The Engineer

Name: Paul Pott

Position: Custodial Engineer, R/V Gadfly.

Qualifications: M.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering, U Cal, Berkeley.

The pay’s good. The workload’s light. The hours are killer, but you sleep through most of them. For Paul Pott, it’s pretty much the perfect job.

The technology’s, tried, tested, and self-maintaining. Mishaps are vanishingly unlikely, and when they do occur the ship’s AI can handle 90% of them without Human intervention. Really, the presence of a warm-blooded engineer on these hauls is more a legacy feature than anything else: a security blanket for the passengers, a legal requirement no one ever got around to changing.

Pott didn’t much like the look of the passengers he had to bunk with for the current gig—  Fiscort’s a bitch, and this Poppet guy has a chip on his shoulder the size of a California redwood— but who cares, when they’ll all be unconscious for the duration? He did feel a twinge of apprehension when he discover that most of Gadfly‘s self-repairing back-up systems had been stripped out to make room for some secret cargo no one will talk about. Still. What are the odds that this will be the one-in-a-thousand dice roll where those redundant systems are actually needed?

Seduced by his easygoing, low-energy lifestyle, Paul Potts has forgotten the fundamental Law of Engineering that underscores all others: Murphy’s.

So when the sirens start singing and all hell breaks loose halfway to Mars, Pott is more irked than worried. But as the fog of hibernation clears from his head, and the diagnostics scroll across the screen, the severity of their predicament sinks in:  the main thrust and hibe systems are out, and Pott can’t fix them without the tools and parts that got yanked out along with the backup systems. Mars is suddenly weeks away, and they won’t be able to sleep away the difference.

And as the passengers internalize those facts, and start looking around for edible protein to make up the shortfall, Potts knows exactly what they see when they look at him: Gadfly‘s last remaining redundant system…

Picture: Kim Holm