Ship's log, 14:28, 17 May 2214 Location: Orbit around Corsica Sol, Corsica system Status: Sublight transit
After yesterday’s rounds of skimming the corona, pulling streaks of burning gas along in my wake, and letting them fall back down again into new patterns, I feel like my hull is thin and pitted.
I don’t have any actual hull breaches but my heat-reflective paint has completely melted away in places. I had to send my boys out a couple of times between passes to patch up the coverage, as if my makeup was slipping. In the end, it was pretty close, but we managed to complete all of the passes without sustaining too much damage.
Elliott is still deeply unhappy. I have a bunch of sensors that need to be replaced and some hull plating that will need resetting; the seals aren’t as good as they were. I feel lighter, as if I lost some of my surface to the star, as if the waves washed a little too close to me and scoured some of me away. Inside, I’m scorched and aching, where I have cables burned out and sensors missing. But it’s nothing serious; nothing we can’t fix. Sure, our supplies might run a little low once we’re done with repairs, but in exchange for a happy star, that’s worth it, isn’t it?
Corsica Sol is a lot better than before. Her tidal patterns are closer to what they were before Cirilli started experimenting here. She doesn’t look like she’s snarling at her own planets all the time. I don’t get the feeling that she’s growling silently in the dark.
There’s still no sign of her avatar. We only have Kess as an example and she said she wasn’t typical of her kind, so maybe I just don’t know what to look for. I don’t know if Corsica ever got our messages, or understood them if she did. I’ve stopped transmitting them now that the work is done.
Today, we’re scanning her to make sure the fixes we’ve made stick. It’s possible that there could be storm systems buried under the surface that we haven’t seen yet. And also, we’ve decided to test out the repulsor weapons that Elliott has finally finished installing.
He was going to start on the repairs, but when it came to assessing the hull, it made more sense to start by replacing the plates we already knew would have to be changed out to install the gun-ports. Then we could see how the rest of me was holding up. Plus, now we have more spare hull plates to use if we need them.
So now I have new weapons and a scorched backside. The captain has decided to finish up our work in this system before we continue with patching up, because we can do most of that en route to our next destination: Alpha Apodis in the Apus constellation. That means that I need to test the repulsor weapons and clean up the shards of the Star Step project that are still drifting in this system.
Luckily, I can do both of those things at once. Elliott isn’t enthusiastic about this approach, mostly because of the stresses my bulkheads have already gone under. The repulsors are going to put new and different pressures on my integrity; the factors for potential failure are piling up. But there’s no data pointing to a likely danger, so the captain has decided to press ahead with the testing.
Personally, I feel solid enough to do this. My diagnostics have a few amber warnings in them but that’s not enough to make me uncomfortable. Plus, playing with these new weapons sounds like fun.
Cameron says that they’re not common due to the infrastructure required to make them work. They’re not like most weapons that can be pretty much strapped on and run without trouble: repulsors have been known to tear right through the ship trying to fire them. But that’s only with bad installations, and while Engineering might be messy and seem chaotic, Elliott is good at what he does. He has checked each installation a dozen times and run more diagnostics than my active memory can easily hold. This is no slap-dash, staple-it-to-the-hull-and-hope-for-the-best job.
Still, he’s not happy and that makes me unhappy. I haven’t had a chance to really talk to him about things; there has been too much to do and it’s all I’ve been able to do to get him to eat and sleep. Keeping him physically well is more important than the other stuff right now. We’ll have time for the rest later. Right?
ELLIOTT: (leaning back in a chair with one foot braced on the edge of a counter, he watches the schematics with tagged diagnostics projected into the air around him) Tell the Chief that you’re good to go with the testing, Starry.
STARRY: (voice only) Okay.
ELLIOTT: (pulls the inertial dampener readings up into focus.)
STARRY: Elliott reports that all systems are ready.
CAMERON: Lining up the first target.
CAPT: (nods and watches, letting the Chief take the lead.)
STARRY: Coming around on the first target now.
The first target is an old sensor pod. It’s drifting out near the first planet’s orbit and the plan is to punt it into the star.
It’s a bit like feeding her. Now that we’ve mended the damage we did, we’re offering her treats and clearing out all traces of the project from this system at the same time. She gets a snack and a clean system to shine on. That’s a fair exchange, right? I like to think Corsica Sol would like it.
Cameron is letting Rosie do the firing part of the test; the Chief is monitoring accuracy and effectiveness. I’m doing the flying, keeping it slow and steady for now, lining up for the first shot from the forward array. I back-thrust when I’m in position and hold still.
CAMERON: Brasco, fire at will.
ROSIE: (grinning at the console display wrapping around her, hands already wrist-deep in the interface) Hoo-yeah!
Wow, I felt that through my whole skeleton. The inertial dampeners absorb the pressure as it flings me over onto my back. It shoves me right out of position; my thrusters need a few more seconds to pull me back around to where I started.
The sensor pod isn’t so lucky: it bounces off across the system, spinning end over end on its way towards Corsica Sol.
CAMERON: Angle isn’t good.
ROSIE: It looked fine from the targetting system.
STARRY: Want me to move into position for a second strike?
CAMERON: Yes, do it. Brasco, recalculate the next one.
STARRY: Bringing up projections on your screen, Rosie.
ROSIE: (grumbling) It was fine the first time. It’s a big star! It won’t miss!
CAMERON: (sees that the SecOff is preparing the second shot as she was asked, so says nothing.)
I think the repulsor strike hit a protrusion on the sensor pod and that’s why it’s spinning, why its angle isn’t the one we intended. It will still hit the star on this trajectory, assuming the spin doesn’t pull it further off-course, but it’s not how we wanted it.
Here we go again; I’m in place, matching course with the pod. Rosie is even more focussed than before, as if the pod’s wayward path personally offended her. Her eyes are narrowed as she watches the console’s display, and she times the next shot so that it strikes the side of the pod, missing all of the protrusions. I run the data down her screens to help her.
Ouch, that time it felt like it was trying to twist me. I let it push my course out into a curve away from the star; I’m trying to balance out the shove of the repulsor shots but it still flips me over. I can’t counter it too much or the force that’s pushing me across empty space will be concentrated on my internal structure. Better to let it move me than crush and warp my own body.
The pod is repelled off towards the heart of Corsica Sol, blasted out of its spin. It falls, headlong and hopeless, and there’s the tiniest flare when it strikes the corona.
ROSIE: (whoops and claps) Gotcha that time, you little bastard.
CAPT: (trying not to smile at Rosie’s antics) Starry?
STARRY: Boards are green. Integrity and the inertial dampeners are holding. But we probably don’t want to fire two of those at once.
CAMERON: (nods) Standard procedure with repulsors is only firing one at a time.
STARRY: Next target?
CAMERON: Yes, bring us around for a passing shot.
ROSIE: (wriggles in her seat and pokes the interface with her fingers to bring the next target into her view. She switches to the repulsor set into the ship’s underside and the targetting angle recalibrates to it.)
STARRY: No problem. Five minutes until we’re within range.
Another sensor pod drifts not far away, this one scarred from meteor strikes. I guess it was ruined and replaced, years ago from the age of the markings. It wasn’t worth salvaging, so they just left it out here. No matter; it makes good target practice now.
ELLIOTT: (scowling at the diagnostic readouts) Starry, how’re your forward bulkheads feeling?
STARRY: (voice only) They were a little strained when we fired, but they’re okay now.
ELLIOTT: The IDs need to be recalibrated. They can’t take that kind of punching. Though I’m not sure how much we can do: they’re built to counter the force from your engines. not to stop your engines shoving you around. (He scrubs the back of his head with irritation.) You’re not constructed to counter that kind of shove manually.
STARRY: We could restrict the angle range of the repulsors, so we can control how the kickback impacts on my internal structure.
ELLIOTT: Yeah, that’d help. Might need to before something shears.
STARRY: Do you want me to restrict it now?
ELLIOTT: (scans the diagnostic data for a long moment. Finally, he shakes his head.) Nah, let’s run the tests; I’m still collecting readings. Make sure they spread the load, though.
STARRY: Testing the belly repulsor now.
ELLIOTT: (nods and goes back to flicking through the diagnostic data.)
Around we come to the second target, and Rosie’s hands are eager on the targetting controls. She’s a SecOff with something to prove. I’ll turn myself to reduce the angle she fires at; that should make it easier on my inertial dampeners.
And the second shot is away! Much cleaner this time; the sensor pod is batted neatly towards Corsica Sol. Rosie is cheering for herself; in Engineering, Elliott is still frowning, but hopefully he’s a little happier this time, too. My engines are burning hard to bring me back on-course.
Two down; another four objects to go. I’m not sure I like this repulsor technology, but it does make a cleanup like this easier. Time to flip over and use the one on my top-side.