Darkness Within (23): Ping

ping ping ping ping ping

Grid minus two, plus eleven. Negative ping response.

This is taking too long. It’s been almost two of my three hours. And so far…

ping ping ping ping ping

Grid minus one, plus eleven. Negative ping response.

…no sign of the cutter. Just some small scraps, nothing big enough by half. Now…

ping ping ping PING ping

Grid zero, plus eleven. Positive ping response. Profiling.

…maybe? Ah, crap. It’s clean, but it’s tiny. Can’t be any more than a toolbox.

ping ping ping ping ping

Grid plus one, plus eleven. Negative ping response.

So be it. Five minutes. Then I make for the aft…

ping ping ping ping ping

Grid plus two, plus eleven. Negative ping response.

…section. No delays, Isif. No more scanning. Just make the run you can.

ping PING PING PING ping

Grid plus three, plus eleven, positive ping response and — void gods’ imperceptible excrement! Thirty by eight, cylindrical profile! That’s the damn cutter!

navmod<- !gyrospin exec (spotter::current)

I’m coming for you.


Darkness Within (21): On the Drift

Z plus four seconds

Mind-state transmission received: 3.301229 exp 16 octets validated.
Identity confirmed: Isif Alclair-ith-Alclair [UCID and mindprint match].

Dynamic mind-state analysis confirms mental integrity.
Cannot contact Am-I-Me service [no endpoint].
Cannot contact Identity Tribunal (proxy) [no endpoint].
Cannot contact incarnation insurance provider (proxy) [no endpoint].
Identity assumed pending verification under emergency protocol.

Noetic reinstantion complete; initiating corporal teleoperation.

That’s it, then. All is ready. Time to go. I enable full connection with the router, and the candle’s controls blossom in my mind’s eye.

One last glance around. The lights in the bay are dimming to as my script runs the shutdown-safe sequence, leaving nothing but the emergency protonic inserts. The remaining nodes on the ship’s mesh execute orderly terminations and wink out, one by one. The spacetight doors remain shut, but I’m heading out the fractured end – most of the floating debris was cleared in my rebuilding efforts.

I think again of the scuttling charges, but there are no secrets to protect in this fragment of a ship, except those I’m taking with me.

I feed a trickle of hydrogen to my thrusters, start myself gliding forward at safe-in-dock speed.

Farewell, Gutpunch! Thank you for my life.

Z plus three minutes

Here’s the plan.

I have approximately 48 hours of breath remaining, if I stay calm and breathe shallow. That’s more than I need to get near enough to the stargate to be rescued, but not by all that much. If I can find that vector-control core from the cutter. If I can’t, I have to work with the native delta-v I have, and it will be even more important to set off early because I’ll barely be able to get inside the search cube.

So I’m giving myself three hours from now. Pointing the spotter backwards tells me I’m now a good mile clear of the hulk. The way the hull fractured tells me that Gutpunch was struck from ventral, portside, and for’ard and recalling the camera images from first waking and doing some crude plots on the after-section debris, it seems to have drifted mostly aft-relative – probably venting tanks added some thrust in that direction – with relatively small starboard and dorsal components. It also looks to have developed a Y-spin. (I’m keeping the hulk’s orientation as an inertial reference, for now.)

With the auxiliary battery room up front, if the reactors scrammed – and the reactors must have scrammed – and the aft section spinning like that, it’s very unlikely the aft half of the cutter could have stayed in the hangar. The tie-downs would have almost certainly snapped.

So assume that. Assume it got flung out, and flung out at the moment of greatest stress. That would be on the first spin when there was also thrust to take into account, which should put the cutter somewhere relatively close to the aft section, but further starboard-dorsal relative to the hulk.

I should be able to find the aft section easily enough with the spotter; it’ll be the biggest object within its range. Then all I have to do is scan the space near it along the right sector for something with the right proportions to be cutter-hull, and that should have my core in it.

If it doesn’t – well, it’s the highest-probability option. If nothing shows after two hours, I’ll continue scanning on the way to the aft section, just in case the tie-downs held. If that doesn’t pan out, I abort to plan B. Not enough time to check any other options.

And I’ll get to it.



spotter (n.): An ancient spacer’s tool, dating back almost as far as the navigator’s sextant, the engineer’s multi, or the medtech’s hand effector, used for locating and profiling distant objects in space: a boon to anyone who has to manage a docking bay, shift cargo in microgravity, perform extravehicular activities in crowded neighborhoods, or engage in the smallest of small-craft operations, which is to say, riding a candle.

The original spotters were no more than handheld radar transceivers with direct audio feedback into the user’s helmet interface. Wave it around, and when you hear beeping, it’s pointing at something. The faster the beeping, the closer that something is to you. Learning what a particular rate meant in terms of range, and keeping an ear on the change of beep rate, were left as skills for the user to develop.

The modern spotter is a rather more sophisticated device, thanks to miniaturization and commercial development. HUD feedback now monitors its position relative to your body to provide a more accurate sense of direction, and even the most basic models provide precise range and closing rate information. More advanced models use a phased-array antenna to sweep the beam across a target once detected, providing a profile for target recognition purposes and an estimate of spin.

Of course, there is in theory very little use for a spotter in the current age of space, since all spacecraft from the largest to the smallest include a transponder, and are further constructed from LOP-compliant hardware which will obligingly disclose its location upon receiving a network request. The Grand Survey has detailed charts of every object in space larger than a child’s ball. All objects within range should therefore, says theory, already be highlighted on your HUD.

It is a sign of the tremendous respect that spacer culture has for theory that there are at least a brace of spotters stored in every airlock and docking bay from the Core to the Rim.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary