Another week of unexpected online learning complete! Hopefully next week is the final online week, and then back to in-person to close out the year. That all depends on if the general population can get this current spike under control... and so far people in our province haven't shown that overall level of social consciousness. (Most people here really are trying to mind the needed restrictions. Unfortunately, "most" isn't enough lately.)
Springtime is super hard to stay focused on school under the best conditions, and at home with a backyard beckoning and the sun pouring through the windows is definitely not best conditions lol. It'll likely be harder next week once the kids are free of quarantine restrictions from being close contacts and we're able to go for walks and bike rides again. Friends, I am not strong enough to resist skipping an afternoon class session in favor of taking a bag of spinach over to the duck pond to bribe fuzzy ducklings closer. I remember Springtime in elementary school and, if I'd had the choice, the duck pond would have been my choice, too.
No writing this week for me, but I did get to edit a little bit of the writing my kids are doing. It's very cool to see voice so strongly developed in my 9-year-old's writing, especially because her style is very consistent across her research projects and creative writing. She knows what she wants to say and the presentation is lovely to read. (Yes, of course there's parental bias, but her teachers praise her as well so I'm going to mom-brag a little.)
“Oh, hey, look at this,” Trevor called, grinning at Leo and pointing at the panel she’d just turned on. He came over for a quick glance on his way back to the handheld and stopped to stare.
“Oh wow! That’s got to be first or second generation InterStel!” he said.
“Right?” she asked, as excited as he was. “I bet this even still has signal distance delay!”
“It does! Look, right there” –he pointed at the corner of the display screen– “the option to have messages time stamped. So this is first generation InterStel. Wow.”
They grinned at each other before Leo turned away to get back to the handheld.
“I knew Dockland was old, but I didn’t know Dockland was this old,” Trevor said. “I bet this control room was latest tech when this ship was built,” she added. She’d already moved to the next bank of panels, her angle of sight giving her a partial view of the backs of ones she’d just powered on. She flicked the needed switches and then squinted at the first panels. “Stars align…” she muttered, walking closer so she could look down the InterStel panels’ backs to the flooring.
“What’s wrong?” Leo asked as he walked to the third, completely unfamiliar panel along the bank he was turning on. The antique handheld said this one was called the P.O.R.A.
“These lines have conversion couplings,” Trevor said, tracing fingers along one of the connections on the back of one panel. Her eyes followed the cables to the floor and she saw the dark, half-crescent of an unfilled securement bolt hole at the bottom of the panel backing.
“Makes sense with how many times Dockland has been upgraded,” Leo said, shrugging as he flicked the switches and pressed a button to start power coming into the panel he was turning on. The screens of the first two were still scrolling through their start-ups.
“No, not converting up. These couplings convert down to the hardline tie-ins,” she said, staring at him and holding his gaze when he finally looked her way. “These InterStel panels weren’t an addition to this ship, Leo. They were an upgrade.”
“What? No,” Leo said, shaking his head as he came over to stand beside her. “Every registered ship prior first generation InterStel communication was decommissioned and destroyed as part of New Wave Anti-Martial Items laws back – what? – almost a hundred standard years ago.”
He studied the couplings, his complexion paling as he leaned over the gap between panel backs to scrutinize the cabling Trevor had just been studying. He also saw the edges of multiple bolt holes, and that the hardline cables by the floor looked more like the still images from his Technology History classes than the majority of cables he’d seen when apprenticing during Dockland’s upgrades.
“But… every ship prior first generation InterStel was destroyed by the end of demilitarization,” he repeated quietly, straightening so he could see the look on Trevor’s face clearly. She definitely appeared as close to throwing up as he felt.
“What were those abbreviations you said were for the panels you turned on?” she asked.
“P.D.E.W. and L.R.P.W.,” he said. “The one I just powered on is P.O.R.A.,” he added.
The first panel he’d turned on beeped as ready. He and Trevor slowly turned to look at the dusty screen. Right out of one of Leo’s Technology History classes, the backlit, transglass screen shone dully with a rotating, two dimensional representation of the three dimensional space around Dockland. The nearby planet, when visible, was shown as a skewed horizon.
