The Stars Came Back -098- Six Cores

Fade in

INT – DAY – Engineering

Stenson and his team look tired, unshaven, and excited.

They have clearly been hard at work a while, and are looking forward to a real test. The readouts are all in the green. Most are steady, some are fluctuating a bit. The sound of the drives is an intense, slightly pulsing hum. Stenson nods in approval at what he sees.

Stenson: OK, four cores hot. Nominal. Bringing number five on line.

He taps a control, and the sound changes, and other tone that doesn’t mix in very well overlays the hum. Then the sound starts to modulate and vary with increasing harshness.

Stenson: Bringing number six on.

He hits another control. Another hum adds to the mix, and it turns harsh and scary sounding, like a demon screeching in the night, pulsing up and down. The engineering team winces at the sounds. The readouts are now bouncing around all over the place, many up into the red. Stenson rubs his chin, looking at the readouts, thinking hard, tapping controls, looking and thinking some more. The sounds get worse. The others in the room start looking nervous.

Helton: (OC, over PA) Is everything OK in there?

Stenson: Nothing breaking yet. Just not able sync them. Sounds worse than it is. Gimme a minute.

Quiritis: (OC, over PA) Italian tune-up?

Stenson thinks a moment, eyeing displays, now almost all into the red.

Stenson: Taj, and ideas? How hard can we push it? Efficiency is pretty bad now. Any lower and we start having heat problems.

Ship AI: (OC) Not familiar with Quiri’s expression.

Stenson: Push it hard, force sync with power and acceleration rather than precision.

Ship AI: (OC) Risky.

Stenson: Could we still use the Sovolov part of the drives if the Harmon’s crap out?

Ship AI: (OC) Maybe. A definite maybe. Too many unknowns to calculate reliably. Initial guess is 70% chance, plus or minus 90%.

Stenson: Very helpful. Is the calc any easier with five drives, so we have one spare, just in case?

Ship AI: (OC) No. The balance is worse. 30% success, plus or minus 60%.

Stenson: OK, then, any bright ideas?

Ship AI: (OC) I’m not the genius around here. YOU thought of the breakthrough.

Stenson: Any better chance starting with the Sovolov end of the drives?

Ship AI: (OC) Unknown. Insufficient data.

Stenson: Feeling lucky?

Ship AI: (OC) I may not be the best one to ask that question.

Stenson: Guys?

The other team members look at him, one with fingers in his ears against the shriek, and they shrug, except for Alvarez, who nods slightly.

Quiritis: (OC) Should I punch it, or just put in earplugs?

Ship AI: (OC) I may not be lucky, but Helton is. Let him decide.

Stenson: (to the air) Captain, feeling lucky?

Cut to

INT – DAY – Bridge

Helton and the rest are at their normal places.

Helton ponders it for a moment, looking at screens and people around him. He nods, grins.

Helton: A good ship. Let’s see if we can be GREAT. Go for it.

Quiritis nods, plays with the controls. The readouts get even more angry looking, the ship starts vibrating noticeably, and the screeching, pulsing, cacophony of the unsynchronized drives gets even worse. Everyone sort of cringes, and shrinks back a bit as the sound and motion crashes around them. The notes of the different drives start getting closer together, making them sound worse, and worse. Readouts are wild, WAY into the red, then back into green, all over the place. Suddenly the sounds of the drives starts converging on a chord that works together, and suddenly with a CRASH it gets a lot quieter, the background notes of the drives are fairly subdued and pleasant, and the readouts all drop into the green. Everyone looks at the screens in front of them, assessing what they see.

Quiritis: (quietly) wow.

Helton: (into mic) How’s it look, Henery?

Stenson: (OC, over PA) WOW! Gimme a sec! Never saw numbers like this. Need to sort it out. Don’t think we went nova, though, so THAT’S good. Never a good career move to tell the captain he just died.

Helton: Quiri? While he’s getting details, big picture?

Quiritis: Drive field strength is HUGE. Max acceleration would be more than any other ship in the system. We might even be able to transition to FTL NOW.

Helton: NOW? You sure? We’re still pretty deep in the well.

Quiritis: If these numbers are right, we’d be able to transition at less than half the normal distance from the gravity centers.

Kaushik: But NOTHING can do it that close! Not even FTL torpedoes!

Quiritis: I KNOW that, but IF these numbers are right, WE can. Field density is off the charts. Field distance could be kilometers. Power and efficiency readings over one hundred percent.

Helton: THAT can’t be right.

Quiritis: Dunno. Sounds wrong, but SEEMS to fit with the rest of the pieces.

Helton looks at the readouts in front of him.

Helton: We’re pulling 18 G’s right now? REALLY?

Quiritis: Yup. AccelaComps over rated max.

Helton: OK, ease back a bit, let’s get a better handle on things. Don’t want to drive like a crazed teenager with new wheels and kill ourselves on something stupid.

Quiritis works the controls, and the read-outs settle lower into the green.

