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Forbidden Knowledge 26 - Chapter 18

 
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 12, 2019 5:18 pm    Post subject: Forbidden Knowledge 26 - Chapter 18 Reply with quote

Nick Succorso swears at Morn Hyland for following him out of her cabin when Nick hears he's wanted on the bridge, but Morn takes advantage of no one being around listening to tell Nick he needs her with him. She argues that Nick needs her around to keep the crew having the impression that the two of them are working cooperatively against the Amnion, which would keep alive the idea that Nick never loses. Nick goes along with this reasoning, but angrily threatens her for imposing her will on him. They quickly move to the bridge.

Command third Liete Corregio tells Nick the ship that has appeared in front of them is the Amnion warship Calm Horizons, that they had previously encountered back at Enablement Station. Calm Horizons is blocking their pathway to their destination, the asteroid Thanatos Minor. Liete informs Nick that Calm Horizons doesn't seem to be sending communications to another Amnion ship or anyone else. Morn takes over the data station, while Nick orders static mines and other weapons systems to be readied. Nick also asks a crewmember to study how fast and in which direction the Amnion defensive is moving. Nick finds out his ship Captain's Fancy is overtaking Calm Horizons at the surprisingly swift velocity of half the speed of light, both ships going in the same direction.

Morn tells Nick that Calm Horizons can go as fast as they can, but it has less maneuverability. She also warns him that the Amnion vessel has superior weaponry in the form of a super-light proton cannon. Morn observes that they can't survive a hit from that ship. She is also quietly worrying that her gap-sickness will overwhelm her when the ship takes a hard course change. Then a message from the Amnion ship is sent.

Quote:
"Amnion defensive Calm Horizons to human ship Captain's Fancy." The flat voice came through particle noise as loud as a rattle of nails in a drum. "You are required to decelerate. Conformity of purpose has not been achieved. Amnion requirements have not been satisfied. If they are not satisfied, you will be presumed hostile. Calm Horizons will destroy you.

"To survive, you must decelerate."

A sting of panic went through Morn. Requirements have not been satisfied. Phosphene bursts made it impossible for her to focus on the displays. Her mouth was so dry that she couldn't swallow. The Amnion still wanted Davies.

Or they were after the secret of Nick's immunity.


Morn advises Nick to tell the Amnion that Captain's Fancy has too much damage to decelerate. Nick rejects this, saying the Amnion will know their gap drive couldn't cause that kind of destruction, because they designed those drive components. He then sends a message to Calm Horizons saying that he needs to arrive at Thanatos Minor to repair their gap drive, and will be altering course to avoid collision. Nick orders his helm officer to make a one-degree course correction at soft g. Morn feels giddiness at the course change, but experiences no gap-sickness.

Nick talks to his second Mikka Vasaczk through the intercom, telling her he wants her to surround the ship with static mines. He tells her to deploy the slowly so that Amnion scan won't detect the presence of the mines. Soon it becomes evident that the Amnion are correcting course to intercept, though Nick points out the Amnion must guess their position because they're "too far away for real-time tracking".

The Amnion send another message insisting that Captain's Fancy decelerate. Nick is told that he must give them Davies if he wants to safely depart forbidden space. Nick is told to match speed with Calm Horizons and b ready to transfer Davies to them. He is told his credit will be restored if he complies, and that he will be destroyed if he doesn't comply. Nick learns from his crew that there's a nine-minute lag in communications exchanges between the ships, and he orders Mikka to secure herself for maneuvers. He then orders his helm officer to course-correct back towards Thanatos Minor, because he thinks Calm Horizons won't be able to compensate for the course correction in time to block them.

Then Nick orders the static mines to be launched, and Mikka quickly complies. He has his helm officer apply braking thrust for straight one-g at exactly ten seconds, just as soon as the Amnion ship is detected using a course-change to intercept them. Nick then instruct his targ officer to fire on the static mines as soon as the ten seconds have expired. Nick has Morn calculate the moment Calm Horizons will have a chance to fire on them.

Nick becomes momentarily concerned that Morn's gap-sickness has flared up. Morn assures him she's just going through withdrawal from having her zone implant turned off. She also tells Nick the Amnion will need four minutes to compensate for Captain's Fancy's change in direction. Calculations from Nick's helm officer bears Morn's statement on the compensatory time, and so Nick lets Morn remain at her bridge post. However, he cannot resist telling her in a gloating whisper that he's glad to see her suffering. Morn concentrates on providing Nick with a "first-order hypothetical countdown".

Quote:
A first-order hypothetical countdown. An estimate of the moment when Calm Horizonswould fire--an estimate in which the only allowed variable was time-dilation. Captain's Fancy's computers had been working for at least a day now to gauge that variable. She ought to be able to run a countdown that was reasonably accurate.

If she could think.

But "reasonably accurate" wouldn't be good enough. She had to do better than that.

She couldn't think. Whenever she tried, anxiety slammed through her, and her vision jolted out of focus.

She didn't need to think. Somewhere in her computer were programs that could think for her. All she had to do was use them.

Morn, save us.

Utter anguish.

Hoping to counteract the phosphene dance, she rubbed her eyes roughly. Then she began calling data to her board.

Start the countdown from the moment of course correction: anchor everything on that instant. How much time was left? Seven minutes? Six? he could check, but she didn't bother. Watching her life slip away would only increase her panic.

The speed of light: that was constant. Take as constant everything Captain's Fancy knew about Amnion warships in general; about Calm Horizons in particular. Take as constant the decision to destroy [Captain's Fancy--and the need for the best obtainable angle of fire. And time-dilation itself was constant: the two ships' respective abilities to cope with it were the only true variables. Treat them as one.

Muster the data. Initiate the calculations.

Hit all the right keys.

Please.

"Got it," she said, although she wasn't sure she spoke loud enough for anybody to hear her. "It's on the screen. It might not run steadily. I've put in an automatic self-test and correction. The computer will estimate the accuracy of its own time-dilation compensations. Then it'll adjust the countdown."

All her joints had begun to ache. The sensation of fever was growing stronger, and her head throbbed. She needed water, but didn't have the strength to ask for it. She closed her eyes to give herself a minute's rest.


Her self-correction program moves the countdown closer by fifteen seconds, then by another eight seconds. Nick orders braking thrust with twenty seconds projected to spare, and the static mines move ahead of Captain's Fancy. Ten seconds later, Nick's targ officer third shoots at the mines and sets them exploding. Morn's sensors show her the Amnion of Calm Horizonsmust have fired, while she knows it's likely that the Amnion can only see distortion. It appears likely that the Amnion will only discover Captain's Fancy has been missed when it's moved out of their reach. Nick notices Morn is barely able to stay awake, and escorts her to be locked into her cabin.

Once he has Morn inside her cabin, Nick takes out her zone implant control box, telling her he's going to have to make her "null-wave for a while". Morn delays him from keying the box to shut her mind down by telling him the control box is a short-range transmitter that will stop working if he takes it with him.

Quote:
That made sense. Surely he could see that she was telling the truth?

"Tough shit," he rasped as he keyed the function that was designed to render her catatonic.

Closing her eyes, she slumped inert.

When she was limp, he stretched her out on the bunk and sealed her into its g-sheath so that she wouldn't be battered to death when Captain's Fancy began braking. Although he probably couldn't spare the time, he stood over her for a moment, studying her. Then he breathed like a benediction, "Fucking bitch."

But he must have believed her. As he left the cabin, he put her zone implant control away in one of the lockers.

Trembling, she forced herself out of the sheath and struggled to her feet.


Morn disabled the part of the zone implant control that renders her catatonic, and she did this the first time she occupied her cabin. She certainly doesn't want Nick to know this, so she gets the zone implant control box, sets it for an indefinite length of sleep, and puts it back where Nick has left it. Then she manages to seal herself into the g-sheath on her bunk before passing out. Nick's ignorance of the zone implant's inability to make Morn "null-wave" is likely to work to Morn's advantage, though I'm not seeing how at this chapter's end. After all, she's still locked up and the entire ship is wary of her.
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Cord Hurn
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Morn seems to be "winging it" all the way, never seeing a safe way out for herself and Davies. But she never gives up. The closest she ever came to giving up was when she was still in Angus' power, when she tried to overdose on a chemical. Now that she has another person to care about, there's no giving up for her even when there's no clear way forward for her.

Quote:
"Make it good," he [Nick] rasped as he rushed her [Morn] along. "The harder you push me, the less I have to gain by keeping you alive."

