Fast Times

"Fast" is the third episode of Starseeker and the third episode of the first season. It first appeared on October 27, 2008.

Plot

Starseeker sets a course to a nearby system when the ship suddenly starts to accelerate out of control. Racing down to the engine room, Alina Branson discovers that the engines have been sabotaged and that the ship will continue to accelerate until it literally comes apart.

After some consideration, Branson decides that the only way to stop the engines is to create a feedback loop in the Zero Point Energy arch that powers the ship. Branson knows that this will seriously hurt her and possibly kill her, but she will not allow anyone else to take the chance despite protests from a Catian engineer named Ris and a Nomit engineer named Pauklauff.

In the engine power core, Ris forces Branson away at gunpoint to fix the engines herself saying that Branson is too valuable for such a dangerous assignment. After this, Pauklaff appears as the saboteur who wishes to sell Starseeker's Quantum Jump Drive to the highest bidder.

There is a fight as Starseeker begins to break apart. Pauklauff is killed and Branson manages to create the feedback loop despite the physical harm to herself.

At the end, the crew holds a full honors funeral for Pauklauff and consider the possibility that Earth's oldest allies may not have their best interests at heart.

Flashback

Branson comes on board the Conrade following the end of the Catian War and falls in love and becomes engaged to fellow engineer, Ernie Kelton.

Branson also convinces the captain to install an experimental Quantum Jump Drive on the ship and, when tested, the drive causes a malfunction that injures several crewmembers including Kelton.

Wracked with guilt, Branson leaves the Conrade and Kelton behind.

Interference by the Intruder

"I'm so embarrassed I don't remember that engineer's name. That ever happen to you?"

The accident on the Conrade was always supposed to have happened, but interference from the Intruder caused it to be much more severe. Kelton's injuries were multiplied and Branson's self-doubt was increased as a result.

Writers Notes

"Fast Times" was originally supposed to be a riff on Speed. I had this image in my mind of Cole and Branson setting the engines to overload, something that will kill them both but save the ship, and as this bright light starts to overtake them, they impulsively kiss and then are teleported out at the last second. Neither one of these ideas survived - not the kiss nor a crazy scientist booby-trapping Starseeker to make it break speed records. Instead, it's a simple case of something getting stuck and someone wanting to make money.

Although I loved the flashback, much of the episode was just a mess with people pulling guns on each other. None of the sacrifice that I had planned to save the ship worked out. Originally, Ris was going to die saving the ship, but that seemed too predictable. Then Pauklauff, twarted in some way, makes one grand noble gesture and saves the crew. I even considered Branson dying for real. None of it worked out and it seriously disappointed me.

It wasn't all bad. There is this lingering question of how loyal the Nomit are. They're supposed to be our friends and yet, one of these small cute little creatures almost murders 2000 people to sell an engine on the black market. The Nomit people are stuck on a planet only a few years from destruction from a red giant, how desperate are they?

Episode Notes

  • "Lys" is an abbreviation for Light Years and is pronounced "Lies."
  • Branson speaks to the ship like a child. Originally, Branson was going to be a member of a religion that believe that everything has a soul, but that idea was dropped. Now, it's just a personality quirk.
  • The "classified assignment" that Branson was working on in the Mercury shipyards is the construction of Starseeker.
  • The Conrade is named after astronaut Pete Conrade.
  • At the top speed of 211 lys per hour, Starseeker could cross the galaxy in about 20 days.
  • Armstrong Park, the site of the first moon landing in 1969 is now seen as a tourist trap.
  • The Nomit resemble Merkats. Not coincidentally, Nomit is "Timon" spelled backwards.
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