Studying the Veracruz Coast

“This is Sr. Navcom Technician Hugo Shaw, acting pilot of the Veracruz Coast.” His full round cheeks jiggled just a little as he spoke. Beads of sweat stuck to the roots of his combed back black hair along the top of his forehead.

“I am acting on orders from Chief Pilot Erica Vance, who was executed by Captain Aiden Noble for insubordination. I’ve locked myself in the cockpit and I intend to burn our chemical thrusters at full overdrive to launch us on a neutral trajectory out of the system. I anticipate the maneuver will be lethal to all crew.”

He swallowed and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. There was blood on his palm.

“Our FTL fuel has breached containment and I expect lethal tachyon storming at any time. For this reason, we are disobeying direct orders to dock with Arbor Shipyard to attempt repairs.  The risk to the civilian population of Ceres could be catastrophic. Tell my family—”

The video paused and the lights came up. DeLeon faced the cadets from the podium. The polished brass stars on her shoulders glinted. “This week we’ll be reviewing the case of the Veracruz Coast. Has anyone heard of it?”

No hands went up.

“That’s right. Does anyone know why that is?”

“Is it a restricted record?” someone called out from the second row.

“Yes,” said DeLeon, “strictly speaking. Even so, this happened 40 years ago. How come every single one of you hasn’t heard about it before right now?” She scanned the faces of the cadets from one side of the room to the other. “Because 250 million people on Ceres weren’t killed by orbital tachyon storming. Sr. Technician Shaw succeeded in implementing the maneuvers you just heard him describe, ultimately exposing the crew of 41 to 96.3 G’s for 11 minutes. By the end of that burn, everyone on board was reduced to condensation on the aft bulkheads.” She let that hang in the air until they felt its weight.

“Review your packets, and this afternoon come prepared to discuss the Veracruz Coast. Where were the failures in the chain of command? What other options were available? What might be some of the unintended consequences of Shaw’s trajectory choice? And most importantly, what would you—as hopeful future pilots—do in a similar situation? Don’t you worry, we’re going to run you through some simulated scenarios to find out. See you at 12:25 sharp. Dismissed.”

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