The world as I see it

A brief musing of the programming world, sprinkled with poems and stuff.

My Photo
Name: Marshall
Location: Falls View, West Virginia, United States

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chapter 4 – The Rapid Restart

“James, Time to wake up. Your alert criteria have been met!”

Great, just enough time to not feel rested and it is time to get up. Isn't that always the way?

“Computer, I am awake.”

Grabbing the H2IK manual, I flip over to the reactor restart section.

The restarting of the fusion reactor is a very power hungry process. It can take all of the power in the cells, though in the tests there was always at least one cell still charged at the end of the cycle.

You will need to be in your suit and on internal life support.

I put my helmet back on and secure it to the suit collar. Reaching down I turn the full pack on from standby.

Tell the computer to switch to backup power. This will require the override code: Charley Zero Nine. Once that is done tell the computer to begin Reset Protocol Alpha One.

“Computer. Command. Switch to backup power, Override Code: Charley Zero Nine”

I hear the Command and Control circuit breakers click over to the Battery Bus as the computer responds “Done.”

“Computer. Command. Begin Reset Protocol Alpha One.”

“Commencing Ship Shutdown for Fusion Restart. Propulsion: off-line, Communication: off-line, Navigation: off-line, Life Support: off-line. All major ships systems are idle. Ship ready for restart attempt.”

I scan the status board to confirm the computer's report and as expected all the systems are off-line. I return to the manual.

The computer will monitor the restart attempt and provide continuous status updates during the procedure. Keep in mind that the computer can not control any of the processes that are initiated by the ERS. Once you press the Green Button, you have only two outcomes.

The reactor restarts in which case you will enter the following on the HSC/ERS keypad: 'Load', C100 FFFF, 'Execute' to stop the restart sequence and return the fission reactor to a quiescent state. Then tell the computer to begin Restart Protocol Alpha Two. This will bring the systems back on-line while completing the restart of the other three chambers of the fusion reactor.

The other possible outcome is that the reactor fails to start and the computer warns of immanent power failure in primary bus. If this happens, just press the Red Button to begin the recharge sequence again.

That seems simple enough, though I suspect there is a great deal going on behind the scenes to make this work properly. I guess there is nothing left to do but press the Green Button, so I do just that.

The computer begins its running status report:

“Fission Reactor at full power.”

I wonder if it is using all the fuel rods, or just pulled out all the damper rods. Probably just pulled the dampers since the specifications say that it uses one fuel rod at a time.

“Fusion reactor magnetic containment fields initiating.”

That's why the fission reactor was cranked up. It takes a lot of power to set that field initially.

“Fission Reactor shutdown.”
“Deuterium coolant routed to fusion reactor main chamber injectors.”

Starter fuel for the fusion reactor is hot coolant for the fission reactor. That's sweet.

“Injectors heated to operational temperature.”

And now the fun begins.

“Fuel injected into containment field.”

Now to compress the fuel to fusion temperature and pressure.

“Ion pulse lasers firing in first sequence.”
“Plasma temperature climbing.”

I don't like the looks of the temperature curve versus the power usage. I don't think it will get hot enough fast enough to reach sustainable fusion before we run out of power.

“Ion pulse lasers firing in second sequence.”
“Plasma temperature climbing.”

That cranked it up a notch, but I still don't think its going to make it.

“Ion pulse lasers firing in final sequence.”
“Plasma temperature climbing.”

It might make it. It will be a close run thing, that's for sure.

“Plasma temperature climbing.”

Several minutes of this passed, then came the dreaded status update.

“Main power bus failure immanent.”
“Restart needs to be aborted.”
“ALERT! Press Red Button NOW!”

This is where I came in the first time. I push the button with a sigh.

“Starter fuel returned to fission cooling system.”
“Containment fields deactivated.”
“Fusion Reactor activating at 75% capacity.”
“First Power Cell Charging.”

Unlike the first time I woke up, this time I have the AI and its resources, “Computer. Analyze restart attempt. Give suggestions on improvements to procedures and sequences for a successful fusion reactor restart.”


I wonder where it learned to say it like that?


