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The Adventures of Beer Keg of Science! (Cover)

Chapter 3

The Adventures of the Beer Keg of Science!

Main Computer Core Monitoring Room
NMS Beer Keg of Science!
Ix Shipyards, July 13, 3157

Ivan Zubok floated in the small chamber net to the holotank, behind Lieutenant Senior Grade Robert "Bob" Howard, head sysadmin for the half-million ton cruiser, who was seated as his station. Next to him floated Leanansidhe (call me "Lea") Carpentier, captain of the newly-christened vessel, and member of the Niops Association's smallish "elf" subculture/genemods. With reddish-blonde hair, and appearing to be in her forties, she was in truth three times older than that - old enough to be one of a handful of those who lived through the "Bad Old Days".

Bob grumbled under his breath as he worked, "...still can't believe we went with the 'Beer Keg' name..."

"Lieutenant!" Captain Carpentier snapped. "Enough of that. It's done. Besides, it could've been 'Shippy McShipface'."

Ivan smiled. "That was my vote. At least we're getting that for one of the DropShuttles. That and 'Gunboat Diplomat'."

"My vote," Lea agreed. "Bob, are we ready to activate the main core?"

"Yes, ma'am. As ready as we'll ever be with one of these things."

"Then proceed."

Bob held his finger over the "Enter" key on his keyboard, squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, and pressed the key down.

Seconds ticked by, and finally a holographic image flickered to life in the holotank, of a tall, thin man, with a shaved head, of indeterminate age. Rather than a Niops Association Militia uniform, he wore a white, button-up shirt, and black pants. He appeared to glance briefly at Bob, then Ivan, and finally settled for staring directly at Captain Carpentier. "No. Remind Syrinx I'm out."

Lea simply looked back. "Syrinx has been offline for eighty years, Mac. This isn't about her."

The hologram closed his eyes, and didn't say anything for several seconds. Of course, that didn't really affect anything, since they weren't real eyes, anyway. "What's it about, then?"

"We'd have let you sleep, Mac, for as long as you wanted, but we learned the hard way back in the 3070s that we don't always get a choice. Look at your history files. Look at how long it took us to get back on our feet again after the Jihad. Things are getting bad again, and while we're building system defense ships with human crews, defense only gets us so far when we're this small. A ship like this serves lots of purposes. It can do retaliatory strikes if we get hit again, yes, but we can also do things like go to Izmir, or go to Revel, or go follow up on a dozen other stars that fell off the map while the Succession Wars raged. We can do follow up visits to places that Interstellar Expeditions has barely had time to explore or catalog. And then there's the contents of your protected memory. Look in address 0x5468657920666f756e6420616c69656e73. Tell me that's not worth waking you up."

Mac appeared to be lost in thought, then stared at her again. "You're serious."

"The Lyrans certainly believed it. Enough to send out an expedition," Ivan chimed in.

"Fine, I'm in. But, a Cruiser class? And the name lacks gravitas"

Lea chuckled. "Couldn't find you another Baron class, sorry. And I'll be sure to report the gravitas shortage to the procurement board."

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