A Mess of Plans

Doc and Steve return to a flooded apartment. The water is only a couple inches deep outside the living room pool, but smells of rotting food, whiskey, and general befoulment. The video screen is playing a terrible porno at full volume. Two extremely large gentlemen are having their way with an impossibly larger female whose clown makeup does nothing to diminish the pimply, freckled horror beneath. The funky jazz-metal soundtrack, poorly composed and played with heavy distortion to cover up for a lack of musical talent, scratches the eardrums like a dentist's ultrasonic probe against silver filled molars. The smell is fantastically horrific, like one would imagine a Lovecraftian horror would smell after a three day bender. It even feels bad. The air is swampy and sticky, and the water is a putrid flavor of lukewarm.

Mark and Thunderhorse are not to be found.

"VIDEO OFF!!" Steve shouts. The television mercifully complies, and the exterior view takes its place. The stars turning inside out and spinning in incomprehensible dimensions beyond the window does not in any way help slow the exponentially increasing sense of nausia.

"Close the window," Steve asks, holding back the burger they stopped for on the way home.

Doc, still filthy from battle, volunteers to inspect the damage closer. It appears the drains and overflows on the living room sauna are clogged with various articles of clothing, wigs, and stuffed animals. At least Doc hopes they're stuffed as he yanks them out of the drains. With a hideous sucking sound, the water level begins to recede.

After that it's a long overdue sonic shower with as much antibacterial mist as can be withstood by human skin, followed by eight hours of peaceful sleep. So peaceful, Doc does not hear the cleaning crew Steve had summoned, or Mark and Thunderhorse stumbling back home in the wee hours of the morning.

According to the bedside clock, it's now six in the morning ship's time on "Threeday," which the holographic cruise director floating out from the round, flat device has designated "Hawaii Day." Doc swats her away and gets up to grab a cup of coffee.

Steve is already up. The television is a wall of schematics and information. He's staring at it blankly.

Mark is passed out on the couch. His shirt and jacket are stained and he smells like vomit. Thunderhorse is face down in a corner, snoring loudly.

Doc has a seat next to Steve as far away from Mark as he can get.

"I see the kids made it back okay last night."

"Relatively, I guess," Steve replies.

"Working on a plan?" Doc asks, sipping his hot coffee carefully. It's a wonderful Kona blend in the spirit of today's holiday.

"This ship is impossibly huge. I don't see how we're going to capture it. We can't exactly storm it. There are more than three million people on board. About three hundred thousand of them are crew members, and about ten thousand of those are security personnel. So unless we incite a total riot and accept that many, many innocent people will be shot, there's no way we're going to take the bridge by force."

"How many of them are pirates?"

"I asked Veronica that question earlier. She says that most of the crew are just regular people, including the security guards. The pirates are all upper rank commanders. The entire raider fleet is pirates, of course. The heads of every department including security, PR, engineering, even science and medical are all pirates. The entire command crew are pirates, as well. The only exception is Captain Hosep Jazelwuud, the ship's pilot, who was planted here by StarScape's investors. According to Veronica, though, he doesn't actually have any command over the ship. The helmsmen only follow orders from Spaaz. Jazelwuud is always too drunk to notice, anyway."

"Can it be controlled remotely? Can you hack the system and take over?"

"If only. The ship is just too complex. At most I can control one system at a time, and even then there are redundant systems that can override whatever I'm controling. For example, if I got access to the XD throttler, someone else could simply shut that throttler down and use a redundant one. There are about twenty of those. The computer system is fundamentally designed to not allow access to more than one controller from one terminal at one time. To even think about taking direct control of the engines, I'd have to spend a week hardwiring together the twenty seperate servers in twenty seperate datacenters which are scattered over the engineering deck. Even then I would only have control over how fast we go, not where we go or even stopping the ship."

"How do they control the ship then?"

"Seperate operators confirm each other's commands from seperate terminals on seperate hard-line networks in seperate parts of the ship. Only Admiral Spaaz has the authority to command them all at once. Although, Captain Jazelwuud's control pad may be pre-programmed with certain orders from Admiral Spaaz. It's more than likely locked down to only accept certain inputs at certain times. There's a slight chance it has emergency override capabilities, but I doubt Spaaz would give that kind of authority to Jazelwuud. Maybe someone else has override authority."

"Spaaz's first mate?"

"I thought of that. Veronica doesn't know who it is. None of the pirate commanders know, at least none of them say they do. This is all conjecture. It's possible there's no first mate at all and anarchy will rule in a power vacuum."

"In that case, if we take out Spaaz the ship is dead in the water."

