Dr. Raymond Shen let out a quiet sigh as he walked into the Hyperwave Relay's new home aboard the Temple Ship. The sun hadn't even risen yet, and already he saw Dr. Vahlen elbows-deep in some hardware with a green and black SHIV happily floating behind her. He strongly suspected that his colleague decide to forgo sleep in favor of getting the damn thing up and running as fast as possible, and that Penny was unaware that she needed to be the voice of reason telling Vahlen to get some much-needed rest. The transfer from the Anthill to the Temple Ship happened a little over a week ago, and XCOM's R&D department had been hard at work integrating it into the ship's enormous power reserves since then.
Supplying power to the relay proved simple enough: Shen and Vahlen managed to open up portals that lead from Remnant to Earth with minimal trouble. The real difficulty lay in determining how to provide enough power to safely generate a reverse portal that could send Ruby and her friends back home. Annette managed to narrowly avoided a critical system overload during the first 'outbound' test when she sensed too much power flowing too quickly into the relay and cut power before the chaotic energy caused permanent damage. However, any quantity of power supplied by the ship's pilot that was below the 'critical' threshold failed to support a stable outbound gateway.
"You do realize that if you keep working like this, you'll succumb to sleep deprivation before getting the Hyperwave Relay up and running." Shen commented as he set down his breakfast on a nearby workbench, "And then our Remnant friends really will be stuck. Hello, Penny."
Vahlen waved dismissively at him while her companion greeted Dr. Shen with the usual air flip, "Nonsense. With any luck, we'll have the relay up and running within a couple of hours."
This was news for the elderly engineer, "That so?"
"Indeed!" Penny exclaimed, "We made a key breakthrough at 4 am-"
"Of course." Shen sighed
"- wherein we determined the source of the overload!" Penny finished, unfazed by Shen's comment.
The Chief Scientist nodded in agreement with Penny's statement, "With the assistance of your night crew…"
"… Penny and I constructed a few test systems to confirm my suspicions. You're just in time for the first test, actually."
"What did you change?" Shen asked, his curiosity well and truly piqued.
"This first test will determine if rerouting the power through an inductor coil will have a dampening effect on the current surges that bleed off of the ship's power core." Vahlen explained.
Shen raised an eyebrow. Trying to add a 'soft limiter' the system's current was one of the first solutions proposed by R&D, "We already tried that two days ago."
"We tried one variant of the coil two days ago." Vahlen corrected, "I've been running some simulations in my lab, and I think I determined why our initial iteration failed earlier this week. With the error corrected, this design should work better."
"So you think we were on the right track by trying to stabilize the current inflow." Shen surmised, "I'd be interested in seeing the simulations of your new design if this test works out."
Dr. Vahlen nodded, "Of course. But I'm also not putting all of my eggs into one basket. Further examination of the first overload indicated that we may not have properly accounted for how much heat is generated while the system is powered."
"But all of the thermocouples we installed returned temperature values well within the operational range of the equipment." Shen said.
"That's because we were looking at the wrong operational ranges!" Penny answered, "The thermocouples ensured that all of the hardware was running at safe temperatures, but we didn't realize that the internal temperature was interfering with the Hyperwave Beacon's transdimensional properties."
Vahlen shrugged, "It's not really our fault. Since we never had this much power available to us, we have very little experience with the behavior and mechanics of an outbound portal. I just happened to notice that the anomalous readings registered by our sensors matched with the temperature profile of the thermocouples."
Dr. Shen pinched the bridge of his nose in mild frustration. The metaphysical laws of these transdimensional phenomena seemed so… whimsical, "So a better heat management system is the focus of the second test?"
His colleague nodded, "After we have completed our analysis of the inductor, test number two will focus on the addition of a Rankine cycle."
"Interesting… though I'm curious how you plan to use the output work from your heat engine."
Vahlen shrugged, "I was thinking either a charging station for Penny, or a hot plate to keep my coffee warm. Given that the Temple Ship's power plants only reach thirty percent of their maximum output during a gate event, it's not like the power from my heat cycle is desperately needed elsewhere."
