Darkness Within (7): Headaches

MET 186-14-2

I have now completed a dead-reckoning navigational fix using the surviving server rack and data stored in the logs. The good news is that the kinetic impacts do not appear to have significantly altered Gutpunch‘s trajectory.

The bad news is that while the shit-pile’s no deeper than I’ve been assuming, it’s also no shallower.

Gutpunch was on a brachistochrone course for the Kerjejic stargate. Kerjejic’s an untenanted system but a major gate intersection, which made it the perfect place for the task force to meet back up after sweeping the Loop. Trouble with a brachy is that making your zero-zero counts on maintaining continuous deceleration throughout the second half of the course, so the moment your ship gets broken, you’re off on a long ride to nowhere. One of those ways in which space travel became less safe when better drives were invented, the irony of which is rather less appreciated when you’re experiencing it personally.

On my present orbit, I’m heading off into the Shards without intercepting anything further in this system. If these calculations are correct, I should reach another star system – IGS 88-99172-B, given some dubious assumptions about the emptiness of the deep black – in roughly 875,000 years.

I’d like to be rescued before then. Well, I would be rescued before then, but by the time the squadron notes that we’re overdue, comes looking, runs the search pattern, and so forth, they’ll be rescuing my backup out of my space-chilled skull. That seems rather unsatisfying, even if no unofficial salvors find us first. Narijic System isn’t what you might call the good part of town.

That defines the next problem, then:

I have four and a half days to build a candle, sufficient to move myself, the substrate, and preferably the FDR, that can produce enough acceleration, and have enough delta-v, to reproduce the second half of the brachy plus correction (although at least for lesser mass) – close enough that I can survive it without a vector-control core. The closer I get to the Kerjejic gate, the quicker I’ll be picked up once they start coming; and if I’m under thrust, I’ll be easy to spot.

Time to check out the remains of the hangar deck.

…and then there’s another impediment. Which I will not call a problem because there’s very little I can do about it that’s not already being done.

The impact evidently shook something loose in my own hardware that my medichines can’t find, or at least can’t fix, because drugs or no drugs, this headache is not going away. And now there are little light-haloes around characters I’m reading, and other irritating visual glitches. Which might mean that I’ve got a slow leak bleeding into my brain, except the ‘chines would have fixed that by now, but in any case, something is wrong upstairs that a good scanner and a healing vat could probably fix overnight, if I had either a good scanner or a healing vat.

As it is, there’s not much to do but hope that I don’t stroke out or go insane before I get the candle built, and that whatever it is doesn’t react too badly to being put under multiple gravities of thrust.

On I go.

Getting There By Candlelight

candle (n.): A candle, or putt-putt, is the simplest transport spacecraft that can be devised, consisting essentially of a tank of hypergolic rocket fuel powering a thrust motor and a simple reaction-control frame. The pilot, supported by their vacuum suit, rides the candle – the tank itself – in much the same manner as a velocipede.

The additional accoutrements and controls of a candle vary widely by type. Most common are stabilization gyros, to make their handling less temperamental in the face of mass shifts. Commercial models often include a range of accessories: fly-by-wire navigation, Orbital Positioning Systems, a comfortable saddle and space for passengers, cargo panniers, canned life support reserves, and so forth.

But the virtue of a candle is its simplicity. One can be put together out of parts readily obtainable from even a half-stocked chandler, or for that matter from those lying around any wreckyard, or even crash site. Such a scrap-candle may consist of little more than the tank and motors, with handhold bars and lash-downs for bagged cargo welded on where they might be useful. Some go so far as to strip the navigation system down to a row of firing switches for each motor, requiring the pilot to figure burn times and vectors by eye, or at least by pocket-contents.

Indeed, in many spacer cultures across the Worlds, building one’s first candle from parts, salvaged, scrounged, and where necessary even purchased, is considered a rite of passage for the young. More cynical observers consider the true rite of passage being making one’s first candle flight without having to be ignominiously hauled home by the Orbit Guard.

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary