Friday, November 16, 2007


Searching for a ship in space is no easy task. As other writers have noted. space is big, really big. When compared to space even the greatest of starships seems miniscule. A Nomad class scout ship such as the Wanderlust is downright titchy. To find such an object in space requires perseverance, luck and some sort of hint where to look, and some more luck. Covering as much space as possible as quickly as possible without neglecting areas for an overly long period of time is a complicated task

The standard fractal search pattern is , despite its name, not a set course or pattern. It is in fact a set of algorithms that are used to plot a course appropriate to the situation. The algorithms factor in the ships available and their engine and sensor capabilities, the information known about the missing vessel, especially it's position and course, the presence of stellar bodies ranging from asteroids to stars and more and produces a course that fills the space the could potentially be found in in such a way as to not neglect any areas of the space, conserve supplies within the searching vessels and handle a multitude of other factors.

Chance can also be a factor in the resulting course. Usually a number of course are generated which are reflections or rotations of each other, and in the absence of other information randomization is used to decide. This is rare, as in most cases there is information regarding the ships status and course to make the optimal search pattern unique.

The standard fractal search pattern has proven to be about five times as effective as its predecessor, the spherical spiral search pattern. In the 1047 known and analyzed real case applications of the standard fractal search pattern, the subject of the search has been located in time to rescue the crew in just 1.2% of searches involving one searching ship, 2.5% of two ship searches, and 6% of searches involving 3 or more ships. Untimely location of a missing ship has a likelihood of approximately 5% per searching ship. Even today the crew of a lost ship have slim chances of survival.

Friday, November 09, 2007


The conference room aboard the Fallen Angel was a spartan affair, as would be expected for a military vessel. A long thin table was the main feature of the room. The table had four chairs along each side, and a larger chair at one end. On the wall at the other end was a display screen and the doorway to the corridor outside. A closed in set of bookshelves filled with logs, manuals and other miscellanea lined one of the long walls.

"So where is the ship?'' Captain Votan asked the assembled officers. "This is where it was meant to be. We got the signal. It said this sector on this course at this time. We are here and it is not. Now I know it's not a very big ship compared to us, but still it's hard to lose a whole spaceship. Tenalp, was the message correct?''

"Captain the message was faint but clear until it stopped approximately 3 hours ago,'' Tenalp answered. "The accompanying data stream confirmed the ships position and course and included the appropriate confirmation codes. The Triptych confirms that it also received the distress signal from the Wanderlust, and triangulation matches this sector.'' he continued.

"So the message was genuine,'' Votan summarised. "Any idea why it stopped?''

This time Chief Engineer Caledon responded. "The signal stopped at the end of the message, so it looks like the transmitter was manually shut down. They could have shut it down to conserve power or they may have needed to perform repairs to the transmitter. The signal was weaker than it should have been at this distance.''

"Is there any sign as to where the Wanderlust might be?'' the captain asked.

"Sir, we've found only one trace of the Wanderlust,'' said the Astrometrics officer, Lieutenant Amelie Fea. "We've detected radiation consistent with an explosion of the main reactor of a Nomad class scout. The location of the radiation matches the coordinates from the distress signal.''

"So the Wanderlust was where it said it was. What about her course?'' Votan enquired.

Tenalp responded first. "Tracking of the signal's source shows it was following a course close to the one in stated in the distress signal,'' he said. Lieutenant Yon Gates, the astrometrics officer quickly followed. "And we have detected some signs of minor debris, vented gas and other such things strewn along the given course. The trail of debris does however end at about the position the Wanderlust would have been a little over three hours ago,'' she said.

"So the signal and the debris trail stopped at the same time?'' Votan asked.

"Sir, we don't know yet,'' replied the first officer.

"Then we shall have to find out. Richter, plot a standard fractal search pattern focused on where the Wanderlust was three hours ago. The rest of you, look for answers. I want to know where the Wanderlust was, what happened to her, and, this is the big one, where is she now?'' Votan ordered.

"Yes Sir,'' the assembled officer intoned in unison.

"We'll meet again in twelve hours to see what progress has been made. If anything major is found, notify me immediately. Dismissed.''

Thursday, November 08, 2007


The Fallen Angel's engine flared as she slowed to a halt. The region of space she was in was empty, even compared to the high standards of emptiness that deep space tended to set. There was nothing even approaching the size of a speck of dust to be found for light-days around the Fallen Angel.

Normally such emptiness would go unnoticed, for as it has been mentioned, space is typically empty, and while this patch was unusually so, variations occur and regions like this do occur. The emptiness was noticed because they were expecting something to be there, and it wasn't.

The missing item was none other than the HMSS Wanderlust. This was causing a not insignificant amount of consternation amongst the crew of the Fallen Angel. Spaceships were hard to miss, even in the vastness of space. They gave off heat, they emitted light. Spaceships occluded stars and they bent space-time. They sent out signals and broadcast navigational data. In this case it should be sending a distress call, but they had ceased several hours before the Fallen Angel had arrived in the sector of space the Wanderlust had claimed to be in.

The Wanderlust did none of these, and Captain Votan and his crew were coming to the conclusion that while they were in the right place, the Wanderlust was not.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Shells flew back and forth between the HMSS Fallen Angel and the pirate vessel as they drew alongside. The pirate vessel was putting up a good fight, but was no match for a full fledged battle cruiser. The shells from the Fallen Angel's cannons tore more and more holes into the hull of the pirate vessel.

The atmosphere in the bridge was tense but with a sense that everything was under control. The crew knew their job and were doing it.

"Weapons, target their engines, let's try and take them alive. I want these scum to rot in jail, not enjoy a quick death out here.'' Captain Vince Votan barked, "Comms, any response to the order to surrender?''

"None yet Captain,'' Communications Officer Harrington Tenalp responded. Tenalp suddenly looked at his console and focused on it intently.

"Sir, I'm picking up a distress signal from a scout ship a few sectors over. The Wanderlust, Sir.'' the Communications Officer exclaimed.

"Noted. Send a new message to the pirate vessel. "Final warning. You have 30 seconds to surrender or be destroyed.'''' the captain ordered.

"Understood. Sending message Sir.''

"Weapons, prepare a full barrage on the pirate vessel. I want it dead ASAP, understood.''

"Yes Sir, full barrage,'' Weapons Officer Ainsley Rico gruffly replied.

For thirty seconds the only sounds were those of the crew doing their jobs. The the captain spoke.

"Tenalp, and response?''

"None Sir.'' was the response.

"Weapons, commence firing,'' Votan ordered.

"Firing Sir,'' Rico confirmed, and then after a few seconds, ``Vessel has been destroyed.''

"Excellent. Helm lay in a course for the Wanderlust. Maximum sustainable speed. We have a job to do,'' ordered Captain Votan.

Lieutenant Dante Richter laid in the new course and confirmed to the captain ``Course laid in. Accelerating to 112c. ETA 38 hours Sir.''

"Good job. Let's go help that ship'' the captain told his crew.

Monday, November 05, 2007


An almost perfect sine wave of radiation oscillated up and down as it travelled through space. The imperfections were what changed the radiation from noise into a signal. It was a signal that was familiar to every space farer, and before them every sailor, and one that brought dread to any who heard it, even though the feminine computer generated voice that spoke the words was calm and reassuring.

"Ship in distress. Ship in distress. This is the HMSS Wanderlust requesting help from any and all. Location sector 147-87-041 heading -39-121v.2c at time 21103-079-02-56-00AN. Message repeats.''

The message passed through deep space weakening as it travelled further and further from the HMSS Wanderlust in it's mission to bring aid to the stricken ship.


The HMSS Wanderlust stood still in space. The engines, normally glowing with power, now remained dark and silent. Inside the familiar vibrations that were the heartbeat of the ship were absent. Normally unnoticed, their absence was now a grim sign of the crews predicament.

Nowhere was the mood more grim than in the Captain's office. Lieutenant Osham was explaining the situation to the Captain.

"We started getting power spikes in the main reactor. They started small but grew rapidly. We tried to bring the backup generator online, but the power spikes started in that reactor too. At that time the reactors started to go critical and that was when we ejected the reactors.'' The Lieutenant explained.

