To get up to speed with this narrative, if you haven’t, read part one. It may or may not help. Depends on you. Basically I am trying to complete a space ship’s interior and systems while whipping a crew into shape. The term “ship shape” comes of a long nautical heritage gained on the oceans and seas of Earth over several millennia. Trying to do this with a 3d printed crew and an AI enhanced computer offers unique challenges. I like the idea of free will and encourage these printed characters to develop theirs as the fancy takes them. Nothing weird, I tell them, nothing I consider weird. The first officer, Sheila the Ship, is eerily starting to resemble my ex whos name was, I vaguely recall, also Sheila. Is that coincidence? The jury is still out. One of the Jurors is doggedly resisting. The vote eleven to one to convict. The judge is getting impatient. He wants to hit the golf course this afternoon. What was I droning about?, personalities. Free will. The chief of the engine room takes on the personality of a rag picker I knew on Earth. But Its not just my store of memory, the ship’s archive has everything. The catalog of biologic print files has a yottabyte (ten to the 24th) of interesting memory sets. Mostly from sentients, or humans who qualify for that sobriquet….and not so many do. There is a Petabyte of cute furry animal minds but their brains are wonderfully devoid of angst and trauma. Pain and emotional injury, are, unfortunately, the bulk of our memories. Seems the pleasant needs to be very strong to justify its imprinting the clay of remembrance. The hermit, the engine room chief, didn’t get the dependence on rum from me. A bottle of Myers will sit on my shelf, half full, for months. I just don’t have the calling. My dad did. He sipped whisky that, in a pinch, could serve as varnish remover. He stayed all day close hauled and six and a half sheets to the wind. Hard to escape the nautical terms. I’ve lived near the water on Earth so often.
Every day the hermit huddles in the engine compartment, imbibes, polishes the M Drive, and downloads yarns and sea shanties from Sheila’s server farm. A week out from Earth things had progressed to the point where I could institute a walk around. That’s when the master, the skipper, the captain, el jeffe de barco, visits all the spaces. He makes small talk with crew and try’s to pick up the scuttle butt. The office watercooler was a descendant of the “Skuttle Butt” found on vessels. Drinking water. Seamen would gather to refresh parched throats and they’d gossip between swigs from the ladle. The Butt was a barrel of what had once been fresh water. A few days of scurvy mariners slobbering over it made it less so. Still, a drink of anything not saline becomes priceless when one is parched.
The hermit had the M drive gleaming. He must print the copper polish by the gallon. “Arrrr Arrr Cap’n she’s bright and puls’n with thrust today” He was proud of the engine. It sat on a pedestal in the middle of the compartment. As soon as I’d closed the compartment door and dogged it down I became aware of a throb and vibration. Couldn’t be the M drive could it? They didn’t throb or vibrate, no need for something so fantastic to include drawbacks. It was the sort of sound you’d encounter in the engine room of a merchant ship on Earth. A twelve cylinder diesel maybe? “Eye skipper” the hermit spat, getting close enough that I could smell the rum on his breath. “That’s Cap’n Morgan Reserve, isn’t it?” He smiled and squinted. The unsquented eye opened even more and he said, “Today its Cap’n Morgan, but I’m thinkin O’ switchen to Negrita extra dark” I nodded, he showed excellent taste in rum. Maybe there was a bit of me in the booze thing. Changing the subject from rum I ask about the hum, the throb filling the engine space. It was a sound I associated with huge thermal engines on Earth. “Ha ha, is that what’s got ye today skipper?” Thru a gap toothed smile he coughed ,but regaining his breath said. “The sound comes from those speakers” Ah, I thought. The sound is a looping audio file. “Gives an authentic feeling to the engine room, don’t ya think?” I agreed that it did.
Tell me about the M drive Chief. I’ve read enough about it, its controversial history mostly, but I can’t get my head around how it works. “Well Skipper, its pretty simple really”, we stood beside the gleaming copper device. “An Englishman invented it early in the 21st century. “It is a microwave cavity, about the size of a large microwave oven, but without a door” I chuckled, “could we do our cooking with it?”, “No skipper, its much too powerful for that”. Your Thanksgiving turkey would be a heap of carbon in a femtosecond. Your cup of coffee a cloud of coffee flavored water vapor in a picosecond. Too powerful I mused. How powerful? The hermit scratched his beard and scrunched his face thru a series of thoughtful poses. “Its at least a Zettawatt”, maybe half a yottawatt” “Not a Jigawatt? I ask. It was a trick question but the Chief was ready for me. “Skipper that’s a red herring and not a real magnitude” “You’re right there Chief, its from a movie” I thought about that. The movie was a fantasy and the script needed a fantastic number, something off the charts big, the Jigawatt. Considering the way fantasy becomes reality here in the 21st century the Jigawatt’s place just three orders of magnitude beyond the yottawatt seems assured. “So how’s it work Chief”. Best way to think about it is with Maxwell’s demons cast as plasmons. The microwave energy quanta expressed in the cavity as little demons all jostling around for elbow room. Unlike the microwave oven’s cavity the EM drive cavity is asymmetrical, that is to say, one end is bigger than the other. Bottom line is that more demons end up at the big end than at the small end. That difference diverts energy into momentum which is to say thrust. About a hundred pounds. The first moon rocket had five million pounds thrust. “Ya, but it only burned for a couple of minutes”. “Exactly” the Chief agreed, “and there’s the difference – our measly hundred pounds is continuous” With the technical out of the way I ask the chief about the EM drive’s interesting history. “They tried to suppress it” he said. “They?” I responded, “The physics posse, the union of quantum mechanics” I ask why. “They felt he was treading on their turf, violating their rules” you mean the laws of physics? The establishment called them laws but in fact they were only guidelines. They weren’t written in stone. They were written in the sand. When the tide of BBR (belief based reality) climbed up the beach it erased all that. It upended the political landscape too, in fact that’s what most folks noticed. But in physics its effect was equally revolutionary. They said EM drive was BS drive and couldn’t possibly work. We both chuckled.
“Care for a ration of rum skipper?” the chief ask, “Thanks I said, maybe later, I’ve got a meeting with Sheila” I said sheepishly. “The boss lady doesn’t like you having a snort?” the hermit asked. “She’d rather I didn’t” I said, again sheepishly. “But you’re the master, right?!” Technically yes, I said, but its best to choose one’s battles. The chief tossed a shot down his gullet and shook his head violently. Strong stuff I thought. While he recovered from the drink I said. “But those hoity toady physics people were wrong weren’t they…here we are only days out from Earth and already relativistic. “Skipper, you know about this stuff….are we in danger of time dilation?, I mean, I haven’t had my shots” I reminded him that time dilation was relative, like a cousin or great aunt. Sometimes an uncle. We were only related mentally, not by blood. (to be continued)