The Stars Came Back -042- Gigajoules

Fade in

INT-Day- Engineering.

Stenson, a couple of his maintenance crew are working in an open access panels near the back wall. Stenson turns a wrench, tightening a bolt down, done with his immediate task. Suddenly, in the corner of his eye he sees the lit-candle logo dimly lighting up and glowing just above a closed access panel. He looks at it, cocks his head as if thinking a bit.Stenson: (voice pitched to the Ship AI) What does the candle signify? What’s behind the hatch here? (he taps it with the wrench he still has in his hand)

Ship AI: (OC) It is the symbol for a roman candle maker. Storage.

Stenson: Storage for what?

Ship AI: (OC) A type of roman candle.

Stenson: What type?

Ship AI: (OC) The type we have on board that needs storing.

Stenson: We have roman candles on board?

Ship AI: (OC) Negative.

Stenson: But you just said we did.

Ship AI: (OC) Negative.

Stenson: Yes, you said we have roman candles on board that need storing.

Ship AI: (OC) Negative. I said roman candle.

Stenson: That’s what I SAID you said.

Ship AI: (OC) Negative. There is no letter “S” in roman candle.

Stenson: So we have A roman candle on board.

Ship AI: (OC) Partially affirmative.

Stenson: “partially” affirmative? What’s THAT mean?

Ship AI: (OC) We have parts of a roman candle aboard.

Crewman one: How do you have PART of a candle?

Ship AI: (OC) By not having all the parts, in proper storage.

Stenson: But you just said we only had ONE.

Ship AI: (OC) Negative.

Stenson: YES, you DID!

Ship AI: (OC) Would you like me to replay a record of the conversation?

Stenson: No. Tell me exactly what you DO have.

Ship AI: (OC) Parts. Storage. Missing parts.

Stenson closes his eyes. Breathes in slowly through his nose. Hold. Out slowly though his mouth. Again. He opens his eyes.

Stenson: So, you have some of the parts of a single item you are calling a roman candle, and their proper place is inside that storage area?

Ship AI: (OC) Affirmative.

Stenson: Is there any other name that this “roman candle” might be known as?

Ship AI: (OC) Affirmative.

Stenson: What is it?

Ship AI: (OC) A specialized high-capacity energy storage and conversion system.

Stenson: What capacity?

Ship AI: (OC) Fourty-two gigajoules.

Stenson: THAT could be useful. What’s it for?

Ship AI: (OC) Storing and converting energy.

Stenson: What kind of energy?

Ship AI: (OC) Potential into useful.

Stenson: (frustrated) Oh, for the LOVE of-!

Ship AI: (OC) When stored properly, it should become readily apparent.

Stenson: OK, so where are the parts?

Ship AI: (OC) Not in storage.

Stenson: (tiredly, to maintenance crewman) Some days, I just want to hit the big reset button.

Crewman: Why don’t you?

Stenson: Don’t know where it is, yet.

Suddenly all the lights go out, except three of them. The light panels directly over three of the cylinders that have been getting kicked around. [reminder: they are .7m across and 1m long with a .1m hole in the top, like a soup can with a lengthwise hole in the top]. Two are being used like a saw-horse to support some machinery they were working on. One is standing alone in a corner with the remains of lunch on it, and a flower-vase covering the center-hole. On each of them, the lit-candle logo can be seen gleaming faintly in the light. One of the lights is full power, the other two are at about 1/4 power.

Stenson: I assume the well-lit one goes in first?

Ship AI gives no response.

Stenson open the hatch. He peers inside. It appears to be a top-loading access point to a tube below deck level. He leans in and peers down it. It stretches off quite a ways in both directions, empty, fading into the distance; as near as he can tell, it goes to each end of the ship. Stenson stands back up, scratching his head thoughtfully. He and the two crewmen go over to the well-lit cylinder, and man-handle it over to near the open hatch; it’s obviously heavy. It looks like it will be a tight squeeze. On a wall-mounted screen off to the side of the hatch, a simple diagram and animation pops up, showing how to place it and roll it into place, with the candle logo at one end. They roll it into the hatch, and a set of wall-mounted mechanisms lock onto it, rotates it a bit in place, settles it down into place below floor level. Then it gets whisked down the tube, like a train leaving the station.

Stenson: Huh. Well, we can clear a bit of space up by getting them all in there. You two (indicates the two men he’s working with) get Alvarez, Kumar, Dixit, and Franks up here and get them all in there. If you have a question, ask if you can’t figure it out or the AI loses any more bits. Don’t know if order make any difference, so you’ll have to be REALLY exact with your questions. AI seems to be a bit more literal today than normal.

The crewman nods assent, and heads out to start locating other cylinders and help.

Fade to black



6 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -042- Gigajoules

  1. Well, at least it wasn’t 1.21 gigawatts. They would be totally underpowered.

    • Considering the magnitude of the time component of this particular conversion in primary use, 1.21 gigawatts WOULD be under powered. In terms of watts, um, yeah, this is well past the terawatt range.

  2. If my math is correct, 42 gigajoule is only the equivalent of 1/100th kilotons… Not anything to sneeze at if it was turned loose all at once in your neighborhood, but really not that big an ammount of energy. About equivalent to burning 7 barrels of crude oil…

    • Yup. About ten tons TNT equivalent; not gigantic, but not insignificant. Of course, it’s not like these might be used to store extra energy coming in through a power line through a broadcast power trickle-charger system to use as emergency backup power, or anything, right? (Also, all sci-fi fans KNOW that “42” is the answer.) For comparison, consider the “silver bullet” penetrator fired from the 120mm canon of an M1 Abrams at more than 5,000 fps is a bit less than 20 MEGA joules.

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