Monday, November 16, 2009

Chapter 3 – Graceful Recovery

I sit and watch the power cells charge and the diagnostic run. So far the computer has asked that Life Support, Navigation and Communication to be switched to the main bus.

The Power Cells are charging nicely, even with the increased load. There are only three more to go before the Battery system begins charging.

Life support checks out so I can remove my helmet and turn off the suit pack. I decided to swap them out and leave the second one on standby while the original pack is being recharged. That way if I have to take life support off-line I will have a full pack to run on while I'm working.

With Navigation on-line, the computer begins an analysis of the star patterns in the sky to figure out where in space the ship actually is located. Communications began a scan of all normal channels looking for any signals right after it was activated.

With the computer now doing diagnostics and the power sub-system charging, there is not much to do, so I turn my attention back to the manual.

The H2IK sequence is a series of steps designed to walk someone with a modicum of knowledge about space flight through the re-activation of this craft and hopefully a safe return home.

You are currently in the first phase, the recovery of the system. As you have noticed there is a fusion reactor providing power to charge the cells and batteries. This reactor has 10 fuel rods, each rod should provide more than enough power for a full recharge. This does limit you to 9 uses of the reactor for recharge before you must come home, or be stranded.

The ship is stocked with food, water and air rations for 30 days of generous consumption. If the fusion reactor is running, then the environmental recycling system will give you air and water almost indefinitely. There are two suit packs. It would be in your best interest to keep one on the suit and one in recharge at all times.

Once everything is back up to full capacity the fusion reactor will need to be restarted. Now this ship does not have one of the commercial fusion reactors found in most ships. The design of this reactor allows for field restarting. We have done this several times in controlled test environments and have coded the best results into the ERS program.

The next phase will require all the power reserves in the power cells to jump start the fusion reactor. The ERS will build a containment field and divert coolant from the fission reactor to use as starting solution. A series of ion particle pulses will then bombard the mixture to start the basic fusion reaction. Once the first reactor is started and run up to capacity, the other three reaction chambers will be started from the contents of the first chamber and the normal fuel supply.

The third phase is the survey of the region of space you currently occupy. Hopefully this is somewhere near the Alpha Centauri system. The ship is equipped with several single use survey probes that will send back their data for archive in the main system records. I can not stress enough that all records should be backed up onto permanent storage prior to any attempts at activating the Hyper Shunt drive.

The fourth phase will be the use of the Hyper Shunt drive. You have a list of several target system coordinates, including just coming home. With this list is a set of transformation equations to adjust the coordinates for any changes in location based on Hyper Shunt induced anomalies. This is why it is necessary for the main computer to completely evaluate your location during the level one diagnostics.

As with this transfer, you will have no memory of the steps leading up to the transfer, or the transfer itself. With good notes and a complete archive it should reduce the learning curve the second time.

The main computer has the development tools required for any changes you need to make in the ERS or HSC. Including all source code and my development notes. If you have issues with any of the parameters you can change them with these tools.

If you have not remembered by now H2IK stands for Hell If I Know. It answers all of your questions, “Where am I?” “How did I get here?” “How do I get home?” You see where this is going, don't you? I knew you would.
Yeah, that's my sense of humor alright. Amazing that I managed to put all this together.

The main computer announced “System Diagnostic Completed. There are sub-system failures. Please investigate.”

“OK Computer, List failures.”

“Main Reactor – non functional”
“Propulsion – non functional”
“Communication – no usable synchronization signal present.”
“Navigation – no recognizable star configuration.”

Well, The first two are obviously because the reactor is down. The second is because there is no signal out here. I think I can help with that last one.

“Computer, Override Navigation Home coordinate assumption, new home is near Alpha Centauri Star system. Retest Navigation.”

This should not take too long. Just recalculate the position of 1.2 million stars, child's play for any computer.

“Navigation functional within specified parameters. New home coordinates are set. Please make a hard copy archive of the numbers.”

I note the string of digits in the back of the H2IK manual.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chapter 2 – The Brief History

The screens clear and a video begins playing in the center display. I see myself on the monitor.

“Hello James, this may come as a complete shock to you, but you are no longer in the solar system. You just made the first successful Hyper Shunt Transfer of a human being. In fact, if my, um your calculations are correct, you should be somewhere near or in the Alpha Centauri System. Please be sure to do a full scan of the region and archive it before you leave. It would mean so much to everyone back here.”

OK, HSDU, Hyper Shunt Drive Unit. That makes sense. By how did I get to Alpha Centauri? That is over four light years away. That must be one heck of a drive unit.

“The Hyper Shunt Project is a faster than light (FTL) drive that forces a wormhole shunt between two locations in space. The initial small scale test using a fixed generator and just pushing the test probes through, while successful in the near instantaneous displacement of the subject, resulted in total computer systems failures on the probes. The mechanical systems would be intact, any recording devices that did not have permanent storage would be wiped. All power would be drained. In essence a dead system out the other end of the shunt.”

Pictures of various probes and diagnostic reports are shown behind the voice over. Most of them look familiar, but I don't remember them specifically.

“The transition through of the shunt also seems to drain most electro-mechanical energy, including fusion reactor magnetic containment fields. Further tests showed that old chemical based batteries would retain their charge through the shunt. ”

The inset video shows a rather large explosion. “Here is the first probe with a fusion reactor we sent through to see if we could overcome the power issues.”

So that's why the reactor was off when I woke up. Good thing too, otherwise I wouldn't have woken up at all.”

“We trained primates with conditioned responses to activate a system restart, but when they came through the shunt they had no memory of any of the training. Extensive testing shows that the loss goes back about four to six weeks prior to the transfer through the shunt.”

Data showing the before and after stimuli response that backed up the observations along with a montage video of training and testing is on the screen at this point.

This would explain why I don't remember anything about this ship. Surely though I would have trained longer than six weeks so that some of it would stick.

The video continues, “The current theory is that the passage through the shunt is so 'unreal' that the AI can not cope and shuts down. That living brains reject the reality and forget anything surrounding the event.”

“You have been working on this system for over a year, You designed all of the safety measures, and programmed both the HSC and ERS.”
“This ship is equipped with a large power storage capacity of both chemical batteries for use immediately after the transfer and power cells for the restart of the fusion reactor. The reactor is a quad chamber design with the first chamber capable of external restart. There is a small fission reactor that is used to recharge all of the power storage devices and provide the initial load of hot deuterium to prime the fusion reactor. The Emergence Restart System handles all of the details of restarting the fusion reactor. This procedure is fully described in the manual.”

“The Hyper Shunt Control is responsible for the HSDU. There is no direct control link between the AI computer system and the HSDU. The AI can only monitor the system.”

“It is hoped that you will retain enough knowledge of the systems and processes to facilitate the return trip.”

No luck there, I do not remember anything directly. I just have some muscle memory here and there. Maybe anything to do with the Hyper Shunt Transfer is lost when going through. That would cover my current condition.

“Before you make any attempts to use the drive be sure to make a full archive of everything that has happened since you woke up. This will help to give us a 'living memory' of events up to and after a successful transfer.”

“As much as I would love to continue down memory lane with you, this ship needs to be made operational again. When this synopsis concludes, the computer will begin a level one ship diagnostic. Please follow any requests it may have with regards to reseting breakers and such. The AI should have the operations manual for the HSDU, insomuch as you have given it outside the H2IK sequence. That means it has coordinate tables and can do the calculations that you may not be able to do any longer.”

Yeah, that's right discount my mathematical skills, that I don't even know I have.

“One last thing, in the back of the manual is a place for recording the current coordinates. Be sure you make record of them prior to any use of the HSDU as the tables will need to be adjusted for the vagaries of real space.”

The message “End Of Record” shows up on the screen and the computer says. “Initiating Level One Ship Diagnostic. Please stand by.”

OK, I really want to know what H2IK stands for. I ask, “Computer, Query: What does H2IK stand for?”

The computer replies, “Level One Diagnostic in progress. Please try again when completed!”

I expected something like that. So much for multi-tasking.


