TRANSCRIPT OF TESTIMONY, DISCIPLINARY HEARING, STARDRIVE TECHNICIAN 1ST CLASS R. HUMKEL, USAS LUPINE.
QUESTION CONTENT REDACTED FOR PRIVACY, SEE USSF A/83:1(a)
A: Yes, I know why I'm here. But I didn't think the new guy — Chris —
was going to take it so hard. It isn't anything that hasn't been done
to any of us in Engineering.
A: Sure, they did it to me. You get a green tech, they have a lot to
learn. I didn't start learning how little I really knew here on Lupine. It was years ago, when I hired in as Third 'Drive Tech on the old Billy How. That's the USAS William Howard Taft, a little freight hauler, former U. S. Space Force like most of them. I heard she was scrapped in '97 or '98.
A: Pretty much the same deal; it was my first job as a full Tech and I
was pretty full of myself after saving my previous starship, the tug Schramm
when the Tech First fell ill and we lost a phantasmajector tube in the
RF pump for the stardrive. See, those old tugs— What? No, I guess
it's not important. Anyway, I thought I was hot stuff, made some
undiplomatic comments to Mike R. — he was the Number Two Tech — about
how badly they ran the 'Drive. He didn't say much, but when we headed
into the next Jump, the boss had me checking out the anisble, and didn't
I get a warning about what not to listen to! So I did, of course. I
didn't sleep well for a month.
A: Chris rubbed me the wrong way a little; there aren't many women
working as stardrive techs and he — well, I thought he was a jerk. The
way a lot of the guys are, talking down, that kind of thing. But it was
nothing to the way he treated Jonny Zed and Gale Grinnel. Sure,
Jonny's a little, well, um, he's unique. And that Gale, you'd think words
cost him money — except for "Leave that the f—- alone." He says that a
lot. But they've served aboard since the Lupine was a Space Force
carrier. Jonny was one of the first techs down on Lyndon! Sure,
they're grumpy and they have their own ways of doing things, but both of
them have been fixing stardrives since before I was born. Gale taught
me how to tune up the high-power amplifiers. The old tetrode ones are
touchy and— Oh, sorry. Did I get too technical again? Anyway, they
both go way back to real fighting parts of the War.
A: Oh, that, yes. It's the time dilation. You'd have to ask them, but I
think Jonny's been at it for forty years subjective, about seventy-five
years as the clock ticks. Gale's got almost as much time in, either
A: Chris was rude to them. He was making fun of Jonny Zed to his face
when I came on duty that morning. We'd been ramping up delta-V for a
Jump for a couple of months, everyone was a little on edge and you know
how Jonny gets.
A: You don't? Haven't you talked to him yet? He tells stories.
Sometimes they're a little, a little overstated. You'll see. Anyway,
I'd tuned up a new final in the B side of the RF pump the day before and
we were due to Jump sometime on the first shift. The Chief was kind of
irked with me about it, he had been saying the old final had plenty of
hours left but nope, the emission went flat when I tried to run up the
heater voltage. That's tech-y, too, but it's important. The Chief is
not a people person and he was really giving me that fishy eye that
morning. I wasn't too surprised when he stuck me with the ansible
warm-up. When he told me to bring Chris along and show him the process,
I figured he thought the guy needed taken down a peg.
A: As near as I can read him, the Chief thinks we all need to be
reminded of where we stand in the food chain, every day. But some days,
some of us need it more than others. Restarting the ansible is just
one of those fiddly jobs he hands out to whoever is on his, um. His
A: No, you can't leave the ansible running in normal space. It won't
work, of course, but the problem is it makes for huge amounts of
interference to comms and it kind of bollixes running the 'Drive low to
reduce our realspace mass. Plus the final in it is only good for x many
hours and it's a lot of work to change out, so why waste it?
A: I really can't explain the startup job without getting tech-y. The
timebase comes from the ship's master clock but it's a soft lock — the
details, are, um. I probably can't make it make sense quickly. You
start it up after the first little Jump and make sure the multipliers
didn't get a step off or start squegging, and bring the output amplifier
up slowly once they've settled down. The newer ones will do it all on
auto, it's not that difficult, but we're still running a Beamathon 4200,
and they're— Well, they won't self-start. The 4200s were built on a
military contract for USSF and they're designed to be super-rugged over
being easy to use. You could beat on the thing with a hammer and it
would still run! But start-up's about a half-hour job and you have to
ride the Jump out in the old comms room, in lousy seats that I think
must be original with the ship. I would have brought a bite guard if
I'd known I was going to get stuck with the job.
I took Chris down the passageway to the comms room. It's close by
the Engineering shop, about far enough for him to ask where as I reached
the hatch. It's kind of a junk room — orderly, lashed-down junk, the
Chief is really strict about that and if you've ever ridden through a
bad Jump, I don't have to tell you why.
A: I'm getting to that. Ansibles don't tune like a radio. It's like
there's just one channel. And that's because for any given Jump level,
there really is only one channel. So — every Jump is really a climb
up and down through several levels, or dimensions, right? I mean, approximately. And some of them are
actually dangerous; the physics is too different. You jump in and right
on out. Seven-A is one of the bad ones and it's one of a few where the
regs say ansibles should be off or in standby: not even in receive
mode. Some levels, I can't say which ones, are for USSF Fleet comms,
but seven-A is— It's different.
A: Of course I've listened! Like I told you. Everybody who ever got stuck warming up an ansible has. And you wish you hadn't.
A: I'm getting to that.
A: So, Chris and I got settled in the lousy old operator’s chairs, and I
made sure he could work the old-style five-point harness. Then I
talked him through the start-up, checked the YIG ovens, and ran it up as
far as Standby. I had him show me the step-by-step and he had it
pretty well already. By then we could check sync lock — it was good —
and there was nothing to do except wait for the Jump to start. So I ran
down the "Don't Listen" list with him and we got the five-minute
warning for Jump. That was my cue, I figured, so I reminded him to keep
the ansible in Standby until we were out of seven-A, said I needed to
check something in the Shop, and left. I put the intercom on to the
Shop on my way out, just a quick tap on the button, so we'd hear
whatever he got up to.
A: I went back to the shop. Three minutes left, everything secured,
everybody sitting down and either strapped in or just about to. There
was a seat left near the intercom and I snagged it. Gave C. Jay and Big
Tom a raised eyebrow and waved at the com panel. I made sure the
microphone was turned off and told them, "Could be interesting. Told
the new guy to make sure he kept the ansible warm-up but not full on
until we were past seven-A."
A: Sure we all figured he'd listen! Nobody objected. Look, it's been
done to most of us — or we did it to ourselves, really. Seven-A is one
of the bad ones, too; it's probably just a series of encrypted comms
relays left running, but it sounds like a guy screaming, over and over.
Sends chills right down your back.
A: Yes, I expected it would give Chris a scare. Yeah, I get it, "It's a
new day," but I never thought of it as hazing. Neither did anyone else
A: The Chief? What did he think? That's above my pay grade. I was
talking about the other techs. The Chief didn't think it was funny
afterward, I can tell you that.
A: You already know Chis did listen. Probably because I told him not
to. When he started screaming, I ran back to the Comms room, and I took
a hell of a bouncing, around, too, since the ship was still headed
deeper into Jump space. Big Tom and C. Jay were right behind me. When
we couldn’t get him to stop — and he'd started trying to slug anyone who
got too close — Big Tom held him in the chair and I called the medics.
A: No. Are you serious? Nobody ever told me his father was on one of the ships that went missing during the war!
Do — do you think Chris is going to be all right?