The Pion

The ship shook with the violent pulse of a particle blast hitting the hull. The capacitor buffers did their best to absorb as many of the charged particles as they could but I could tell it was beginning to put a strain on them. The overload alarm started going off and it was my job to dump the capacitors as fast as possible so we didn’t have an overload and lose the whole ship. If that damned captain wasn’t such a cowboy and put us in harms way every couple of weeks, I might actually think my life was pretty mundane. He’d put us in danger more often but the repairs after each one of these encounters usually takes 2 weeks. The last repairs I drug things out as long as possible and just enjoyed the peace and quite in my little capacitor room. Just me and hum of the well running machines, no one else to worry about or even talk to. As soon as we were operational again the captain had us in a new mess and fighting for our lives on the edge of known space.

The capacitor dumping should have been a routine process and one that any idiot who could flip a few switches could handle. Charged particles built up on the hull of the ship just flying around and these caps need to be dumped pretty often to keep systems from shorting out. However, when we’re in a battle like this one, there is no room for error when performing the dump operation. Captain made things even harder for me with our last repairs, the secondary caps were damaged and instead of waiting another 2 weeks to get replacements he had me rework the dump process to speed it up so we wouldn’t need the backups. This means I have to perfectly time my switch over or the entire ship could be destroyed.

The dump process involves me disconnecting the caps from the hull inputs and linking them to the dump cable, a 2 kilometer steel cable that drags behind the ship. This dumps the stored charge into space in about 3 seconds. Add that to the switch over time and the ship is vulnerable for about 6 seconds, a lifetime when you have a violent alien race trying to kill you. Normally I’d be able to flip the primary caps to the backups and then back to keep the ship covered in case I don’t time it correctly, but we’ve already covered that.

The speaker next to my seat crackles with a distant voice from the bridge. It’s the captain barking orders at me to get those caps dump before I blow the damn ship up. He cusses at me like it’s my fault we’re being shot at.

With my thick rubber gloves limiting my dexterity I grab the lever to switch over to the dump cable and wait for the computer to give me the green light from the battle calculations. The battle computer is the only thing that keeps us alive in these damn fights, it’s the one thing we have that no other race in the universe seems to have. The computer is constantly running the odds on events in the fight and gives recommendations and shows us where we made mistakes. As long as the battle calculations are still in the green we keep fighting, when the screen turns yellow, or god forbid red, we high tail it out of the sector assuming we still have engines to run away with.

The green light flashes and I spring into action. The process rehearsed and performed so many times that I don’t even really think about what I’m doing. The change over from input to output causes a massive arch across the terminals as the connection is made. I patiently watch the load gauge and wait for the longest 3 seconds of my life. Time seems to come to an almost complete stop as the gauge slowly shows the charge leaving the caps. Before I have time to think too much about the oddity of the universe and how time always seems to slow in these types of life and death situations, the gauge reads zero and I force the terminal back to the hull input.

In the time it takes to dump the caps and push them back over a considerable amount of charge can build up on the hull. This will cause the terminal to magnetically charge and push the connector away. It takes an incredible amount of strength to force the connection back together and as the connector approaches the terminal a massive arc leaps out. I feel my hair stand on end and the familiar smell of ozone and burning hair fills the room. The switch over today was particularly bad and must have jumped past my rubber gloves and hit me straight in the chest.

I woke up on the med-deck with an automatic defibrillator attached to my chest. The doc saw me coming around and walked over, shining a little light into my eyes and started asking questions. Yes I know my name, yes I know where I am, no I don’t remember what happened but I do know it hurt like hell.

Turns out I must have braced myself against the dump terminal by mistake when I made the connection back to the hull terminal. This caused me to be a conduit for about 100 million volts of charge from the hull straight to the cable. This massive jolt pretty much liquefied my heart and most of the muscle in my body. The Doc was able to regenerate everything for me and was just finishing up getting my heart back to a normal heartbeat. I asked the Doc how long I had been out and he informed me 2 weeks. My body was repaired as was the ship from the last battle. The Captains voice came over the speakers informing us that we would be leaving port and heading back to the front lines. I had slept through our entire repair-rest time.

I looked to the Doc hoping he would give me a sign that I needed to stay around a while longer to recuperate, but he did the exact opposite. The Doc looked at me, shrugged and ordered me back to my post.