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We Have A Yacht Club?!

Posted on Sat Aug 4th, 2018 @ 5:36pm by Lieutenant Benjamin Ingram Dr & Lieutenant M

Mission: Preflight
Location: Shuttlebay
Timeline: On Route To DS12

True to her word, at the next opportunity, Mara took Ingram up on his offer. She had no clue what he had in mind, but anything to do with Engineering that included the word "spectacle" was right up her alley. So now, she busied herself examining the shuttlecraft in the shuttle bay while she waited for him to arrive.

The deck in the middle of the shuttle bay began to link with a luminous holographic rectangle, denoting the large service bay elevator. With a mechanical clank the deck began to part, revealing the dark vault like maintenance bay beneath, and then the lift platform rose.

Atop the platform rose the tapering pyramid shape of a sub-light racing ship, the name Wind Queen and a civilian registration code painted lovingly on her side. She rested on her skids facing the closed space doors, her trio of powerful impulse drives set up in an inverted Y fashion. Ingram waved from where he stood under them.

"I promised a spectacle," he said with a grin.

Mara's answering grin was both amused and vaguely impressed. "I would say that qualifies," she said as she approached, noting the civilian registration. "Is she someone's personal craft?" she asked.

"She mine, the Wind Queen," Ingram said, a little affronted. He tried to get his feathers unruffled a little by turning and buffing the hull with the edge of his sleeve. "She's got the gold ribbon for the 79' and 83' Sol Rally. She's a sub-warp racer of my own devising."

"Impressive," replied Mara, coming closer to admire the craft. Her cousin would have loved to take her out to see what she could do. Mara, though, prefered to admire the engineering that went into such a craft. Unfortunately, she wasn't much for talking; she figured anything she could say about the Wind Queen Ingram already knew. "She's beautiful from the outside, anyway," she said finally. "Do I get to fully inspect her?"

"Well I didn't ask you down here to admire her brightwork," Ingram said. He placed his hand on an innocuous hull panel. From under his hand, icons appeared, and he fluently taped in a string of commands. With a hollow sounding clunking from within the small ship, the entire aft end of the ships hull seemed to begin to come apart. It folded up and away like the petals of a flower, exposing more and more of the ships impulse manifolds and its spherical fusion reactor.

"If you have any questions I did design her pretty much from scratch. There are a few off the shelf items in there, but for the most part she's a homebrew," Ingram said with a parental gleam in his eyes. "Fusion reactor is only for propulsion, everything else is battery powered including life support and the inertial compensators. She doesn't run on the usual deuterium mix, but on foam phased metallic hydrogen. A lot more delta-V for weight, and given metallic hydrogen's compressed state she can store an equal amount of fuel to a Danube class runabout."

Built from scratch. Hm. Doubly impressive. So there was knowledge to back up all that pomp. "Unconventional, to be sure," she replied, "but not totally unheard of. Battery power for everything else, though. That's certainly rare. How do you keep it charged up?" Most ships- even small racers like this one- that ran too much on the batteries had difficulty with them running low too soon unless they found a way to charge them while racing.

"Solar sail," he said, pointing to a well hidden hinged opening along the upper spine of the racer. "When she's in cruise mode between slingshots the Wind Queen can unfurl a mono molecule sail. At only a kilometre to a side, it's not exactly big enough for a true solar sail, but it draws in enough sunlight to charge the batteries and keep the air on. Given she's not warp capable most races happen within easy range of rescue."

He grinned.

"Of course, as a mark of pride, I'm pleased to say I've not had a need to be towed across the line."

"Of course not," agreed Mara. "Solar sails, though. That's pure brilliance. I'm not sure even I would have thought of that. I'm so used to thinking outside the box that I've forgotten what's actually in there." In fact, most engineers tended to complicate things and forget about the simple solutions. She once had a child suggest that she 'build a cannal' to get power to flow past some systems (so they would not be overloaded) and into others. It was, of course, the correct solution, even if it was a bit simplistic.

"Sometimes simple works best. Complex systems can fail, redundancies save lives," he gestured along the tapering hull to a third of the way
u up the fuselage from the pointed bow. He again reached up a hand, pressed it against the hull, and biometric identifiers flickered under the gleaming white finish. With a hiss a complicated hinged assembly of parts began to flutter apart like a clockwork flower, revealing an airlock egress port.

"It's a little cramped inside," he said as the airlock hatch yawned open, revealing the dark interior. "The Wind Queen was built to win races, not serve as a pleasure yacht. But you won't see much more from the outside."

Mara's eyes lit up as the craft opened. She was more and more impressed every second, which as saying something; after the Odysseus, she wasn't easily impressed. She gazed around at everything almost hungrily as she entered the craft. "It's not bad," she said. "Small, but for a racing craft, it's pretty good."

The interior was as tightly packed as advertised, but it crammed a lot into a tiny living space rated for habitation. Ingram made a point of opening a large panel marked 'Maintenance', revealing an intestinally tight arrangement of engineering tools all slotted like a puzzle into padded sleeves and recesses. Moving past this through a narrow passageway the two almost popped into a large space.

Two acceleration couches were set up within gimballed cages, allowing them to rolled and tilt to better allow gravity's forces to not pummel them into sludge during a high-gee turn. Ingram made this way through the first cage, turning as he entered the second one and pointe back.

"Rear seat is the engineering and navigation station. The fore..." he reached out, patting the couch. "Is the pilot's seat."

He looked at the chair for a moment, tilting his head a little.

"I never really got a chance to see the view from this seat."

With a blink of surprise, she looked up at him for the first time since he'd arrived so spectacularly with the ship. "You never got a chance to fly her?" she asked. "Seems a shame. We'll have to take her out sometime so you can." Yes, it was a ploy to get the ship into space and see how she handled, and she wasn't ashamed to admit it.

Ingram chuckled.

"I was the flight engineer and navigator," he patted the pilot's couch. "This seat and honour of piloting was my wife's. She had a talent for it, a deft touch on the stick and a recklessness to win. Scared me half to death during the Epstein Paris 500 Free Style. Dropped the Wind Queen into a low aerocapture orbit above Titan to undercut the leader and sneak ahead to the finish line. Thought for sure we'd be dead, just ash raining down on the beach domes of Titian."

His hand lingered there for a moment, and slowly removed itself.

"Maybe...if the winds right I'd take her out," he said in a low murmur.

The way he spoke, Mara could picture the whole scene. It brought a smile to her face, and not just because she was picturing Ingram the composed losing his shit at his wife's flying skills. “If you need an engineer/navigator, let me know,” she offered. “Granted, that means I’d have to study her schematics and examine her a bit, first.”

“You’ll find a data packet in your personal data space by tomorrow morning, as well as the encryption key needed to unseal the files,” he said in a distracted tone of voice.

A sort of sly, satisfied grin spread across Mara's face. "Thank you, sir," she replied. "I'll know her inside and out within the week."

"You'll not know her all that well until she flies," he said with a smile. "Now it is late, and I think we both have jobs to occupy us. Until the morn."

He gave a little bow of his head, and made no move to leave the cramped interior of the racing skiff. After a moment, alone in the dark, he sighed and settled into the pilot's seat. Control panes, display screens, manual controls, all were as the controls in the engineering seat.

And yet...

He brushed his hands over the control column arising from one armrest, the worn geckoTex grip moulded by thousands of hours of flight time by a smaller hand than his own. It even felt slightly warm, like it had been used by her only recently.

He released the stick like it was a thing alive and hissing, flinching his hand back.

"Not my place," he said to the silent air of the ship.


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