Into the Long Dark - a sort of Captain's Log

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Re: Into the Long Dark - a sort of Captain's Log

Post by Jammy » Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:17 am

I guess no-one can hear eighty-six thousand scared peasants scream in space...
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Re: Into the Long Dark - a sort of Captain's Log

Post by Pariah » Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:53 am

They may have found a new way Broadsword but I suspect you enjoyed shooting down the innocents.

An excellent read. You may be want to reinstall it and then quit my job so I can find the time to play it.
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Re: Into the Long Dark - a sort of Captain's Log

Post by Broadsword » Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:18 pm

Chunk Six


"Hey there, boys! You two have fun playin' around with those Imperial lugs?"

"Sure did ma'am," Sam shouted as the cargo lock cycled to let a stream of lifters into the Vance Garamond's hold. "You shoulda seen the size of the backbones them fellas were laying down for their new interdictors - those things are gonna be beasts."

"They'll need to be. Scuttlebutt says the Feds have uncovered some kind of alien ruins hidden out there in the Pleiades. If the Imperials think they're gonna prise the Feds hands off that little goldmine without a fight they're in for a shock. You ask me, there's a war comin' boys."

We made our way through the crowd and up to the engineer's office in a suddenly subdued mood, leaving the lifters to unload our hard-won cargo of chemical manipulators. Farseer produced a trio of beers as the lights flickered into life.

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Another delivery of Spacebadger's about to set off for Farseer Station...

"So, you actually managed to grab everything we need, huh?" She raised her bottle in my direction. "Congratulations, Commander, I'm real impressed. Tell you the truth I wasn't sure you had it in you. You lonely explorer types ain't usually known for your interpersonal skills but you managed to cut some good deals out there. Guess I shoulda known you'd make out okay, what with you already havin' managed to weasel your way up the greasy Imperial pole, eh Baron? Meanin' no offence, of course."

"None taken. I did what was needed, but I won't say it came easy or naturally."

"I'd like you a whole let less if it did, son. Now, to business. I ain't been nappin' while you boys have been away. We've made a good start on feedin' all that wake residue data into the Clipper's navcomp and before long we'll be ready to start the jump simulations. I've also got enough of the arsenic refined to get started on crystallising the new microvanes into the protonium injector lines. The lines themselves are already in place and pre-insulated, so we just have to run the solution into the system at the right temperature and pressure and 'bingo', the microvanes should crystallise out without any interference from me. Told you it was magic, didn't I?" Her eyes sparkled as she explained her own genius to us.

"Anyhow, that process should take about three days, which is good because I've still got a bunch of work to do securing the auxilliary field generators in the outriggers. By the time Sam's helped me tie those bastards down the injector system should have stabilised, and you'll have a working drive again. For about a week anyways, which is about how long her manipulators will last in the new configuration, but we ain't gonna worry about that. The boys are gonna make a start on strippin' down those burnt out units you so kindly provided, and afore you can say 'boo' we'll have 'em analysed and I'll have built you a set that will last a century. Then your princess will be ready to really fly." She took a celebratory swig from her beer and beamed at me as though the job was already done.

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Might as well head home then.

"Hard to believe it's that close, after all this time. Can I take a look at her?" I motioned to the drawn blinds that currently hid the workshop hangar from our perch in Farseer's office.

"Nuh-uh, son. Best you don't see her till I'm done, I'd say."

"What does that mean?" I asked in alarm.

"Oh, now, don't you go worryin' none. It ain't that bad really, certainly nothin' I'd be ashamed to show people. 'Ceptin that you, well you're just a little bit in love with this ship of yours. And if ol' Uncle Darv's accident taught me anythin' it's that there ain't no good can come from seein' your loved ones with their innards hangin' out all over the place. He might be ok now, but it's all I can do to look at him without seein' that bloody mess that we had to scoop outta his racer. Fair turns my stomach, I don't mind tellin' you. And I'd hate to be responsible for you havin' similar nightmares about your little girl back there. You give us a few days to get finished with the auxilliary generators and the new thruster jackets, and I'll get her all pieced back and polished up ready for you to take her to her first dance, okay?"

I thought about protesting, but realised that Farseer was probably right. "Fair enough. I've got plenty to do cleaning out the Garamond I guess."

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Goodbye for real this time?

Four days later Farseer finally gave me the nod to come over to the workshop hangar. I felt a little nervous as I cycled the lock and prepared to get my first look at the Clipper's post-op shape, but I needn't have worried. The engineer was as good as her word.

"Well, there you go, son, just like I promised. What d'ya think of her?"

"She looks... the same. I mean, I can see that the SRV hatch is further forward, and I guess the radiator housings are slightly wider, but otherwise she's pretty much unchanged. It's my turn to be impressed." I was starting to grin as I walked around and took her in in all her glory. "How bad's the damage inside?"

"Hehe, nothin' you weren't expecting, I'd guess."

