Stardock: Part 32

I couldn’t understand a bit of the language—not that that surprised me.

Travis stepped through the hole in the exhaust tube, his form nearly transparent to me, and (I assumed) completely transparent to whatever was out there. In his place, I didn’t think I would have simply left.

Still, despite being hugely muscled and nearly seven feet tall, Travis could sneak around much better than I could. Throw invisibility in there, and I had to admit, he’d probably done the right thing. At any rate, he’d done one of a few possible “right things.”

I had no right to complain. We needed a scout then, and he was the best person to do it with Rachel scouting further up the ship.

He turned on his communicator’s camera, giving all of us a good view. Off to his left, we could see what was best described as the front of a cylinder on top of a platform. At any rate, that what it looked like if you ignored all the pipes coming out of it, the wires, and the screens and buttons built into it.

It appeared to be made out of a ceramic material similar to the material Travis had ripped apart.

Another cylinder that looked exactly the same lay directly ahead of Travis. It didn’t take any thought at all to recognize they had to be the ship’s engines. Even if I hadn’t had enough clue from their shape, I’d instantly recognized the fusion power plant which was right next to them, a box shaped structure that rose up in the middle of the floor. Pipes and and lines ran out of it to each engine, and to another box shaped engine on the other side of it.

The communicator didn’t send the sharpest picture, and the fusion plant blocked all but a sliver of the other engine. All the same, I guessed what it had to be—the shield generator. Hypothetically, you could put it anywhere in the ship, but keeping it with the power plant and engines meant that the engineers wouldn’t have to run all over the ship.

Of course, it also meant that a hypothetical saboteur wouldn’t have far to go to take out all the ship’s most vital systems.

I thought for a second. This ship was large enough to carry its own hyperdrive. It didn’t mean that it had to, but if it did, I’d have to find some way to get it home.

It probably says something about me that I noticed the engine room without noticing the engineers, better known as the guys who were doing all the shouting.

In the shaky cam style you’d expect out of a camera on a wrist mounted communicator, Travis gave us a view of the engine room. The engineers appeared to be human, but a little off—skinny builds like long distance runners, and prehensile tails with a thick base. Plus, there was something wrong with their feet.

I didn’t initially recognize but when Travis zoomed in on one of them, I realized that their feet were more like a monkey’s.

That went a long way toward explaining why the catwalks’ design didn’t assume that people would be walking upright. In fact, even calling what they had a catwalk was pushing it. They had conveniently placed bars, and the occasional platform—which also included spots to attach a cable—useful if the gravity went out.

Anyway, all the engineers were monkey people, and in Travis’ quick sweep of the room, I could see at least six of them. One of them, a big (relatively) blond guy was shouting at two of the others, and pointing at the hole Travis had created.

A Hrrnna wearing powered armor stood near the fusion plant, holding a gun in his arms, and pointing it toward the hole.

Then the bigger monkey guy started shouting orders at all the others, and they started running around. One went over to one of the screens with buttons and began talking to someone. A couple more ran over to the debris from the exhaust tube and pointed instruments at it, staring at the screens on one instrument, and talking into another.

Meanwhile, a few more of them ran toward the engine and started opening sections, pressing buttons, and clearly doing it with some degree of coordination because one would do something. Then he or she would shout over at another, and then they’d do something.

For one terrifying moment, I thought they might be planning to turn the engine on, killing me, and possibly Jaclyn or Izzy. In the next moment, I recognized that for the irrational fear it was.

What would I be doing if an engine spontaneously developed a hole that led into the engine room? After panicking, the first thing I’d do would be to shut it off and make sure there was no way to turn it on.

Then I’d repair it if I had the time and materials.

They had to be doing the same. It was interesting though that they didn’t start without being shouted at. I supposed that they might not be good at handling unpredictable situations, or possibly they were hierarchal to point that they didn’t do much of anything without a supervisor insisting on it?

I didn’t have enough information to tell.

What I did know was this: the invisibility spell would be wearing off any minute, and as soon as it did, they’d know for sure that the ship had been boarded.

They’d know exactly the same thing if Jaclyn or I jumped out of the tube.

Izzy and Travis seemed to come to the same conclusion at approximately the same time I did. Travis’ cam suddenly switched views and showed the ceiling, and then the floor as he slid down one of the poles in the room, and began to creep toward the Hrrnna.

At the same time, Izzy flew out the hole, muttering something that sounded like, “I hope this is the last one.”

Jaclyn and I moved toward the hole in time to see a transparent Izzy hit the Hrrnna in the chest, take his gun, break it in two, and hit him with a punch that threw him into a wall.

He didn’t stand up.

Jaclyn and I looked at each other, and then she stepped out of the hole. I followed, using the rockets to give me a little extra boost.

That’s when we turned visible again.

The monkey people gave a collective gasp, and started running. Izzy reappeared, standing over the Hrrnna’s body, and frowning.

Travis reappeared midway between the engine and where Izzy downed the Hrrnna. A monkey guy ran past him, and he tackled it.

Jaclyn, her eyes still on the monkey people running away, said, “I don’t think we need to catch the rest of them. You?”

