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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 105: Brown 228
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Slade 201
It took Derek two attempts to put the ship on the right course. The first effort did alter their course and slow their velocity sufficiently to avoid the comet, but he had failed to account for the increasing effect of gravity as they moved into the system, and had to make a second correction for a rendezvous with the target planet.
It was going to take several weeks to cross that distance, particularly as periodically he was going to have to decelerate so that when they reached the planet the giant ship would be near an appropriate velocity to establish an orbit. They would first need a survey orbit, moving at a rate that would allow the planetary surface to appear to move beneath them, so they could plot the water and land masses and detect conditions over most of the area. Then he would have to establish as close as possible to a geosynchronous orbit, so that when--O.K., if--he took a shuttle to the surface he would be able to find the ship upon returning to space.
He began to consider what they should take with them on this excursion, and of course the first answer was everything. That is, although it could be useful to leave something behind on the ship to help them locate it by scriff sense, not only would it be difficult to know what they could afford to leave behind, if they versed out during the mission whatever they left on the ship would be a very long way away from them, and possibly forever unrecoverable. Of course, Lauren managed to use a combination of clairvoyance and telekinesis to pull his dropped darts across thousands of miles of space to a few weeks’ walk from his landing point, but that was not something he was eager to attempt. Lauren, after all, had mad skills.
What occurred to him, though, was that he should probably bring a robot. He might as well bring their robot; after all, they had it, and he had worked with it. He expected, though, that the ship’s computer stored routines for programming and equipping robots specifically for planetary surveys, and his robot was currently programmed and equipped for translating languages and preparing meals.
He began searching the computer, and determined that there was an extensive library of programs deemed necessary or useful for such planetary surveys. His next concern was whether one robot could hold them all. Almost as soon as he had thought that, it struck him that this was something he could address--if anyone could enhance the memory and processing speed of the robot, that would be him. He began considering how he could do it with what he had, and realized that there were terminals in every room in the officers’ quarters area, most of them not in use. If he examined them he could probably pirate parts that would be compatible with the systems already in use in the robot. He would need to build a parallel processor that functioned alongside the main processor already in the machine, and pirate at least as much memory as the robot already had, doubling or possibly tripling its information storage capacity. He would have to keep it compact, and figure out where he could install it such that it would be conveniently close to the robot’s own systems but well enough protected that it was unlikely to be damaged. He spent quite a few of his free hours studying the robot itself, and finding online schematics of its systems, and of the terminals, and digging deeper into the terminals than he had previously done. He wound up removing several of these from the walls and disassembling them significantly.
In the end he had his coprocessor and memory system. The case was the most difficult part, because he had to construct it of parts of the systems he had, it had to protect the components from damage, and it had to permit the system to cool itself. But ultimately he mounted it on the rear of the body, above the emergency cutoff switch, and wired it into the systems inside the torso.
It took him four weeks to complete, but it was a fine feeling of accomplishment when he activated it and the robot incorporated it into its own function.
He still had about two weeks to planetary intercept, and every day he had to check vector and velocity, and make adjustments. Even on his days off he reported to the bridge for about two hours to check their course and speed and make sure the planet was where he had expected it to be relative both to the ship and to the star. Meanwhile, he began the process of uploading planetary survey programs to the robot, and authorizing it to equip itself for these as needed.
Six and a half weeks from their detection of the comet, Derek slowed The Wanderer one more time, and eased it into a distant planetary orbit from which scans of the surface would be practical. He had found the program that would direct the ship to perform such scans and analyses, and in a few days it would provide enough information to know whether to send a shuttle to the surface, or whether this had been the pursuit of an undomesticated water fowl.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #448: Inventive Versers. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: