Friday, 9 November 2012

Part two: Fixing


Brook drifted down the corridor, one hand holding onto her Trax motor the other rubbing sleep from her eyes. She yawned. The ship AI switched a set of Trax points ahead of her, causing her to leave the main corridor and head down a smaller side route. Doors flashed by as her iris augment finally came fully on line and she was able to call up the engineering report.

Error report time stamp: 04:17 (ship time)
Location: Corridor 13b, cross section 4
Error description: Intermittent power fluctuation
Engineer drone report: Unable to access circuit hub; error 934

So Brook had been rudely awaken by an error 934, technical speak for the drone not being able to get the lid off. She shook her head. She would have sent her trainee, Phelp, but that idiot girl was still mooning over Si. Officially she'd reported in sick, medical bot diagnosing elevated blood pressure and a lack of key nutrients, otherwise known as not eating enough while pining over that irritating tit of a drone controller. Brook didn't know the gory details, didn't want to, but suspected that Si had had his way with Phelp last week after the crew got together for beers to wish the trainee marines luck in their final scenario runs. He'd presumably been using his - to Brook's ears - incredibly lame 'starship fighter' spiel. The sort of spiel that had completely failed to work on Brook during Si's early days on board. She couldn't stand conceited berks like that. Another shake of the head. 
Brook's musing was interrupted by the mechanical whine of her Trax motor as it started to slow down as she approached the error destination.  She came to a stop in front of a maintenance hatch that had been removed exposing the nest of circuitry within. An engineering drone hung from the Trax nearby, manipulator arms still. Brook floated over to the hatch to peer within. The ship was currently in its drift phase between the acceleration and breaking cycles and meant that there was no thrust to provide a semblance of gravity. Gripping the edges Brook called the drone over to point a spotlight over her shoulder via her iris augment. While the light was steady, she herself couldn't quite get into a stable enough position to focus on the part of the circuitry that was reporting the error message. 
She pushed back out of the maintenance hatch and looked for an anchor point on the corridor walls, somewhere to clip her feet in order to provide some stability in the zero g, but the nearest one was a couple of metres away. This wouldn't have been an issue in the early days of space exploration when ships were monstrous metallic constructions, in which the human occupants would use magnetic boots to grip to the floor. However, pretty much as soon as AI took over ship building, it started to question why you'd make ship internals out of heavy, and expensive, metals. Nano-carbonite was easier to fabricate, lighters and cheaper. Space craft construction changed forever, with no concern for the slight engineer currently struggling to find purchase on a jammed circuit box.  
It became apparent why the engineer drone couldn't fix the problem itself (and leave Brook to sleep), the small plastic box that housed this particular circuit away was on back to front. Rather than opening outwards, where its contents could be worked on via the hatch in the corridor, it faced into the web of wires and pipes. The drone, and now Brook, couldn't quite articulate their arms around behind to unclasp it.