Make it good. She no longer had any idea what that meant. Minute by minute, she knew less and less about her own decisions; about the implications of her own actions. She'd lost control in more ways than one. The gap between what she'd thought or planned and what she did was growing wider. Everything about her had a tight, feverish quality, as if she were going into withdrawal.

Nevertheless she answered his demand as if he could count on her--as if she were sure of herself.

Together they hurried through Captain's Fancy to the bridge.


I like how what she is doing is being tied in thematically with the story as a whole by using the following sentence: The gap between what she'd thought or planned and what she did was growing wider.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Every now and then in the Forbidden Knowledge pages, we get reminded that the Nick Succorso that we see is not the Nick Succorso that the crew of Captain's Fancy is familiar or comfortable with, as this passage shows:

Quote:
Relief showed through Liete Corregio's blunt competence at their arrival. Unlike Morn, she'd been to sickbay: her injuries had been treated. In addition, she'd had a certain amount of rest. And she'd never lacked confidence in her fundamental abilities. Yet she plainly didn't want command of the ship in this situation. Her relief indicated that she no longer knew how to regard her captain. She didn't want to face an Amnion warship without him because she couldn't count on his approval.

Nick ignored her reaction, however. Scanning the displays, he snapped, "Status."


We were told that Nick's behavior concerning Morn made him hard for his crew to recognize, back in FK 15 ("Chapter 10") when Mikka insisted Morn reveal the source of her strength.

The passage from FK 26 quoted in this post is another reminder that the Nick we've come to know isn't the Nick his people knew.

( Nick Succorso = Confused )
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 1:02 am    Post subject: The Gap Into Vision: Forbidden Knowledge 26 - Chapter 18 Reply with quote

Quote:
At once discernable space disappeared in a blast of electronic chaos.

Only a heartbeat or two later--seven or eight seconds ahead of Morn's projection--a barrage ripped through the heart of the static. If Captain's Fancy had been hit, the blast would have stripped her down from her welds and blown her away along the winds of the vacuum. But it never touched her. In fact, blinded by her own mines, she never actually saw the Amnion fire. She only knew of its existence because its intensity transcended the static, drove her sensors white and then blank as their circuitry shut down to protect them. She never knew how narrowly she'd been missed.

As Nick had intended, all Calm Horizons saw was distortion.

By the time the Amnion sensors penetrated the static accurately enough to determine that Captain's Fancy hadn't been hit, his ship was beyond reach.


I find this to be an enjoyable description of a really close call for the ship: If Captain's Fancy had been hit, the blast would have stripped her down from her welds and blown her away along the winds of the vacuum. But it never touched her.

Descriptions like this are what usually make me "lean into" the book I'm reading, and even grip it a little tighter--know what I mean? Reading Shocked Cool
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 27, 2019 8:22 am    Post subject: FK 26 - Chapter 18 Reply with quote

Quote:
Eagerness focused Nick's attention. "Morn, what do we know about that ship? What can she do?"

Morn sorted data. "That class of warship uses a slow brisance thrust. They can go as fast as we can--I mean under normal circumstances--but they can't generate as much g. So they aren't very agile. That fits with our readings on Calm Horizons. That's the good news."

Abruptly her mouth went dry.

"The bad news is that she's big enough to carry super-light proton cannon. That's one of the advantages of slow brisance thrust--it allows spare power capacity." Morn's mother had been killed by a super-light proton beam. "We can't survive a hit. If we have to fight, agility is about the only thing we've got going for us."

Her feverish sensation began to feel more like chills. Adrenaline out of control. Withdrawal--

If Nick did any heavy g evasive maneuvers, she was in serious trouble. He had her black box.

Her mother had been killed.


We've heard about the tragic demise of Morn's mother as far back as in The Real Story, and that makes the super-light proton cannon scarier to me, because otherwise I have no idea what such a thing really does (or how much this is based on real, hard science, and how much of this is based on creative imagining).

SRD giving some detail on Morn's physical reaction to the discovery of the super-light proton cannon gives that cannon's mention some super-gravity for the situation, makes it seem more threatening. I find that helpful, because otherwise I'm distracted by my feeling that "super-light proton cannon" sounds a bit silly (because of course subatomic particles such as protons are super-light).
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