Engineering Back

Andrew Adams Perry was an engineer.  He always wanted to be an engineer, but he never really decided what kind of engineer he wanted to be.  Because of his indecision, Andy collected engineering degrees the way some people collect stamps.  A lot of people never really understood why Andy gave up a six-figure income to go work for the Company.  Few ever understood why most of the people working for the Company gave up really good jobs.  Andy could explain it to them, but he doubted that they would ever really understand.

The Company pushed Andy to use every talent he had and paid for him to learn whatever it was he didn't know.  Even his wife thought he was crazy at first, but the Company had put her to work too.  The Company pushed all their employees right to the edge of their abilities and then asked them to grow beyond their limits.  In return, the Company tried to make the dreams of their employees come true.  In part, that explained why Andy was chief engineer onboard the Galactic Enterprise.

A giant leap in anti-matter technology enabled the Galactic Enterprise to be the first spacecraft with an anti-matter power source.  The design for a huge ion drive was scraped, and the Galactic Enterprise was refitted with an anti-matter propulsion system.

It worried Andy some knowing that both experimental anti-matter power stations on Earth lost their containment and left huge holes in the ground when they exploded.  The one that exploded outside of LA killed over 7000 people.  Even though the core could be ejected there was little chance that it would make it far enough away before the anti-matter came in contact with some regular matter and exploded.

Andy stayed up nights trying to figure out a way to make the containment system foolproof.  Many a night his wife had to drag him away from work and into bed or he would not have gotten any sleep.  Still, it was a problem he had to solve.  He didn't want to end up like the power stations on Earth.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas III was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  He came from an old southern family with money, lots of money.  Everything seemed to come easy for John.  In school, he was class president and a straight-A student.  He lettered in every sport the school had to offer.  He had a rugged kind of handsomeness that made him irresistible to women.  His whole life seemed to have been handed to him on a silver platter.

There was the side of John few knew.  Anti-matter was an up and coming field with the recent advancements; John was determined to become its master.  He gobbled up all the information he could.  After four years of college companies in need of a physicist started knocking on his door, but he wasn't interested.  There was only one operational anti-matter reactor, and the only way he would ever get close to it was apply for one of the highly sought after student positions onboard the Galactic Enterprise.  With the help of some well-placed money from his father, he got his ticket on the greatest adventure ever envisioned by man.

After the basic tour of the upper levels of the ship, John headed for the engineering section.  The door opened, and John walked in.  The magnets in his shoes held him to the deck.  One of the technicians looked up from his control station.  “Hey, kid, you don't belong here,” he said.  “This is a restricted area...”  The technician was about to say something more when the sirens went off.

Everyone in the room shifted into high gear, and John was quickly forgotten.  The magnetic field around the anti-matter had become unstable, and they were losing containment.  Andy stood up from his command station.  “Alright everyone out of here, I'm going to eject the core,” he said.  “Let's pray the rocket will get it far enough away before it explodes.”  Andy figured it wouldn't get more than a few hundred yards before exploding, vaporizing the ship in the process.

Everyone had forgotten about John.  “No wait,” he shouted as he ran over to the containment control station.  He slipped into the seat vacated by the technician and began to push buttons.  “You've had a power fluctuation to the magnetic field.  You need to re-stabilize the power going to the magnets.”

Andy's hand hovered just above the core eject button.  He watched as the kid slowly regained control of the containment field.  Eight minutes later the siren quit wailing, and some of the red lights were starting to turn green again.  Andy relaxed and walked over to stand behind John and watched as he pushed the last few buttons that turned the rest of the red lights green.  “Good work, what's your name son?” he asked.

“John Thomas, sir.”

“Well, John, thank you for saving our butts.  You're welcome here anytime,” Andy said.

“You guys need to re-think your power supply to the electromagnets to avoid fluctuations in the containment field.  Otherwise, this is just a ticking time-bomb waiting to go off,” John replied.  “Your power input is not stable.  Surely you've notice fluctuations in the field before now?”

A broad grin spread across Andy's face.  “Only minor distortions well within specs,” he replied.

“The specifications are wrong,” John replied.  “Any fluctuations in the field above 1/1000 of a percent are a sign of trouble.  The power to your magnets is through the main power grid.  That's just asking for trouble.  You need to isolate your power input from the main power grid.  Up the power input slightly and feed it through a surge suppressor.  That should stabilize your magnetic field.”  John leaned back in the chair.

“John, if you ever need a job come see me,” Andy said.  He turned toward his staff still standing by the door.  “Well, let's shut it all down until we can make the suggested improvements to the system,” he said.

Decker was waiting for John at his dorm room door.  “You sure know how to stand out in a crowd.  That was a nice piece of work saving the ship and all,” he said as he stuck out his hand.  “It would have ruined my whole day if I became space dust this morning.”

John took the offered hand and matched the firm grip with one of his own.  “Thank you, Captain.”

“No, Jonathan Taylor Thomas III, it is I who thank you,” Decker said.  “And, to show our appreciation, I'm having you moved to private staff quarters.  Your duty assignment will be in engineering.  You'll report to Chief Engineer Perry tomorrow after we get you settled in your new quarters.”

John never expected to have the captain himself help him move.  He never expected to be propelled into the thick of things on his first day onboard the Galactic Enterprise.  “John, take a seat,” Andy told him as he walked through the door the next day.

“Yes, sir.”  John sat down in the nearest vacant chair.

“First, lose that sir crap.  You can call me Andy.  Next, we are going to go over the entire system.  Don't be afraid to make suggestions.  This piece of techno crap almost blew us all to hell.  I don't want a repeat of yesterday.  I read your records and made a few calls last night.  You're considered to be one of the top people on the planet when it comes to anti-matter containment.  If we have to, I'll eject the whole damn thing and start over from scratch, but we are going to go over this thing and rebuild it so nothing can ever go wrong again.”  The expert Andy had been begging Decker to get had just fallen into his lap.

“I don't know what to say, sir..., Andy.”  John was being propelled into something he always dreamed about.  “The main reason for the anti-matter reactors on Earth failing was gravity.  No matter how strong the containment field is, any fluctuation in the field can be disastrous.  That is one of the reasons we weren't vaporized the moment your field fluctuated, and it is probably why you haven't had a real problem before now.  I'm going to suggest that you add more security first thing.  It is not generally known, but terrorists caused the LA reactor explosion.  The anti-matter stream was full on and when the stream was blocked it caused a pressure build-up inside the containment field.  Just before the pressure would have overcome the containment field, power to the electromagnets was cut.”

“How do you know that?” Andy asked.

“I was on the team the government hired to try and determine just what went wrong,” John replied.  “Compared to the other reactor that exploded the blast was a hundred times more powerful.  The LA reactor had all kinds of safety systems in place that had to have been overcome manually.  Also, there were off-site online files that recorded everything that went on.  All this information was never made public of course.”

“I'll speak to the captain about an increase in security,” Andy said.  “Anything else?”

“I'll have to go over the technical specifications and then physically inspect the whole system before I can make any real suggestions.”

“That sounds like it will keep you busy for a while,” Andy said.

“When should I start?” John asked.

“Now,” Andy replied with a smile.

Field 1 Field 3 Field 5 Field 7 Field 9 Main A Field 2 Field 4 Field 6 Field 8 Field 0 Main B Magnetic Field Failure ! Find the Right Button And Stabilize The Magnetic Field Core Eject