Time to bring out the big guns
Brook had instructed the engineering drone to go fetch her tool box from engineering while she headed over from her cabin. The box now hung below the drone, but Brook ignored it. Instead she reached down to her thigh for the tool that she never risked leaving in engineering; granddad’s crowbar. Passed down through what was a family of engineers and mechanics, the solid steel crowbar had been in Brook's family for over a century. Many had made fun of Brook for holding on to it, arguing that modern tech had passed by this simple device decades ago. Little did they know - Brook smiled as she pried the crowbar into the nest of wires that surrounded the circuit box, like an ancient explorer would use a machete in the jungle. She eventually managed to hook its curved end round the far side of the box, feet braced on the edges of the hatch space. 
When she felt like she had just about enough stability, she levered up the crowbar, pushing with her legs to add strength to the annoyingly resistant box lid. It snapped open with a pop, the sudden transfer of effort sending Brook spiralling across the corridor in zero g. She let go of the crowbar as she struggled to control her rotation, the tool slowly spinning down the corridor. 
Right into Si's shin
"SHIT FUCK BASTARD TWAT" the drone controlled yelped, releasing his Trax motor to allow him to rub is lower leg "WHATTHEFUCKDIDYOUDOTHATFOR?!" his garbled accusation coming as he himself entered a slow spin in the gravity-less corridor. 
Brook had come to a stop on the opposite side, herself rubbing the back of her head that had connected with a blast door bulkhead. 
"I didn't do anything. You're the one not supposed to be here." she said through pain-gritted teeth "I put this corridor out of bounds with Trax control to run repairs"
"Like I give a fuck 'bout that. Shit." he was now upside down from Brook's perspective, legs spread as he kicked out for purchase. 
"Well this is what you get from over-riding AI" 
"Trax ain't AI" Si had just about managed to stop spinning now, although a renewed effort to rub his shin threatened to send him head over heels again "It's barely a fucking abacus. I go the fuck where I please. No two-bit spark plug gonna tell me otherwise"
"Fuck you, dyke" and with that, Si pushed off from the ground, grabbed back on to his Trax motor and headed off down the corridor.
Brook pursed her lips and frowned. She shouldn't let that idiot wind her up, but couldn't help it. Zooming round like he flippin' owned the place. And he with the easiest job on the ship. Brook couldn't remember the last time he'd had to fly his drones in anger. Would probably pee his pants if they got contracted for a ship on ship. 
She slowly drifted over to the corner where the crowbar had got wedged behind part of the fire suppression system. As she pulled it free, her engineer's eye almost unconsciously checking for any damage, Brook realised that it wasn't the first time that she'd hit Si with it. Back when she was the engineering trainee he'd been pursuing, Si thought he could impress her by hacking the door control on her cabin and letting himself in. He had less luck trying to hack granddad’s crowbar (yet another advantage over its modern day peers) and was sent packing with a bust nose and a couple of loose teeth. 

Brook laughed, the sound echoing slightly in the empty corridor.
Time to turn back to the matter at hand. With the box lid open she got an iris feed from the drone's snake-cam, allowing her to identify the blown chip. It was a standard processor, and she had a replacement in the tool box. Swapping it in was still a bit fiddly with the box opening the wrong way, but between her and the drone the job was done. She marked up the erroneously installed circuit box in the ship's plans. If the central AI wanted that sorting out, it could wait for the next service overhaul as they'd have to come at it from the other side through the wall. However, given that it didn't actually affect any systems, critical or otherwise, Brook suspected that it would remain as it was for a while longer yet. Zero VFM in sorting it out.   
Connecting back to the Trax overhead, Brook set a path back to her cabin. Still an hour or two before she was officially back on duty. Thoughts of her nice warm crib were interrupted by a short series of beeps from her Trax motor, before it slowed to a halt. The iris Trax interface told Brook that a series of corridors had been put out of bounds up ahead, so they'd have to go back the way they came in order to arc around the obstruction. 
Odd. The Trax report cited central AI as commanding the corridors be shut down, which would only usually happen in an emergency. But there were no other alarms, and the engineering interface she called up showed up as all clear. That made her curious. She didn't have the fancy override scripts that Si ran in order to hack Trax AI, but she had made a couple of modifications to her motor unit. Ordinarily the AI monitored and directed the individual Trax motor units (and the crew member holding on) around the ship via a network of rails in the corridors. It made getting around the ship in zero g much easier for the crew, and the AI was able to manage traffic in the most efficient way. Dull, but effective. 
Brook glanced around, only the low hum of the distant ion engine for company. She disconnected the motor unit from the rail, and held it in front of her. It was only small, not much bigger than her hand. The three wheels that gripped the rail along the top, with the wrist strap dangling off the rectangular plastic body of the unit, dirty yellow in colour. She ran a nail along the side of the body, using it to pry off a small panel. Inside was a mess of wires and circuitry, but buried within was a crudely soldered switch, something she'd attached to bypass the AI receiver. Brook wouldn't be able to control the sets of points that directed the units around, but she could attach it to a rail in the out of bounds area and go forwards or backwards. Not stylish, but effective enough to get the job done.

Much like her engineering.

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