Cut to


Stenson and his team are all looking excited, checking things over with frantic movements and wide eyes. As Stenson talks to “the air” he checks things here and there as he moves around the engineering section, verifying and cross-checking things. Most of the read-outs are steady.

Stenson: Think I got it. ROCK solid. Linked, synced, locked, and ROCK’N! We’re golden, even if we never look at the Sokolov drives again. Best numbers I’ve EVER seen. Stupid high efficiency rates. Field strength that’ll beat anything we might see. Never thought I’d ever see six such perfectly synced drive cores like this. Space tugs have strong fields, but NOTHING like this.

Helton: (OC) Quiri says we can transition NOW, this close. Agree?

Stenson: Think so. Yes. Just about certainly.

Helton: (OC) Want to try that first, or try the Sokolov’s at the same time?

Stenson: Still feeling lucky?

Helton: (OC) Just got married, sunk a pirate, found out we’ve got planet-killers on board, and the fastest self-aware ship in existence. When you’re on a roll, go with it. Ready for a transition?

Stenson: Going with the safer bet, eh?

Cut to


Helton: (with a grin) Being on a roll doesn’t mean you have be a COMPLETE idiot.

He nods to Quiritis to make it happen.

Quiritis: OK, Mr Married Man. Get ready to make history. Even if no-one knows but us.

She works the controls. The sound of the drives changes, drops a bit, then the screens show a suddenly moving star-field.

Cut to

EXT – DAY – space, near Tajemnica

A planet in the distant background is moving slightly, and the space around her glows a cheery yellow-green, pulsing and rippling gently, like an Aurora Borealis. The light of the drive field extends much further and brighter than it ever has before. The field gets brighter, pulls in closer, and Tajemnica disappears from this universe, and the light fades.

Fade to black



8 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -098- Six Cores

  1. Stenson: Taj, ***and*** ideas? How hard can we push it?
    s.b. any?

  2. Sounds like the drives go through a period of “beat frequency oscillation” or BFO before syncing up nicely. Might be worth looking the term up.

    • Sort of. If you recall, Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride” starts with
      I like to dream yes, yes,
      right between my sound machine
      On a cloud of sound I drift in the night
      Any place it goes is right
      Goes far, flies near, to the stars away from here

  3. Sci-fi, to the tune of (pretty much anything by) STEPPENWOLF. Awesome! I’d buy that sound track!

    Nits for the night:

    (actually, Alan beat me to my first one, again…but, again, I’m too lazy to delete that portion and reword my little note, so I’ll just repost it along with my only other “tweak”, and totally ignore the fact that it would have been much, much easier to just delete it in the first place, instead of pounding out this incredibly long run-on sentence explaining how lazy I am when in fact I’m not being lazy at all, just rather silly. Go figger.)

    Stenson: Taj, and ideas? How hard can we push it? Efficiency is pretty bad now. Any lower and we start having heat problems.

    Two nits here: “Taj, ANY ideas?” And “Any lower and WE’LL start having heat problems.”

  4. Nits:
    “Sokolov” is mis-spelled as “Sovolov” twice.

    The last sentence: The field gets brighter, pulls in closer, and Tajemnica disappears from this universe, and the light fades. is just … awkward.
    How about: The field gets brighter, pulls in closer, and Tajemnica disappears from this universe. The light fades.?

    For discussion:
    Last episode (97) didn’t specify, and this one (98) didn’t clarify, so it isn’t clear (to me at least):
    1. If the drives are only now being tested, what was used to get the ship off-world? Harmons? Sokolovs? Accellacomps in weird configuration?
    2. What is it about bringing multiple cores on-line that is so dangerous (reference to wrong-BOOM rather than wrong-ka-thunk)? Surely this is done all the time in ships with multiple drive cores. It would be a well-known engineering issue, with known solutions. Heck, even multi-engine bombers in WWII had issues with RPM matching. This appears analogous.
    3. Previously raised was the strange (and possibly dangerous) configuration of Harmon and Sokolov drives on the same core, so I believe that this episode would be better if the tension relied on the engineering crew doing something at the boundaries of known drive-field science (reflecting the earlier mentioned “breakthrough” by Stenson.) That is, powering both drive systems simultaneously off the same drive cores.

    • Bletch…. stomach bug crawled into my system.
      Typos to be fixed. Thnx.
      Longer answer when I’m not really wanting to be horizontal and motionless, whole shivering under multiple layers while wearing a wool sweater, and something more than warm water sounds good.

    • Well, I’m mostly better, now. Thinking about your questions, and looking over what I wrote, I realized two things – I’d been sloppy on some critical details, and also the direct logical implications of what I had laid out led to Taj being WAY to powerful, which would have spoiled a bunch of stuff, or make them totally unnecessary, or lead to other issues. A high-level paladin with great armor and magical sword thumping orc squads just isn’t a challenge, or very interesting. Basic ending ideas and big picture doesn’t need changing, but I need to do a little bit of corrective re-writing, and a serious think-through on the details so it is properly supported: the why’s need to match the whats for it all to work right.

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