the Exodus arrives…and it’s got software bugs

Another sample chapter.

Like the previous one, this chapter takes place midway through act 2b.

Much earlier in the book Mike, our ancap lunatic protagonist, argued that the expat colony in Aristillus crater needed more population if it was going to prepare for an assault by Earth government forces.

He proposed releasing the details of the antigravity drive under open source – a full ‘distro’, as unix folks say, actually: not just plans of the AG drive, but plans for an entire small ship…all of them parameterized so that folks can tweak variables and get a customized design.

Mike got his way, and his girlfriend Darcy – a ship navigator and a coder – started working on the distro. Version 1 was released…and then Darcy, like Mike, got grabbed by the PKs.

It turns out that – believe it or not – version 1.0 sometimes has bugs in it. In the excitement and chaos of the lunar rebellion, the ball got dropped. Bugs didn’t get fixed.

This threatens a huge human cost as tens of thousands of jury-rigged / backyard / hackerspace AG ships are fleeing Earth and arriving at Aristillus.

…all of them using the buggy software.


*** 84

== 6 Sep 2064: Lai Docks and Air Traffic Control, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside

Doug Test sat at his usual console, listening to EagleGust on his earbuds – and why not? Today was a light day, with zero scheduled incoming ships, just one departure, and the only construction the ongoing work on upgrade cradle 11 to let it serve as a backup for the Grace Under Pressure LNG tanker in case cradle 8 ever had a problem.

Doug had the arrivals window minimized and was humming awkwardly along to the microtonal Chapman Stick licks of the rock opera as he worked through routine checks on the warehouse handler robots when a tone struck him as odd. He tilted his head. Huh…he’d never noticed that F-half sharp there. He’d paused the music and began to jog it back a few seconds when the tone rang again.

Crap! It wasn’t the music – he was getting a warning tone from his console. What the heck was going on?

He scanned his boards – nothing was amiss in the warehouse robot window. He minimized that screen and looked at the outgoing ships. Nothing.

He noted the icon of the minimized arrivals screen – but, no, nothing was going on there today. Was it something in the compressed air handling facility? The work on cradle 11 could have – he opened the screen and scanned it. No, that was all fine. The pumps and pipelines for Veleka Waterworks? He checked the screen. No.

What was left?

He noticed the incoming ships icon again and realized he hadn’t actually checked that one yet. He clicked and opened it.

Dough blinked. What – ? This didn’t make any sense.

The panel that listed incoming ships should be empty…but it was full. FULL. Which was just WRONG. Two or three ships? Sure. Ten? Yes, that happened. It had even hit 15 ships in a single day months ago, but that many ships stacking up was a aberration.

And now he was looking at a full list. How many was that, even? Fifty? Doug then noticed that the scroll arrows were activated. OK, nothing to panic about – clearly someone had screwed up and loaded a test database into the production server and -

He looked at the transponder name field on the first entry on the list: “OSS Navajo”. The next: “OSS Awesome!”. The next: “OSS figure_it_out_later”.

“OSS”? He’d never seen that on the ship page before – what kind of ship did that even stand for anyw-

Doug felt a sudden sinking sensation.

Albert had mentioned off-handedly a while back that the Boardroom Group was discussing a proposal to open source the AG drive. Doug even remembered reading some posts a few months ago about the idea, but between the revolution beginning to boil over, staying on top of the installation of the new robotic cargo handlers, and – worst of all – dealing with the torturous three-way negotiations about the pipeline between the docks, Hui Lee’s desalinization plant, and Bilge Demir’s Veleka Water firm, though, he’d somehow missed the fact that it was a done deal.

No one had told him that the plans had been released.

Crap – how many ships were on their way to the docks?

Doug scrolled down the list. The further he scrolled the more concerned he got.

He breathed deeply. OK. Calm down. This wasn’t so bad. All he needed to do was to open up a few more bays and the auto-landing software would do all the work. OK. OK. This could work. He scanned his board. The first ship, the OSS Navajo was three minutes out, and it should slot into bay 3. Breath. He could ignore the first ship for now, and concentrate on clearing the other bays, because -

A new alert flashed on his screen.

“agent interrupt 0x77a no matching ruleset – spam refuses auto-landing command (WTF?) – #fix_before_golive”.

Doug blinked, then began to type frantically, trying to deal with the problem, until ten minutes later – with multiple alerts stacked on his screen and even more OSS ships entering the queue – he gave up.

This was above his pay grade. Albert Lai needed to figure something out.

Doug picked up his phone.

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