"So what is our status now?'' the Captain queried.

"We have battery power which should last a day or two. We have some slight maneuverability from the fine control systems, and some residual momentum, but not enough to reach anywhere soon. We've sent out a distress signal, but no response as yet.'' was Olsham's concise response.

"So what options do we have?''

"Not much. We coast while we can, try and conserve power and resources as long as we can while waiting for someone to pick up our distress signal.''

Friday, November 02, 2007


Up and down. Pause. Up and down. Pause.

Petty Officer Caleb Stanfield watched the reactor reading spike again and again. The spikes were well within the safety limits for the reactor, but the regularity of the spikes was puzzling him. Stanfield looked around for the duty engineer, but he was not nearby. "Probably in the docking bay,'' thought the Petty Officer. The graveyard shift was when a lot of the minor maintenance tasks were done and the landing craft were just about due for an inspection.

Stanfield checked the readings again. The spikes were still there, but he thought maybe a little bit bigger. He wracked his mind for what might be causing the spikes. He ran a diagnostic check on the reactor which came back optimal. Then he checked the monitoring system. Optimal. He crossed the room to where the backup monitors were. The backup was a completely independent system from the main system, and it showed the exact same pattern of spikes.

By this time the spikes were definitely larger. Still within the safety limits, but noticeably larger. That does it. Time to pass the buck. Petty Officer Stanfield reached for the com and buzzed the docking bay.

"Docking bay. Lieutenant Osham here. What is it?'' the com growled back.

"Lieutenant, this is Petty Officer Stanfield in the main reactor room. I've been getting some spikes from the main reactor. I think you should come and take a look at it,'' Stanfield replied.

"On my way,'' the Lieutenant responded, then cut off the line.

Stanfield was relieved and nervous. He was glad the Lieutenant was going to take a look at the reactor, but hoped it wasn't something obvious he had overlooked. He wondered if maybe there was an external cause, but couldn't think of anything that could cause such and occurrence. He reached for the cam again and buzzed Astrometrics.

"Astrometrics. Ensign Gertraht.'' came back in a feminine voice.

"Ensign, this is Petty Officer Stanfield in the main reactor room. I'm getting some unusual readings down here and I'm wondering if anything external might be causing it. I'm picking up a pulse every 2 seconds. Are you detecting anything like that?''

"Sorry Petty Officer. Nothing matching your description or anything else out of the usual.'' Ensign Gertraht responded.

"OK. Thanks anyway,'' and with that Stanfield closed the line.

He checked the readings again. The spikes were definitely larger, and now they were faster. Just then the Lieutenant entered the room.

"What's the situation, Petty Officer?'' Lieutenant Osham asked.

"I've been getting spikes in the main reactor for about 10 minutes now, and they're getting bigger and more frequent, sir,'' Stanfield replied.

"You've run diagnostics?''

"I've run checks on the reactor and the monitoring systems which all came back optimal. The backup monitoring system show identical readings, and the Astrometrics sections reports no external sources matching the spikes,'' Stanfield explained.

"All right then. Let's bring the backup reactor up to full power and do some more tests.''

As the pair worked to bring the backup on line Petty Officer Stanfield kept an eye on the readings for both reactors. When the backup reached 80% it started spiking as well.

"Lieutenant,'' Stanfield warned.

"I see it,'' the Lieutenant responded, ``at least we know it's not just the main reactor.''

Suddenly klaxon started blaring in the reactor room and throughout the ship. The Lieutenant cursed under his breath. Stanfield checked the readouts. They were off the charts.

"Shut them down,'' the Lieutenant called out, ``now.''

"Sir, they're still spiking.''

"This is not good. We're going to have to eject the reactors. Activate the reactor seals.''

Stanfield did so while the Lieutenant worked at the main console. The reactors were disengaged and the the release hatches were opened. Explosives detonated and forced the cubes of dense material that made up the reactors out of the hull as fast as possible. But not fast enough. As the main reactor left the ship, it exploded, buffeting the ship and jarring all aboard.

"I guess I should inform the Captain,'' Lieutenant Osham said in a voice that made it clear he did not relish having to inform the Captain that his ship was all but dead in space.