I shook my head. “Everyone else is visible now. I think we should trash the power plant.”

13 thoughts on “Stardock: Part 32”

  1. Yes, trash the fusion plant which contains hydrogen plasma at several million degrees and a couple billion atmospheres. 🙁

    Why not do something slightly less suicidal like cut the power feeds to the ship’s systems instead?

    1. Part of the charm of fusion power plants is that they really, and I mean _really_ don’t want to work.

      There is no “couple billion atmospheres”. The fusion chamber is essentially a vacuum (You don’t want any pesky foreign molecules in the way of the fuel nuclei doing the dirty). The actual amount of fuel present inside the chamber for ITER when fully operational will be a few grams at any one time, and it’s essentially hydrogen gas. That’s a few balloons’ worth.

      In 2016 the record plasma pressure was 2 bar, and that’s when it’s at 35 million degrees and concentrated by the magnetic field, i.e. pushed away from the walls.

      You let several cubic meters of air in there, it will cool the plasma and the reaction will stop immediately. You cut off power to the control magnets, and the reaction will stop immediately (the plasma will spread out, touch the walls and cool off).
      Depending on the fuel used (and by proxy: on the method used to extract heat or electricity), you do have to worry about irradiated sheathing materials, if you decide to actually breach the chamber.

      A gigawatt is a gigawatt and you don’t want to have unshielded exposure to the plasma while operating. You have to think a moment on how exactly you plan to stop it, so you don’t break something that will electrocute or irradiate you… But it will stop incredibly fast. There’s no such thing as a fusion plant meltdown.

  2. If they are using gravitics for fusion containment, we might be talking about a surprisingly small mass of plasma. Also, trashing the power plant does not necessarily means coring it; one could simply slag the fuel injector systems and starve it, or else rip out the power conversion units and cut out the electricity to all of the other subsystems… Rocket’ll need to talk quickly, though.

  3. There are ways to “trash” a fusion plant without cooking oneself or turning it into a bomb.

    Simply interrupt the magnetic containment of the plasma bottle.

    The second the plasma hits the containment vessel, the fusion reaction stops. This etches up the inside of the containment vessel badly, but a well-designed system would be enough to hold it until the reactions are completely stopped. It’ll also contain any radioactive byproducts. This is why it’s a CONTAINMENT VESSEL.

  4. “I thought for a second. This ship was large enough to carry it’s own hyperdrive. It didn’t mean that it had to, but if it did, I’d have to find some way to get it home.”

    Thank you Jim. It’s been too long since the last chuckle I had at the expense of Nick’s wandering mind.

    I can see it. In twenty years, Haley won’t have to worry about Nick’s mind wandering in inappropriate directions when the young girls walk by, but the androids and machine intelligences? She’ll have to “take steps”.

  5. “it’s” means it is.”its” is possessive. The line Bob quotes should be “This ship was large enough to carry its own hyperdrive.”

    As always, I really like this story.

  6. A couple of probable typos:

    Jaclyn and moved toward the hole in (needs and ‘I’)

    Izzy reappeared, standing over the Hrrnna’s, and frowning. (I forget – is the ‘s part of their name or it is a possessive.)

    Hmmmm a possessive…. that seems very appropriate. They seem to be very possessive – a slave race of monkeys, a desire to destroy a world that won’t be slaves so they can possess it. Yes, they are a very possessive race.

    Now what would be neat is if rather than trashing the ship, Nick could take it almost intact, Perhaps with a command, “Monkeys turn off the engines and activate safety locks.”

  7. Here it comes: Watch the most epic plot twist of all time as Nick convinces his friends to keep the ship, calls Haley to bring the Heroes League jet, and the two of them start their own space pirate armada to take the fight to the enemy!

    After all, if they’re unsanctioned pirates then the governments of Earth – which have no practical way to chase them down – certainly can’t be held responsible for their actions.

    Heroes League: Disavowed. It’s basically what you get if the Justice League, Burn Notice, and Star Trek got together and had a baby. An awesome, awesome baby with two cool spaceships that Nick would constantly be reworking.

    Commodore Nick Klein and his not-so-disreputable crew travel the stars, robbing from the rich, giving to the poor, discovering cool stuff, righting wrongs, and being generally awesome as they embark on an epic quest to save the earth from its enemies, some evil and some merely misguided. They are the Heroes League in Space! The Heroes with no Homeworld! The Protectors Past Perihelion! The Orbital Oddballs! The Spacebound Saviors!

    Hey, maybe they can recruit some of the alien monkey engineers to serve as crewmembers. If they’re slaves or something, it could be a good deal.

    They also maintain a secret base…on Haley’s Comet!

  8. Jaclyn and moved toward the hole in time
    could be
    Jaclyn and I moved toward
    Jaclyn moved toward
    Jaclyn and her barely perceptible shadow moved toward

  9. Seal me up an old galleon and I’ll take to the spaceways, a-pirating away.

    Avast, hand me your alien credit doubloons, or I’ll send you to the Davy Jones Locker Nebula!

  10. The only problem with Nick grabbing the ship and the League going all free range is all those races out there who’d gang together to take them out because they don’t want humans off their own planet.

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