Fair point. Dr. Shen let out one more sigh before he rolled up his sleeves and set to work helping Vahlen set up her test equipment.
After an afternoon of construction and verification, the Chief Scientist concluded that her tests met the desired benchmarks and greenlit their integration with the main system.. The rest of the day saw Vahlen and Shen supervising the tech crews as they installed the new designs into the Hyperwave Relay. Sadly, Bradford had to dispatch Penny (and Gidjit) a few hours prior on a Grimm operation that required their unique brand of heavy firepower. Vahlen missed having her spirits raised by Penny's optimistic and cheerful personality, she knew that international safety took priority.
"You do realize that even if we get a stabilized gate, there are plenty of safety tests that we need to perform before Bradford will even consider authorizing the first biological jump." Shen commented while fixing some evening tea for himself and his friend.
"Of course," Vahlen answered as she cut sandwich triangles with scientific precision, "But I think that having a proof-of-concept gateway will give an important morale boost for RWBY and JNPR. They've been leading the Strike teams on Grimm ops for the last few weeks, and the knowledge that we are almost ready to let them return home will help keep their spirits high."
Shen took a small sip from his cup before deciding the liquid needed to steep for a little longer, "That is true. Plus, Ruby is always happy for an excuse to see Major Durand." He sat down next to Vahlen and watched her continue with her work, "Do you really think we'll have a working portal tonight?"
"I am optimistic, but not naive." Vahlen said, putting down her knife to enjoy a brief moment of relaxing solitude with Shen, "Things are going well at the moment, but you and I both know that setbacks tend to hide in plain sight." She took a bite out of a sandwich and watched as Shen's crews continued to work, "I suppose the moment of truth will come once they finish."
"We'll get it working, Moira." Shen assured his friend, handing her a steaming cup, "You're nothing short of a miracle worker. It's been a pleasure to a part of this with you."
"Thanks, Ray." Vahlen answered, "I'm glad to have worked with you, too."
"Hey! Boss!" The two looked up at the sound of the foreman's voice, "I know you're on your dinner break and whatnot, but we're all done over here. Should I give the Major a ring and get ready to fire this baby up?"
Shen stole a quick sip from his now-perfect tea before nodding, "The sooner we can test the relay and get started on working out any new kinks, the better. Our dinner can wait. Make the call, Fitzroy."
"No need." Annette's voice called over the intercom, "I felt the change in the relay's passive draw the moment your crew finished plugging it in. Are we ready to begin?"
"Is anyone else still getting creeped out by Annette's omnipresence on the ship?" Shen sighed.
"I heard that."
"Well, if you're all set up there," Vahlen said, steering the conversation back on course, "Then we'll start the process of feeding power into the relay."
The team carefully ran through the startup checklist before the time finally came to power on the main system. Vahlen and Shen looked at each other, shared an encouraging nod, and then the former flipped the first toggle.
"Initial power-on sequence engaged."
"Yup, I felt the bump in power draw. It's minimal so far."
"That's because we haven't turned on the real energy hog yet." Shen commented as he studied the readouts on his terminal, "But Annette's right: the power draw is slightly lower this time around. Seems like a few of our other tweaks are paying off already."
Vahlen nodded in agreement, "Indeed. Let's see how well we do in the next phase."
Another toggle flipped, and the Hyperwave Relay really began humming to life. The rows of lights along the structure's central sphere shone a bright yellow hue as the machinery began to slowly rotate. On their screens, the two doctors monitored the system's vitals and noted that everything seemed stable so far.
"Ah, there we go. The relay is starting to pull harder on my power plant."
It didn't escape Shen's notice that Major Durand referred to the Temple Ship's power as 'hers.' He supposed that, given the psionic nature of the ship's controls, Annette built a deeper connection with her vessel over the past few months than most pilots do over the course of a few years. He actually felt relieved when Annette suggested training up replacement pilots for emergencies, as he feared she would grow too attached to the alien ship.
At the moment, however, the Chief Engineer knew he needed to focus on more important matters. The readouts on his tablet notified him of the rising current draw coming from the relay.
