Bloody Diamonds

“I hate dip refueling.”  The grizzled spacer took a long pull on his beer, then looked around at his audience.

“I came in on Levikí, out of Meryn.  That’s her there – the fast courier you’ve been eyeing up in between your drinks. All set up for these long wilderness runs with the fanciest new scoop system and thermal shielding you ever saw so we can pick up fusion fuel anywhere and keep as much velocity as we can while we’re doing it. You ever heard of a Záïc Dip?”

“Well, that’s what Levikí was built to do.  Do a slingshot around a convenient gas giant in mid-voyage, making a high-speed pass through its upper atmosphere as you do it.  Thermal superconductor plating and the oversized heatsinks keep you from burning.  Open up those for’ard gratings, and the dynamic pressure, all the while, rams the hydrogen-helium mix through the mollysieves neat as neat, and strip out the deuterium and helium-3.  Come out the other side fully bunkered and ready to burn for the far gate.  The captain loves to use it, ‘specially as he’s a bit of a tight-wire and won’t spend a taltis if he can get something done himself.”

“Anyway, like I said, we came out of Meryn.  Any of you can tell me where we fuelled heading out of Meryn for a spinward run?”

“Helcáss is the nearest, but it’s not got the right atmosphere –”

“Not bad, kid. Here, have a drink on me.  But it’s close enough.  All the right components are there to fuel her.  They’re just mixed up with a bunch of methane ’cause Helcáss’s too hot to stratify, but that doesn’t stop the Dip from workin’.  Methane doesn’t take well to the dynamic pressure, though.  All that carbon doesn’t fit through the mollysieves, and it’s not going to go back out against the pressure, so it crystallizes right where it sits.”

“And then ship’s mechs, which would be me, gets to spend the next leg out from Meryn with his brain plugged into a dozen or so worker-bots, carefully scraping the kveth-lakh carbon-crystal off the ‘sieves.  Which is not, I may tell you, my favorite choice of in-flight entertainment.  And then we’ve got to store it somewhere.  Can’t just toss it out the lock, y’know.  That’d be littering.”

“So, know anyone who wants four-five tons of starshit-grade diamonds?”