Chief Engineer's log, 14:28, 21 May 2214 Location: Corsica to Alpha Centauri FTL corridor Status: Sublight transit
This is Engineer Monaghan, logging on the 21st of May, blah blah, reporting on the refit of the Starwalker. We’ve been installing a bunch of new gear: check the logs if you want to know what, but it’s basically a bunch of weapons so that we don’t get our asses kicked when we go poke Is-Tech in the eye. It’s been a bit of a challenge, because she wasn’t designed to carry this much gear or to counter the recoil of these kinds of weapons.
I think we’ve got the inertial dampening issue sorted. Firing the repulsor weapons no longer threatens to tear her into pieces, which is good for all of us. But I had to fight with stupid Chief Cameron about it. She wants a full range of fire; I want a ship in one piece. It’s not fucking rocket science (okay, actually it is, but that’s beside the point). But the captain listened to me in the end, so it’s all good.
Am I the only one who wants this ship to stay in one piece? Feels like that sometimes. If it’s not Cameron and her shiny new weapon ideas, it’s Cirilli with her awesome notion of ‘oh, let’s fly across the corona of a star and pet it until it feels better, because that’s good for a ship made of metal that’s gonna melt and kill us all’.
We’re still paying the price for that. Sure, sure, the star we’ve just been flying around is all happy and not going to implode now. Good for us. But their new plan did all kinds of damage and I’m only just getting past the repairs on the obvious stuff. There were so many impacts on the internal systems that Bit and Byte have been spending all their times crawling around Starry’s innards, chasing down the scorched bits. Yesterday, they had to put out a fire in the environmentals systems up near the Bridge where a section of cabling had overloaded and burned through.
I don’t think that’ll be the only problem that sneaks up out of this, caused by fixing that stupid star. If the stars are as sentient and smart as Kess claimed, why can’t they fix their own damn problems? Why should we have to fix it for them? And burn ourselves out doing it. It’s stupid.
Yeah, I know all the reasons. But that’s kinda not the point here. Shouldn’t ending the project be our first priority, if it’s really that dangerous to the universe? And it is: I mean, we’ve all seen that. What it did to Kess and Earth. And Grisette; we’re pretty sure it killed her. That’s not even counting the implications of giving every idiot with a shipping license access to time travel. All it takes it one moron to create a paradox and we’re all fucked. There are no take-backs on ‘whoops, sorry, I screwed the universe’.
Anyway. The state of the ship. We’re almost on top of all the obvious damage. Our next job is to look for the non-obvious stuff. Starry says she’s feeling a little off-kilter, and while she’s a girl about some stuff, she’s generally pretty reliable about that kind of thing.
Soon, I’ll be setting most of the drones on detailed physical checks of the bulkheads. What Starry really needs is a proper service in a shipyard, with a full integrity diagnostic and a re-balance of her inertial dampeners. I can only do so much while she’s in transit, or even hovering in the void. I spend half the time working around the fact that her systems all have to be active so we don’t die. And for the really big stuff, I just don’t have the equipment.
It was bad enough trying to refit her wings when there wasn’t room to bring them inside: Big Ass and Wide Load had to stay clamped to the hull, holding the wing while the work was done. I had to do everything suited up, wearing heavy mag-boots and trying not to watch the stars whipping by. The work went fine but it’s hardly ideal. I should never have agreed to do all of the refitting outside of a shipyard. Surely we could have found one we could use? Something off the beaten track? Just because they’re not supposed to exist doesn’t mean they don’t.
Hell, I even know a couple of places on Broken Hill that we could have used. Not that I ever want to go back there.
None of that matters now. We can’t use a shipyard and the captain has no intention of diverting to one even if we could. I’m gonna have to do what I can in transit, same as always. See what I can do about stress-testing Starry’s framework ourselves, so we can catch any faults that might give way at the worst moment. Like when we’ve just fired the first shot at Is-Tech, or we’re surrounded by pirate ships; something like that. That’d be just our luck.
Speaking of which, we’re on our way to the pirate sector now. I’m not convinced that it’s a smart move to go back there but the captain is determined to do the right thing about fixing the star we Stepped through. He’s so fucking high and mighty about it. But I guess that’s why he’s the captain; I know I don’t want his job.
CAMERON: Monaghan, how is the fitting of the T-3-NB weapon coming?
ELLIOTT: (puts down the scanner he was fiddling with) Slowly. We’ve got repairs to do, Chief.
CAMERON: We need it in place before we get to Alpha Apodis.
ELLIOTT: Yeah, I’ll get on it soon. We still need to work out the shielding for it, though.
