient in linguistics."
"Then bring them here. You got an approximate location for where the signal is coming from?" he asked.
"Yes. It's about 127 000 000 km from us."
"Send the coordinates to Demelza. I want her to focus all her sensors there. I'm going out with the dropship to change the sensors."
"Harry!" Susan exclaimed. The others on the bridge also turned their attention to him for a split second.
"Don't look at me like that. I may be the captain, but I'm first the engineer that designed and built this ship from start to finish. We don't know what else is out there. We need these sensors functional as soon as possible, and I'm the most qualified to repair or replace them quickly and properly. Amelia, the bridge is yours."
Without waiting for an answer, Harry swiftly left the bridge. He first rushed to the technical bay. The crates of spare parts had already been prepared by Waynes' previous commands, so he was able to swiftly transport them to the hangar, and into the dropship. He made a small stop to put on one of the engineer spacesuits, then he went into the dropship with 2 automatons and exited the Marauder. He carefully piloted the spacecraft close to the hull of the ship, and moved toward the most critical sensors.
He would have loved to deal with the issue using the reparo spell, however, it only worked if all the pieces of the target were nearby. He had discovered, while working on his engineering projects, that the spell worked on machines with missing components if there were appropriate spare parts available. From then, he created a scanning spell to detect broken or missing components in a machine. Another discovery made was that, while casting magic was very difficult in space, that mostly applied if there was some distance between the caster and the target. By touching the target directly with the wand, the strain was greatly reduced.
Thus, for each sensors, Harry first cast his diagnosis spell on contact against the machine. Then, with the help of the automatons, he disassembled them enough to perform the repairs. Whenever possible, he used the repair charm to speed up the process. The fact that he was among the most powerful magic users of the world meant the task wasn't particulary draining for him. 5 sensors had to be completly replaced, 3 of them because they were torn away in hyperspace. After confirming with Wayne that the sensor grid was fully operational he returned to the ship.
"Alright everyone" Harry said as he returned to the bridge. "I need a quick report about what you've uncovered so far. Let's start with what happened in hyperspace. Radek?"
"Sure, captain. As you already guessed, a spatial perturbation sent us off course. The problem was, it sent us toward the Sun. Having miss Bell raise the power of the hyperdrive actually saved us. It allowed us to overcome the gravitational pull of the sun, but the gravitational disturbance also overloaded our hyperspace bubble, greatly increasing the distance travelled. It was basically a hyperspace gravitational slingshot. With miss Patil's help, its estimated that we crossed between 700 and 1500 light years. I'll need more time to look into how that initial disturbance and how it affected the ship."
"Thanks. What about that foreign message?"
"The language is definitly based on Earth languages" Padma replied with a worried expression. "The root is, without a doubt, greek, with some latin. But it is mixed with elements from the germanic, altaic and sinitic languages."
"Asian languages" Sue Li added when she saw the confused faces on the rest of the crew. "The languages families of chinese, mongolians, korean and japanese. They are merged into a new language that is familiar, yet different."
"I can translate some of it" Padma continued. "It isn't perfectly accurate, mind you, but I believe I can got the gist of what is being said. It is a call for help, from a group that has recently been attacked and managed to flee." She paused to take a breath and closed her eyes for a second. "A call for help from people whose ancestors were probably from Earth or affiliated with Earth. People who are possibly human-like, if not direct cousins from humanity. I see no other explanation as to why there language is so close to some of ours."
"Well, fuck" Harry replied while palming his face. The other had a similar reaction to the information. Aside from some of them, nobody expected a first contact scenario with a not so distant human-like race.
"We are not in an optimal position to deal with hostile forces" Amelia suddenly said. "We have no flight engines, and our weapons are untested. I know that the Marauder is very tough, but we also don't know what the other's weaponery is capable of. Nor how many of them are on the prowl in the area. If we go help them, it will put all of us in danger. Our own supplies are limited, and should be kept for our return trip to Sol. If we go help them, we will have to share what we have. There is no guaranty that we will have a convinient place to resupply after we help them. We have no guaranty that the rest of their people will be reasonable if we help them."
That made the mood of the bridge drop. The magicals had fought in a civil war to help innocent and opressed people. They weren't the kind of people that would abandon others in a life threatening situation asking for help. Radek Zelenka was also a kind and helpful man who couldn't simply ignore a call for help.
"We still have to go" Harry replied in quiet voice that was heard by everyone. "First, they must have star maps from the area. We can avoid claimed territories or lawless areas that way. Second, we can check their biology, technology and culture. They may have some useful tech for us. It will be good to see if they are a possible threat to Earth. It would also be good to know if they have magic." That sentence made all the magicals in the room perk up. "Third, whatever the cause of the attack, we want to know if it's just a conflict between factions of the same species, or between 2 or more different alien species. In other words, too much valuable informations to ignore them."
"I understand." Amelia sighted, seemingly having expected it.
"Let's take a break. Have everyone gather in the mess hall for the long awaited meeting about our situation. And some other things" he added while looking at Amelia, who nodded.
AN: The introduction of the Stargate elements is inspired from "Harry Potter and Setesh's Blunder" by r2r4l. Setesh is rarely used in HP-SG crossover fanfics. I think it's a good way to introduce Harry to the stargate world.