Friday, September 19, 2014

Road to Hyperion - Chapter Two - Act Two - So Close yet So Far

I finally had a berth, a place where I could let myself relax.  So what did I do?  I dove into the ships database trying to find out what I could about the company I had signed up with.  I mean I knew that Titan ran one of the largest and most luxurious starship cruise lines in addition to their freighter service, but what didn't I know.  A lot as it turned out.  I didn't know that Titan Shipping was the company responsible for the newest E-F Jump drives, which allowed for for shorter jump times from a larger jump point.  The math is complicated but imagine jumping from the head of a needle to the head of another needle from miles away.  The newest E-F Drives mean instead of jumping from the head of a needle to the head of another needle you're jumping from the top of a pole to the top of another pole from even further away.  It allows more room for error in the jumps, making them safer  And at the same time using less fuel and power.

Pretty soon it was time for me to get down to Engineering for my first shift.  I had met the Engineering second and the Ships Number Two when I checked in and presented my Folio Chip listing all of my certs and credentials, but I still hadn't met the Chief Engineer.  I walked up to the hatch for engineering with some trepidation, the red and yellow outlines surrounding the hatch alerting people of the fact that there was a radiation hazard and multiple different gravities and zero gravity in parts of the Engineering section actually made me slightly uneasy.  I had worked on Fission/Fusion Reactors before, on a Space Station at either 1 full gravity or zero gravity.  But never had I worked on a reactor where there were differing gravity fields.

I reached out to key the hatch when it suddenly opened, and I was looking up at a person who was taller than my own almost 2 meters.  He had to be at least 11 centimeters taller than my own 190 centimeters.  He was wearing a filthy coverall over his skinsuit, it was so dirty I couldn't read his nametape  to ID him.  He just looked down at me in my E-suit, pushed his soft helmets visor back up on top of his head, then this great booming voice came out.

"Are you the new Tech the station agent hired?"

He wasn't yelling, but his voice carried very well.  A deep basso rumble that seemed to come from the bottom of his chest to burst out of his mouth and carry over any other sounds in the area.

I looked up at him a little dumbstruck like an idiot, I'm sorry to say.  I opened my mouth to try to reply, but nothing came out, so I dumbly just nodded my head.  Right then I heard gales of laughter coming from within the Engineering sections as the Eng2 and the two other engineering techs I had briefly met when I boarded.

The giant in front of me still glowered down at me and then his face broke into an enormous smile and then he too joined the laughter, a deep pleasant belly laugh and stuck out his hand, which was surprisingly clean considering how dirty his coverall was and introduced himself.

"Commander Mahewn, welcome to the heart of the freighter Andros, well not really the heart more like it's digestive system."

I dumbly shook his hand  while still looking up at him. Criptel, he was tall and looked as if he were a walking mountain.  In the coverall over his skinsuit he looked to weigh maybe 120 kilos, I'd hate to imagine how much he weighed in his armor, or how much mass he would have on the hull if he had to go out for a repair.  He made my 95 kilos look small and I am not a small person.

"Well, don't just stand in the hatch, come on in." Commander Mahewn said.

I stepped over the coming and into the main engineering compartment, looking around as I did so.  I saw the main casings for 2 Fission reactors and their feed and power lines leading below the deck for what should be the Fusion reactors, one on the port side and one on the starboard side.  I would find out later there was a third Fission reactor in the ventral bay as a back up.  I could also see peeking out at me through the frames parts of the capacitor rings, the large capacitor banks that would help feed the jump drive could also be used to start the fusion reactors. 

I was quickly introduced around as the newest crewman and Eng Tech 2nd.

"Well Felix, you finally found a way off that station." I said to myself.

Commander Mahewn or Pete as he preferred to be called on all but official occasions quickly put me to work by having me go through a pre-start checklist for the fission reactors.  I'm pretty sure he was doing it to be sure I actually knew my stuff.  I think I impressed him when I pointed out the feedline for the number 2 reactor vessel was 23 percent below its recommended operating parameters.  That could cause temperature problems and one thing you didn't want to do in space was to overheat.  Getting rid of excess heat is hard.  He yelled at one of the other Techs, Gilmer was his name to thump the feedline for number two at the bracket.  Gilmer grabbed a large non sparking line wrench almost half his size and swung it at the indicated line.  After the hit, the readout came back up to where it was supposed to be.

I spent the next 6 hours getting familiar with the reactors and the engineering department.  Learning where the damage control lockers were, every 3 meters, where the main and secondary shutoffs were, and even where the tertiary feedline shutoffs were.

