The events Adam encapsulates in this chapter pretty much summarize our entire struggle against Artemis: devastating losses combined with leaps forward.
Dogfish lost a chunk of his crew to a stupid accident; you’d think he’d have crumbled, but he didn’t. And then Kyran, who always did have an eye for engineering, came up with an idea which eventually revolutionized ship construction. But I’m getting into spoilers.
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“How many dead?”
“Eighteen,” answered a weary Dogfish. “Nine welders in the turret, eight more working belowdecks who were crushed when the shock wave hit, and a diver.”
“A diver?” Kendra was surprised.
“Morgan Kelley. She was one of the JIM suit divers.”
“No, pure bad luck. She was working on detaching a propeller, and had just finished cutting through the shaft when the explosion hit. The prop was suspended on a pair of chains, and one slipped about ten meters. The prop slid sideways and smashed into her. The JIM suits aren’t particularly maneuverable, and it cracked like an eggshell.”
“I’m sorry for your losses, Dogfish.”
He shrugged, not so much in acceptance as acknowledgement. “Accidents happen. All of my people know the risks. It kinda sucks, but this will actually speed things up a bit. The damage from the explosion broke the seal the rust made, so we ought to be able to pull the turret after we finish recovery.”
Dogfish saw her shocked expression and hastened to continue. “Ms. Cassidy, it’s not going to stop us. Salvage is a dangerous job. I worked on one job, ten, eleven years ago. Deep salvage, so everyone’s in JIM suits and submersibles. One of the submersibles just barely dings a piece of debris, punches a hole this big –” He held his thumb and forefinger a millimeter apart, maybe less. “It took less than two minutes for enough water to flood to short out the systems and drop them to the ocean floor. A rock did the rest. A pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and two salvage operators were crushed into so much paste.”
“I – I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. They were my people. But thanks for caring.”
“If you need something, support, you’ll let me know?”
Dogfish’s hologram faded out.
“Damn,” said Cass. “I knew that Dogfish was tough, right from the first time I met him. Did I tell you he threatened to throw me into the Bay?”
“No, you didn’t. But that’s different from losing people.”
“True, but you heard him. This has happened to him before. I don’t want to say he’s used to it, but he’s at least had a chance to prepare himself.”
Kendra had to nod in recognition of the point.
“I had an idea,” said Kyran, who had been sitting in.
“It’s not all my thought. Dellin and Hecate have heard it and added their touches.”
“So it’s going to be enthusiastic and technical,” said Cass with a smile. “Do we need them here?”
“Oh, gods no!” they exclaimed. “If I’m presenting the idea for them, I can leave out the worst of it.”
“Okay, hit us.”
Kyran leaned forward. “What if we adapt replicators to help us build the next starships?”
Kendra leaned back. “Can you do that?”
Kyran said, “Yes. Well, Hecate can. She has the capacity to manage them, or so she says.”
“Won’t they have to be huge? I mean, colossally huge?”
“Well…” they said, stalling. “To take it to the logical conclusion, yes. They’d have to be at least three hundred meters across and six hundred long. According to Dellin, that will allow for any of the ships you have dreamed up so far. If we can get these working, then we can scale up.”
“Scale up? Zeus’s brass balls, Kyran, you’re talking about something that’s bigger than either Enterprise or Endeavour, and you think it should be larger?”
Cass intervened. “Kendra, it makes sense. If Hecate can handle it – and I’m not doubting her, I just haven’t seen it happen. If she can handle it, then it’s going to speed up production and allow us to pull the yard dogs onto other projects. It should also cut down on errors and faulty connections, if it’s all programmed in.” She warmed to her theme. “We can get nanobots involved in the QA work, too. Kyran, that’s a great idea! What do we need to get it started?”
“Whoa, whoa, you two!” said Kendra. “Hold on! Kyran, if we do these ship replicators, what’s that going to do to the current construction schedule? On Defender and Defiant?” The next two starships were already well under construction in the capacious bay. They shared the same design, and were smaller than either of the other ships in the fleet.
“The primary hull is nearly complete for both,” Kyran answered. “Defiant is a little further along, say 80% to 70% for Defender.We have the engineering hull, nacelles, and weapons pods to build.”
“That’s not what I asked, Kyran,” said Kendra. “I know where the construction is, I want to know what it will do to the timetable.”
“We’re on track to finish in eight months,” said Kyran. “That’s five months ahead of the original schedule. Building the ship replicators, and we think a good name would be fabricators, will only put us a month behind the original schedule.”
“It’ll add six months? And how many of these fabricators will we end up with?”
“We need the new ships sooner, at least one of them. Did you run the numbers if you build one fabricator and finish one ship?”
“Funny you should ask; Dellin predicted that you would. That would add three months to the build time for Defiant, and we’d have a fabricator online a month after that. Defender would be done a month after that, and we could use the fabricator to build the parts for the other one. A month, maybe two, and we’d have both online.”
Kendra did some quick calculating.
“So a September launch for Defiant, a fabricator in October, Defender in November, and the other fabricator in December or January?”
Kyran nodded. “That’s what we figured.”
“Endeavour’s coming online. Another month for shakedown and she can help with patrols. That’ll ease things on my crew –”
“Your crew? I think Alley might have something to say about that.”
“Fine, fine, our crew. I’m the one who has to keep them in line, but we’ll skip over that. Our crew can handle it for a couple more months, no problem. They’re looking forward to getting some time out of patrols, though. I haven’t heard what the schedule is going to be?”
“And you won’t yet. Nice try, though. It’s not finalized yet.”
“I’m one of the senior officers in your navy, don’t you think I ought to have some input?”
“More of that later, let’s stay on topic. Okay, Kyran. I want to see the numbers but start getting plans and supplies together for the fabricator. Fabricators. But we have to have Defiant ready for trials in eleven months, because shit’s going to get real in 2121, if we can keep it controlled until then.”