Readout displays back during the time before first generation InterStel hadn’t been able to maintain three dimensional viewing without time delay for converting data and creating the hologram imaging used in present day, so the rotating disk method had been developed for monitoring near space to take advantage of the instant replay of two dimensional images on two dimensional screens. It was almost hypnotizing to watch.
Leo glanced down the sides and then leaned far over the P.D.E.W. console to look at the panel back. This row of panels fit smoothly against each other and were flush with the curve of the wall behind them... as if made to fit this wall specifically. The P.D.E.W. was at the end of the row and had a snap cover on the exposed side, so he crouched down, snapped it open and looked inside. The dust was too thick to see if there were old bolt holes at the base of the panel, but how the couplings looked like they were installed in cables that were the same on each side instead of the floor side looking older, he doubted he’d find holes if he moved the dust. And he didn’t find any when he did move some.
The second panel Leo had turned on beeped as ready. He snapped the cover back into place and stood up, wiping his hands absently and spreading dust across the front of his uniform. He and Trevor both looked at the backlit transglass. This display was of a directional, three dimensional image of long-range space directly in front of Dockland. Leo didn’t need to walk the two steps and brush away the dust with his sleeve to know what the screen readout would say, but he did anyway.
“What are those?” Trevor squinted at the unfamiliar numbers below the familiar star tags.
“Targeting distances,” Leo said at a whisper. “L.R.P.W. is the abbreviation for Long Range Pulse Weapon.”
Trevor laughed and slapped his arm as if he’d said something funny. Leo didn’t laugh, his arms hanging at his sides as he stared at the screen.
“P.D.E.W. stands for Primary Direct Energy Weapon,” Leo said. The smile fell from Trevor’s face. “And P.O.R.A. is the abbreviation for Primary Optics / Radar Assembly,” Leo added.
“Are you joking me?” she asked, her voice trembling. He shook his head to the negative, swallowing hard.
“Look at the conversion couplings, Trevor. Each connection is what it should be. I’d gamble actual currency there isn’t a standardized coupling in this room, except for the connections requiring them.”
She scoffed and looked at the backs of the InterStel panels again, this time using the little pocket torch she always carried to look at them at lot closer than they had before. “Okay, so they’re all different but perfect for the cables they’re in. So?” she asked, fidgeting with her sleeve and then knocking away dust smeared on her uniform.
“Since when does Coalition do things right when they upgrade?” Leo asked, finally looking away from the L.R.P.W. screen to hold eye contact with Trevor. “We’re only now getting the worst of the hardware problems smoothed out since Dockland’s upgrades, and those were installed in the first half of this exploration. You know as well as I do Coalition does things standardized, even when standard isn’t optimal for systems.”
“These couplings being right doesn’t mean Dockland is a pre-InterStel ship,” Trevor argued.
“That’s actually exactly what it means,” Captain said.
Leo and Trevor spun to face the door. Captain was standing there with a bleary-eyed Lastin beside her; he was in the process of yawning widely and wasn’t in uniform. Red pillow grooves on his face and messy brown hair above blue and black workout clothes proved he’d obviously woken up only minutes prior to being here with Captain right now.
“Dockland is one of two registered ships rushed out of construction backlogs and commissioned into service during final assembly only months before demilitarization was formally announced, a year before first generation InterStel was available,” Captain said. “They returned to the assembly yard for complete refitting and InterStel upgrades. The conversion couplings you two are discussing are all shipyard factory grade, the same as any other assembly yard modification or in-construction revision to include InterStel.”
“Dockland’s records show it was commissioned with InterStel, though. It can’t be pre-InterStel,” Trevor argued, her knowledge of Dockland and understanding of how Coalition maintained ship registrations debunking the thought that Captain was telling the truth.
“Is that what the records say?” Captain asked. “Okay. Sure,” she continued, with no evidence of agreement in her tone, expression, or posture. “Dockland had a revised construction plan which opted to keep every panel bank supporting weapons after Coalition completely demilitarized and made every ship mounted offensive weapon system illegal for newly constructed ships. And then Dockland was commissioned without issue. That makes sense.”
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!