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The Adventures of Beer Keg of Science! (Cover)

Chapter 13

The Adventures of the Beer Keg of Science!

Main Bridge, NMS Beer Keg of Science!
Interstellar Space, 3 LY from Stettin System, 13 August 3158

Lea looked around the bridge at the duty officers on shift, busily working out the optimal approaches to the Stettin system. Yes, the standard jump points were easily calculable, but nobody wanted to take a chance on some unknown factor getting in their way.

The trip out had been completely uneventful. They'd been able to confirm communications with Niops over both the Keg’s small HPG, and the “Fax” FTL system purchased from the Lyrans. Niops still had a “K-0” model lying around from the 2620s, but hadn’t used it in ages, and were more interested in reverse-engineering it for use on the new Pioneer class ships than on putting the antiquated model in the field. FTL communications back to Niops was essential, both for the Keg, in the event they broke down, but also for Niops itself, if the Marians were to attack.

Now, nearly at their destination, Lea’s crew, combined with specialists from Niops University and Interstellar Expeditions, had been combing over the sensor data coming in from the ship’s telescopes, whether optical, infrared, x-ray or radio for the past two weeks. No radio signals had been heard from the Stettin system. No x-rays from fusion drive plumes. Nothing to indicate that the local Oort cloud was in any way unusual, or that their star was in any way anything other than a typical G-class sun. But, no signs of habitation, either.

Still, Lea thought, they’d spent enough time on this. “Navigation,” she asked out loud, “do we have a set of jump coordinates yet?”

Ian Kent, sitting at the Nav station, looked across the bridge at Dominique “Mo” O’Brien-Howard’s sensors and Science station. The two exchanged a glance, and Mo nodded. Ian then replied, “Coordinates look good, Captain. Leaguer maps don’t appear to be too out of date. Stettin’s standard zenith or nadir points should be stable.”

“Should be?” Lea asked, cocking one eyebrow inquisitively. She glanced at Mo, who was looking at Ian, minutely shaking her head but trying to not be noticed, while Ian was trying to act nonchalant. “Would either of you care to share with the rest of the class?”

Ian chimed in first. “The numbers look fine, Captain, and are within tolerances for stellar drift, expected planetary motion, and our observations for the last two weeks. We calculated for the standard zenith and nadir jump points above and below the system’s elliptic, where there should be no risk of collisions. But…” he trailed off, seemingly unsure of how to express his reservations.

Mo did for him. “There's a minute variance. It's well within tolerances, small enough that it shouldn’t be a problem, though some have expressed concern.”

“And by ‘some’,” Lea inquired, “you mean who, exactly?”

“Lieutenant Howard, and Ensign Shido, Captain,” Mo replied. “Commander Kirk was going over the numbers with them again.”

“And what happens with this…variance? If it is an issue? We misjump? We turn inside out? We end up in the dimension with no shrimp?”

Ian shrugged. “I don't know. Minor misjump, putting us slightly off course? The variance is so tiny that standard JumpShips make jumps with larger ones all the time.”

“Lieutenant O’Brien, your thoughts?” Lea asked.

Mo shook her head. “I don't see an issue, either, but I see Bob’s point, too. Our jump drive is a kludge: a compact WarShip core built eight centuries ago, then patched up by us using even older tech, as Commander Reno reminds us at every opportunity.”

“When Tig isn't beating the jump drive with a crowbar. Speaking of which,” Lea said, keying her comms. “Commander Reno. Thoughts on our little jump equation conundrum?”

{“Given the irregularities in our jump drive, I'm surprised they aren't bigger, Captain. The drive’s done fine so far, though, and the variance is well within tolerances. Worst that should happen is maybe a bit rougher ride than usual.”}

“Good to know,” Lea mused. “Mac, any opinion?”}

{“Math’s fine.”}

“So noted. James, your thoughts?”

From CIC, James Kirk replied, {“On anything in particular, Captain?”}

“Funny,” Lea replied. “You know on what.”

{“I do. And I don’t have an answer, Captain. Nothing about it says there's anything to worry about, and neither Ensign Shido or Lieutenant Howard, cam name any specific objections, just an uneasy feeling. But I have it as well, even if I can't say why. I'm not saying we don't jump, or that we take more time. I'm just concerned.”}

Lea paused for several moments. “I’m not,” she said finally. “Rig the ship for jump. Target is the zenith point. Set the clock for 30 minutes.”

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