Thursday, August 4, 2011

Well, we’ve had a bit of a hiatus but August is here and I should probably continue posting. Most of my work lately has been on The Next Progression, and I haven’t got any new parts I’d like to share. Instead, I’m going to share an oldie but a goodie, this excerpt comes from The Road to War, the story is called Flash Point:

Hunter moved his queen carefully across the board and took one of Jason’s pawns. Jason, in return, took the queen with a rook.
“Well that’s the stupidest move anyone’s made all night,” Hunter commented.
“I’ll say,” Jason laughed. “I mean seriously Hunter—wait…. Hey!”
“Checkmate,” Hunter grinned.
Jason bared his teeth as he began to reset the board. They had been sitting in Hunter’s ready room off the bridge of the Saratoga playing chess for the past sixteen hours, and they were currently 342/374 with Hunter in the lead. On long voyages it was essential to find creative ways to stave off cabin fever.
The door whooshed open and Carra stepped in carrying a portable computer.
“Sir, we have an emergency,” she began quickly.
“Can it wait till it’s a catastrophe?” Hunter asked as he moved a pawn forward two squares.
Outside on the bridge the lights suddenly flashed red and the Master Caution Alarm buzzer sounded. Carra indicated the alarm and then gestured towards her computer.
“Got it,” Hunter sighed as he stood up and strode towards the bridge.
He stepped around Carra and appraised the bridge. The crew, which was usually calm and methodical in the face of emergencies, was mostly sitting around looking confused.
“Status?” Hunter ordered. It was protocol to wait until the captain asked to start apprising him of a situation.
“It looks like a 605-3 error sir,” the officer at the engineering station reported.
“That’s the one after 605-2,” Jason explained helpfully.
“Sir, I can tell you what’s going on,” Carra said. “But you’ll want to be sitting down.”
“Right,” Hunter nodded, and signaled to turn off the alarm. “Briefing room.”

*                                                          *                                                          *

“For the last eight hours, we’ve been tracking a rise in power being retained by the Saratoga’s main buffer,” Carra explained. “The 605-3 error is triggered when the buffer reaches a hundred twenty percent of maximum recommended power levels.”
She stepped over to the briefing room view screen and turned it on, showing a schematic of the Saratoga with a section highlighted in orange.
“This is the Saratoga’s internal power buffer,” she explained. “As you know, the Nelson fleet revision uses a buffer made from Substance Three Twenty-One, it’s basically an insolated super-conductive material that acts like a giant capacitor. Energy is fed in from the main reactor and extracted by all systems onboard.
“Now, the reason we have a buffer in the first place is because the reactor doesn’t energize supply power continually, it does it in pulses. The generator adds power in pulses that last half a second each. Half a second on, half a second off; that’s the power cycle. The ship’s systems extract power from the buffer at fairly regular and constant levels, especially when we’re traveling between solar systems at FTL like this, which is probably why it took us so long to catch it.
“We only measure the power levels retained by the buffer during the off-pulse cycles, and because of our current arrangements the buffer should be hovering at around sixty percent.
“As of eight hours ago, we were tracking seventy percent.
“What we’re seeing is the beginning of an exponential curve. The buffer is overflowing, and we don’t know where the power is coming from.”
Carra turned immediately to Kendrick who had raised a hand and opened his mouth.
“And no, we can not ‘just turn on a few lights and burn up the extra power’,” she snapped. “In the time I’ve spent explaining the problem to you, the power levels have risen to three hundred percent. It will continue to increase.”
“I’m afraid I’m failing to see the problem,” Hunter admitted. “Won’t the buffer simply fill up, and then what?”
“Well, see that’s the problem,” Carra grinned. “The substance the buffer is made from doesn’t act like an ordinary capacitor. While it’s capable of absorbing massive amounts of power, it does have a limit, and when that limit is eventually reached it will become super charged and change on an atomic level.”
“Change how?” Jason asked.
“Well…” Carra licked her lips and pondered the question for a moment. “How do I put this? Substance Three Twenty-One is basically the less refined form of Substance Seventeen, which is the same stuff Gudersnipe uses to enhance the explosive potential of Nova bombs.”
“That’s bad,” Hunter surmised. “So what’s your solution?”
It was at this juncture that Hunter finally noticed Carra was sweating. This was an uncommon thing on GS ships. As the threat level rose, the environmental systems automatically lowered the internal temperature of the ship to prevent exactly this. In fact, GS ships were usually kept a few degrees below what most people would consider a comfortable temperature. Yes, Gudersnipe went out of its way to prevent sweat.
“Sir,” she began calmly. “I haven’t got one. In thirty-seven minutes the ship’s buffer will become dangerously unstable and detonate. We’re in trouble sir.”
As she spoke the environmental systems activated and an audible whoosh emanated from the vents. Within seconds, the temperature dropped five degrees.
“This is problematic,” Hunter replied.

*                                                          *                                                          *

As the door opened from the briefing room to the bridge, Hunter was already shouting orders.
“All stop, sound General Quarters, put all systems into emergency suspend mode, give me ship-wide,” he barked in a single breath. “All hands, this is the captain speaking. Abandon ship. I repeat, all hands, abandon ship.”
“Even if we use the escape pods as life boats it won’t save the crew,” Carra said quickly. “I don’t think you fully understand the magnitude of the explosion we are talking about here.”
“Buffer weighs eleven-hundred-sixty tons,” Hunter replied. “It’s either going to decimate anything within a few light years, or it’s going to tear the universe a new one. Once the crew is offloaded Jason and I will pilot her to a safe distance and scuttle the ship.”

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