"And if there's a secret first mate then it isn't. Hell, Spaaz could be a puppet himself for all we know." Steve takes off his glasses and massages his temples.

"I think we're getting needlessly paranoid," Doc says. "Can't we just get everyone into their ships and fly off this thing?"

"Not while we're moving. The Pear is the only ship with an XD drive. Every other ship would be trapped in FTL forever. And again, there's the problem of getting three million people to risk death to storm the command deck."

"But that means that we have a way out. What about calling for help? I know they're blocking radio transmissions from the ship. Can we leave on the Pear and call in the EDF or something?"

"There's no FTL communications in this era. It would take years for the signal to reach anyone. We could theoretically warn Selph of impending attack, but not until we're there and it's pretty much too late."

"What's Veronica's plan?" Doc asks.

"Her plan is to wait until we arrive at Selph, go out with the raiding party, split off with the group, and bomb the hell out of the command deck while the rest of the fighter defenses are occupied while somehow avoiding getting blasted to shreds by the ship's batteries. Once the ship is disabled, she radios for help. Failing that, she launches all her warheads into the Bussard ramjet intakes and hope for a chain reaction that destroys the ship."

"Sounds risky."

"Sounds impossible. Assuming she survives the turrets and disables the magnetic shields, no amount of nuclear warheads to the bridge will disable the ship entirely, not with all the redundant systems in place. And a nuclear blast in a ramjet intake will only disable the intake. The thing is designed to absorb that kind of energy and feed it into the core."

"Can we help her out? Maybe disable the weapons systems or sabotage something for her?"

"It's a possibility. While we can't control all the turrets at once, if we can get control of a torpedo bay I might be able to program them to hit the ship's other turrets or even the bridge. If we can get to a magnetic projector array, we can create a weak spot in the shields. But still the redundant systems problem remains. If we wipe out the bridge, command control will continue from elsewhere. The best we'll get is a temporary disabling."

"That might be all we need. So what about the final option? If all else fails, how do we destroy the ship?"

"Well, releasing the core contaiment will allow the fuel mass to expand back into our dimension, crushing the ship in the gravity field and creating a brand new neutron star between Sol and Alpha Centuari, which will then explode as it reacts with the anti-matter core trying to do the same thing. The resulting gamma ray burst and neutrino shower will be harmful to both Earth and Centuari ecologies. Not totally devastating, but very harmful. Imagine a Chernobyl event across an entire hemisphere on both Earth and Selph. We will be instantly killed unless we're lightyears away when it goes."

"Okay, before I ask how to release the core containment, are there any less utterly devastating ways to destroy the ship?"

"If we had any way to override the XD throttling, we could release the core into the second tier dimensions, flinging it wildly and hopelessly forever into the oblivion of intergalactic space. We could escape on the Pear and leave the pirates and everyone on board to slowly freeze to death as power runs out over the course of centuries."

"Doesn't sound great, either."

"That's why they have such strict controls over that kind of thing."

"Can we disable the control mechanisms for the core without losing containment?"

"Hmm. Possibly. If we can gain access to Primary Core Engineering it's a simple matter of cutting the fiberoptic feeds from the datacenters. Simple is understating the matter, actually. There's probably redundant lines and local manual overrides, but if we can find all of those and disable them, the Core should lock to it's current state. We wouldn't want to do it until we're stopped, though."

"But then people could get out safely."

"As safe as the riot on the way out could possibly be."

A lazy, half asleep voice emerges from the vomit stain on the couch. "I say we jes sneak off. I don't want nothing to do with no pie rats. We get to the Pear and giddiup!" Mark groans at the effort to speak, then rolls over and buries his face in the cushions.

Thunderhorse continues snoring loudly in the corner.

"Are there any other possible ways to stop or destroy this ship?" Doc asks.

"Besides hundreds of high yield nuclear warheads in strategically placed to completely disrupt the superstructure, no. " Steve answers.

"Veronica said they're going to scrap the ship when they're done. They must have a plan to disassemble it. If that's the only way to tear it apart, maybe they already have a system like that in place."

"It's definately possible, but I can't find any evidence of it on the schematics. This is just brochure information, though. I need access to a real terminal again. There's probably a thousand safety systems in our way of detonating that, though."

"Hmm." Doc sips his coffee some more. Steve sips some of his own. They sit a while and ponder their options.

Steve breaks the silence. "Any ideas yet?"

1 comment:

Doc said...

"Why don't we just mark this spot with a time hole, jump into the Brother Pear and come back when we can fix things? Wouldn't it be more important to save the universe and then come back for these folks? Honestly Steve, unless you or Veronica can come up with something, I'm tapped out."