25 January 2009

In Space, It's Hard To Ignore The Phone

Today should have been a day off. I still haven't got out my nightgown, let alone my quarters, yet I've been working most of the last four hours.

It all goes back to the Power Room gang. Lupine Power & Light, as they are often known -- and they do sell commercial power to the various subcontractors and merchants; even the functions of the ship proper generate a paper trail akin to billing. They have taken our recent string of power issues (UPS crashes, fried service transformers and other sorts of barbecue) very much to heart. Their most recent project has been a huge upgrade to the distribution system from the central fusion/MHD reactor, ripping out the last of the late-50s infrastructure and bringing the whole thing up to modern standards. Yay, hooray and it should have been transparent to the end user, most especially us.

By "should have been," I would be saying not so much. By "us," I mean the Command/Control core, where the Engineering Shop, the rack area, Drive and RF/Reaction Control and Master Control are to be found, where Navs, Imaging and Signals have their primary tech offices and where, one deck up, Officer's Country can be found, all panelling, hushed voices, carpeting, incongruous displays and gazillions on the line. The important stuff's all triply-backed up, right?

Right. Except for the few bits that aren't. You install a new thing in an old rack and don't check out where it's powered, could be later on there are tooth marks where you sit down. Or maybe on someone else, whoever else it fails on.

If you get bit, then fake your way out of it and leave the next shift to get burned, you'll learn there are worse things than tooth marks and once the heated wrath of the Chief has singed you to the bone, quiet, gentle Dr. Schmid is waiting, an otherworldly look in his eyes, as noble as Dr. Guillotine. 2/O and the big boss of Navs and Engineering and a man whose time, he refrains from pointing out, is not to be trifled with. What he might say or do, one should never find out firsthand.

...Let me draw a curtain across that scene, for it doesn't -- thank the Fates! -- concern us, not this time. Suffice to say, there was a big ol' glitch on the power and a couple of near-critical items took nasty hits that took 'em down, one of them a trick little Tweed "intelligent controller" that helps keep us from tearin' the place apart with the realspace drives; and here we are, inbound yet, with some fine maneuvering a few days away. So that was A Bad Thing.

What was worse was just patching around it and leaving it for the next guys along with a pile of other, less-critical fubars while making no particular note. By the time my phone started beeping, dayshift was looking lunchwards and the perps were snug abed -- unless the Chief had hold of them by then.

So I've been online, digging up files and notes: workarounds, software to reload and how we ran without it. That last gets us back to Navs some and piloting a whole lot -- looks like at least half the star pilots have eased this contraption into orbit without such invisibly automated help and a quarter of that group date back to before the thing it replaced...which I have located in a Stores & Cargo index and sent for. Might be a bit more zero-G this planetfall than folks have gotten used to.

I've also spent time on the phone with Dr. Schmid, talking through resetting another important item the night-shift guys left about half-right and I've volunteered to just head on down to C&C twice. "Better take what's left of your day off," he said, "It looks like there might not be any more of them for awhile." Ow.

What I'm wondering is, just what the dickens else messed up that the overnight crew had so little time to spend on these things? --And why didn't they start callin' for help when it happened?

I may be adventuring among the distant stars but from where I'm sitting right now, it sometimes bears a stunning likeness to Peoria.

P.S.: And after a morning spent that way and a middlin' nice mid-day spent reading and housecleaning, I'm on the phone again -- seems the Drive Control operator just tried to call up some seldom looked-at telemetry and the whole subsystem crashed. Yum.