As I went about my job something kept niggling at the back of my mind about main engineering.

A few minutes before I was to go off shift, Commander Mahewn, Pete, asked me if I had any questions.

I mentioned how there seemed to be more feeder lines and damage control lockers than necessary for a ship this size.

He laughed that loud laugh again, and everyone else joined in.

He then went on to explain how all of the ships for Titan had a third and sometimes a fourth fission reactor built in.  I would find out later why that was but Pete sent me off for my downtime.

Now I can get my armor out of it's crate and try to bring it back to life.

But I was off Philbin Station.  I had my armor, my pod and I had a job that would pay me a decent wage.

For now, that would have to do.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Road to Hyperion: Chapter Two - Taking my leave - Act One

Chapter Two: Act One - Taking My Leave

It was easy to get the guard to let me in the armor morgue after all a pint of bathtub gin goes a long way.  After he had gotten a couple sips into him the drugs took effect.  He would only be out about 40 tics so I had to move quickly.

Inserting my breaker into the slot reader I entered the reprocessor commands to start hashing my way into the main system to find where my armor was stored.  While the reprocessor program ran, my hash program sent it’s tendrils along to find the locator files.

There!  Man they buried my armor way down in the morgue.  I entered the commands that told the morgue to send my armor to the breakers, I had to time this just right, if it actually went to the breakers my armor would be destroyed.  That’s it, carry all Lambda 72-Aleph-3, now to reroute it from the breakers to freight terminal.  Now which freight company to send it to?  I’d prefer a company that used to be flagged to Maltane, but a company flagged to any but a U.W. world would do.  Ahhh, Titan Shipping flagged out of Shinjuku, in the Asia Polity.  They would do nicely.  The Asia Polity, and Titan Shipping had very good reasons to dislike the U.W.,  It had to do with the Religion Wars back on Earth in the early twenty first century.  Nothing like continual appeasement by the Euromerican governments, allowing the mullahs to get nukes and bio weapons which were then used against the Asian Confederated Nations.  Having a billion or so of your people murdered by crazies tends to get you upset at the people who had the power to stop it but didn't.  It didn't help that the Euromerican's tried to sabotage the ACN's space program after Professor K. Fujihira laid the groundwork for the Einstein-Fujihira Fold Space Jump Drive which allowed mankind to finally defeat faster than light travel.

Yes, Titan Shipping would do quite nicely.  I had my armor delivered there as a will call then got my hasher out of the system covering up my tracks as I went.  I only had a tic or two left before the guard would wake up and I needed to be out of there quickly.  As I left the morgue the guard was starting to come around, I was out the door and two corridors over before he was fully tracking.  Now to set up my escape, hopefully with my pod, with just my armor if I had to.

I got down to the Titan Shipping terminal and asked the very cute looking clerk if they had an employee by the name of Jissen there.  Her left eyelid barely twitched as I asked the question and she told me that she didn't know and would have to have her manager check and was there a contact code.  I gave her my IM Comp secondary address then I asked her if it was alright to store the carry all with my armor in it with them while I took care of some business.  She quoted me their standard 2 Centals per  Sol hour or 30 Centals per Sol day storage rate, I paid for a full day, hiding a grimace as I handed over some of my rapidly diminishing hard currency.

I then headed to section hub to go down the maintenance tube.  Taking it meant climbing the ladders, but it also meant not getting pinged if I took the freight lift.  I really didn't want to leave any trace where the graynecks could figure out what happened to my armor.

Down two levels to the maintenance yard so I could use their terminal instead of my IM Comp, less traces to be followed.  I put a hold on my pod so it would get sent out to the habitats.  If everything went right I should be able to get my armor into it and then get it shipped out with me.  Hopefully.

I was just finishing up on the maintenance terminal when my IM Comp dinged me.  It was the Titan Shipping head manager.

"I understand you asked about one of our employees?" he asked.

I told him that a friend of a friend had told me that Jissen would be able to help me find a job in a different system.  He asked me a few other questions such as my skills, (Professional Soldier/Combat Engineer, Vac Rated Level 8, Heavy Equipment rated for Microgravity up to 2.5 G's) Chem Catalyst, Explosive and Electrical Welding also in micro gravity up to 2.5 G's and a bunch of other skills which while I am knowledgeable in them I don't have the Cert's to go with them.  He talked to me for about 15 minutes and then he asked me the kicker.  Just what did I want?  I wanted off this station and out somewhere where I could earn my way again.  I am, was, a professional soldier, I'd love to go back to being just that, but I'd take anything I could to get off this station and to earn some money until I could sign up with another unit.  Since Maltane was quarantined, I basically became a refugee, a stateless person.  And I didn't like that at all.  The U.W. was trying to get all the survivors from Maltane to go to the Cordill system.  Sorry I don't like freezing deserts that much.  But if I didn't get off this station, I might not have a choice.

