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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Imperial Destiny Page 19

     Even limping on one engine, the Hermus set herself down almost gracefully onto the planetoid.  As she made contact with the ground, she shook to a halt.  Three crewmen in exosuits walked out onto the surface, carrying heavy drilling equipment.  It took three hours for the crewmen to return with a load of refined Litanium, the alloy was to toxic to refine onboard the ship.  Prallan knew it would take two days to manufacture the components and install them.  The only upside was that only a handful of engineering crewmen were needed for the process, and maintenance was minimized with the ship sitting on the planetoid.   It meant Lily was no longer pulling double or triple shifts, and he might actually see his wife occasionally over the next few days.

     Prallan quietly opened the door to his quarters.  Lily was not there, but her shift was not over for a couple hours.  He was exhausted, but the crisis had meant many hours of reports not being filed, and other piles of paperwork to sort through.  Somewhere between a supply inventory report and an injury list from the engine failure, Prallan felt that something wasn't right.  Digging through the reports, he found the one that bothered him.  It was Chief Wurstol's scans of the prototype engine.  Not being an engineer, it took him some time to make sense of it, and find what bothered him about the scans.  He pulled up an inventory of the components present when the engine was dismantled.

    Lily opened the door and smiled upon seeing him awake.  "I'm glad to see you waited up for me," she said, tossing her work satchel onto the other desk.  "No engineering equipment in bed, right?"

    "Do you trust the Chief?"

    Her smile faded.  "You want to talk about work after we haven't really been around each other in days?"

    "Not particularly, but  can't get these reports out of my head.  The component the Chief is building....the inducer coil....there doesn't seem to have been one on Engine One.  There definitely isn't one listed in the scrap."  Lily bit her lip.  "You know something about this, don't you?"

     "Do you know who my father is?"  She asked him, sitting on the edge of the bed.

     "No." He admitted.  "We haven't really had time to meet the family."  His own father was an instructor at the Academy, and his mother had died a number of years ago in a shuttle crash.

     "My father is Erdnal Brishan."

     "The famous particle theorist?  The guy whose papers make everyone else in the field look like children?"

     "Yes, that's my dad.  The point being that inducer coil is something he theorized to improve propulsion on photon-based engines.  He has written four different papers on it."

     "The point being?"

     "The inducer coils being built are prototypes.  Five of us came up with the design, based on those papers.  Simulations and initial testing indicated that there was a good chance it would work."

     "If it doesn't, then we are stranded on a planetoid on the edge of Imperial space.  At least before we could have jumped back for repairs."

    "Engine two isn't powerful enough to get us through the jump by itself.  If it was the engine we are supposed to have, then it could, but not the one we have.  The inducer should fix all of that."

    "You should have told me about this idea before we set down on the planet."  He stood from the desk, and walked over to her.  "I could have presented it to the Captain, and he could have decided what to do.  Instead, you and the others have intentionally lied to superior officers and put this ship further in danger."

     "Rickler would never have approved this, and you know that.  He would have tried the jump, the engine would have failed under the strain, and we would have all died."   She was crying now, and Prallan realized he had been yelling.

     "As Captain, that is his right.  He could order us to run into an asteroid, and he would within his rights."

     "Stop yelling at me, I am your wife."  She said, crying openly.  "We did what was best for the ship."

     "In this, you are a crewman and I am the first officer of this ship."  He headed for the door.  "You are confined to quarters until further notice.  I need to speak to your department head, and see who else I need to discipline."

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     The walk to engineering felt much longer than usual.  He had just dressed down his wife and confined her to quarters.  This was precisely what he had worried about.  He stepped through the doors to Engineering, and saw Chief Wurstol and several other engineers milling about the engine they were building.  "Chief, can I have a word?"

    "Of course, sir."  She handed the tool in her hand to one of the other engineers, and walked over.  "This engine should be finished in about ten hours, and inducers installed on both engines about twenty after that.  Then a few hours of testing and tuning and we will be on our way."

     Making sure they were out of earshot, Prallan said in a low voice.  "Assuming the unproven prototype your team invented actually works."

    The Chief's face went white.  "Sir, its the only way we can...."

     "We are stuck on a planetoid unless it works, so it had better.  I have not yet made up my mind as to when I will bring this to the Captain's attention, but it will be brought to his attention."

     "So, you are going to let us continue?"

     "I don't have a choice.  I've read your reports, these engines need the theoretical boost of the inducer to get us safely off this planetoid and through a jump point.  If you succeed, then you have field tested a theoretical component successfully and validated years of theory and research.  If it fails, we are no worse off than we are now."

     "Thank you, sir, I...."

     "Crewman Tigrole has been confined to quarters for the time being.  Don't make my wife lie to me in the future."  Prallan turned and left engineering, dreading with every step the conversation he would have when he reached his quarters.


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