Saturday, July 30, 2016

IW 9 - Diffuse danger


The operators of the TCIV CAMEROON are licensing the use of a Hero-class free trader from a Terran cooperative based in Douala, Cameroon. They scored a rare freight job in a very out-of-the-way location: Khurman Tolstoi station in low-orbit of Prometheus IV. For a reason or another, the UWO has licensed a Vilani company to build a mining station. They have purchased a Gauss accelerator to ferry material between mining locations. However, this type of hardware is highly restricted as it can be rigged into a very large caliber ballistic electromagnetic gun. There is a reason why no Terran corporation has applied for a prospecting license...


Prometheus IV is a distant gaz giant, some 47 AU from the main world. The area is considered "high density planetary belt", with a unusually high radiation belt, and unpatrolled.

Location: Westchester Regional downport, Terra, Terra
Terran timestamp: May 25, 2170 AD

Aeryn arrived in Westchester about 20 minutes before the planned departure. She sneered at the crew and threw her kitbag into her room. She had intended to stay on Terra, but got impressed in no unequivocal terms that she was under contract, and owing a cash advance and thus is in no position to walk away.

Molly confirmed the last of the diagnostic tests on the jump drive. Tom checked the seals on the crates containing the accelerator's parts. Diane ran blu, the pet roboraptor, around the guest accomodation. Anika and Jane were having breakfast in the common room. Everyone went to station. The CAMEROON took off into orbital space for what could be a very long journey as they meant to head into Vilani territory this time. However, the next jump would be the far reaches of Prometheus.

Location: 100D orbital boundary, Prometheus IV, Prometheus
Terran timestamp: June 2, 2170 AD

The jump was tricky and Jane had to redo the calculation twice. Still, the exit turned out to be in a fairly high velocity vector relative to the planet. An ancient planetary event left Prometheus IV's ring into a diffuse shamble. As a result, the approach to the planet would be delicate. She planned a course that would have a net forward vector of 53 mps. At this velocity, any rocks under 3lb would bounce off the hull's armour. Anything larger would either have to be vaporized with the 10MJ laser, or avoided. The reaction time from detection to collision in the worst case scenario would be about 60s. Jane plotted an approach through a lower density route, Anika sat at the gun's station with a large smoothy, and Molly put her finger on the engineer console to manage the power between the thrusters and the laser. The CAMEROON began its 30h journey into what looked on screen like a fireball of radiations. Diane reported no contact with the Khuram Tolstoi station at that time.

Radiation belts are real downers.

Location: 40 light-second from Prometheus IV, Prometheus IV, Prometheus
Terran timestamp: June 2, 2170 AD

Diane picked up a suspicious item on the fringe of its detection envelope, some 25,000 miles away. Its vector not too far off the CAMEROON's, and currently accelerating to match. The radiations were too much to establish connection, so everyone slipped into battle station. Tom, promoted to tactical commander on the bridge ordered a steady course. The contact, probably smaller than the CAMEROON, attempted a maneuver. However, a dense field of rocks forced it into an opposite vector. Diane kept the array's focus, but the contact kept on blinking in and out of sight due to a mixture of radiation, ice crystals and space rocks.

The CAMEROON still couldn't make connection with the Tolstoi. Although no one on board could notice, Jane kept on pushing forward while dodging rocks as the ship's inbound vector component reached 53.2 mps.

Time passed, the radiation grew into a raging fury ionizing the edges of things on the ship's outer shell. Aeryn started to vomit and had to lie down. The crew otherwise was feeling as if they could get ill, but trusted the protection of the nanodrug that they popped when they arrived.

A hero-class free trader entered the situational display. It was clearly on an interception vector. Communications at 10,000 miles in this radioactive mess wasn't possible. Molly readied the power boost routine, but Tom didn't made the call. Jane plotted an escape deeper into the rings and worked a vector against the contact's efforts. The free trader kept a parallel course but slowly faded into the torrent of noise on the array. Diane then reported extreme fatigue, skin-level blisters and nausea.

Location: low-orbit, Prometheus IV, Prometheus
Terran timestamp: June 3, 2170 AD

The Khurram Tolstoi entered the sensor range when the CAMREOON made it out of the inner radiation belt. Radiation levels went below the danger threshold for medium-term exposure. A solution to the station required about 6h to interception. It became clear that KT station was in the early stage of orbital decay. Diane reported a high temperature surface on the station as its perigee brushed against the troposphere.

Dr. Aarlen Smi-Tolstoi, the station's commander, finally established contact and reported that the station was in difficulty. They needed orbital correction, and some 20 Vilanis were seeking evacuation. They ultimately wanted to go back to Nusku, but would be amenable to simply catch a ride to Prometheus' mainworld to buy commercial passages. Without orbital correction, which the station was no longer able to perform with their weak RCS thusters, they would not accept the delivery.

The crew started to brainstorm on ways to monetize the trip. They could use the CAMEROON's powerful thrusters to perform the correction, but this would require a multi-body EVA to somehow fasten the ship and the station together in some kind of way to align the center of mass to the thrust vector. That rescue ought to be worth good money. They also looked at the 20 evacuees as premium passages, possibly going as far as Nusku (6 pcs, 3 jump-2). All of the payoff was, however, contingent to the rescue of the station from turning into a fireball.

Character Cast

  • Tom Anders: Retired Marine, gruff, good hearted. Now get off his cargo hold.
  • Diane Ayetou: born rich and far less qualified than given credit for. Gets an A for A-fort.
  • Jane Calhoun: Business-like business end of things. Reluctant pilot, appreciate spirits and solitude.
  • Anika Kaprescu: Recluse. Did some time, killjoy. The ship’s cat.
  • Aeryn Lorien: Stumbling steward, athlete and nurse. Gets the ribbon for caring the most.
  • Molly Pepper: Engineer and ship’s puppy. Her giggles are wasted on the crew.

No comments: