Jonesey pushed his cap back on his head to wipe the sweat from his brow. The screen in front of him flared blue as the results flowed over the screen, and the glow illuminated his features. He smiled as the report came to its conclusion, and rose from his crouch by the display. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see the clock showing that he had but a few hours before the Vanguard began transiting toward Earth and the intercept with the Plasmoids.
He scanned his eyes across Engineering to catch sight of Jimmy, but couldn’t see the man anywhere among the other Mechanics. He knew better than to search the whole of Engineering – that was a trainee’s mistake. He stood at the central nexus of the wings of Engineering and listened instead. Soon enough, he was certain, he’d hear the callyaking voice of the Scotsman.
True to form, he could hear the drone of Scotch English vitriol from the direction of the phlogiston vats. Rounding the edge of a vat of purple phlogiston set to be flushed, he discovered Jimmy shouting at a screen, where it seemed that Van had made contact before Jonesey could relay the news.
“What d’ye mean we should use the technology that the Yrgoans of our Universe have said is useless? Why waste my good time when we have enough trouble t’bear as ‘tis? I may well be indebted to ye for bringing me back to me own home, but ye cannae expect me to go along with such a crazy idea!”
Jonesey coughed. Jimmy looked at him and frowned. “What, did this grapple o’computer bits put ye up to it, too? Ye cannae expect me to believe that this is of any worth!”
Jonesey shrugged. “I’ve had computer programs working on it for the last several hours and they cannot see a thing wrong with it. If it were detrimental to the working of the ship, I’d have found out by now. From all that I see it’s quite clear that this ‘grapple o’bits’ as you call it may just have a bit more personal understanding of what makes this ship work.” He sniffed. “I’m inclined to believe him, and I’m willing to stake my reputation as Chief Numpty on it.”
Jimmy frowned to see the man taking the oft-used epithet as his own. He looked from his Kemrese lieutenant to the computer program and back again. He puffed up his chest. “Well, since yer both experts on the subject o’the Distortion Drive, enlighten me then – just how will this protect us from the Plasmoids that will be assaulting our homeworld?”
Jonesey pointed to the screen where Van stepped aside, presenting what appeared at first as a chalkboard that eventually filled the screen. “Without giving you the in depth presentation of the physics behind it, Jimmy, because we don’t have the time to spend, the use of the Distortion drive generators around key power relays and computing cores would at the least protect these mission critical systems from the gravitons, adding an additional layer of protection.”
Van slipped into view and the blackboard stepped back. “I’m happy to state, Jimmy, that you seem to have the necessary machinery sitting in your storage areas, and it would only take some minor modifications to create such devices as necessary.” He paused and looked over his shoulder. “Gentlemen, I regret that I must leave you to your discussion. It would seem that one of my subroutines has earned the ire of the Captain, and I’m being asked to disconnect myself from the computer for the time being, to step into the Penalty Box as it were.”
Jimmy scowled. “What d’ye mean?” His shouted question at the screen was met with silence, for Van had disappeared. He immediately stepped to call to the bridge, but looked at Jonesey. “Get to work then, Chief Numpty. I cannae believe that all your time will be worth a thing. Create one, ONE, prototype and let’s set it up around the computer core here in Engineering. After we’ve tested that here, we’ll see about putting them into use in other parts of the ship.”
Jonesey looked at Jimmy. “I’ll prepare one and set it up here, but while I’m doing it, I’ll set the work up for the others, because we’ll need them in short order, and we’ll be short on time once we reach our destinations and start our transits back to Earth.”
Jimmy looked at him for a moment, scowled again and spat. “Get.”
Jonesey smirked as he walked away. Jimmy turned to the computer terminal and called quickly to the bridge. He was greeted by Captain Spitzer, who was a bit red in the face. “Captain, just what is it that Van has done? He’s been a model crew member, and I can vouch that this program that we’ve had in our systems for the last few days has been nothing but incredibly useful. I’d take a triple dozen o’him over half of the dough-heided chanty-wrastlers I work with here, if you’ll forgive my mechanic’s parlance.”
Captain Spitzer pursed her lips. “Now is not the time, Jimmy. We haven’t tested this program. There’s no knowing what can happen.”
Jimmy looked at the Captain, and shook his head. “Captain. I appreciate your concern, but I must tell you that now is not the time to put down what could be a useful defense against the Plasmoids. We have in our computer one of the greatest artificial intelligences that mankind has ever created, that was created in part by Aquico. Yes, not our Aquico, but someone very much like her, someone that I feel could have been our own, if I must say. He’s a worthy program, and frankly, Captain, I’m glad to have him aboard. He can help us compensate our systems much faster than our analogue biological programming can. He can see trouble and respond faster than our eyes can read print on a phlogisticated screen.” He looked at her and removed his hat. “I will resign from the Starmada if he proves to be anything other than useful, Captain. We need his help in the coming battle.”
She looked at him, harshly. She adjusted her collar and he felt her eyes poring into him. “Jimmy, I’ll consider it. If you’ve such a strong opinion in his favor, I will review my decision.”
He looked at her, and his eye squinted. “Now, dunna say anything to him about it, Captain. I cannae have word get out that I speak highly of anyone.”
Captain Spitzer chuckled. “Thank you, for the laugh, Jimmy. I’ll make my decision before we begin transiting to Earth.”