So, You Tell Me

>> Monday, June 28, 2010

I appreciate the encouragement on the last installment. Here's a sample of the stuff in question, that was excised from an earlier draft. What do you think? Too technical?

Bridge recording of the Converted Transport Ship (CTS) Goliath, commencing 3125:255:14:91.23 as relayed via beacon 492 before transmission was interrupted.

CAPCOM: Captain! There are reports coming through that three Mil spaceships have come within Command's sensor range

CAPTAIN: They headed for us or the planet surface?

CAPCOM: Neither, Captain. Word is, they're bearing down on the Lunar base!

NAV: No!

CAPTAIN: Steady, Nav. The whole planet has children there. Damn it! They weren't supposed to attack the base. They've never attacked the Lunar base before. What does Command want us to do?

CAPCOM: Command says to abort the lunar landing, try to stay out of range of the new ships.

CAPTAIN: Have they called up defenders? Strikers?

CAPCOM: They didn't say, but I can hear talk on another band, Captain. There's a hell of a battle raging on the other side of the planet.

CAPTAIN: And at Rega or we wouldn't have had to lift like that. We can't go back to Rega base, we can't land on Luna while they're being attacked. How long does Command think we can stay out here? How long before the Mil take us out?

CAPCOM: Command says to wait for further orders.

CAPTAIN: They're hoping Luna's automatic defenses will hold. That the kids will be alright. Science, are there any ships defending Luna at all?

SCIENCE: None on sensor, Captain. (pause) Captain, there is the new shield on Luna. Many think it can repulse even a full Mil onslaught.

CAPTAIN: Hell of a way to test it. Science, can you spot the Mil ships yet?

SCIENCE: Aye, three large landers using energy shields, stronger readings than usual. Perhaps they've beefed them up since they haven't proven useful against our laser cannons.

NAV: Or they're trying to negate the Lunar shield. Are they going in together?


SCIENCE: Together, very close. I-you're right! The Mil shields appear to be coupled.

CAPTAIN: Are all the passengers secured, Cargo? This may get bumpy.

CARGO: We didn't have enough jumpseats for them all. All available seats that could be converted have been, even the extra bunks in sickbay. The last few refugees...

CAPTAIN: Don't call them that!

CARGO: (pause) Three evacuees are having to manage.

CAPTAIN: Manage what?

CARGO: (pause) They're holding on to straps in hold B3.

CAPTAIN: Straps? This isn't the monorail, Officer. You should have known better.

CARGO: They didn't seem to mind.

CAPTAIN: When have teenagers ever acknowledged mortality? Call down to whoever's on duty there and make sure everyone's secured. I don't care how, even if they have to be strapped to the wall.

CARGO: Aye, Captain. [Command has noted ½ demerit for Cargo Officer Tinder]

PILOT: Screen three, Captain. The Mil are directly in our path and approaching the Lunar shield.

CAPTAIN: Son of a bitch. Science Officer, what about weapons? Anything we've got strapped on going to make a dent in those Mil bastards?

SCIENCE: (pause) Historically, laser cannons have been used to good effect on the Mil ships. We have several that appear to be in good working order, but they do not have their own power supply.

CAPTAIN: Hell of a way to test that kluged weapons console. The power drain going to be a problem?

EO: The power from the cannons will be taken from propulsion and other electrical uses, Captain. We are low on fuel because we didn't get a good reload during the-uh-expedited lift.

CAPTAIN: Noted. Historically, we have power to burn and a dedicated weapons officer, not an overworked EO and a misused Science Officer, but this wasn't a military ship, the freakin' Mil aren't supposed to be attacking and the strap-on weaponry aren't supposed to be needed. Will we still have enough juice to get to Lunar base, EO?

EO: (pause) If I assume this trip to use twice the normal fuel because of the delay and other maneuvering, we will have less than 10% reserve, less than regs allow. Sir.

CAPTAIN: Officer, we got kids here and there's nothing but kids on Luna. Regs aren't my worry. Science Officer, if they fire on Luna, let 'em have everything we've got. Charge 'em.

EO: And shields?

CAPTAIN: Science, you've got the weapons console. What do you think? Keep it brief.

SCIENCE: Those ships are armed to the teeth, Captain. I think we may need the shields, too.

CAPTAIN: Make it so.

EO: Aye, Captain.

PILOT: Do you think that, if we can take out one, the others will blow as well as close as they are?

CARGO: Captain, the passengers and all crew are secured.

CAPTAIN: You might have something, Crestor. Navigation, set a course for the cluster, top speed, and let's let 'em have it.

EO: Captain, if we run shields on full with cannons blazing, our margin drops to nearly 5%.

CAPTAIN: Noted. Crestor, have we got bearings?

PILOT: Aye, Captain.

CAPTAIN: Science?

SCIENCE: Ready, Captain.

CAPTAIN: Hold on, everyone. They're about to attack Luna's new shielding. There's going to be some backlash between their shielding and ours, so it might get bumpy.

CAPTAIN: Fire at will.
(various alarms and some scuffling sounds, then an apparent explosion)

EO: Loss of command system 1. System 2 is holding. Shielding at 1/3 capacity.

PILOT: There goes one! And another! I think we stopped them, Captain!
(additional alarms)

EO: Another energy wave, Captain!

SCIENCE: Shields are collapsing!

CAPTAIN: Brace yourselves!

[end transmission]

So, what do you think?


  • The Mother

    I don't have a problem with the lack of names. It sounds impersonal, and that's what you'd expect.

    I'm not sure the dialog is as technical or precise as one might expect when dealing with emergent situations and dangerous conditions. And the word 'historically' shows up a lot. Maybe, 'x has reported success with y...'

  • Stephanie Barr

    I was trying to balance non-military staff/crew (though the Captain used to be) in an unexpectedly military situation. I presumed, therefore, that a civilian space op in a tense situation would be a good model - so, given I had untold hours of console time, I used that as inspiration, where names bleed out for positions that clearly have a long-term co-working situation (like, say, partnered EVA crewmen) but positions are generally used. I suspect the difference between this and a military situation or this and a movie interchange would seem so pronounced.

    The second historically is because my Captain is something of a sarcastic bastard so he mimicked the wording used by the the science officer to make a point on how things were different. His sarcastic and sharp tongue is fully revealed later; I can see where it wouldn't come through in this little bit.

  • Project Savior

    It doesn't seem to technical to me, of course I'm pretty geeky. The only real vs fiction thing I noticed was the "Loss of command system 1. System 2 is holding." Which I'm assuming is the real world labeling, but in most fiction it is the bulkier, "Primary Command System and Secondary Command System."

  • Stephanie Barr

    In our human spaceflight, primary and backup systems are used, but naming systems by number is often key because there are usually multiple primary systems (identical) in place that must fail before a dissimilar backup is used.

    For instance, there are five flight computers in the Space Shuttle. Four run concurrently with identical software as "primary" with another computer running stripped-down dissimilar software that can perform critical functions only. The primary computers, in this case, can vote a faulty computer out, in fact, multiple faulty computers out.

    We do have systems, however, that have multiple like redundancy and then a dissimilar backup. In fact, that's very common.

    I'm not being defensive, actually. It's just fun for me to talk about. That really goes for the Mother's comments, too. I appreciate your impressions.

  • Jeff King

    That’s a lot to take in… I found it well written and didn’t think it was too technical.

    I got a real sense of being there, it worked for me.

    The sense of realism is what strikes me, I feel it is true to life—well as close to life I could imagine that is.

  • Aron Sora

    Something you could do to balance this scene is make Cargo more informal/unconfident or f you somehow highlight the humor there, the scene could be digested by the reader better. But, it is really, really good and not too technical.

  • Rocketscienist

    Where can I find a copy of your fantasy novel?

  • Stephanie Barr

    Rocketscienist, if you want to read it, I can send you a copy - it's not in print, but I'm always interested in more readers. Email me if you're really interested

    stephanieebarr at

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