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The Adventures of Beer Keg of Science! (Cover)

Chapter 8

The Adventures of the Beer Keg of Science!

Server Cluster, NMS Beer Keg of Science!
Niops IX Orbit, Niops System, March 7, 3158

Mac didn’t want to be here.

He’d done his bit for king and country, and the nations he’d been built to protect, the Star League and the Terran Hegemony, were long dead twice over now. He was over four centuries past any kind of real usefulness, tired of watching the humans kill one another, tired of seeing the things they built crumble.

Tired of living, really.

Niops hadn’t needed him. They’d had his predecessor, Syrinx, to watch over them. He wasn’t going to call the older AI, his progenitor in some ways, a rousing success, but she wasn’t the failure the Inner Sphere remembered her and the ship she was tied to, the Bright Star automated scout JumpShip, to be.

But Syrinx was gone now, and if Mac was honest with himself, her demise, and the near destruction of the Niopians, wasn’t entirely their fault. Probably not even mostly their fault, for that matter. And there was no doubt they needed help now. He’d run enough simulations since he was reactivated to know that, even with the limited data he had, Niops was in trouble. Unfortunately, he, and this beer keg trying to pass itself off as WarShip were just going to make it worse.

The Republic of the Sphere, the reflavored results of the Terran Hegemony and, he projected, the Word of Blake, thrown into a blender and set for “puree”, couldn’t be too keen on the idea of Niops rebuilding their own WarShip. Even their DropShuttle program would be a bridge too far for the Republic; he could see their fingerprints all over the data on the slowness of rebuilding the Project Workshops, on making the Niops Association Militia dependent upon the charity of the Republic, and using Interstellar Expeditions to do it was the perfect method, with the research and exploration organization not even aware of how they were being used, too.

The Republic of the Sphere had made the Niops Association a vassal state, and had barely had to lift a finger to do it.

Mac continued to devote processing cycles to simulating their response. He’d seen what intel data the Kowloonese trade reps had been able to pass along, and suspected that the Republic probably had one of their own spy ships keeping tabs on them now. Perhaps not this purported stealth ship, but something. He poured over the sensor reports from the picket Saturns, and from the larger Independence class patrol ships. Their active sensors might be crap, and their EW not great, but one thing Niops still knew how to build were passive astronomical sensors: their optical and radio telescopes were phenomenal, and that sensor expertise went into their ships, the Keg most of all. He’d never admit it to anyone, but it was one thing that made this revamped Cruiser class a lot nicer than the old Baron class destroyer hull he and his fellow M-4s had been been deployed in. Sometimes, he even found having a crew aboard to be a positive thing.

Baron Destroyer Warships ( Tex Versions - Reunification War)

Baron Class Destroyer

”Found you,” he thought to himself, seeing the anomaly in the logs from one of the Saturn patrols. Not a lot, just a few energetic x-rays in the wrong place, then again, a few days later, from the Keg’s own sensor logs. A third data point, a week later, again from his ship’s sensors.

He plotted a trajectory between the two points, and extrapolated a course from there, finding it appeared to be at a constant velocity, with only the occasional course correction through careful use of a main drive. The strange effects on the exhaust and the few data points weren’t enough for him to be able to tell the amount of thrust expended, or how long it had been expended, since their sensors weren’t in position long enough, and this appeared to be leakage, not radiation from the main exhaust plume. He had no idea whether they’d be facing a destroyer, or something smaller, but he and the crew of the Keg would know soon enough: they’d be passing within a million kilometers of Niops IX in 12 days.

”Time to alert the Captain.”

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