Outward Bound
Chapter 11

Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa

As we stepped into the electronics bay, I was stunned. The noise, hustle, and bustle were surprising. Given the quiet of the maintenance bay, this was pandemonium. Kids were laughing and singing. Several adults were circulating through the room, supervising what was happening on the work tables.

An older, dark-haired man watched what was happening from an elevated desk on the far side of the room. When we came in, he was talking to a pair of kids. Showing them something on a piece of equipment. When he finished, he looked up and saw Lucy and me. Getting up, he hurried across the room. “Captain, it’s a pleasure to meet you in person. And Ms. Golden, you too? it’s been so long since you visited us.”

He turned and gestured around the room. “Well Captain, what do you think of my humble workshop, and all my busy elves? And you, Ms. Golden, I have two very promising youngsters that are just right for your apprenticeship program. They are excited to get started.”

The pure energy this man was emitting was enough to tire you out.

Lucy interrupted him, “Mr. Reynolds,” and had the favor immediately returned “Please, Ms. Golden, please call me Jack. You too, Captain. I feel that we, as adults, can be more informal. I do stress that the children use our formal names, though. They must develop good social habits, don’t you agree?”

He had an almost pathetic look of need on his face. Both Lucy and I had to agree. “Of course, Jack custom and courtesy need to be taught and become a habit. But please tell me what is going on here. I see all these busy kids, what are they doing?”

“Ah, yes, I am so proud of my busy little elves. They are making pingers, Sir. Thousands and thousands of pingers.”

“I’ve heard the term, pingers, what are they? it is a piece of equipment that the Navy doesn’t use.”

“Well Sir, that’ll take a little explanation. You know that all mass has gravity? That things with a lot of mass, have a lot of gravity. Pingers work on that principle. A pinger is basically a transmitter. We put a pinger, or a spread of pingers, out at a specific trajectory. Now they will continue on forever, unless they are acted on by an outside force. In other words, if a pinger comes close enough to a gravity well, it’s course will alter towards that gravity source. Additionally, depending on the strength of that gravity well, we can get a good idea about its size. So now we know which direction, how far away, and approximately how big.”

I could see that these could be a valuable tool for many reasons. “So, these are used to find things? things that we can’t see?”

“That’s right Sir. The scout pilots use them. Our surveillance folks use them. When we get to our hunting grounds, we’ll be using hundreds of them.”

“Seems kind of expensive. Wouldn’t radar or lidar be cheaper?”

“Oh, most definitely, Sir. But we don’t always want to reveal our location. And radar or lidar is like a big neon sign pointing at us.”

“Is there any other less expensive way to detect things?”

“Yes Sir. We are doing some recalibration work on that equipment next door.”

Next door was a definite contrast. The room had several work tables, but it appeared that each table was for a single piece of equipment. There were no children in this area, but several of the technicians were young. Late teens or early 20’s. The room was quiet, just a gentle murmur of voices.

Our arrival was immediately noted by a young lady in her mid-20’s. She came over as soon as the door closed. Reynolds introduced us. “Captain, this is Susan Collier. She runs our surveillance operations. Don’t be fooled by her youth. She’s about the smartest person I know when it comes to electronics and optics.”

I held out my hand and she took it. Her grip was firm and solid. “Captain,” she said, “A pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine Ms. Collier. What have we got going on here?”

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