Sunday, July 18, 2010

SteamBoyz: Skyward

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by kvb (the hubby)
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

Jane and Jade were sitting in the chart room.

The seven guests were in the mess room. Tiny Bubble did not have accommodations for seven passengers per se but the mess room could accommodate a couple of people sleeping on the chaise or settee in addition to the very tight accommodations for six in the berthing.

The Nederlandish Pig was so well trained that he could put the toilet seat down and use the toilet correctly without missing. Only once the Tiny Bubble had pitched him over while he was doing his business. Oh the indignity!

But now that everybody was awake, passengers and pig gathered in the mess room. It was quite cozy really. The circular semispherical sapphire hatches had been undogged and opened to let in the warm moist tropical air of the Atlantic and the sun was high in the sky.

A couple of passengers had dropped fishing lines out of a couple of the opened hatches. The ocean was smooth as glass as they were in the doldrums now. But doldrums or no, the engines churned and the isoprops, both starboard and port, having been configured for surface sailing these past few days drove the Bubble to the south west at an easy pace.

Yesterday, Jane had rung up ahead one-third on the engine order telegraph and Jade had answered it at a rather more leisurely interval than Jane liked. The ships wheel was set dead straight and the engine governors were linked to the gyroscopic compass to maintain the bearing.

The Origin of Species had just been published by Charles Darwin, and Jade was reading that. Jane was reading something steampunkish. Jade wondered at the natural selection that would have created a jellyfish as she allowed her mind to wonder and looked out the hatch at the millions of pink blobs that had suddenly appeared below the surface of the water.

A million pink jellyfish, all twenty to thirty centimeters in diameter floating to the surface en masse. What primitive instinct encoded in that rudimentary brain stem could cause that? Was it a search for food? Could they possibly need the light for some symbiotic photosynthesizing organism in their largely translucent bodies? A nagging feeling of impending disaster pricked at the back of her mind as she pondered these questions.

The engines stopped and the three steam relief valves lifted in order of their setpoints

. . . 175 atmospheres . . .

. . . 178 atmospheres . . .

. . . 181 atmospheres . . .

The roar of precious fresh water being dumped overboard in the form of superheated steam was so alarming that the Nederlandish pig relieved himself as he shot under the nearest settee.

Jane jumped up and smashed her head so hard on the bookcase above that she had to sit down again, her vision blurred and spinning and blood streaming down her face.

Jade was down the engine room ladder in a flash. She shut off the reaction air supply and opened the overboard steam dump valve. This was a much larger valve that allowed the steam to discharge below the waterline. The relief valves popped shut and there was only a dull roar of the steam escaping through the dump valve. The heat in the reactor was being transferred overboard rapidly and pretty soon Jade had shut the dump valve too so that silence reigned.

Jade cursed and went to examine the condenser. She shut all of the condenser seawater valves, both intake and discharge, then dug out a large spud wrench and went to work on the access hatches at the intake end of the condenser. Before she took the last couple of nuts off of their studs, she wrapped a cloth around her face to guard against the smell and went to get some volunteers.

Jane was being treated for a head wound and the Pigs owner was cleaning up that mess, but the other passengers all volunteered to help. They were comforted by Jade’s easy calm.

She brought them down the two ladders to the engine room lower level and said “I’m going into the condenser. You pass one of these buckets into me and I’ll pass it out after a couple of minutes. You then take it up to the bridge and dump it out the hatch and into the ocean and return.”

A couple of hours later, the jellyfish were cleared from the condenser. Jade thanked her volunteers. She had decided that the time had come to deploy the dirigible and to simply fly away from the offending jellyfish. Then she could get the reactor back on line using air cooling.

Deploying the dirigible took some doing with no steam available. She had to manually jack the silk locker dogs open and then jack the heavy doors open. The helium over pressure in the silk locker was lost to the atmosphere, but there was plenty of helium on board.

After the silk locker doors were fully opened, she opened the dirigible fill valves and the silk opened. She had to fill them slowly since there was no preheating steam for the helium. It was nightfall by the time the Tiny Bubble lifted herself out of the ocean and rose into the sky.

A little while later Jade had configured the all-important condenser for flight operation and had started the reactor at low power. As the reactor started to produce steam she rolled the cooling air turbines to warm them and started them up. She noted movement on the condenser vacuum gauge with satisfaction. She then started the cavitation controlled condensate injection pumps in the same manner and noted the level in the reactor start to come up.

Having filled the reactor with some purified water, she reconfigured the isoprops for flight operation, rolled and started their turbines and synched their governors to the gyroscopic compass and the same heading as they had started the day at.

The Nederlandish pig emerged from his shelter and sniffed. He was becoming less sure of how much he liked this contraption he was in.

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by kvb (the hubby)
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

* image sources sky, jellyfish

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