Monday, November 09, 2009

Chapter 1 – An Interesting Beginning

The first thing I notice is that it is dark, very dark. The next thing I notice is a beeping in the dark. It is incessant, not loud, just constantly sounding again and again. There may be four or five different sounds.

I try to stir, but I am restrained across my chest. I feel like I am sitting. My knees and hips are bent like I am in a chair, but it does not feel quite right. Then it hits me, I am weightless. That can't be good.

It is still dark, even after I open my eyes. My arms seem to be free so I swing my left arm up to my face, but it hits something hard, a helmet; and the visor is turned up to block all light. The control should be right here by the seam. How does that mnemonic go? “LUDD - Light Up, Dark Down” My fingers seem to know this instinctively as I dial the visor down a click or two.

Still nothing. Another click down and the room starts to show. It looks like a single ship cockpit. That would fit with the weightlessness and the restraints.

I turn the visor down all the way and look around. Too many red lights illuminated for my liking. Power, Propulsion, Navigation, Life Support, Communication, RCS, Defense all with alerts. Backup power shows amber and the status says 4 hours of power remaining at current consumption rates. Command and Control systems seem to be the only thing on the backup power bus right now. Life support isn't though and that's strange.

“Speaking of Life Support, how am I doing?” Glancing at the Heads Up Display (HUD) in the helmet I see that I am on internal support with 2 hours left in my pack. “Why am I off the ships systems?” I wonder. “For that matter where am I and why am I here?”

I reach over and hit the Master Alarm button to silence the current alarms. Nothing else trips and the cockpit grows silent. All I hear is the soft whirring of the air processor in my suit.

It is time to take a closer look at the ship's status. The master alarm panel still shows all the ships systems just about dead. The power mains are dead and all the breakers have tripped open. That means the Power Cells are flat, not good.

That is odd, there are four times as many Power Cells than I thought were on a ship this size. The backup power battery also has an increased capacity. I wonder why all the power reserves. Still the fusion reactor that is the main power source is not supposed to go out. “No user serviceable parts inside,” Never shuts down, no restart required... or possible, if I remember correctly.

The main reactor is off-line and is not generating any juice to recharge the cells or run propulsion, not good. RCS or maneuvering thrusters just shows no reaction mass, a result of no propulsion, but there seems to be a backup chemical thruster system running parallel to the main RCS that is operational. I can turn the ship, but not make it go much of anywhere.

No power means no communication, or life support, not good. Looking over to my right I see my support pack, and a fully charged spare. That's at least another 8 hours of heat and air. One less thing to think about right now.

The main displays panels are dark, not even the HUD overlays are showing. The main computer is down and not talking to me. That means all of the higher control functions are disabled. Just independent monitoring systems and manual overrides are up.

Next to the displays is a system panel labeled HSC/ERS. I don't immediately recognize the name or layout. The panel has a hexadecimal keypad, a small display and two large physical buttons, one green the other red. There is a handwritten note next to the red button. “Press This Button, If you want to live!” It looks like my handwriting, but I don't remember writing it. The message is clear. I must have known I would wind up in this situation.

I reach out my gloved hand and push down on the button until it clicks. I feel a faint vibration in the chair, like a motor just started somewhere in the ship. It quickly stops though.

The main status board now shows the first Power Cell with a 2% charge and climbing. The display on the HSC/ERS panel shows 'CC01 – 0004'. Everything else is still quiescent.

Next to the ERS panel is a storage slot that has a binder in it. The spine is labeled “Don't Panic: H2IK Sequence Enclosed” Don't Panic? Why should I panic? I'm in a ship, who knows where, all the main systems are down with no way to restart the main reactor and I don't remember even getting into this ship, much less traveling anywhere. Of course I should panic.

I pull the binder out and open it up to the front page. It reads: “If you are reading this, then the test was successful. Now you must go through the H2IK sequence.” What is the H2IK sequence?

First, have you pressed the red button on the ERS panel? If not then do so now!” Done that. What's next?