CAMERON: We’ve drawn up the plans. That’s not enough?
ELLIOTT: I’d like to be confident that the schematics are actually feasible before I go ahead and put something like that in. You know the dangers of a weapon like that.
CAMERON: Yes. I’ll leave it in your capable hands. Let me know if there are any problems with it.
ELLIOTT: Yeah, yeah, will do. (He makes a gesture to kill the comms line.)
Fuckin’ T-3-NB. Should just call it what it is: the ship killer.
When I first saw the specs for it, I thought it was some kind of pulse weapon. It’s supposed to disable a ship with one shot; I figured it would scramble the electronics or something. I thought someone had found a way to circumvent a ship’s defenses against that kind of thing; most ships have heavy electronic shielding to avoid radiation surges from disrupting them. It’s a common enough problem when you’re zipping about the galaxy, and because Starry has to get so close to stars, her shielding is heavier than most.
Yeah, that’s not what it does. It bypasses that kind of shielding entirely. Bypasses all kinds of shielding, though I think there could be some energy bubbles that would stop it. I wonder if anyone has come up with a protection like that yet.
What the ship-killer does is attack the electronic systems themselves. Specifically, it’s a physical attack: the nanobots are very precisely programmed. They travel along the optical cabling and target the crystalline matrices that make up the ship’s core systems. When they find it, they simply devour it, turning it into so much crystalline dust: you’ll get to see the most valuable pile of junk right before you die.
I’ve never seen anything like it before. But then, I’ve never worked a warship. I have no idea how Cameron knew about it. Rumour says she was military once and maybe she used it in the Trading Wars. You’d think there’d be stories if this kind of thing had ever been used before, though, especially in something as public as a battle campaign.
I was fucking furious when I found out what that goddamn weapon fires, though. The fact that that bitch brought those nanobots onto this ship, that they’re sitting there right now in the cargo bay, calm as you please, when they could destroy everything here. One tiny containment breach and they’ll kill Starry. Ain’t no ship can come back from that.
How fucking stupid is she? She says that she got lucky to find a trader with the nanobots in stock. She says they could mean the difference between winning and losing at this little war of ours. Well, whoopty-fucking-do. I’d still like to vent them out an airlock.
The captain won’t let me, though. No, he’s all in on this plan. Says he doesn’t like it, and he mentioned some shit about ‘necessary evils’, but I still don’t want to do this. It ain’t right. It just ain’t fucking right.
But I guess I don’t have much of a choice. They’re pretty sure it could be what decides whether we survive this or are blown into pieces. And I guess I can’t take that chance.
So now I gotta worry about shielding. It’s not just a case of ensuring that the weapon fires away from the ship: I gotta find some way to isolate that weapon so that there’s no chance of it leaking nanobots back into the ship. I can’t wire it into Starry’s systems, not even her power conduits. It’s gotta be completely sealed off. House its own power, be aimed and triggered by remote.
Sure, I have the schematics that the Chief gave me for it. But whatever monkey designed this was a fucking moron. I mean, connecting it directly into the ship’s targeting systems? Running cables right down to the firing channel? Why would anyone take those kinds of chances? The nanobots might be sealed into pellets, but it’s not like ordinance never ruptures. It would only take the tiniest leak, just a few nanobots, and it’s game over for us. For Starry. They’re nanobots, for fuck’s sake.
No, I’m gonna build something safer, if I’m gonna put this weapon into Starry’s belly at all.
Looking over these schematics again, I’m sure they must have had another way to protect their own ship. There’s a kill command on the nanobots we can trigger if there was an emergency; they must have relied on that. The Chief gave me the code. She told me that they’re dormant right now and won’t be active until the weapon is primed and ready to fire. My scans said the same thing. So they’re safe for now.
That’s something I can work with. I can build an emergency shutdown for the nanobots. Then everyone’s happy and maybe the Chief’ll get off my ass.
Location: Elliott's quarters
STARRY: (voice only) Excuse me, Elliott?
ELLIOTT: (rubbing the back of his head) Yeah?
STARRY: Got a couple of anomalies in my systems I’d like you to look at. Would you mind hopping in and taking a look?
ELLIOTT: Yeah, sure. Is it urgent?
STARRY: No, there’s no emergency. Whenever you’re free is fine.
ELLIOTT: Okay. Five minutes, then.
I wonder what it is now. Maybe another failure crawling out of the ducts to bite us in the butt.
Whatever it is, we’ll deal with it. Besides, it might be nice to wander around in Starry’s systems again; it’s been a while. Maybe she’s feeling neglected, even though I spend all my time working on her. She’s never satisfied!
Girls. They’re so weird.