INT – DAY – Cargo bay
The ramp is down, and another cargo truck is backing in. Stenson and Alvarez and another dozen of his trainees are there. The truck slowly lifts and deposits a mid-sized container onto the cargo bay deck with a deep booming sound as it sets down. It is apparently fairly heavy.
Stenson: All RIGHT! Let’s get them upstairs!
Three engineer trainees are man-handling another of the “mystery cylinders” into position to roll into the hatch with the candle logo above it. Stenson stands at a console in the background. They roll it into the hatch, and the automatic handling equipment rotates it slightly, then lowers it out of sight.
Stenson: And THAT should be the last one! NOW, then, let’s see what we can find out about our Roman Candle.
He reaches out, taps a few controls, some readouts change. Suddenly, every screen and light in the whole room goes dark for a moment, leaving the room in total darkness. Then they all turn a deep, intense blue. Then some small, white, blocky text shows up on a couple of screens at the far side of the room.
Alvarez: (quietly) Shit. Did you finally find the reset button? Or kill it?
In the intense blue light, they walk over to the text on the screen. As they get closer, they can read it.
The text reads “Just mess’n with you for that RESET remark. I like my bits the way they are.”
They all get surprised looks or take a gasp of surprise, and all the screens and lighting return to normal.
Stenson looks around him, a suspicious look on his face.
Ship AI: (OC, normal male voice) Would you like to do a system check so we don’t go off half-cocked?
Stenson: (cautiously) Is that a trick question?
Ship AI: (OC) I won’t know until we check the newly installed parts. I’d advise not test firing it at the moment.
Stenson: (surprised) Test firing?
Ship AI: (OC) Yes. Keep it unloaded, and finger off the trigger. It is currently pointed in an unsafe direction, and the backstop is questionable.
Stenson: WHAT backstop?
Ship AI: (OC) The hills behind the shooting range are low and narrow.
Stenson: Ah… backup. WHAT sort of system is it? In NORMAL terms, not just “Roman Candle.”
Ship AI: It converts stored electrical potential energy into other forms.
Stenson: (taking a deep breath) OK. WHAT other forms?
Ship AI: (OC) The one you should be concerned with at the moment is kinetic.
Ship AI: (OC) Yes. That’s why you want to keep it unloaded.
Stenson: Loaded with what?
Ship AI: (OC) Projectiles.
Stenson thinks a minute, looks at the other guys with him.
Ship AI: (OC somewhat apologetic) Ah, found the word you want. Sorry. Scatterbrained. BFR.
Ship AI: (OC Cheerfully) Affirmative. Previous crew referred to it that way… Yes, the R DOES stand for railgun. Finding old memories is fun.
Stenson and the others get looks of “ah-HA” on their faces.
Ship AI: (OC) 42 gigajoule maximum
Ship AI: (OC) Variable, depending on projectile type, size, and need.
Stenson: Velocity with optimal projectile to maximize projectile energy?
Ship AI: (OC) Approximately 130 kilometers per second.
Stenson: Maximum velocity?
Ship AI: (OC) Approximately 300 kilometers per second, depending on conditions.
Stenson: Yeeeaaahhhhh… I think not test-firing it on the ground near a city would be a very neighborly thing to do. That might make a bit of a mess. Of course, the projectile would likely vaporize before it GOT to the hills from atmo heating, but the thunderclap would be pretty major.
Ship AI: (OC) Each section also stores electrical power for emergency use in other systems.
Ship AI: (OC) Either back-feed in normal conduits when in place, or low-power wireless if removed.
Stenson: Like batteries that work anywhere.
Ship AI: (OC) Yes. Most useful when shore power is intermittent and main power is offline.
Stenson gets another “ah ha” expression.
Ship AI: (OC) A small supply of projectiles are located in a locker in the machine room behind the auxiliary bridge, and specifications for more are now available if larger stocks are desired. I’m sure the First Sergeant would want more.
Stenson: He’d want more if we had so many we were tripping over them.
Ship AI: Ammunition is like money. It’s hard to have too much.
Stenson: You’ve been talking to him, haven’t you?
Ship AI: I talk to everyone.
INT – DAY – Bridge
Quiritis is at the helm, running another simulation. Helton walks in.
Helton: Got some GREAT news, oh favorite pilot.
Quiritis: You found out what the M38Js are?
Helton: Even better. The railgun is now officially on-line. All we have-
Quiritis: REALLY!? The BFR?
Quiritis: OK, NOW, we’re a privateer!
Helton: I take it you think a railgun is good to have.
Quiritis: Not just ANY railgun. The BFR is about the best now in use ANYWHERE. You saw how much damage the main railguns on the grav-tanks did?
Quiritis: Those are about 20 megajoules. This one is more than two THOUSAND times as powerful.
Helton raises his eyebrows in surprise.
Helton: When you put it that way…
Quiritis: Not many ships can shrug off a hit equivalent to ten tonnes of explosives focused on a single point. Center hit, nothing short of a small moon can survive. And with the velocity it has, it’s DAMN hard to dodge. Overkill for most things, which is why modern ships go for smaller railguns. Easier to aim, higher rate of fire.
Helton: What do YOU think is best?
Quiritis: Me? Anything on Taj is best. Always does more than it looks like it should on paper. Weapons AND people.
She smiles at him, and Helton smiles back.
Fade to black