Pendulum Ch. 3: Checks

An alarm clock notification reminded Achim that the time was up. A groan escaped his throat, low enough to get swallowed by the noise in the auditorium. He had ten minutes to get on board, then thirty to check the Tuatha’s systems, before the rest of the crew would arrive. His joints cracked when he stood up. Voices around him swell to a mild acoustic chaos, with the epicentre at the small group of druids standing in the middle of a crowd of mostly young spacemen. He shrugged and focused on the diagram overlays his system projected for him, containing the technical data for the most vital parts of the ship he was about to board. The Tuatha De Danann was the first to depart in just a few hours, and while it was still brand new and supposed to be in perfect condition, his checklist was long.
The noise vanished when he left the hall and stepped into the corridor. The air was ever so slightly cooler here, and the silence was soothing. In just an hour, this peaceful haven would turn into a noisy hellhole filled with voices, one louder than the other. He shuddered and sped up his step. Before his eyes, the data changed from the last set he had received this morning to an updated version. He closed the file and turned his attention to the environment again. The elevator carried him downward without so much as a sound. Nobody else was here, either, and he would be surprised if he met anyone until he entered the docking area, apart from maybe a security man on a patrol.
“We have reached Deck B. Have a nice day.”
The elevator’s announcement startled him. The doors opened, and a lurikeen stood in the entrance to the docking area. He looked up and gave him a sharp salute.
“I thought I’d meet you here ahead of time. I’m Warrant Officer Branan Mccoys, just changed over from the crew of the Mag Mell. Personnel restructuring, some of the staff got shuffled around. I thought I’d familiarise myself with the ship before the crew arrives.”
The man looked young, but that meant nothing. Aes Sidhe could appear to be just out of puberty, while really being older than him. Achim could call up the roster and check, but that wouldn’t be necessary. He nodded and left the cabin.
“Chief Warrant Officer Achim Schulz. But it seems like I don’t have to introduce myself to you.”
The lurikeen grinned. His immaculately groomed beard hid his mouth fully, but the expression was written all over his face. The two men entered the boarding area, where scanners performed checks in the background, unintrusively. Two guards snapped to attention when they came closer. Security was tight. There had been more than one sabotage attempt in the past, but now, with the departure of this first wave of expedition vessels, things might calm down a little. But one never knew.
There was no need to go to the machine room. Most of the checks he was about to perform, he could do from the calm of his cabin, but the sooner he got acquainted with his new workplace, the better. That included places to work in solitude. Dealing with people one-on-one was not impossible, but crowds of them irritated him, especially if he had to focus on something – which was even more important at work, where mistakes counted. So the sooner he could check out the machine rooms, the better. The lurikeen followed in his wake without saying a word. He seemed a pleasant enough fellow, not the type to make unnecessary small talk. Brennan Maccoys, he would remember the name.
The machine room had direct access to the reactor core in the stern of the Tuatha De Danann. Still compartmentalised, he could access physical emergency shutdown controls directly, in case the system failed. Hopefully, that wouldn’t be necessary. A long row of consoles out of the way on the port side; activated, but dead displays that didn’t show any data yet on the wall on starboard. Achim walked down the middle of the corridor-like engine room, toward the reactor bay way out in the back. The chief engineer’s desk was far enough out of the way and separated from the rest of the consoles to provide some peace of mind, while not isolating him from the surrounding happenings. Perfect, as if someone had designed this room with his peculiar psychological profile in mind. He sat down in his chair behind the unassuming desk. The computer of the Tuatha De Danann registered his presence and activated several displays on the table automatically.
“All systems ready,” a synthetic voice said.
The lurikeen grinned, and the Aes Sidhe’s smile was infectious. Achim returned it automatically. He connected his own system to the ship’s computer and went through the values the databank provided.
The numbers from the reactor were reassuring. Not only were they inside normal parameters, they exceeded the expectations. At least those of the spec sheet, not his personal. He went on, one system at a time. Life support was high on the priority list. Heat dissipation, air filtering, temperature control, everything looked fine, as one would expect from a brand-new ship fresh from the yard. Now came the lower priority systems, still invaluable, but not critical.
The Tuatha De Danann didn’t have a proper drive. Druids would perform their jumps, which included longer distances inside the target system. It had thrusters, though, small, but powerful drives with jets on gimbals. In open space, there was nothing to evade narrowly. Planets, moons, even asteroids, were so far apart that the ion thrusters would provide more than enough push to turn the ship around, and even accelerate it to a degree. This girl wouldn’t break any speed records, though.
He went through the data the sensor racks provided. Port side looked good. Immediate reaction, great resolution. Bow scanners, no anomalies. Starboard, no feedback. Achim scowled. He sent another request, but it timed out again. He looked at Maccoys, and the lurikeen seemed similarly irritated. Their gaze met, and both engineers nodded.
“Starboard sensors bust, needing EVA to fix, most likely.”
Achim nodded. There was no time to perform maintenance on the ship’s hull now. The vessel would start today in just a few hours, and they wouldn’t make it in time.
“Can you write up a report for the captain, please? I’ll wrap this up here.”
“Understood.” The lurikeen nodded and stomped away.
Was this a bad omen? Achim shook his head. He wasn’t the suspicious type.


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