After listening to me spout off my problems, the Titan Manager asked me just what I have, and what I need to get off the station besides myself.  I told him my armor and my pod, that was all I had.  All that I had left out of a 7 year military career, because my planet, my home was gone for me.

He asked me to wait a few minutes as he would check a few things and call me back.  I noticed he didn't ask me if I had any money to help get me off this station, nor did he ask if I had any trading material.  Everybody had something to trade, unless you are homeless like myself.  I had my armor, my pod, myself and the skills in my head.

It was the skills in my head that really helped me get off Philbin Station.  The Titan manager had a short haul freighter that was down an engineering technician, and while I'm not drive certified, I am certified for hull repair, Fission/Fusion reactor maintenance and have general knowledge of the theory for the Ion Arc drive that the freighter used.  It's similar to my Wave Caster on my armor, just about a million times larger with a different power supply. All I had to do was to get my pod, my armor and myself to docking ring 3 bay 4 by 2015 and that was YIKES 40 minutes away.

I walked back over to the maintenance tube and climbed up the two levels, then walked back over to the Titan Shipping desk.  the same young lady who I had talked to earlier was still there, she had a slight smile on her face.  She told me there had been a problem, I probably had that ship rat in the light beam look, she told me my carry all was on it's way to docking ring 3 bay 4 and my pod was being rerouted there as well, also I had overpaid for the transfer fee.  Transfer fee?  I had paid a storage fee, she handed me a small clip folder then told me my jitney was just outside to take me to the bay to join my ship.  I probably still had that stunned look on my face as I walked out the door and yup, there was a vac rated jitney waiting for me.

I got in and checked the destination panel, it was programed for docking ring 3 bay 4 and was prepaid.  I finally got my composure as the jitney took off sealing it's door for the trip.  If you have never ridden in a station jitney, it can be a terrifying experience.  One second your in an artificial gravity field inside the station, then next, you're heading through a small lock and in microgravity outside the station running along the exterior rails.  Not all jitneys are vac rated which means you'll have to pull on your soft helmet or you'll decompress and die.  The trip only took about 12 minutes, so I arrived at Titan Shipping Freighter Andros well in time for boarding it and getting signed in as a crewman.  I spent the remaining time before launch getting my carry all with my armor stored and my pod installed n the crew quarters.  They ran theirs longitudinally which while all pods are set up for it meant I would need to get used to climbing out the side of my pod instead of the end of it.  I'm just glad I was able to get it before having to leave.  Signing on to a new ship and getting assigned a pod out of ships stores was a major hassle and expense.  I would have had to work for almost a year to pay off a new pod.

"Krrrr-CHUNK"  We had just detached from Philbin Station.  I was signed on as a engineering tech which would actually pay me decent, considering my skills.  And according to the roster I wasn't due to stand watch until after we had cleared Celios gravity limit on the way out to the Arcturus systems asteroid belt.  I didn't want to feel I had gotten away cleanly until we were out of the Arcturus system entirely.  That wouldn't be for 18 days however.  Until then I had to learn my job, learn the company regs and try to get to my armor to see what those stupid graynecks had done to it.

But for now.

I was free.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Road to Hyperion


    The sun peaking over the horizon, it’s light racing along the ground, illuminating the torn landscape.  The twisted wreckage of homes, businesses, transports and bodies.  The rivers, lakes and tributaries polluted with death and destruction.  Life giving plants blasted from the land.  Wildlife dead and rotting.  The sun rises over this scene of destruction until it’s rays of light advance up a small building.  Improbably still standing, though torn and twisted.  The light leaking through the cracks and rents, slowly travels along the inside, reaching the armored boots of a form in a dark uniform wearing dark armor that is badly damaged.  As the light slowly travels up this form, small shiny squares collect the incoming light.  Behind the opaque visor of the forms helmet a slowly flashing red glow starts, barely visible outside of the visor.  As more light is absorbed by more squares, and more squares become bathed in light.  The red glow increases in brightness and speed.  Soon the form is bathed in full light, and the glow changes from flashing red to a constant yellow.  The form moves finally.  It is in a humanoid shape.  It slowly rises to its feet and faces the morning sunrise.

Chapter One: Act One

BEEEEEEP, BEEEEEEP, BEEEEEEP!!  He opened his eyes as the alarm started its wail.  He reached out with his left hand and shut it off.  0515 time to get ready to try to get off this station again.  He rubbed his eyes with his right hand as his left turned on a glow lamp.  He pushed himself up to a sitting position, careful not to strike his head on the ledge running along the side of his pod, which held almost all of the possessions he had managed to recover after being rescued.  The dream he had been having was slowly fading from his mind.  The dream was the same one he had had every night since the U.W. had pulled him and the remains of his unit off of Avsrenica.  He woke up after the massacre of his unit and walked out in to a field of devastation.  Only the fact that his team medic had put him under and put him in that old outbuilding after he had been wounded had saved his life.  His E-Suit and Armor were badly damaged; his power mains had been short-circuited by the plasma blades of the enemy.  Only the Med-Mics had been able to save him from being killed with the remainder of his unit.  The morning sun has charged his ST Caps enough to bring him out of the microbe-induced coma the Medic had put him in.  With enough power he was able to get his Mic-Assys to start the repair of his E-suit and Armor, allowing the Med-Mics to repair what they could of his body.  Over the next three days, he was able to scrounge enough parts and materials for the Mic-Assys to repair his Suit-Comp enough, so he could use his comms system to find a beacon.  He still couldn’t transmit, but he could lock in on a beacon and set his E-suit and Armor to walk him there, while the Med-Mics worked on repairing the damage to his body.

It took 11 of the Avsrenicas 27-hour days to get to beacon.  The problem was, it wasn’t one of his beacons.  It was a U.W. beacon.  The United Worlds Federation wasn’t even supposed to be there.  This was matter between Avsrenica and Maltane, the U.W. had no legal authority to be there.  And yet, there they were.  Three days later the U.W. shipped him up to the heavy cruiser that was serving as a medical frigate until more ships could arrive.  His armor had been locked down and all of his weapons stripped.  The tried to wipe the RRR files from his Suit Comp, but it was so badly damaged they would have to wipe everything to be sure they got them.  In the end they just powered down his armor to stand by status and secured it in their Cold-Morgue.  Six weeks later he found out that Maltane and Avsrenica were both being quarantined.  Avsrenican renegades had used the bio-weapon they had used against his unit against his home.  Poisoning 93% of Maltanes population.  Those without Med-Mics and IM-Comps died within 36 hours of the weapon being used.  Women, children, animal’s even insects died.  Most of the Militia and habitat personnel survived, but Maltane went from a population of forty two million to just over three million in less than 2 days.  Avsrenica got it worse.  Of the sixty one million on Avsrenica less than two hundred and twenty thousand are still alive.  And many of them are very sick.  The war is over.  Both of the planets in the war are almost uninhabitable, their space infrastructure almost destroyed, both are now quarantined protectorates of the U.W.

Act Two

Philbin Station, a trans-shipment station just off the L-3 LaGrange point in the Arcturus system.  Philbin orbits Celios the sector headquarters for the U.W, from here it is only 3 jumps to the Sol system.  Earth, mankind’s birthplace.  Originally they were going to send the 14 other survivors and me from my unit to Earth to testify to the U.W Committee.  However we all still had traces of the Bio-Weapon that killed so many in our bodies, so there we sat in Celios giving interviews, testifying and being medical curiosities.  After six months the researchers figured out it was the fact that we had already been wounded and our Med-Mics, Oh, sorry, Medical Microbial Units, were already rushing through our bodies to repair the damage, that allowed us to survive.  All of us has been put into Mid-Mic enhanced comas to repair the damage, so when the Bio-Weapon got into our bodies there were too many Med-Mics already running around for it to do much damage before it was neutralized.  With working Comms, the Med-Mics were able to send the necessary protocols to fight the weapon to Maltanes.  That is how so many survived.  Avsrenica however, they don’t believe in Med-Mics.  They aren’t fools who use Nanos like the U.W. used to before it got out of hand.  They don’t believe in any type of technology that could be even close to the Nano machines, and Medical Microbes, Microbe Assemblers, IM Comps they are all banned technology on Avsrenica.  I guess you could say they are sort of neo-luddites, or were as it may be.  In ten years everyone will probably forget why Avsrenica and Maltane were fighting.  They will only remember that millions of people died from a new sort of bio-weapon that renegade Avsrenican scientists had created.  Today though, I hope to get off this station and away from the U.W..  Corporal Sandeis was able to get off, but without his armor.  It will take his E-suit months to build him new armor.  That is, if he can get his RRR files re-installed.  Otherwise he’ll only have an E-suit like everyone else, which means any job he would get would limit him to either station or habitat work.  I intend to go back to what I was before the war.  A professional soldier.  For that, I need to break out my armor somehow.  It’s still in the Cold-Morgue of Philbin.  Since my Suit Comp was so badly damaged, the graynecks, sorry, the U.W. Treaty Enforcers couldn’t wipe my RRR files without dumping everything.  And that would be a treaty violation right there. 

Article 215, Section 34, Provision E:
“No Persons, or Beings Suit Software shall be wiped, purged or tampered with, by any member of any Nation, without Judicial Committee Authorization.” 

It goes on to say that if they want to wipe my Suit Comp they have to give me a trial, to defend why I don’t want my Suit Comp messed with. At their cost too, not mine.  So not many T.E Commanders will try to wipe a suit comp, since one of the punishments for doing it without authorization is a minimum 3-year sentence at a labor camp in the outlying territories.  Heck, more graynecks go to the labor camps than anyone else does.  What do you expect of conscripts?  Well time for me to move.  I got dressed in my mostly repaired E-suit in my pod, which is kind of hard to do when you have less than 2.5 meters length and 1 meter in width and height to move around in.  The pods support systems and very limited storage take up a lot of room on the inside.  Finally I finished getting dressed, so I popped my hatch, checking for the blue tell tales first, it’s always a good habit to make sure there is atmo on the other side of a hatch, and clambered out.  My pod was the number three in a 5 stack, so I had to use the handholds getting down to the deck.  I secured the hatch to my pod before leaving it, and headed off down the gangway to the main transient’s section.  There I could use my meager funds to have my pod serviced, recharged and stocked.  It will be a tight fit but I’ll get the full 3-cycle servicing.  That will give me a full 30 days of food, oxygen, hydrogen and have my power converter serviced and refueled.  After that, I’ll only have enough creds for 2 cycles here on the station.  Or if I have my pod moved out to the Zero G habitats, I would have enough for 11 cycles.  I’ll let the section manager think I’m going out to a habitat.  It will give me a bit of a cover, for when I break into the Cold-Morgue and recover my armor.  After that, if I’m lucky I’ll be able to get my pod as well and get on to a tramp freighter out of this system.  Right now I’d take anywhere over Philbin Station.  But I’m not leaving without my armor.  With my armor, the pod isn’t really necessary.  Sure with having the pod serviced and my armor I can survive 23 cycles before I run out of power.  With no power, no air and you know what happens when you run out of air.  That is a really bad way to die.  Without the pod and just my armor, well as long as I don’t use my thrusters, and I keep my power usage low I can go 10 cycles, before my E-suit and armor systems can’t reprocess my outflow and, well you can imagine what happens then.

Act Three

I watched as the workers collapsed my pod to move it out to the habitat.  I slipped the supervisor 5 Centals to put it in the lockers by the fifth subsidiary-docking ring.  I told her I hoped to be able to find a short term contract, so I wouldn’t have to go out to one of the habitats and I wanted to hedge my bets.  She gave me a knowing smile, and told me good journey.  So I headed out toward the commercial section, where you can purchase almost anything, from some gleet, or companionship to a discreet or not so discreet murder.  I knew that I needed to lay a false trail.  I mean, breaking into a U.W. Cold-Morgue?  That would get you shortened real quick.  But I’m not leaving without my armor.  It took 6 years to grow my armor, 3 years of scrounging the materials and RRR files for the Wave Caster, and 6 months to grow it.  It took me another 3 months to learn how to use it properly and add my own tweaks so my power generator could handle the increased load without melting.  All the modifications, the larger than normal ST caps and collectors, the command E-Suit recycler modification for my E-suit.  I have a lot of time, effort and Creds tied up in that armor.  I am not going to lose it like Corporal Sandeis and the rest of my unit did theirs.  But first, I have to lay a trail so when I do break in to get my armor, I will be the last person they think would have taken it.

Trying this again

Several years ago I was working on a story.  After hitting a wall creatively and looking at the story for months I deleted it.  Well I am going to try it again, seeing as how several other bloggers have been self publishing and getting their works out.  So I am going to try it again.  There will be several different stories I post but most of what will be posted here will be in relation to my story Journey to Hyperion.  Part One: Road to Hyperion

So any constructive criticism would be appreciated, any attaboys or you suck would also be appreciated.