Failure

[an excerpt from]

A Contract Written
Under the Fundamental Contract and the Seal of the Guild of Formal Obligation,
And in Accordance with the Traditions of the Stellar Empire,
Between and Among:

First Distributed Exclavine Republic (Holdings), ICC, their successors, or assigns, hereafter the party of the first part,

and

Three Elements Habitability Services, ICC, their successors, or assigns, hereafter the party of the second part,

In the Matter of Operating Life Support Services and Associated Systems for

Cantervale Drift, Golden Groves (Principalities), hereafter “the Drift”,

…blah, blah, blah…

22. SURETIES

In order to provide necessary sureties for the ongoing safe operation of the Drift, the party of the second part undertakes the following:

22.1 The party of the second part will operate all life-support services and associated systems in such a manner as to fulfil all requirements of the IOSSs defining environmental conditions for warm-blooded oxygen-breathers, specifically:

22.1.a The environmental conditions of the Drift shall remain within the parameters therein defined as optimal for no less than 99.9% (“three nines”) of the system’s duty cycle, computed on a rolling average basis.

22.1.b The environmental conditions of the Drift shall remain within the parameters therein defined as acceptable for no less than 99.99% (“four nines”) of the system’s duty cycle, computed on a rolling average basis.

22.1.c The environmental conditions of the Drift shall under no circumstances whatsoever be permitted to deviate from the parameters therein defined as minimal.

22.1.d Exceptions to the above shall be permitted for individual compartments open to space, on fire, containing hazardous chemical spills, or otherwise suffering emergency situations at the discretion of Damage Control Central or the safety officer on the scene, provided that these compartments have been isolated from the life-support services in such a manner as to prevent cross-contamination.

22.1.e Provision for monitoring current environmental conditions in real-time using the associated sensor systems shall be provided to the party of the first part by the party of the second part.

22.2 The party of the second part will ensure that all life-support service equipment installed by them shall be up to common industrial (IOSS) standards where relevant, except as agreed in writing with the party of the first part, and that all such equipment shall both support and implement spacer “triple-triple” redundancy standards, and that any deficiencies in this requirement, of whatever kind, shall be made good at the party of the second part’s own expense.

22.3 The party of the second part will ensure that, in the day-to-day operation of the Drift, life-support service reserve supplies, spare parts, and sufficient essential support technicians under contract exist at any time to provide for continuous operation for no less than one year (Imperial Standard) or three times the journey-time to the nearest transit point, whichever is greater.

22.3.a Provision for monitoring records of these supplies, parts, and contracts shall be provided to the party of the first part by the party of the second part, as shall provision for random periodic audits of stocks held by the party of the first part.

22.3.b For the purposes of this clause, the party of the second part will operate under the assumption of a 12% permissible population variance per year, in either direction.

22.4 The party of the second part will post a reflux bond and contract insurance with an banking and insurance institution, approved by the party of the first part, sufficient to provide for full habitat evacuation and resident compensation, per scale, along with any necessary salvage work, in the event of lifesystem collapse or contract default.

22.5 The party of the second part agrees that in addition to the one year of notice specified for contract termination above, they will continue to provide life-support service operation for up to an additional twelve months and/or necessary evacuation time in the event that the party of the first part is unable to contract with and commence receiving service from a replacement life-support service provider within the notice period.

22.6 Both the party of the first part and the party of the second part agree that, in declared emergencies, full command authority devolves upon Damage Control Central and/or the safety officer on site, and shall provide them with their full cooperation and access to technical assets.

22.7 The party of the second part agrees to participation in the recognized habitat mutual-aid organizations of the System in which the Drift is located as a condition of the contract, and shall:

22.7.a. Comply with the requirements of membership of such organizations in addition to the specific requirements of this contract; and

22.7.b Make such supplies, parts, and contracts available to such organizations as are necessary to fulfil obligations to other participating habitats of such organizations as can be made available without compromising the operation of the Drift’s life-support services.

 

Trope-a-Day: Eating Optional

Eating Optional: To an extent. Early modifications, like the chloromorph/dryad clade, merely need to eat less due to their ability to gain energy through photosynthesis, but something close to the complete trope is possible. Just not terribly convenient, as by the time you’ve crammed an entire closed-ecology life-support module and a power supply for it inside a ‘shell, it’s a damned clunky body to have to walk around in – and since thermodynamics, and recycling isn’t perfect, you’ll still need to replenish some materials from time to time anyway.

All of which is to say: while it’s an interesting technical challenge to work on, and the spin-off have been useful, personal autarky is not, in practice, a terribly useful technology per se.

Trope-a-Day: Almost Out of Oxygen

Almost Out Of Oxygen: Still happens occasionally, despite every spacecraft’s emergency kit carrying an ample supply of oxygen candles and lithium hydroxide (because CO2 poisoning is what’ll actually get you; or, well, if the thermal management system isn’t running because of the same problem that’s taken out the life support, you’ll cook) – or the appropriate equivalents for non-oxygen breathers – against exactly this contingency.

Of course, given the realities of space distances that we covered back in Escape Pod, if you should find yourself playing this straight, it almost certainly means you’re dead, or at least your current set of bodies are.  So it goes.

Mutual Annihilation

antiriot (n.): A social version of pair production.

To fully explain the antiriot, it is first necessary to explain the riot. This is a socially-accepted form of low-level terrorism found on some barbarian outworlds, in which a mob engages in violence and property destruction as a means to coerce – through embarrassment and pressure exerted by their victims – a local governance to give them, or more often their backers, whatever they want in exchange for not repeating the exercise.

As a custom, this interacts poorly with spacer culture. After all, if you break windows, loot, and set things on fire dirtside, and you get away uncaptured, the consequences are borne largely by property owners and their insurers, not by you yourself. In space or on hostile-environment worlds, however, where survival without infrastructure is anything but guaranteed, the equivalent exercise is likely to lead to any of several ways to die ugly, gasping deaths, for you and anyone else in the vicinity.

Thus, if the stereotype of a riot is a wild, drunk, angry mob smashing, looting, and burning with merry abandon, the stereotype of an antiriot is a sober, grim-looking phalanx dressed in neat station jumpsuits, rapping rioters smartly across the head with bolt keys as a prelude to throwing them out the nearest unoccupied cargo airlock in an orderly fashion.

Such an antiriot can be relied upon to assemble any time there is a riot in a spacer-dominated area, because spacers enjoy continuing to breathe and have very little sense of humor where related issues are concerned.

It is also notable that, while the law in the majority of the regions which give rise to riots and hence antiriots are concerned considers the acts constituting antirioting at least as illegal, if not more so, as those constituting rioting, law enforcement and station security forces have demonstrated a remarkable inability to stop antiriots or even to identify any but the smallest possible number of antirioters in the aftermath of such an event.  On this point, the consensus of opinion is that security forces also like to breathe.

Perhaps the most notable exception to this is the well-known case of Ngennye Station, in which the entire antiriot was arrested after the fact by a private security company relatively new to the station. That said, the case’s notoriety is a result of a hundred-strong group charged with murder and mayhem being convicted, in the end, of “negligent disposal of organic waste”, and sentenced to community service – namely, hauling back in and recycling the ex-rioters.

(It need hardly be added that the peace authority’s appointed justice was a station native.)

– A Star Traveller’s Dictionary

 

Darkness Within (12): Airy Problems

About that LOX tank…

The least well defined part of this candle plan has always been how to stay breathing. Before leaving Gutpunch‘s hulk, I can recharge my suit reservoirs with the last of the oxygen and inert-mix1 from the emergency supplies. That would be enough for a local journey – which is why most candles don’t have life-support systems – but this isn’t local travel I’m embarking on.

My original loose thoughts involved building some kind of bastardized non-chemical scrubber to take the CO2 out – freeze it out, perhaps – and patch that into one of the spare suits. Recycle the rest of the gas mix until the ppO2 falls too low to survive even in survival hibernation.

But such a scrubber would be massy – not a good thing on a thrust-limited candle – would take more time to build than I really have to spend, and would require substantial patching of the suit software to play nicely with the new hardware.

So instead, I’m going to attach this full LOX tank with a scavenged reduction valve, and run a pipe – flexpipe, I have plenty of – wrapped around a resistive heater to take the chill off the gas, and plug it straight into my suit’s O2 recharge port.

The flaw is obvious: I can’t scrub dioxide once the support backpack’s sequester runs out, because I don’t have spares for it and won’t have the ship’s system to regenerate it. Fortunately, the suit has a suite of emergency protocols designed for handling this situation: presented with an inability to scrub dioxide and a plentiful supply of oxygen, its decision-tree will tell it to start dumping high-CO2 air into space and backfill with pure oxygen, while dropping the pressure just as fast as it can along a curve calculated as the best compromise between efficient switching from a high-pressure standard-atmosphere protocol to a low-pressure pure-oxygen one and avoiding giving its unfortunate wearer a nasty case of decompression sickness on top of her other problems.

This is wasteful of atmosphere and more than a little dangerous. By all Navy regulations and engineering best practices, intentionally doing this is an insane design choice. In the event that this log is being read by the people who fished my vector stack out of a suit-shaped mass of char, I hereby grant you permission to tell me that you told me so at great length. Even if it’s not, I’m going to pay for it with extra time in the vat.

But it will get me extended life support and a decent chunk of extra delta-v.

 


1. “Inert-mix” is the preblended nitrogen-argon mix used to simulate a standard atmosphere.

Darkness Within (3): Breathe Shallow

MET 184-12+34

Got out of my pod.

Expenditures: one podful of soured air, and a can of Quicksilver Quaff I’d forgotten which didn’t take well to depressurization. That’s not going to be viable in the long run, especially since it’ll be fresh air unless I wait exactly 12 hours-and-some in between every time I take a walk.

That, at least, should be easy enough to fix. There are five other pods on the port side, each with its own emergency oxygen tank and dioxide scrubbers. If I pull the access panels, I can unhook them and link them into the feed for my pod – well, not my pod, one that I’ve not bled all over – and scavenge their scrubber cartridges, likewise.

At least with the ship shot all to hell like this, it’ll be easy enough to scavenge the necessary pipework. The floor of what used to be the axial corridor is ripped up; I can see down through the plenum cable bundles as far as the mass driver coils. The battery room’s missing its deckhead, just a fragment left curling up from the outer hull fitting, leaving all the accumulator coil-stacks exposed to space. I should rig a k-blanket over that to prevent further damage, but air first.

Where was I? The twelve-hour wait problem. Rigging the scavenged tanks and scrubbers will provide more air, but won’t solve air loss from entering and leaving, and the pod system isn’t designed to depressurize and depressurize unassisted. I do, though, have an airlock that isn’t useful any more. If I pull the backup atmo pump and a gas backflow valve from that, then put the existing regulator on a toggle, it should be possible to rig a manual system.

The for’ard mess is holding air, by the hatch telltales. Getting in without losing it will be tricky. I do have a couple of rescue balls…

Air Ain’t Free

“Charges in place? Conduits sealed? Okay, go ahead and open it up.”

The heavy wrench descending, clangingly, on the sealed emergency hatch once, twice, three times before the seal broke, a wave of fouled air rushing out past the linobir enforcer and hsis men. Beyond, the milling crowd, faces pale and dark and congested with nerves, eyed them uneasily and decided not to make a break for it.

“All right, which of you self-fuckin’ dock-rats claims t’be in charge of this section?” hse bellowed. “He’s got some things to ‘splain and so have I. Speak out, if breathin’ this crud hasn’t rotted your brains too much to parse plain Trade.”

Hser eye fell on a pair of scruffy deshnik arguing with one of his men, brandishing a smart-paper token.

“She’s got a pass? Any of the rest of you recognize this one?”

“Sure, boss, up on Thirty with the Torashanika clan.”

“Then get out of here – Just you, kid. He ain’t got a pass… No arguin’. You got three choices. You can stay here and kiss space with the rest of ‘em when their time comes, or you can run back to your clan-group and try an’ talk ‘em into buying out his life-debt.” Not that there was much chance of even a desperate clan-group doing that for a casteless deshnika flesh-peddler. “Or you can try and get past me an’ I’ll paint the deckhead with your brains. Estrev always gets his cut; no exceptions.”

“Listen up, the rest of you clut-grubbers! I speak for the drift-estrev, and the drift-estrev is not happy. You’re breathin’ his air and burnin’ his bunkerage, and what’s he getting back from you? Nothin’ but dioxide, taint, and an infestation of this pink shit.”

The linobir kicked at a squirming tendril of the ubiquitous hab-slime with a mid-limb.

“Now the estrev says you’ve got two cycles to pay off your life-debts and figure out how to make him value your worthless selves, or else I get to take the four pounds of trinol packed into these joints and blow your shit-house sewerslum right off station-end. Tell whoever’s hidin’ back there and breathe deep while y’can.”

“Close it up, boys. Message delivered.”