#fridayflash: brain power

When Trak emitter waves pass through an object in space, the object is not destroyed as it would be from a standard munition. Instead, all the molecules within the object vibrate from the emitter energy. Brittle objects will shatter if hit enough times in a narrow enough time window; gasses, liquids, and more flexible solids will fare better, but the kinetic energy of the vibrations will make them heat up. The process of destroying something like a starship involves targeting the ship enough times in a sufficiently small timespan that the ship is destroyed either from the hull vibrating apart, or from the ship's breathing air expanding so much it causes the ship to explode.

Often ships survive an assault nearly intact, but with their occupants cooked alive. To a Trak, this is the best outcome. They put so much research into the emitter wave technology that their knowledge of starship engineering is notably lacking. They tend to target parts of the ship where they know there will be a lot of personnel during an attack — logistical quarters, the bridge, communications bays. They have captured enough ships to know how to identify their targets with excellent precision.

And that was why Commander Qreq was in what was left of her ship's last working communication bay, trying to find a way to complete the necessary calculations for a hyperjump. The communications personnel were slumped around her, all of them dead. The stench of boiled meat hung thick in the desiccated, overheated air. Most of the command panels had slightly melted and then re-hardened once the attack was over, making them useless for interfacing with the shipboard computer.

Qreq sat at the one surviving panel, the only access to any shipboard computing. She resisted the urge to gouge her claw across the wall in frustration. If she didn't navigate out of attack range quickly, she and the rest of the crew yet living would be cooked or captured, along with the ship.

The Trak had yet to capture a ship with hyperjump capabilites. Qreq didn't want her name attached to the first one they got.

She'd come up the chain of command through the communications corps. It would have been almost nostalgic to sit at a console again if the situation hadn't been so awful. At the first detection of emitter vibrations, she had ordered her bridge crew to take shelter in a utility closet, but the swath of waves had been too broad, and the attack had killed them. There had been no room for Qreq, so she had run down the corridor, stopping halfway between the bridge and the nearest logistics region. Her breathing bladder felt scorched from inhaling heated air, but at least she was alive.

Communications machines were specialised for transmission, reception, and translation of data. They had no way of computing the delicate calculations needed to complete a hyperjump, nor the general processing power to tell the engine room to engage the drive with the correct coordinates.

Qreq would have to send the data and formulae off-ship for the calculations, then find a way to transmit the results to the engine room. The Trak had chased her ship to a malformed solar system in the far reaches of an obscure galaxy, and if previous reports were accurate, she had about fifteen minutes before the next attack.

She checked the coordinates again. Beyond the mess left behind by a failed planet, there were supposed to be several large masses orbiting very close to the central star. One of them was rumoured to be carbon-rich. The computers of Qreq's world all used carbon-lattice processing architectures.

Qreq used the transmission locator on the console to locate a source of carbon among the system's inner planets, and hissed with relief when the next planet after the orbiting ruins lit up almost in its entirety. She quickly retrieved the calculations routine, added the ship's current coordinates, and tacked on a script to make the calculated destination transmit back to the engine room's reception address.

She pinched the send control for subspace transmissions and tapped her claw on the side of the console for luck. All she needed was a lattice of sufficient size and density, with just a little electricity running through it, and she might be able to thwart those Trak bastards after all.

"How's the novel going?"

"Huh? Oh," said Charlotte as her husband started laughing. "Have you just been standing there?"

"For the last five minutes," said Brad. "At first I thought you were thinking, but then I thought you were sleeping with your eyes open."

"I totally spaced out. When was the last time I typed something..." Charlotte checked her computer. "Ouch."

"Still a ways to go before you win NaNoWriMo, eh?"

"Yeah." Charlotte sorted through her notes as Brad walked away. "Hon?"


"Do we have any shrimp left in the freezer? I really feel like seafood for dinner all of a sudden."

"We should. What brought that on?"

"No idea."

A shudder rippled through Qreq's ship. She let out a burble of panic, then rumbled in delight as she realised the shudder was from the giant hyperjump engines spooling up. She counted to twelve slowly, and just when she thought that surely the engines were malfunctioning and tearing the ship apart, they stopped.

Qreq ran to the window at the end of the communications bay. The view showed blue flickers of plasma, and long white streaks as the ship manoeuvred around stars in hyperspace.

The calculations had worked. Qreq returned to the communications bay and saved the carbon lattice planet's information to the transmission list. She noted that according to the data the locator had gleaned, it was about halfway between equinox and solstice. She wondered if that had anything to do with finding a carbon lattice running idle so easily.

Never mind. The calculated coordinates should bring them almost within far orbit of the home planet, easily within range to send out a distress call. Qreq left the communications bay to make an inspection of the ship and search for survivors.