She was right. A quick tour of the aft two-thirds of the ship showed me pretty much what I'd known I'd find - a bigger, fatter drive system filling almost all the available space, spilling out into a forest of cables, conduits and bloated injector lines. Gone was the pristine white and gold finish of the original Gutamaya fittings, replaced by dully-reflective titanium and steel. Visually at least, the work lived up to the engineer's promises; despite the sheer amount of new equipment that had been crammed in everything was neat, clean, and clearly-labelled. The flawlessy-finished work of the Imperial shipyards may have gone, but there was nothing amateur about Farseer's overhaul.

"So," the engineer said, leading me back out of the guts of the Clipper, "you ready to take a look at what we did to the bridge?"

"I'm hoping you didn't need to do anything," I replied as we made our way forwards.

"Ah, you got me. We shoved your personal cabin up a ways, and built you a completely new galley, storeroom and head, but otherwise apart from hookin' up a few datalines I ain't really had to set foot in the command deck at all."

The last door slid aside and I walked once more onto the bridge of the Clipper, still just as gleaming and spotless as I had left her. I strode over to the fat gronk-leather pilot's chair, lowering myself into its firm embrace as I inspected the readouts. Everything appeared to be ticking over nicely.

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And it still looks sexy as fuck.

"So," I asked, noting with satisfaction that the schematics on the engineering readouts already reflected Farseer's refit, "how will she perform?"

"Pretty good, pretty good," Farseer almost laughed, plopping herself down into the co-pilots chair with a grin like the Cheshire Cat. "We've been runnin' the jump-sim for a hundred hours now, and your navcomp's already learned plenty about how the new system fits together. We'll have to confirm the numbers with a little shakedown flight of course, but I gotta tell you, this time I think I outdid even myself."

"What does that mean? That it worked? You got her up above thirty light years?"

"Well for starters, if the projections are right, and there's no reason they wouldn't be, with her new thrusters she's gonna be a mite faster in-system than she was before, despite her weight. She seems a little better balanced as well so she'll be plenty manoeuvrable, and as for the main drive, well I reckon your little Princess here'll jump not much short of forty lights at a push."

"What? That's not possible!"

"Your navcomp says it is." The grin became even wider. "Want to take her for a spin?"

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With added dazzle camouflage to stop the competitors from recognising our prototype.

I wasn't going to wait to be asked twice. Leaving Farseer Station we put the Clipper through her paces for an hour or two, gathering reams of data that mainly confirmed the engineer's predictions. In normal space her new thrusters added about eight percent to her manoeuvring speed, making her even more nimble and reassuring me that the extra weight wouldn't make her sluggish during touchdown. Happy that she wasn't throwing out any surprises, we started making test jumps between the stars of the local cluster, gradually probing the limits of the new Alcubierre field generators. Nothing fell off, blew up or shut down, and no vital organs were misplaced, so we gradually increased the size of the jumps until the navcomp started to protest that the field was becoming unstable.

"Well," Farseer turned her seat to face me and opened her arms wide, "what did I tell ya, son? Thirty-nine point two-eight light years and stable. Now I wouldn't risk thirty-nine point three if I were you, leastways not until after you've dropped me back at home, but she should manage that thirty-nine point two-eight time and time again without breakin' a sweat. I reckon I've done delivered that little bit of magic I promised you, eh?"

"Can't argue with that, Ms. Farseer. You've done her proud." My grin was nearly as wide as the engineer's.

"Now, how's about we head home for a celebratory beer, and I can make a start on building you those shiny new chemical manipulators that you're gonna need."

"Yes, ma'am."



To be continued...

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Told you the new radiator housings were slightly wider...
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I must go up to the skies again, to the peace of silent flight, To the gull’s way, and the hawk’s way, and the free wings’ delight;
And all I ask is a friendly joke with a laughing fellow rover, And a large beer, and a deep sleep, when the long flight’s over.

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Re: Into the Long Dark - a sort of Captain's Log

Post by Broadsword » Sun Dec 31, 2017 4:48 pm

Chunk Seven


Back at Deciat, Farseer pulled out the Clipper's chemical manipulators and compared the wear patterns to the ones we'd taken from the cargo haulers. Armed with this new knowledge it took her only a few days to design and manufacture a new set that could keep up with the heavy demands of her unique drive. By the time those were fitted I'd been able to transfer my AI systems into the Clipper's computers, and we were ready to fly. I'd also found time to do the maths on the deal I'd agreed with the engineer.

"All done?" I asked as Farseer joined me in her office overlooking the hangar.

"Pretty much. Those new manipulators are in and workin' fine. She'll take you wherever you want to go." She handed me a beer. "There is just one small thing we need to sort out though."

"Don't worry, I haven't forgotten."

"Good to hear. It's important to do these things right, after all."

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It's one for the money...