"We're starting to pull some serious amperage now." He remarked, "Though the rate of increase isn't alarming. Nice work with the inductor."
Vahlen, however, was too focused on the information in front of her to acknowledge the compliment. She adjusted a few knobs on the control panel, and frowned slightly when the system didn't respond with the numbers she wanted.
"Annette, are you able to throttle down the power flowing into the relay? Our modifications are working well enough to prevent a dangerous power surge, but… I think the system is going to overshoot the calculated steady-state if it continues to ramp up at this pace."
"I should be able to, yes. Give me a moment."
For the briefest of moments, the entire ship shuddered. Evidently, there was more inertial resistance to change in the power flow than any of them realized. Shen noticed a few of the technicians exchange worried glances while they wordlessly asked each other the same thing: was the relay going to bring down the Temple Ship?
Of course the ship was actually grounded at the moment, but that didn't make the vibrations any less terrifying.
Annette's voice, strained from the effort of containing the Hyperwave Relay, came over the comms a few seconds later, "How's it looking, Doctor?"
"… Better." Vahlen finally answered after carefully watching the changes in the readouts, "Not ideal, but I'm certain that you're doing the best you can, Annette."
The trio continued to slowly tune the second stage of the relay's activation. Annette would adjust the power input while Vahlen and Shen took notes and made changes to the system's impedance to 'trim' the output. After ten minutes this iterative process, the Chief Scientist stepped back from her console and took a deep breath. With a final look at all the digital readouts on her screen, Vahlen cracked a faint smile.
"I think this is as good as we're going to get." She said to Shen, "With the obvious exception of power draw, the rest of the parameters are very similar to when we had the relay working back at the Anthill."
Dr. Shen double-checked Vahlen's assessment before nodding, "Looks that way. Time for the final test?"
"Time for the final test." Vahlen echoed. Her hand hovered over the third toggle, and the room seemed to be holding its collective breath.
"Alright, Major. Supplying power to the gate… now."
A deep, low hum reverberated through the room. The sound's strength increased as the seconds passed, and the edge of the relay's gate took on a faint purple hue. The color came into sharper focus, and small particles began to drift from the gate's ring towards the center, as if some sort of event horizon was pulling transdimensional energy into itself.
"Power is stable on my end. Looks like we've got something here." Annette confirmed, but neither doctor made a move to answer. They stood side by side, gazing at the product of their labor over the last week. No thoughts of what came next crossed their mind, no concerns about how to reproduce a stable portal on subsequent attempts… just appreciation for what they created.
Finally, Shen broke the silence, "You're right, Doctor. I think Ruby will want to hear about this."
"Yes." Vahlen agreed, her eyes still glued to the gate, "I think she will."
A/N: Well, this is it. Time to get things going again for the sequel. A good number of readers requested that I add one more chapter to RWBY Within as an announcement of sorts, so this is that chapter. The first post for the sequel will drop next Friday.
I'd also like to take a moment to talk about a few things. First is posting cadence. I'm really proud of the fact that I managed to post one chapter every Friday for the entire run of RWBY Within. That being said, it was rather draining, and I don't think I'm wiling to do that again for the new story. At the same time, every other week is a little too slow for my tastes, so I'm considering a happy medium of posting a new chapter every week and a half. If it turns out that I'm producing content faster than I anticipated, then I might return to the old schedule, but I'd like to start with something slightly more relaxed this time around.
Second is a friendly reminder about reviews. I love them. They are the lifeblood of my motivation to keep writing, whether they contain praise or criticism. I've had the pleasure of conversing with a fair number of you after responding to a review you've left, and I'm always in awe of just how many fantastic ideas can come from conversations with fans of my work. However, it's important to remember that there's a difference between constructive/helpful criticism and a laundry list of everything you find wrong with a story's writing. I'm not asking you to sugarcoat your comments because I'm a delicate little butterfly, but please remember that there is a human that is reading each and every review that gets posted. Unnecessary vitrol is counterproductive to your goal of getting me to read and appreciate your comments, so bear that in mind if/when you decide to give your thoughts about my work in a review.
That's about it, I think. See you all next week!