Next, has the display on the HSC panel started reading 'CC01 – XXXX', counting up from zero? If not then recycle the recharge control system on the Power Cell Control panel and then enter the following on the HSC panel keypad: 'Load', C100 0000, 'Execute'

Well, the display is behaving correctly so I don't have to do that step. Looks like some type of restart though.

Once the first power cell has reached at least 50% charged, you will need to restart the main computer from the primary power bus. Use the memory pack located in the back of this manual to perform an IPL of the system. It has probably been completely wiped clean.

“Great! That's why the displays our down and only the alarm panel is working.”

I flip to the back of the book and find a metallic padded envelop with a security seal stamped 'GSA' The Global Space Agency? I work for them, don't I? Ok, this is work related. I must be testing something, but what? I open the envelope and pull out a high density memory stick labeled 'HS Test IPL' That's what I need. Now to reload the main computer.

Glancing up at the Power Cell status, I see that the first cell is 100% and the second is already at 25%. A check of the ERS panel shows 'CC02 – 0026' So, it is showing the steps it takes to recharge the power cells. Not that it will do any good. No reactor to power the propulsion system. Reaching up to the breaker panel I reset the main computer breaker to the main bus. Nothing happens.

Right, I need to do an IPL with the memory pack. That means going to the back of the cockpit to the computer access panel and getting physical with it. I release the five point harness holding me into my seat and start to drift up and away, pushed out by the cushions. Grabbing the arm of the seat, I pull myself around and push off to the rear of the cabin. I drift back to the access panel. When I place my feet on the floor, they snap down and lock. “Yeah, magnetic soles, at least I will be able to turn the twist lock latches.”

The top two latches twist easily enough. The first one on the bottom is a bit stiff and the final latch almost lifts me from the floor before it breaks loose. The panel swings open from the center and locks in place.

With the panel open, I look at the layout. Along the top of the access panel are the status lights: Power, Ready, Running, AI1, AI2, AI3, Overload, and Failure. Only the Power and Failure lights are lit. It looks like they are also switches. I push the failure light and it goes out. Underneath that is a display panel which is dark. Below that, I see the slot for the memory stick. It is covered with a strip of security tape that says “System Load Only.” I pull the tape off and slide the stick into the slot until is clicks into place. Next to the slot are two buttons, one labeled 'IPL' the other 'HALT'. Both of the buttons are underneath covers to prevent accidental activation.

The ready light comes on and I flip open the cover over the IPL switch and press the button. The display comes to life. Status messages scroll up faster than I can read them, but they are all green so I figure they are good. The Running status light is now lit and the display shows the message 'System check: Good. Initial AI load completed... Please remove IPL memory and replace access cover.' So I do both and return to my seat as the main displays start activating.

I replace the IPL memory pack into its envelope and flip back to the front of the procedure list. The next step in the manual says wait for power cells and batteries to fully charge. Interrogate the computer for status update when it is functioning again.

The status board shows that it is already on the fourth power cell. Something is putting out the juice in a hurry. The manual says if the batteries do not start charging after the power cells are completed that I should recycle the recharge control system on the Backup Battery Control panel and then enter the following on the HSC panel keypad: 'Load', C100 1000, 'Execute' I will keep that in mind.

Looking at main displays I see the ship's status diagrams. The outlines do not look like any single ship I have ever seen. The fusion reactor is larger than normal; the propulsion section is overly long with a section dedicated to the HSDU, whatever that is. There is a fission reactor running in the rear most section. That must be what is charging the power cells and hopefully soon the batteries. Most everything is highlighted in red as non-operational; big surprise there.

The computer announces that it is fully operational and that I should identify myself at this time. The sound of its voice is strange after all the silence. I state my name “James Davis” and my GSA ID number and wait for validation. Boy do I get it.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hey, I am in NaNoWriMo

Yes, you heard it hear first. I am trying to write a novel this month. I got a late start, but I am going to keep plugging away at it.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

National Talk Like a Pirate Day

And here is my pirate name:

My pirate name is:
Bloody Harry Flint
Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

and here is how to talk like a pirate


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

has it really been so long?

Maiden-Abducting, Redhead-Snatching Horror from the Arcane Legendary Labyrinth

For those of you who know my past.... yeah!