Better Than Vacuum

roidsteel: The worst metal in space.

Roidsteel is spacefarer’s pot metal, refined using crude field techniques from sideritic asteroids. (The term roidsteel derives from the largely nickel-iron composition of such bodies.) The “classic”, if such a term applies, refinement of roidsteel calls for melting the body using a solar mirror, while spinning it to concentrate and rake off stony slag, and finally forming it into ingots or sheets by thrust-forging. In practice, the production method varies widely, since roidsteel is a staple of field repairs carried out with inadequate equipment.

The properties of roidsteel cannot be given exactly, since the composition of each sideritic asteroid differs, and the production of roidsteel rarely makes any attempt to control its composition beyond basically nickel-iron; substantial quantities of various impurities – often valuable metals in their own right – are always present. Thus unreliable, the accepted uses of roidsteel are cobbling together an emergency hull patch, armor plate, or spar to enable one to limp to a nearby cageworks, at which point the roidsteel can be sold at average-density value to a refiner and a proper repair be implemented.

Should someone attempt to sell you goods made from roidsteel, take your leave and don’t look back.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

All Alone in the Dark

“If you’d ever been in a ship with no power, you wouldn’t ask that question. Reactor quenched, mains down, auxiliaries down, accumulator backups down. Out in the black without the life support systems running, it’s blacker in there than Lumenna’s own hell. No lights, no sun, no planetglow to keep you company, not below decks or in the deep. No sound. The murmur of the engines, gone. The whisper of the vents, gone. No mesh, all wireless whispers dead. And, of course, not even any gravity to give you a directional cue. Just floating there, in silence and darkness and creeping cold, isolation more complete than anything outside an AI with no sense-channels wired up.”

“And that’s when you start reaching for a mindcast transmitter – but the substrate can’t accept you without power, and communications died with the rest of the ship.”

“But you’ve got time to stop panicking. After all, no-one’s going anywhere. Nothing’s calling for your attention. And you’ve got air enough to last for a while – a little more if you’re drifting, a little less if you’re still.”

“Do you know how to find an emergency panel by touch? And keep something to throw always to hand?”

“Well, I always do. Now. Then –”

“Two days can be longer than all the rest of your life.”