Engineer Katherine Velmer was
already getting ready when the Captain's message came through. They had received
the order to reset the engine five minutes ago, and had begun to go over the procedures.
grabbed a headset from where it free floated in the air, and snugged it over her
testing, One two three. Can you hear me, Bridge?"
and clear, and on four Freqs. You're good to go." The voice of 1st Officer Swanson
came across her headset, only a little grainy. She turned to 2nd Engineer Thatcher.
are you set?" She started slowly towards the airlocks.
thought back about what madness the last few hours had been. First the violent rattling
and crazy gravity of the rapidly revolving ship, then the mad scrabble to scram the
engine once the shouted order came through. Now, here he was, about to go mucking
about the engine chambers, resetting the very same engine he had just helped shut
down! This was definitely not what he had had in mind when he'd signed up for this
he'd wanted was a year of quiet solitude in order to get a grip on his recent personal
problems and find time to work on his novel. And what better way to do so than on
board a Cargo ship. 11 people spread along a quarter mile long ship left a lot of
room for you... Right?
had been mistaken. He spent nearly every waking hour with Katherine, While they drilled
themselves on the workings of any and every moving part on the ship.
some sheer strike of bad luck, or mismanagement, or both, they had both been assigned
to the Gravlaw with no actual Engineering experience, save what they had learned
in training. Katherine was only counted as senior officer because she had graduated
from an RSF Academy, while his education had been in a civilian one.
day he'd arrived on Gravlaw, Cid had expected to serve under some old, crusty spacer.
Instead, as he walked into the engineering compartment, there was red-haired Katherine,
sitting on the floor among a pile of telephone book sized volumes (printed on real
paper, of all things) marked "Operating Manual."
the resetting process could be done from the relative comfort of the Engineering
compartment. But considering the near catastrophic events that had led to the engine
shutdown, The Captain had deemed it wise to check the engine before starting it again.
When the 1st officer relayed the message, he added that anything that
needed to be done should be done quickly. Contrary to how it may have appeared
from inside the ship, Gravlaw was not sitting dead in space. It was still travelling
at several hundred thousand miles an hour. If the main engine was to remain inoperative
it would take the maneuvering thrusters forty three years to counter
the ship's forward momentum.
it's current rate of travel, Gravlaw would shoot right past the target planet,
heading into deep space. Normally, "runaway" ships like this were abandoned
by the crew at a point closest to an occupied planet, where pickup would be most
likely. It was necessary to know immediately the condition of the engine.
stood in the airlock, listening to the sound of his own breathing. With a thunk,
the airlock cycled, and the elevator began it's short descent onto the engine compartment
or "Hell" as it was known to most engineers. After a few seconds the elevator
ground to a halt. Kat hit the door open pad and the two were hit with a blast of
heat as the doors slid apart.
reactors generated plenty of waste heat. Most of it was bled out into deep space
by heat sinks, but some always built up in the compartment. The engine had been dead
for more than an hour, and the temperature hovered in the 80 degree range. Under
full operation, the heat could climb to 109 F.
pushed herself off the rear wall of the elevator, gliding gracefully through zero-g.
Cid followed after.
first thing they both noticed were thousands of small black globules, the size of
marbles, floating around the engine room. Many more were splattered against the walls.
great." Said Kat. Then into the headset. "Bridge, we've got a small Walterium
spill down here. Please advise." Cid could hear her voice shaking just a little.
The Walterium supply was, in places, exposed to vacuum. If a crack had formed in
the containment tube, there was a remote chance that the compartment could suddenly
floated motionless in the stifling heat. A bead of sweat formed on Cid's brow. He
shook his head and sent it sailing off across the room.
here." Said Swanson "First thing, find the leak. If it's serious, patch
it. Then get on with the Engine check. I'll have security bring you down some Exo-suits."
here." Kat said. She glanced at Cid. "Ah, no, don't bother with the Exo's.
eyes went wide.
do you know that? We could get sucked out into space!"
just turned her mouth at him.
hear any air leaking out? C'mon, let's get on with it. Here. You go find the leak,
I'll check the engine." With that she kicked off down the compartment, heading
for the reaction chamber.
just floated there, incredulous. For a person of supposed Genetically enhanced
intelligence, Katherine sure seems to show very little at all of that trait. How
could anybody be so reckless?
he moved himself hand over hand, searching around the exposed Walterium containment
chamber for the origin of the telltale bubbles.
engines were used in almost all ships of the time. As a fuel, Walterium is Nonradioactive,
cohesive, relatively cheap, and almost completely inert under normal conditions.
It is only in a vacuum that it takes on the properties that make it so useful. In
a completely unexpected reaction, running an electric current through a concentration
of Walterium in a vacuum produces a powerful burst of energy. When this is focused
through a magnetic nozzle, a sizeable amount of thrust is produced. Changing the
amount of Walterium entering the reaction chamber regulates thrust. The Walterium
is not consumed particularly fast during the reaction, nevertheless, on long haul
space flights of four years or more, a lot of fuel is needed, which led to huge containment
chambers, up to the point that ships are designed and built around them. Despite
these drawbacks, the Walterium engine is ideal for space travel, mostly due to it's
why did it fail? When the engine had gone wild, the had scrammed the reactor
by sealing off the flow of Walterium to the reaction chamber, then tripling the electrical
feed to a small portion of Walterium of the rear chamber, the resulting explosion
literally blowing the rest of the reaction mass out into space. Right now there was
large chunk of gelled, partially reacted Walterium travelling through space at a
very high rate of speed. But why had the engine not responded to bridge control?
We already checked the wiring box and it came up clean and connected. If there's
no fault in the wiring, it's probably a software problem. Cid tried to track
the movements of the individual bubbles to get an idea as to where the leak was.
He wondered briefly if the leaking Walterium was part of the cause. He considered
it a moment, then discarded the idea. The fact that it had splattered onto the walls
meant that the leak had occurred either before or during the accident. That was all
he could tell.
few moments later, Cid discovered the source of the leak. It came from a crack in
the containment chamber. He watched as a few drops of black oozed out of it and into
nodded, thoughtfully. It was not as bad as he'd thought. A stress crack most probably.
called out. "Kat! I've found the leak! Iím going to get a-"
need to, I already have one!" She said as she drifted towards him. She handed
him a self-adhering patch strip. He tore the cover off of the large flat piece, then
carefully placed it over the crack, smoothing it out flush against the containment
chamber. He pulled a hand torch out of his tool belt, struck it, then began waving
it over the patch, just touching the material with the end of the flame.
not bad for an old timer." Katherine said. "You adjust to Zero-G pretty
I guess so. Are you done already? What'd you find? Don't tell me the engine's completely
cooked." He'd expected her search to take much longer.
no. The engine works, I fixed it."
like that? You fixed it?" Cid shut the torch off. The patch had bonded to the
smooth metal of the chamber, and hardened almost to the toughness of steel. It was
much more than enough to stop the leak, but there was also Vacuum to tend with.
wouldn't believe how easy it was. It was the stupidest thing, too. The main power
infeed for the number four magnetic generator had blown. I just grabbed a replacement
from the locker, rewired it, and that was it. It tested out okay. We should be good
to go. " She spoke into her headset.
Velmer to bridge. Repairs complete. We've patched a small crack in the Containment
chamber, and it appears to be secure. I located a wiring fault in the Mag-Generator
number four, which I believe was the cause of the incident.with one of the generators
down , the thrust was vectored off, causing the uncontrolled turn. The problem has
been fixed, the engine should work fine."
voice crackled back in both their headsets.
done, Engineering. We are attempting restart of engine in t-minus 1 minute. Recommend
you evacuate engine compartment, unless you'd like to become deaf and overcooked."
aye, bridge. Weíre on our way. Engineering out."
turned to Cid.
you heard the man, time to move out!"
propelled themselves back to the elevator, Cid now and again stealing glances at
his patch job. It seemed secure, but what of the forces that had caused the crack
in the first place? Well, he'd just have to pray that nothing else unforeseen happened
on this voyage.
reached the elevator and began their ascent, but something still bothered Cid. Kat's
search should have taken much, much longer. It was almost like she'd known where
reached the Engineering compartment a few moments later. Cid took up his station
while Kat activated her radio.
to Bridge. We're cleared out, you can commence restarting the reactor."
Engineering, Beginning restart in T- minus ten."
glided over to Cid, peering over his shoulder at the displays he studied.
looks good to go, Cross your fingers."
voice sounded from the shipwide intercom.
was a long silence. Cid knew what would be happening now, in the abandoned engine
room. The diaphragm that separated the Reactor chamber from the Containment chamber
would be opening, allowing just a small amount of Walterium to enter the chamber.
In just a few moments, the "Shockers" would kick on, electrifying the Walterium
and beginning the reaction. There was another few moments of silence, then a deep
Whooomp as the Walterium caught. Cid's hands resting on the keyboard could feel a
slight vibration, nothing like what was created under full thrust.
lit." He said, panning his eyes across the board.
Replied Kat. "Now let's see if the thing actually works. Engineering to bridge.
Everything nominal down here."
engineering, applying thrust."
vibration through Cid's fingertips increased, and the hint of a roar was audible
from the Engine Compartment. Kat, once hovering beside him, began to sink towards
the floor and was forced to stand. He inspected his readouts critically.
pretty good. I can't read any faults, and it looks to be operating as efficiently
as it should be given its age. Tell them to apply more thrust."
the next two hours they played this game, Upping the thrust by increments, always
with one eye on the gauges.
once the engine had been running at one hundred percent for a half hour, They conceded
that it was now working properly and left the station, although both the Bridge and
Engineers agreed that checks every hour would be prudent.
a dialing the engine down again in order to maneuver back into their planned trajectory,
the engines were brought up to full again without incident, and Gravlaw again
traversed empty space under its own power, This time slowing her rate of travel as
it closed the distance between itself and it's destination, still over six months
to Systems control>>
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