One of the main points of having a Beacon in the middle of space is to signal a safe passage for the oncoming ships be it cargo ships or passenger ships with thousands of travelers on board. The Beacon operator’s job is to make sure that the beacon is operating normally; otherwise, a catastrophe might happen, and this is what happened in ‘Beacon 23’ when a cargo ship crashed into an asteroid, the accident killing everyone on board. So, what exactly happened to the cargo ship, and how are “The Wreckers” responsible for it?
Editor’s Note: This post contains massive spoilers for the upcoming show ‘Beacon 23’ and the source material, read at your own risk.
What happened to the cargo ship in the first place?
Beacon operator’s worst nightmare is a beacon that malfunctions when they know that ships are about to transit through their sector. Some sectors are more vulnerable to space debris than others, and Sector 8, where Beacon 23 I stationed, is more dangerous due to its proximity to the asteroid belt.
This is why Digger knew that an accident was about to take place when his beacon malfunctioned and shut down despite the chances of that happening randomly being infinitely small, nearly impossible. Beacons are Gravity Wave Broadcasters (GWBs), and they clear the path and signal that it’s clear to pass for the transiting ships. Digger’s beacon being down means that the path was not safe for the transit, and what happened is that a massive cargo ship collided with an asteroid at FTL speed, which meant total destruction of the ship and the death of eight members of the crew.
After the accident took place, Digger didn’t really have time to think about what happened and how it was possible for such an accident to take place, but he did remember something that was fairly common back on Earth in the old ages and in some parts of the new history as well. He recalled reading about the Wreckers, people who earned a living exclusively out of destroying ships.
Wreckers are old trade reimagined in the future
After technical difficulties had been written off, Digger realized that the only way that beacon could have malfunctioned was sabotage, and since he was fascinated with lighthouses and everything about them, he remembered about the existence of “ancient trade,” people who caused maritime disasters to profit off of them.
On Earth, The Wreckers would lead ships through dangerous waters, causing them to capsize or be destroyed on the rocks. They would sabotage the lighthouses while the ships were passing through dangerous waters, and come morning. The shore would be overflowing with lost cargo and bodies. Human lives meant little to these people, who were looking to earn a living when earning a living was difficult.
The Wreckers became a thing once again when space travel became a thing for humans. But instead of a few cases of spice, they gambled with massive cargo ships or passenger ships carrying thousands of people on board.
Wrecking spaceships was even easier than normal ships since all you practically had to do was disable a beacon in a certain region, and the resulting collision would prove lethal and catastrophic, cargo floating in zero-g, easy to collect.
Digger got his confirmation that Wreckers were around by spotting black ships. Unfortunately, he was too late to stop them. He only noticed them after the accident but knew when the accident took place that they were probably to blame for the sabotage. He took the photos of their plates and marks, but the book didn’t disclose what happened to them.
How did the Wreckers infiltrate Beacon 23?
Being a beacon operator meant that you were working for NASA and that you would have supplies delivered at regular intervals every now and then. But not everything that humans could desire would be covered by NASA, and this is why Digger would have an unsanctioned delivery every now and then. Those kinds of deliveries were technically illegal and could result in quarantine since the beacon might be infiltrated by dangerous organic matter.
But Beacon 23 wasn’t infiltrated with some freak alien viruses. It was infiltrated by a mechanical virus, a bug that hijacked the systems and shut them down. Digger is not to blame for what took place, but he was to blame for taking unsanctioned deliveries, although he wasn’t exactly aware of the risk in the first place.
Since the beacon’s hardware is self-healing, Digger made the bold assumption that since the bug is not a part of the regular system, it won’t heal if he damages it anyway. Digger started tearing down the wiring in an attempt to short the system. The original components of beacons will be able to heal, but the bug won’t return the control back to him.
And it worked. After shorting the system, the beacon worked. The accident with the cargo ship couldn’t be averted, but the passenger ship that was scheduled for transit passed safely after the beacon was back online.
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