The Short Straw by SiriusDF

Thursday Prompt: 04/11/2019
Prompt word: diagnosis

The Short Straw
by SiriusDF

URL linked drawing by Darbaras of Furaffinity

The docking locks had disengaged while I recalled Guinn's advice. The old ursine in her sky blue overalls had given me the clawed salute before shutting the station's docking hatch and calling out, "Hey Uaine! Don't spend too much time diagnosing any issues. Switch to multiple backups and be quick! Expect the unexpected."

As a rookie, I drew the short straw when the call came to take out the 'trash'. Pilot a Type A-C retrofit with cargo for re-entry into Terra's atmosphere and land at a low latitude runway. Nothing special, if all goes well.

After locking the back hatch of the Type A-C, I floated through the pressurized tube with the precious bio cargo to the flight deck. Wrestled the flight deck hatch shut, then somersaulted into the right seat, as spacecraft nowadays designate the right seat for the pilot. Belting up, I began reciting verse, the checklist mantra. System after system coming alive. On to the docking checklists. Flight control systems signaled to disengage. Begin. Controls burping the jets, nicely easing away from the station and coast. Pass the time doing final checks before receiving clearance for the de-orbiting burn.

There's no helmet for my flight suit. If anything did go wrong on re-entry, a helmet wouldn't matter when disintegrating into burnt, shattered meteor fragments. The Type A did have reliable, Russian made heat shielding. No worries there, but it's noisy in here! Damn harsh on those with pointy ears. Tinnitus, here I come. Air smells like perfumed vinyl and charcoal, like it's new...for a 38 year old craft.

The body of the Type A was the prototype for all lifting body, shoe winged re-entry craft. But it had been built in the early 21st century midst the chaos of the Mercantile Era. And it showed. The original software, spawned from the 'ship early and often' programming bro culture from the west coast of North America had been erased long ago. And replaced with reliable binary code from Mars. Questionable firmware and CPU's retrofitted with more reliable tech of the C variant. But the overall cockpit design remained the same.

And that gave me the willies.

Ursa told me that during the Mercantile Era, the Oligarchs discouraged apprenticeship among techies, preferring cheaper, young labor over older experienced ones. Resulting in harsh lessons for software, aircraft and spacecraft design having to be relearned every generation.

And in front of me was a big, worrisome lesson, keeping the cockpit electronics cool. On Terra, cabin air ventilation of internal heatsinks work well enough. Temperature gradients have nicely driven buoyancy, courtesy of gravity. Which in free-fall aint' going to work. The quick fix, use pressure. And the solution by the then young and clueless when the type A was designed was to stuff small fans, lots of them, into ventilated boxes. Mechanical, noisy, failure prone fans.

A diagnostic beep. Flight control CPU A showing temp fault. Unit B taking over. It's likely fan failure. Don't waste time on diagnosis. Log the switch to B and power down A.

Comm unit comes alive. Cleared for de-orbit burn, I grip the controls and initiate the landing sequence; de-orbit thrust faintly felt in my suited back. Steer the craft about and await the long trajectory to re-entry and 22 minutes of plasma spewing, aerobraking before telling the flight controls to guide my flying winged brick and softly land.

Two alarm lights! Comm unit A overtemp warning. Nav unit A fault...oh we go! Pray you don't run out of backups.

The Short Straw


20 April 2019 at 11:07:20 MDT

Thursday Prompt for April 4, 2019
Prompt word: diagnose

Thursday Prompt series hosted by vixyyfox on Furaffinity.

When things go tits up. Pray for backups.

This weeks prompt was sprouted from artwork by Darbaras of Furaffinity.

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Submission Information

Literary / Story