Cold and Steel Episode 3: Engine




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Cold and Steel

Image of the AEDF1 Fleet Command Emblem. An acoustic cover of Major Tom by Peter Schilling begins to play.

TEXT: AEDF Outreach Media Presents:

Montage of AEDF filmstrips throughout history- NG2 craft in black and white, photographs of primitive space-suits on the surface of the Moon, excavation of Lunar sites, NG vessels over Antarctica, censored images of Howler noocraft3, engine tests, space station construction.

TEXT: In Cooperation with the Department of Personal Efficacy and Wellness

Montage of AEDF personnel at work; donning spacesuits, conducting experiments in laboratories in low-gravity, constructing the keel of a torch vessel on the surface of the Moon.

TEXT: Cold and Steel: Stories from the High Frontier

Cut to black. Music continues.

TEXT: As part of the production of Cold and Steel, AEDF and U&IIB personnel were given personal cameras and told to record whatever they believed other Authority personnel should know about their lives and work. These are their stories.

TEXT: Episode 3: Engine

SUBTITLE: Created by Engineers Richard DeBlois and David Jakowski, with assistance from the crew of AEDFS Lupin

Music fades, replaced with crackling breathing noises. Grainy image of two figures in space-suits hanging off the sides of a small spacecraft. Behind them, the lattice-shaped engine of a larger spacecraft is visible. Text on the engine module reads AEDFS Lupin. The suited figure on the left waves.

DEBLOIS: "'Afternoon folks. I'm, uh, I'm Rick DeBlois-"

The suited figure on the right touches a control on the arm of their suit. The view zooms and tightens slightly.

JAKOWSKI: "-And I'm Dave Jakowski. Welcome to orbit."

Jakowski touches another control. The view pans down, showing that they, and the two spacecraft, are orbiting Mars.

DEBLOIS: "Dave and I are from the AEDFS Idiyanale, but we're here with one of our Sahaayak' repair ships to, uh- to do a bit of work on the Lupe, so we thought we'd show ya 'round.

JAKOWSKI: "Idi's busy fixing solar on some commsats."

DEBLOIS: "Yep. Uh, we're out here patchin' this, uh-"

Camera pans towards the engine of the Lupin and cycles through several different filters. The image assumes a red-brown tint, with a large hairline crack suddenly visible on one of the panels above the engine bell lattice.

DEBLOIS: "Well you can see on the false colour there this big mother-fu- oh, pardon- trucking weak point in the shadow shield, so Dave here and I'll be going in and pullin' this whole panel off, replacin' it with the new one on the sled 'ere. Only problem, though, is whole thing's giving off- what would ya say, Dave, three hundred Gray a minute?"

JAKOWSKI: ""Oh, four hundred easy, yeah."

DEBLOIS: "Yeah so four hundred Gray, right, and our suits are only rated for that kind of exposure for twelve, fifteen seconds at a time, see."

Cut to a lower-resolution full-colour image showing the Sahayaak' approaching the Lupin's engine. The drone vessel has a thick, rectangular plate mounted to one side, with several round windows cut in its surface. Extending from a mount on the plate are two complicated control armatures. Jakowski's suit is visible at one edge of the frame. Both move slowly towards the Sahaayak' as it attaches to the engine bell with several mechanical clamps.

TEXT: R. DeBlois Suit Camera

DEBLOIS: "The Lupin uses what we call a Tireboulin Fusion Torch- 's a fancy way of saying it makes a, uh, real small sun t' push itself along. Now the media boys have told me no numbers, so bear with me."

JAKOWSKI: "Shit, I've got a degree in this an' I still don't remember th' numbers."

DEBLOIS: "Christ, Rick- language. So anyways, the Tireboulin uses plasma-lined, uh, magneto inertial fusion."

JAKOWSKI: "Easier t'say Teer-boolin than PLMIF. And I got in trouble when I started callin' em' MILFs."

DeBlois chuckles.

DEBLOIS: "Would you can it, y'jackass? So basically the system works by usin' a big buncha deuterium plasma jets- real hot hydrogen- to create a ball of fusing plasma in the middle of the engine, right? Now this ball's, well, pushing back against the jets of plasma, which creates a squeezed area of, uh, real, really hot plasma- then we use the big grid of 'lectromagnets there-"

He gestures at the ship's engine bell.

DEBLOIS: "T'force most of the exploding plasma outta the back of the, uh, ship. Kicks like a mule, uses a sh- a crap-ton of power, but it makes lots too, and you can keep it running on not too much fuel f'r a long time."

JAKOWSKI: "Plenty of radiation, though."

DEBLOIS: "Yep. Whole engine bell's radioactive at this point- so the shadow shield. Buncha big cells fulla mercury we can pump around, and uh, provide shielding to different parts of th'engine module, keep the crew from getting cooked even while everythin's off."

The two have reached the Sahaayak'. Several fluoresecent-yellow stickers on the edge of the panel it is carrying read "EXTREME RADIATION WARNING DO NOT CROSS." The graffiti-ed message "Roast marshmellows here" is visible in black marker on one of the warning labels.

JAKOWSKI: "When she's up and running y'can shift the mercury forward- protect the ship and all."

Jakowski gestures up along the long axis of the ship.

JAKOWSKI: "Them radiators get too hot? Hell, even 'f the crew's protected from the rads the heat'll still get 'em. Right now, mercury's on the sides of the engine, so's we get in closer."

DeBlois manipulates the armatures. Two mechanical arms are visible on the far side of the panel, unscrewing bolts and rotating a large electrical contact out of place.

DEBLOIS: "If the shadow shield's cracked, it could leak- and if it leaks, everyone on board's, well, they're cooked. Now. If they were t'turn this f-sucker on it'd be like standin' next to our own personal sun-"

JAKOWSKI: "Fuckin' incinerated."

DEBLOIS: "'At's right. So we have this external cutoff here, make sure someone up on the bridge or in engineering doesn't throw the wrong switch and turn us to ash."

JAKOWSKI: "Turn us ta fuckin' subatomic particles, right?"

DEBLOIS. "Now yer just messin' with me. But yeah. Fortunately f'r us, getting a Tireboulin engine started needs a ton of power, an' the capacitors in the upper engine bell won't have, uh, that kind of charge f'r at least another three, four days with the engine cold like this. Lupe's got an onboard radiothermal source and a helluva lotta solar panels, but charging a fusion engine takes time, this far from th' sun."

Jakowski appears distracted, and adjusts several controls on his suit.

JAKOWSKI: "Debris'll be going by in a few. Micrometeors. Lupe says they need to do some maneuvering. We can keep workin'."

DEBLOIS: "You, uh, you sure about that? Rather not be out here with my ass in the open, even if they say it's safe."

Several maneuvering thrusters on the hull of the Lupin begin firing. The view wobbles slightly.

JAKOWSKI: "Nah, we're on the edge of the trajectory. No sense in scrubbing, right?."

DEBLOIS: "Some fuckin' junior flag officer doesn't want t' get yelled at by the boss 'cause his repairs got delayed a few hours, huh?"


DEBLOIS: "Gonna file a report with Union about this, you bet yer ass. Ah, fuck. Guess the media folks'll cut this out. Where was I- right."

JAKOWSKI: "Dunno."

DEBLOIS: "Some help you are, huh? Uh… uh, this Sahaayak's been fitted with a work shield- extra layer've lead and steel to let us work right next t' the bell. Under normal circumstances- safer circumstances- we'd be doing this by remote, but the Lupe's the flagship so it gets- ah, fuck it. My heart's not in it anymore, y'know? Let's record this later'r something?"

JAKOWSKI: "Fine by fuckin' me, man. Here, I'll slot the spare plate around, carrier's set so just-

The view shakes slightly. A cloud of white particles is visible spraying off the Lupin's engine bell, past the edge of the panel on the Sahaayak'. The image becomes slightly grainy. Red warning lights begin flashing on Jakowski's suit.

JAKOWSKI: "What the fuck?"

DEBLOIS: "Rad alarm-! Get to-!"

Image cuts to black.

TEXT: During the repair operation, a small piece of debris made a grazing collision with the edge of AEDFS Lupin's engine module, causing superficial damage. Pieces of radioactive hull plating and chips of paint were projected past the engineers' radiation shield. Both Jakowski and DeBlois evacuated the area and were subsequently treated for mild radiation poisoning. The repairs were completed by an alternate team the next day.

Cut to the interior of an AEDF spacecraft. Two middle-aged men are floating in sleeping bags strapped to a wall panel. Both have IV drips leading into their arms and the bright red "sunburn" characteristic of strong radiation exposure. The one on the left waves at the camera.

TEXT: Richard DeBlois and David Jakowski

SUBTITLE: AEDFS Lupin Sickbay, 15 hours after incident.

DEBLOIS: "Welcome back! Y'missed us getting our, uh, our asses microwaved!

JAKOWSKI: "Wish I had a goddamn smoke on me."

DeBlois laughs derisively.

DEBLOIS: "Thanks to the- the good doctors on the Lupe for patching us up. Still itches like a bitch, though."

JAKOWSKI: "Sangmoo, got any morphine for two wounded heroes?"

The camera shakes and pans around. It is being held by an Asian woman in medical scrubs. She looks at the camera and exaggeratedly rolls her eyes.

TEXT: Dr. Park Sangmu, Chief Medical Officer, AEDFS Lupin

PARK: "Maintenance division, am I right? You can't kill them, but you sure can't keep them from bitching about everything either."

Video fades to black. Major Tom begins playing.

TEXT: Logs from the Lupin's radar systems revealed a minor programming fault led to the collision-detection warnings not registering the debris that injured Engineers DeBlois and Jakowski. This error has since been corrected on all AEDF vessels. Engineers DeBlois and Jakowski have recovered and continue their work as part of Inner-System Fleet Maintenance Squadron aboard AEDFS Idiyanale. This video was released at their request.

Subtitle: AEDF Outreach Media, 2020.

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