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Log of the Month for May, 2011

Working Better Under Pressure?
Posted on May 26th, 2011 by Douglas McKnight

“So, now we have their story, at least so far as they’ll care to discuss it.” Keratan Strokhar began, nodding to the speaker on the wall of their designated crisis center, a speaker which even now faithfully relayed the conversation with the alien commander, he continued. “Of course, that is if we choose to trust their intent. Personally, given both their initial decision to board our ship so as to carry out sabotage against our computer systems, an act we are currently hard-pressed to confirm they even aborted mind you, and the subsequent declaration that we would be well advised to take them at their word simply because we can’t do a thing to stop them from doing as they please…my trust is sorely strained just now. That we’ve all gathered here shows a like-mindedness. So, to it then. Their word, and their power. What can we contribute to that?”

“We launched one of our camera drones shortly after the alien technician made her claims; our diagnostic systems confirm those claims, but as you say, we do not know to any real degree of certainty whether those systems can still be trusted. The drones and their receiving monitors are, of course, an entirely self-contained system, sharing no network connection, either hard line or wireless, to the other systems in question. The camera footage…it confirms the presence of physical damage to our ramjet assembly. We can’t be sure of anything until we’ve completed a proper spectrographic analysis, of course. But it does LOOK consistent enough with a meteoroid impact. As do a number of impact points all along our superstructure. All of those stopped by the shield layer. So…no hull breaches, at least.”

“Right now, we’re hardly in a position to spurn whatever blessings the ancestors see fit to give. Time on the hull analysis?”

“Two solar hours. Three before we’ll be able to confirm or deny the presence of malicious program code of some kind in our systems.”

“So for the moment, it seems we have little choice but to trust them, or at least do a better job of looking like we do. But if that should change, what then? The ability to both disarm and contain us at a whim and from a distance means we have literally no way to fight back. But that’s precisely why we chose this room to meet. Shalan, what say you? Does the proposed countermeasure have any merit?”

“As I told you when you approached me about this privately, certainty is an impossibility.” Tech Specialist Second Class Shalan replied with a somewhat annoyed air before he deigned to move on to what his subsequent considerations had led to. “I just can’t begin to imagine the specifics of how a device like that would even work. However, in a more general sense, it would unquestionably rely on extraordinarily accurate and specific information. To…to take a man apart completely, move him to whatever destination you like, and rebuild him exactly as he was? It’s staggering. You’d need to know your target down to the constituent atoms. Without that information, ever scrap of that information, the process would be impossible…at least, provided that killing the target was something you wished to avoid.”

“Let’s consider one nightmare scenario at a time, shall we? Yes? Thank you. My layman’s guess went much the same way, as it happened. So, we deny them their scans, we deny them their beaming technology. Ideally, granted. So can we do that?”

“…Maybe. The ship’s superstructure, bear in mind, was designed to block the transmission of cosmic radiation, among other things. And whatever kind of scanners these aliens use, any active scan would have to be some kind of radiation. Obviously, our shielding is woefully inadequate to stop their technology, but assuming it’s still SOME kind of impediment…then we can throw up more of the same in their way.”

With that, he gestured to the observation window behind them, offering a view of the powerful fusion reactor that powered the ship’s engines and the rest of their primary systems. In the event of an emergency, twin layers of heavy radiation shielding would come down on either side of that window. The rest of the compartment was already built heavily shielded by default for the safety of the technicians attempting to control a meltdown.

“As you know, this is the most energy impermeable spot on the ship. More shielding, harder to penetrate. Now, active interference would also get in the way. That’s why we have a hard communications line in here with the rest of the ship. We’ve never run the thing that hot, but in theory, the reactor can throw out enough radiation to cause major interference with personal radios. So that’s theoretically two lines of defense. Give me some time, and I can probably rig up something to transmit electronic interference as well…enough to foul our own radar systems at least. So…again, it’s a maybe.”

“I’ll take it. Best of all, as many of us as we can move without alerting the aliens, we can fit the all in here and the sub-level.”

“Well, sure. All that shielding means the designers also saw it as our best logical option as far as an emergency crew shelter against ion storms. But, and forgive me if I’m just being stupid, what’s the point? So maybe, MAYBE we can hide from them in here. That still leaves the problem of their ship. We’re totally unarmed.”

And for the first time since awakening, Keratan Strokhar found cause to smile.

“You questioned once, as I recall, the point of bringing military personnel along on a mission like this. Now you’ve made the point yourself. Your specialty is the right tool for the right job. For men of my profession, our specialty is making do with what you’ve got. With your help, of course. Haven’t you people been listening to yourselves? You’ve told me we’re NOT unarmed. In fact, you’ve said it to me twice now.”

“What are you-”

“Listen, do we have the means to magnetize our outer hull?”

“Um…theoretically, sure? I guess?”

“Then bring up every scan we’ve done of that ship. Then, figure out how much weight would be lost if we removed all the advanced sensory equipment from our second drone. Then, listen closely.”

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1 Comment

  • Atlantis Patch Ian Blackthorne says:

    I changed this to a log, because it’s certainly a lot longer than a highlight! Also, I really liked the perspective from a far technologically inferior race doing what they can to throw us for a loop, if necessary. Very nicely done!

    Just a minor technonitpick! Fusion reactors can’t melt down, the reaction stops without precise control or additional fuel, so you don’t get the runaway heat that causes a meltdown.

    Great log. :)

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