"Very true," I said. "So, we said two mill for every light year over her original twenty-two, yes? So with a jump of thirty-nine point two-eight light years that means I owe you thirty-four point five-six million credits. Call it thirty-five to show I don't begrudge it. That's going to sting a little, I don't mind telling you, but I'm good for it and more than pleased with what you've been able to do with her. The transfer's all arranged, I just need your details."

"All in good time, son." She gave me a strange look. "Listen, when I said there was somethin' needed fixin', I wasn't talkin' about money. Your ship needs a name, son! Now I know I've called her all sorts of things these past few months, but after all the work we both put in on her I can't watch her go hairin' off into the great black beyond without a proper name to her credit. It just ain't right, now is it? Ship's gotta have a name, especially a ship as fine as this one. She just might be the best work I ever did, and that's no small claim, boy. Wouldn't be right for her to be wanderin' round the galaxy all naked-like without a decent nameplate so's people know who she is when they meet her. So, like I say, money or no, she ain't goin' nowhere lessin' you gets around to givin' her a name, okay?" She looked more serious than I'd ever seen her.

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...two for the show...

"Don't worry," I reassured. "She has a name, I just didn't want to tempt fate by announcing it too soon. Still, with the manipulators fitted she's pretty much done, so I guess it is about time I made it official."

"Well, let's have it then, son. No sense keepin' me danglin', now is there?"

"Alright then. She's going to be called Lapthorn's Nutshell. How does that sit with you?"

She was quiet for a moment, sitting with her head back against the rest as she mulled over the name. "I like it. Sounds nice, not borin' like the names you get when some cargo hauler names a ship in honour of his mother or his home port or somesuch. Too many Beatrices and Rose of Aldebarans beetlin' round out there if you ask me. Ain't got the faintest idea what it means though."

"Well," I started slowly, organising my thoughts. I'd known the name for nearly a year now, but hadn't had to explain it in so many words. "She's sort of named for an old friend. Dan Lapthorn was the man who gave me the exploring bug, always telling me tales of the wonders that he'd seen out there in the 'verse while I was still a small-time hauler in Erevate. If it wasn't for him, I'd never have got this far. Well, he got sick a few years back, headed out into the black and disappeared. I knew when I saw her that I wanted to name her in his memory."

"I'd say fits right enough, and it's proper to show respect. But what about the 'nutshell' part?"

"It's from an old story. Real old, like 'all the way back to old-Earth' old. The hero says, 'I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a King of infinite space'. Dan always said it was a pretty good description of an explorer's life, being wrapped up in a tin can but getting to see parts of the galaxy that nobody else ever laid eyes on."

"I guess that does kinda make sense. Lapthorn's Nutshell it is then. Want me to get a nameplate made up for her?"

"No. I'd like to do it myself, just a little superstition. I wouldn't mind a hand laying out a stencil though if you have time. I want it to be nice and neat."

"My pleasure, son."

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...three to get ready...



"Farseer Control, this is Lapthorn's Nutshell requesting permission to launch."

"Granted, Nutshell." The voice that came from my bridge speakers was Farseer herself. "I notice you ain't filed a flightplan, son."

"Don't have one."

"Figures."

I grinned as I felt the Nutshell come alive in my hands, the energy flowing through her making her hum and sigh as her new thrusters primed and she prepared to soar. "It's a big universe, Farseer Control, and I haven't seen nearly enough of it yet. If I knew where I was headed I'd tell you."

"Well, maybe you can give me all the details when you get back. Just make damn sure you steer clear of those alien ships they say have been showin' up over Maia way, okay? The Nutshell sure ain't built for fightin', so you just leave the defence of humanity to the professionals."

"I hear you, Farseer. But she's an explorer, and it seems to me there might be some big discoveries to be made out that way, assuming the whole thing isn't just a Fed smokescreen to scare people away from their new bases in the Pleiades."

"Guess you might just be right at that. Well, make sure wherever you go, you go careful, alright?"

"I'll do my best, Farseer. And don't you worry, I'll keep her safe."

"Good to hear. Now get outta here, I got work to do. Clear skies, Nutshell."

I heard the mag-locks release and smiled as I saw the huge hangar doors crack apart to expose an ink-black rectangle freckled with burning silver points. With the gentlest of thrusts the Nutshell lifted off the pad and headed for open space, slipping through the vacuum shields with barely a whisper. The navcomp crunched through its local search routine and then quickly locked onto a faint yellow star thirty-eight light years out towards the rim. Several dozen green panel lights satisfied me that the bespoke engineering filling two thirds of my ship was working as intended, so I pulled my nose around to line up with the navcomp's marker as the huge frameshift drive spooled up.

"Farewell, Farseer Control," I said over the rising song of the drive. "The stars are calling, and I must go."

The universe blazed in front of me, and the Nutshell jumped...



The End

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...and four to gooooooooo!
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I must go up to the skies again, to the peace of silent flight, To the gull’s way, and the hawk’s way, and the free wings’ delight;
And all I ask is a friendly joke with a laughing fellow rover, And a large beer, and a deep sleep, when the long flight’s over.

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