Weekend open thread

A return to routine. Readership is steady at the 100 level. You are cleared to tell your friends again.

I’m going to be using the chapters following the current batch to work on particular elements of my writing. Since the only one I have anything approaching a concrete plan for is Eirik’s, I’ll talk about that first. One of the major issues I have is pacing, particularly in this medium. My typical process for writing a chapter goes like this:

  1. Come up with a major event to take place.
  2. Decide that the setup to the event and the event itself won’t fill the chapter.
  3. Advance the plot slowly, taking up more entries than necessary
  4. Realize that now I no longer have enough space to fit in the main event.
  5. Write frantically, trying to fit it in anyway.
  6. Realize it’s no use and push it off until the next chapter.

It doesn’t happen that way every time, but so far it’s done so with depressing regularity. With Eirik’s chapter I’m going to experiment with a lot more planning than usual, attempting to lay out what needs to happen in each entry in some detail, and see if that gives me a more structured feel. Of course, there’s the issue that the chapter may end up feeling more like an episode of a TV show than a chapter of a novel, but I don’t know if that’s an entirely bad thing.

Apparently I am now the second Google result for ‘Septumvirate’. Bam.

In other news, some unrelated writing to share!

NPAS Warspite and NPAS Hermes drifted along in what any halfway competent astrogator would have refused to call orbit above Jason, the largest moon of Threshold VI, which itself was locally known as Argo. Both ships showed signs of battle.

They’d got the better end of it, though, thought Ship Commander Charles Weatherby of Warspite. Their opponent, the Exile Fleet heavy cruiser Vengeance, which had struck her colors five minutes before, wouldn’t last in Jason’s orbit for more than one or two more revolutions; after that she’d most likely fall into Argo, and if Weatherby or Lassiter aboard Hermes couldn’t get a prize crew to her and get her maneuvering before then, they’d have to deal with lifeboats, too.

Weatherby had more pressing issues, though. Warspite was in a bad way. She was a point-defense cruiser, built to support fleet actions, limited in armament useful against large ships, and hardly a match for another vessel of her size on the best of days. Vengeance was bigger, and only a handful of Confederate cruisers were capable of taking ships of her class in single combat in any case. It was a good thing Hermes had been close at hand when Weatherby’s deck officer called out the contact. Her centerline kinetic had been the deciding factor, even if the rest of her armament had been as ineffective as Warspite‘s.

Weatherby kicked off a bulkhead and floated into the patrol bridge, near the ship’s bow. Miraculously, it hadn’t taken any serious hits—CIC, amidships and centerline, hadn’t been nearly as lucky—most of the screens still worked, showing test patterns or no-signal status indicators. A pair of engineering warrants were splicing test gear into the cabling leading to them. Four officers were waiting for Weatherby. They were Ship Subcommander Athelney Jones, who’d been running damage control during the battle, and Warspite‘s senior lieutenants, Callamy from engineering, Leighton from gunnery, and Rawlings from navigation.

“Well, gentlemen,” said Weatherby, catching himself on a console and a toehold, “where are we?”

“Nowhere we’d like to be, sir,” Jones said. “Seventy-one men dead or dying, including Mr. Tillis and Mr. Bullington. Another hundred and twenty-four out of commission for the near future.” He looked grim. “We’ll not be fighting until we can come up with more of a crew, sir, or at least we’ll not be fighting well.”

Weatherby nodded. It was a serious blow; Warspite‘s complement was at two-thirds strength, and the loss of two senior petty officers wouldn’t do anything good for morale. “Engineering,” he said. “When will I have my ship back?”

“Not fully until we refit,” Callamy said, in his typical soft Highland brogue. “You’ve maneuvering control in all three axes right now, captain, but it’s not fast. I havna had time to see what I can put together from the rest of the thrusters. Of the mains, we’ll not be using one, three, or four again. The rest are coming along. In another half an hour we may be able to answer a slow bell.”

Weatherby looked to Leighton. “Better news, sir,” the lieutenant said. “The primary point defense computer survived. We have twenty-eight working masers and thirty-one point defense guns which can still put munitions downrange. We can fire from one missile tube now—maybe another later once we steal parts from the others—and two of the autocannon. Ammunition may be a problem. We took a hit to the number three magazine.”

It was something less than half of Warspite‘s normal armament, but enough to protect herself and Hermes on the way back to the nearest Naval Arm installation, supposing they were able to avoid any foes of Vengeance‘s caliber.

That left Rawlings. “We have a working radar set. We’ll have to see about the infrared, but Callamy’s boys have more important matters on their hands. The message laser is at your disposal. We’ve been signaling Hermes, but there’s been no response.”

“What about the flight deck? Can we get a boat over to Hermes?” asked Weatherby.

“No sir, unless we cut the doors away.”

“Is there a reason not to?”

“We havna yet pressure-tested the adjacent compartments, sir.” Callamy grimaced at the captain’s look. “We lost containment on the number three engine, captain, and she melted a hole in the pressure hull. I’m working wi’ half a crew, man, in a compartment that’s halfway open to space. You canna expect miracles.”

“We’re rather going to need some,” Weatherby said. “Rawlings. Is Vengeance responding to signals? Good. My regards to her captain, and tell him to launch lifeboats while they still have the delta-v to match courses. Vengeance is a loss.” His officers took the news well, considering they’d all just lost a small fortune in prize money. “Callamy, I want those flight deck doors open in no more than thirty minutes. Engines are your second priority. I want a one-third bell in ninety minutes. Leighton, am I to assume that the number three magazine is open to space?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Round up as many sailors as you can find and get that hole sealed. Cut from the interior bulkheads if you run out of patches. Gentlemen, I want Warspite and Hermes underway toward safety in two hours. The enemy knows we’re here, and we’re in no shape for another fight. To your tasks.”

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